When Was the Earliest Recorded Legal Systems
The Hammurabi code of laws, a collection of 282 rules, established standards for commercial interactions and set fines and punishments to meet the requirements of justice. Hammurabi’s Code was carved onto a massive, finger-shaped black stone stele (pillar) that was looted by invaders and finally rediscovered in 1901.
Civil law has its foundation in ancient Roman law, and this type of legal system is based on complying with enacted laws. Common law originated with England's monarchy, and this type of legal system is based on precedent. This means that previous cases and judicial opinions determine how new cases are resolved. Studying ancient legal systems can help you understand how and why current work the way they do. King Hammurabi was the first king of Babylon, and he was the ruler who was responsible for conquering Mesopotamia and creating the first Babylonian Empire. Hammurabi was known for his fair laws and style of ruling. He wanted his people to obey his laws out of respect, not out of fear. This ruler managed his court by clearly outlining the laws so that all of the people knew them. Hammurabi's laws are called the Code of Hammurabi. The Code of Hammurabi includes a wide range of statutes covering everything from family relationships to contracts to inheritances to crimes and punishments. For example, violent crimes often had penalties that equaled the crime; if you cut someone's hand off, for instance, you would have yours cut off, too. The king enforced his laws by holding everyone accountable equally, without regard for status or income. Every law had a clear punishment attached to it, and penalties were carried out consistently. The judicial system in place in America has roots in the ancient Greek legal system. In ancient Greece, there was no need for law school because lawyers were not a part of the legal system. Instead of having a lawyer representing each side in a case, people argued their cases. Some people with enough means may have hired speechwriters to help them figure out what to say when arguing a case. Ancient Greeks also did not use judges to decide verdicts. Instead, they used large juries, sometimes with as many as 500 jurors. Cases were not drawn out over days or weeks in ancient Greece: The Greeks monitored the proceedings strictly with a timer to make sure that the parties presented their positions and the jury gave its verdict by the end of one day.
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