Hammurapi, king of Babylon (1792-1750 BC)

Hammurapi (1792-1750 BC) was the sixth ruler of a line of Amorite kings, who had established themselves at the city of Babylon around 1900 BC. For the first 30 years of his reign, Hammurapi appears to have been a minor local ruler. He then launched a series of military campaigns and gained control of much of Mesopotamia, defeating the major kingdoms of Larsa (south Mesopotamia), Eshnunna (east of the River Tigris) and then Ashur. Mari, an important city on the River Euphrates, was also captured (the walls of Mari were levelled two years later). Hammurapi's territory now shared a northern border with Aleppo in Syria, one of the other great political centres of the time.

Hammurapi is perhaps most celebrated for his so-called law-code. Although it was not intended to function like a modern law-code, its statement of traditional or contemporary practice in all areas of civil and criminal law was an assertion of Hammurapi's role as the champion of justice. One copy of the text, written in Akkadian cuneiform on a large stela, was carried off as booty by an Elamite army to the city of Susa in the thirteenth century BC, and is now in the Musée du Louvre, Paris. Hammurapi's kingdom did not break apart on his death, but over a period of 150 years gradually shrank to the region around Babylon.

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