Criminal Law

The lex talionis (an eye for an eye) and punishment according to social rank were the two fixed principles in the criminal law. For purposes of law, people were graded as nobles, commoners and slaves. In the matter of the loss, through criminal assault, of an eye, for example: if a man destroyed a nobleman's eye, his was plucked out in retaliation. If he destroyed a commoner's eye, he paid one mina of silver (about a pound). If he destroyed the eye of a slave, he paid the price of the slave to the owner.

Retaliation often became unduly severe, for example, if a house collapsed and killed the owner, the builder was put to death, and if the owners’ son was killed in the collapse, then the builders’ son was executed.