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When Was the Earliest Recorded Legal Systems

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The Code of Hammurabi was one of the earliest and most complete written legal codes and was proclaimed by the Babylonian king Hammurabi, who reigned from 1792 to 1750 B.C. Hammurabi expanded the city-state of Babylon along the Euphrates River to unite all of southern Mesopotamia

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.

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The legal systems in place throughout the world have origins that date back to ancient societies

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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Interestingly, as for morality of the death penalty, the students note that the USA should not abolish the capital punishment just to satisfy other nations’ beliefs or aspirations. The research participants also claim that the capital punishment is justified for people who are “not conforming to the ideas we all agree upon” (Grimes, 2010, p. 193). Finally, and it is very suggestive, students note that the capital punishment is deeply rooted in the “eye for an eye” principle. Clearly, one of the basic principles of the code of Hammurabi and Mosaic Law are still relevant in the contemporary society. Law students can be regarded as people forming public opinion (or at least, shaping it significantly) in the future. Hence, their opinion is likely to be prevailing in the American society in the future. Thus, people will still believe that justice has to be retributive as the society has to impose proportionate punishment for offenders and deter others from committing serious crimes. The principle “eye for an eye” that were governing in the ancient societies are still persistent in the USA.Clearly, they were very serious about their religion and every facet of their life was shaped by religious principles. The country’s Constitution was also shaped by the discourses that were taking place in other parts of the world. Balmer (2008) argues that the US Constitution was influenced by ideas of Blackstone and Baccaria who advocated the ban of capital punishment.

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Finally, in international law there have been few concrete results, despite considerable efforts at codifying international public and private law. Drafts have been prepared on matters such as arbitration and sale of goods, but so far the difficulty of achieving acceptance by nations with differing legal systems has not been overcome.

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Balmer, T.A. (2008). Some thoughts on proportionality. Oregon Law Review, 87(1), 783-818.

Copan, P. (2008). Is Yahweh a moral monster? The new atheists and Old Testament ethics. Philosophia Christi, 10(1), 7-37.

Fagan, J. (2006). Death and deterrence redux: Science, law and causal reasoning on capital punishment. Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, 4(1), 255-320.

Grimes, J. (2010). The symbolic capital of capital punishment: A scholarly reflection. Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Criminology, 2(1), 178-199.

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