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Law Codes Of Ancient Times

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In this essay I will discuss the Law Codes of Hammurabi, the Twelve Tables, and the Burgundian. In each of the three law codes I will analyze three different aspects. While analyzing these parts I will give the strengths and weaknesses of each. I feel these aspects are of great importance in creating a sound and just society.

The first I will look at is flexibility. With this I will talk about how easily the law codes can be made applicable to the lives of everyday people. Next I will talk about the sanctions or "punishments" that the law code lays out. I will discuss if I feel the law code is just in its sanctions. Keeping in mind that the seriousness of a crime should be equal to the punishment, or it will have little or no effect on deterring a person from committing the crime. Finally, I will discuss the treatment of women in the law code. Personally I believe that women should be treated as equals. I will look at each and see how women are treated.

The Law Code of Hammurabi was created in the early eighteenth century. Looking at this document I found that nearly every part begins with "if" and continues with then. This can be helpful if the "wrong activity" or crime is in this law code. This early law code says if you do this then this will happen to you, and this is very important. What about activities not addressed in the code? This law code can not answer this question. It is not possible to write everything down that is forbidden. A standardized court system would have been a nice addition to pull together loose ends.

Hammurabi's Code's punishments for deviant acts are quite straightforward. At just a glance I counted double digit crimes that are punishable by death, and quite a few more by throwing people into the river, "which basically is a death sentence." Just having punishments is a huge leap forward from not having anything. Still it seems that respect for this law code would be hard to maintain. So many crimes punishable by death dulls the effect of capitol punishment in my eyes.

I was truly surprised by a section dealing with women.

"If a woman so hated that she declared, "You may not have me," her record shall be investigated at her city council, and if she was careful and was not at fault, even though her husband has been going out and disparaging her greatly, that woman, without incurring any blame at all, may take her dowry and go off to her father's house." (Lualdi, Hammurabi, p.18)

This means that a woman actually has the right to divorce. I never would have thought an ancient code such as this would give a right of this nature to a woman. That is not to say that this code is all about women's rights. In several sections I read about women being sentenced to death for minuscule acts that a man would not have been. For instance, if a woman received currency instead of grain, then that woman would be thrown into the river.

No law code will ever be perfect, but the hope is over time the law codes can be better. I will now leap forward in time and see how the twelve tables measure up.

The Twelve Tables is a result of the Roman Republic. It was written on 451 B.C.E. Immediately this law code gives what I thought was missing from Hammurabi's. It gives the set up of an official court system. This means that problems can be settled in a civil manner. Also this code will not be forced to name as many "If and Then" statements. This brings a wider degree of flexibility to the code, and allows it to apply to every part of people's day to day life.

In addressing sanctions on violators the Twelve Tables seems to have a greater understanding of the equality of crime and punishment. It is importatnt to remember that jails and prisons are recent inventions. So how do you give out punishments if there are no jails or prisons, and you do not want to kill every violator? The answer is fines. Hammurabi's code did have a few fines, but the Twelve Tables expanded fining. This means that a greater respect for the law can be had, because the punishments are closer to the seriousness of the crimes.

The treatment of women seems to be heading in the right direction with this code. There of course are negatives like the statement, "Women, even though they are of full age, because of their levity of mind shall be under guardianship." (Lualdi, Twelve Tables, p.91) At the same time I sense an overall better respect for females in general. A section that I believe illustrates this gives women the ability to escape her husband's marital control, given a certain action is taken by the female. Also, much less mention of the death



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