Best known for: A written code of laws called Hammurabi's Code
Hammurabi was born around 1810 BC in the Mesopotamian city-state of Babylon. His father, Sin-Muballit, was king of Babylon. Although not a lot is known about Hammurabi's youth, he was raised as the crown prince of Babylon. He likely attended a school called the tablet house. He was taught about the Babylonian gods and the history of the great leaders of Mesopotamia. He also learned how to fight and lead an army. As he grew older, he learned how to rule by watching his father and listening to his advisors.
When Hammurabi turned eighteen years old, his father became very sick. Soon his father died and young Hammurabi was crowned king of the city-state of Babylon.
At this time, Babylon was a fairly small kingdom. There were many other larger kingdoms surrounding Babylon including Assyria, Mari, Larsa, and Eshnunna. It was now Hammurabi's job to keep the city safe and help it to prosper. This may sound like a daunting task for an eighteen year-old, but Hammurabi was not scared. He was confident he could lead and he had a plan.
For the first several years of Hammurabi's reign, he concentrated on improving the city of Babylon. Hammurabi knew he needed peace to make these improvements so he established treaties with the most powerful nations in Mesopotamia. Once he felt the city was safe, he went to work.
Hammurabi worked to improve the defenses and infrastructure of the city. He strengthened the city walls, improved the city's irrigation system, and built new temples to the gods. The city became prosperous and grew in power.
After several years of building, Hammurabi's peace came to an end. The powerful kingdom of Elam invaded Mesopotamia and conquered the kingdom of Eshnunna. The city of Babylon was next in their path. Hammurabi called on his ally of Larsa to help and then he gathered his army to fight the Elamites.
Hammurabi and his army faced the Elamites. He expected an army from Larsa to arrive, but it never did. However, Hammurabi had done a good job in preparing Babylon for battle. His army crushed the Elamites.
Founding an Empire
After defeating the Elamites, Hammurabi turned his attention to his former ally Larsa. He was not happy that they had betrayed him. He invaded Larsa and took control of their cities. He then turned his army to the north and began conquering more cities and nations. Soon Hammurabi controlled all of Mesopotamia. He had established the first Babylonian Empire and was king of "the four quarters of the world."
Code of Hammurabi
Once Hammurabi had conquered Mesopotamia, he didn't consider his work done. He wanted to improve the way of life for all the people in his kingdom. He embarked on many reforms and construction projects. He built new canals, aqueducts, and temples throughout the land.
Today Hammurabi is most famous for enacting a new set of laws called the Code of Hammurabi. These laws were carved into stone columns called stelae that everyone could read. There were 282 laws. You can go here to learn more about Hammurabi's Code of Laws.
Hammurabi died in 1750 BC after 43 years of rule. His final years were ones of peace and prosperity for the people of Mesopotamia.
Interesting Facts about Hammurabi
Tablets including 55 of Hammurabi's letters have been recovered by archeologists.
He made changes to fix flaws in the Babylonian calendar.
He was a hard worker and became personally involved in managing many of his construction projects.
His name means "the kinsman is a healer."
His picture can be found in both the U.S. Capitol Building and the U.S. Supreme Court as one of the world's great lawgivers.