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Jeremy Schmidt

Dr. Anson
History of Civilization
Aug 23, 2016

Social Skews: Social Class Injustice Inside Hammurabis

Hammurabis Code governs all aspects of life for those within Hammurabis
empire, judging those based on offence, occupation, and social class. Needless to say,
it was not perfectly balanced. It had special laws that designated punishment and
reimbursement based upon what social class each person belonged to. These laws
covered violence between people, giving different punishments based on the class each
person belonged to. They also covered non-violent acts, such as farming.

At the start of the Code, it is stated that if a man were to receive anything from a
child or slave without consent of master, they would be charged with theft, and put to
death (7). This implies that slaves and minors may not hold property of any kind, and
anything they hold it property of their master/guardian. This continues through the laws
as many detail how to handle slaves, what slaves may do, and what to do about various
instances with slave interaction.

Slaves are one thing, but free men belonging to the upper- and lower-class will
find plenty of injustice that favors those who are more well off. First law to color this gold
tinted skew is where it declares that if a man is found in possession of stolen livestock
or ships, they must pay thirty-fold if in the upper-class and ten-fold if in the lower-class
(8). Now, at first glance, it is unbiased; the rich pay more and the poor pay less, but this
is still biased. Yes, thirty-fold is much more to pay than ten-fold, but keep in mind that
the upper-class is comprised of the king, chief officers of state, and owners of large

properties of land. They can easily write off the money, whereas the lower-class are
unlikely unable to comfortably pay off such a sum.

Hammurabis Code explicitly details what happens during violent encounters.

First off, it detail a very simple eye-for-eye, tooth-for-tooth policy where if a free man of
either class causes injury, such as breaking an arm, to a man of the upper-class (196,
197, 200, 202). When dealing with injury toward the lower-class citizens, the skew is
even more pronounced. For offences that would warrant equal measure, such as
striking and killing a man, the offender must pay one half a mina of silver to the doctor
who treated the deceased. If that man was of the lower-class, the offender only pays
one third a mina of silver (207, 208), implying that a man of the lower-class is worth less
than the upper-class.

As detailed, Hammurabis code has clear distinctions on the place of people

belonging to various social classes. The upper-class citizens are the most important.
The lower-class are negligible. The slaves are slaves, and do not warrant much.