Hammurapi and Retaliation

Out of an attempt to regularize these and other practices came Hammurapi's code (1780 BC). The so-called Law Codes provide a wealth of information not only about legal practice in Babylonia but also about political, social, economic and religious institutions and customs. One of the more interesting facts learned there is in the matter of punishment for bodily injury.

In the early codes, if a man injured someone physically he was required to pay a fine, the amount varying according to the gravity of the injury. But in the Code of Hammurapi provision is made for retaliation in kind. Thus, if a man broke another man's arm, his arm would be broken. This principle of "lex talionis" (an eye for an eye) appears simultaneously with the ascendance of the Amorites in Babylonia and has its origin with these people.

Code of Hammurapi (Full Text)

Hammurapi's Code was more in the nature of a codification of existing law rather than an original formulation of law. It was his effort to unify his expanding empire. It consisted of about 250 laws regulating property ownership, business practices, flood and agricultural controls, labor and family relations. It codified the criminal law and the law of equity or fair dealing.