If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content

Hammurabi: The king who made the four quarters of the earth obedient

By Dr. Senta German
Law Code Stele of King Hammurabi, basalt, Babylonian, 1792–50 B.C.E. (Musée du Louvre, Paris)
Hammurabi of the city state of Babylon conquered much of northern and western Mesopotamia and by 1776 B.C.E., he is the most far-reaching leader of Mesopotamian history, describing himself as “the king who made the four quarters of the earth obedient.” Documents show Hammurabi was a classic micro-manager, concerned with all aspects of his rule, and this is seen in his famous legal code, which survives in partial copies on this
in the Louvre and on clay tablets. We can also view this as a monument presenting Hammurabi as an exemplary king of justice.
What is interesting about the representation of Hammurabi on the legal code stele is that he is seen as receiving the laws from the god
, who is seated, complete with thunderbolts coming from his shoulders. The emphasis here is Hammurabi’s role as pious
, and that the laws themselves come from the god.
Additional resources
Read a chapter in our textbook, Reframing Art History, about rethinking how we approach the art of the Ancient Near East.
Essay by Dr. Senta German

Want to join the conversation?