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"The law code also extended into the daily life of the ordinary citizen. Builders were held responsible for the buildings they constructed. If a house collapsed and caused the death of its owner, the builder was put to death. Goods destroyed by the collapsed must also be replaced and the house itself rebuilt at the builder's expense."

http://www.historyguide.org/ancient/lecture2b.html

That is basically how the common law functions today. Harm people and you are personally punished. Harm property and you must pay for that property. Criminal law and civil law, crimes and torts.

*Of course the "property" in the original were actually slaves, but the principal holds.




http://eawc.evansville.edu/anthology/hammurabi.htm

    200. If a man knock out the teeth of his equal,
         his teeth shall be knocked out. 
    201. If he knock out the teeth of a freed man,
         he shall pay one-third of a gold mina.
    202. If any one strike the body of a man higher in rank than he,
         he shall receive sixty blows with an ox-whip in public.
    203. If a free-born man strike the body of another free-born man or equal rank,
         he shall pay one gold mina.
    204. If a freed man strike the body of another freed man,
         he shall pay ten shekels in money.
Please, tell me how this leads you to the conclusion "harm people and you are personally punished; harm property and you must pay for the property". Freed men aren't property. Free men have never been property.

Here are a couple more interesting clauses:

    108. If a tavern-keeper (feminine) does not accept corn according to gross weight
         in payment of drink, but takes money, and the price of the drink is less
         than that of the corn, she shall be convicted and thrown into the water.

    114. If a man have no claim on another for corn and money, and try to
         demand it by force, he shall pay one-third of a mina of silver in every case.
So... breaking the bone of a man lower in rank than you is a "civil" offense. Striking, without necessarily injuring, a man higher in rank is a "criminal" offense. Accepting payment in cash but refusing payment in kind is not just a criminal offense, but a capital offense. Demanding goods or money, by force, from someone who doesn't owe you anything is a civil offense, and a fairly minor one going by the fine.

And, again, there is no cultural continuity from mesopotamia to modern europe or america. Similarity between Hammurabi's Code and the English common law does not represent influence of one on the other, it represents parallel evolution. It is therefore no more and no less relevant to understanding the common law than, say, early Indian law, or 1700s Japanese law.




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