Law code of Hammurabi, king of Babylon, 1792–1750 B.C.E. Basalt stela, Louvre Museum, Paris, France. © 2009 RMN / Franck Raux.
King Hammurabi ruled Babylon (in ancient Iraq) for over 40 years in the 18th century B.C.E. The king’s long reign allowed him to accomplish numerous goals, and his successes are commemorated in this monumental collection of Babylonian law. The stela spells out 282 laws; half address contract issues, a third concern household and family relationships, and the remainder address miscellaneous issues such as military service. The relief carving seen at the top shows King Hammurabi standing, with right hand raised in a sign of respect, before the Mesopotamian deity Shamash, god of justice. Shamash is seated on his throne, presenting Hammurabi with a scepter, a symbol of royal power. The scene is meant to legitimize Hammurabi’s legal proclamations by demonstrating their authorization by the god of justice.