Who Is Hammurabi?

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Hammurabi was an ancient king of Babylon who promulgated one of the first written code of laws in history. The sixth king in the Amorite Dynasty, Hammurabi reigned from around 1792 B.C. until his death in 1750 B.C.

Hammurabi came to the throne of Babylon after his father, Sin-Muballit, abdicated the throne. Soon after coming to power, Hammurabi began to extend the political, economic and military power of his state, conquering the powerful cities of Uruk and Isin in 1787 B.C. Conquering these cities was important for Hammurabi's other major goal: controlling the waters of the Euphrates River for use in irrigation agriculture. After around 20 years of peace, in which he strengthened his city walls and enlarged his temples, he began to undertake a sustained effort to expand Babylonian hegemony in Mesopotamia, first in the north against the Elamites, who blocked his access to the rich metal-producing regions in Iran.

After securing his position there, he turned his attention to the south, battling against the powerful king Ram-Sin. After defeating Ram-Sin, Hammurabi then consolidated his hold on the northern areas, conquering minor states and even forcing the Assyrian Empire to pay him tribute. Near the end of his reign, he consolidated the laws of his empire and had them etched onto a great stone in the language of the masses, Akkadian, allowing any literate citizen access to his empire's legal framework. Though not the first set of written laws, Hammurabi's Code is one of the longest of the early law codes.