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Code of Hammurabi (wikipedia.org)
50 points by waqasaday on April 8, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 23 comments



Hammurabi's code is prominently featured, ruminated upon, and contextualized in Nassim Taleb's Skin In The Game.

It's a profound and highly recommended read, especially considering the sheer amount of downtime that's available at the moment.


I thoroughly enjoyed Taleb's earlier books: Fooled By Randomness and Black Swan. Even AntiFragile is pretty good.

IMHO "Skin in the Game" is where Taleb jumped the shark. I understand the ideas behind it but it's just too much.


I particularly like his silver rule principle as it indeed seems like a better version of the golden rule.


Adultery Ex. Law #129: "If the wife of a man has been caught lying with another man, they shall bind them and throw them into the waters. If the owner of the wife would save his wife then in turn the king could save his servant."

Crazy how much our laws have evolved since then.


> If the owner of the wife

In Hebrew the word husband is the same word as owner. Other translations use husband rather than owner.

How much do we really understand the meaning of these ancient texts?


BTW the origin of the Hebrew Baal, "owner" is the Canaanite word (and deity) Baal, the meaning of which is more directly translated as "ruler".


Modern English isn't all that much better, comparatively either. Husband etymology comes from "house-holder" or "house-steward". There's definitely still an implied control relationship if not necessarily "ownership".

(Contrast to Old English's companion to wif [wife], wer was simply "married man" by way of connotation change from old German wer which was simply "man".)


Heres a more detailed etymology for husband

husband (n.) Old English husbonda "male head of a household, master of a house, householder," probably from Old Norse husbondi "master of the house," literally "house-dweller," from hus "house" (see house (n.)) + bondi "householder, dweller, freeholder, peasant," from buandi, present participle of bua "to dwell" (from PIE root bheue- "to be, exist, grow," and compare bond (adj.)). Beginning late 13c. it replaced Old English wer as "married man (in relation to his wife)" and became the companion word of wife, a sad loss for English poetry. Slang shortening hubby first attested 1680s.


>then in turn the king could save his servant."

Yeah, I don't understand what this part means at all honestly.


I would interpret this as the king being allowed to pardon the citizen who committed the adultery, if the husband chooses to forgive his wife.

I actually like the law. While it does still display an asymmetry of power in the relationship, it implements a negative incentive for cheating for both men and women. This is progress compared to a more primitive law that one could imagine where women could be punished arbitrarily, e.g. to death, while the man in the cheating act could not be punished by law.

Also, it seems better than vigilante justice. It gives both parties in the decision making the opportunity to show empathy, and so acknowledge the adultery without explicit punishment.


It's hard to grasp that old "bad" laws could still be very progressive.

I remember a teacher telling us that "an eye for an eye" should be viewed not as a crazy excessive response, but as a very modern "the punishment should be commensurate to the crime", which was not a given.


Likely that the king owns every man and losing manpower sucks, so if the husband wants to save his wife, the king can choose to save his servant who committed adultery.


So, uh, can or can't the wife's husband choose to spare her?


If the wife's husband spares his wife, then the king would spare the person that committed adultery with her. Otherwise they would both die.


Thank you, that makes sense now. The "king's servant" was throwing me off—I guess the idea is that everyone is a servant of the king.


I wonder if subject would have been a better translation than servant.


I would like to think the very first strategy home computer game was about Hammurabi, Hamurabi.bas, https://www.acriticalhit.com/sumerian-game-most-important-vi...



Please add (1754 BC) to the title.


Wikipedia pages don't date from that era.


I think it was a bit of a wry joke


And a [stone tablets] tag like what we'd do for a video


It's not a tablet, it's a stele, but I think you can use the same plugin to read both in chrome.




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