The Laws of Wine Drinking According to the Hammurabi Code

The Code of Hammurabi is not a single law code but a collection of laws from different periods of Babylonian history covering various topics, including wine drinking.

King Hammurabi

King Hammurabi, also known as Hammurapi, was the sixth king of the First Babylonian Dynasty, reigning from 1894 BC to 1595 BC and belonging to the Amorite tribe[1].

He is best known for his law code, one of the earliest surviving examples of the genre. Hammurabi code was written on a black-stone stele[2] and placed in a public place to be accessible to everyone. Hammurabi was born in Babylon, the capital city of the ancient Babylonian Empire, present-day Iraq. He established Babylon as the capital of his empire, a state of ancient Mesopotamia[3]. Babylon was an important city in the ancient world during his reign; it reached the height of its glory during this period.

The Code of Hammurabi, written by King Hammurabi, is a well-preserved Babylonian law code dating back to about 1755 BCE[4]. The Code consists of 282 laws and is one of the oldest deciphered writings of significant length. Hammurabi code of laws was carved on a diorite or basalt stone (Tulika Bahadur, 2015). It was the first legal Code to be written down in the world. It was written from 1755 to 1750 BC[5] by King Hammurabi, who ruled over Babylon.

Hammurabi’s Code has 282 laws which are divided into different categories. These laws were written in cuneiform script on a seven-foot-tall stele (an upright pillar). Hammurabi code is the oldest known written legal Code. The laws carved into stone tablets, originally written in Akkadian, were later translated into the Sumerian language[6]. Hammurabi’s Code was effective because it was based on justice and fairness for all people, even the poor and powerless. These laws were written on a basalt stele or large stone slab with an inscription. This means it was very durable and could last for thousands of years without being destroyed or damaged by natural forces like fire or water damage like paper documents or books do over time.

Hammurabi’s Code of laws is from the ancient Near East, which was inscribed on a stele- 7 feet and four and a half inches tall[7]. Various replicas of the Hammurabi code have been formulated to this day. The subjects discussed in the Hammurabi code are law and justice.

hammurabi code

Hammurabi code

History

The Hammurabi Code of Laws is a set of laws established by the sixth king of the Babylonian Empire, King Hammurabi. Hammurabi’s Law Code was founded in Susa[8], Iran (one of the cities of the ancient Near East) in 1901 by a French orientalist named Jean-Vincent Scheil[9]. The original tablets are now in the Louvre Museum in Paris, France. Hammurabi’s Code is a Babylonian law code written by King Hammurabi (or Khammurabi). Although it is incomplete, damaged, and does not cover all laws of the time, the Code remains one of the most extensive collections of laws from ancient Mesopotamia and has been used as a reference for current legal codes.

The laws were written as case statements where if a person broke the law, they would be punished based on their social class. The Code of Hammurabi contained both civil and criminal laws and dealt with commercial transactions involving sales and purchases but also included provisions that relate to family matters, such as betrothal and marriage, divorce, adoption, and inheritance; criminal issues such as murder or assault; legal procedure; and religious practices such as purification ceremonies. There are also sections concerning agriculture, tax law, and land tenure.

Hammurabi code about wine drinking

Hammurabi’s Code is one of the ancient laws of the world. But it does not have laws 13 and 66-69[10]. Laws 108, 109, 110, and 111 in the Code of Hammurabi mention the topic of wine drinking[11]. In the Hammurabi code, there are laws against selling wine to a woman, slave, or child. Some laws contained in the Hammurabi code about wine and drunkenness were more lenient than others. These laws are mentioned as follows

  • 108th Hammurabi code: If a seller of wine does not give grain to the owner of the wine but instead collects grain by weight, or if the seller of wine makes their measurements smaller than those agreed upon, then they will be held liable for their actions and be sentenced to death by drowning.
  • 109th Hammurabi code: If bad characters gather in the house of a wine seller and she does not arrest them and bring them to the palace, that wine seller shall be put to death.
  • 110th Hammurabi code: If a “sister of a god” opens a tavern, or enters a tavern to drink, then this woman shall be burned to death.
  • 111th Hammurabi code: If a wine-seller gives 60 KA of drink on credit, at the time of the harvest, she shall receive 50 KA of grain.

Other laws in the Hammurabi code

The Code is one of the oldest known examples of law in human history. Scholars have used it to compare how ancient civilizations dealt with legal issues, with scaled punishments, adjusting “an eye for an eye,” characteristic of the set of laws. The Code of laws was arranged into general sections: property law, contract law, larceny law, family law (mainly inheritance), and social regulation (e.g., marriage). According to the Hammurabi code, if anyone commits robbery and is caught, then he shall be put to death.

If a man steals cattle or sheep, he shall pay thirtyfold; if they belong to a god or the court, twentyfold; if the thief has nothing to pay, he shall be put to death. If a person loses a thing and finds it in possession of someone else: if the person who possesses that thing says, “I bought it from a merchant.” If the owner attests, “I will prove that this thing is my property,” then shall the purchaser bring the merchant, merchant’s son, and three other persons as witnesses before God (on oath), that he bought it openly in the money market.

If he fails in bringing these witnesses, then he who has bought it shall produce before God similar witnesses in his favor (on oath). If a man gave his neighbor silver and gold, he could not take it back (Law 1). If a man put out another man’s eye, his eye would be put out (Law 24). If a wife left her husband because he was too poor, she had to return all property divided during the marriage (Law 41)[12].

Punishments in the Hammurabi code

Hammurabi’s Code included harsh penalties for crimes such as stealing from temples or palaces, but most punishments were not much more severe than fines paid to the victim or his family. The Code also included provisions for slavery, including debt slavery and punishment for slaves who struck their masters or ran away from their masters’ houses. These punishments varied depending on what type of person committed the crime. The rich were able to buy off crimes that an average person would have received a harsher punishment for committing. The poor were less likely to receive justice because they had no money to pay for their crimes or fines.

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This day in our Wine history

April 29, 1759: John Adlum, known as the father of viticulture, was born. He was also a farmer and surveyor from York, Pennsylvania. He is best known for his role in developing the Catawba grape, one of the most successful grapes for making wine in the U.S, and for serving in the American revolutionary war[13].

March 8, 1927: On this day, Helmut Becker was born. He was one of the most prominent figures in modern viticulture and winemaking, who has promoted the globalization of the wine industry by breeding grape varieties that can grow anywhere like Saphira, Rondo, Prinzipal, and Dakapo – which are all very successful in their respective countries[14].

February 7, 1802: James Busby was born. He was an English-born Australian explorer, viticulturist, pioneer of the Australian wine industry, and a promising figure in Australia’s early history. Born in Scotland in 1802, he became a British Resident of New Zealand in 1833[15].

 

References

[1] Renger, Johannes M.. “Hammurabi”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 27 Mar. 2020, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Hammurabi. Accessed 21 May 2022.

[2] Charles F Horne, Claude Hermann Walter Johns, Forgotten Books, 1915

[3] Marc Van de Mieroop, John Wiley & Sons, 2008

[4] Loertscher, Simon, and Ellen V. Muir. “Wage dispersion, minimum wages and involuntary unemployment: a mechanism design perspective.” (2021).

[5] En.m.wikipedia.org. 2022. Code of Hammurabi – Wikipedia. [online] Available at: <https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Code_of_Hammurabi#:~:text=The%20Code%20of%20Hammurabi%20is,the%20First%20Dynasty%20of%20Babylon.> [Accessed 21 May 2022].

[6] Saad D Abulhab, Blautopf Publishing, 2017

[7]  En.m.wikipedia.org. 2022. Code of Hammurabi – Wikipedia.

[8] George S Duncan, the Biblical World 23 (3), 188-193, 1904

[9] Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Code of Hammurabi”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 6 Dec. 2018, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Code-of-Hammurabi. Accessed 21 May 2022.

[10] Cs.mcgill.ca. 2022. Code of Hammurabi. [online] Available at: <https://www.cs.mcgill.ca/~rwest/wikispeedia/wpcd/wp/c/Code_of_Hammurabi.htm> [Accessed 21 May 2022].

[11] The Avalon Project : Code of Hammurabi, https://avalon.law.yale.edu/ancient/hamframe.asp.

[12] The Avalon Project : Code of Hammurabi, https://avalon.law.yale.edu/ancient/hamframe.asp.

[13] “John Adlum.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 8 Feb. 2022, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Adlum.

[14] “Helmut Becker.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 18 Dec. 2021, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helmut_Becker.

[15] “James Busby.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 19 Mar. 2022, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Busby.

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Hammurabi code, The Laws of Wine Drinking According to the Hammurabi Code