Texts to read: selected laws from Hammurabi's stela

Towards the end of his reign, the Babylonian king Hammurabi PGP  (r. 1792–1750 BC) commissioned an enormous stone monument depicting him as šar mÄ“šarim, "king of justice". The laws inscribed on this stela are an excellent introduction to reading real cuneiform, as the signs are clearly written, the grammar clear and consistent, and the vocabulary relatively restricted. These pages present photographs of selected laws, grouped in increasing order of difficulty.

The original stela is now in the Louvre Museum, Paris. It stands over 2 metres high, and shows Hammurabi (standing) receiving the insignia of righteous kingship from Šamaš, the god of justice, above a long inscription which includes over 280 different laws. Photo by Karen Radner. View large image.

You will probably be ready to try reading the Level 1 laws after completing the first four or five Cuneiform exercises and their associated Akkadian language pages. The Level 2 laws are designed to be read after Cuneiform exercise 6 and the Level 3 laws after Cuneiform exercise 8. You will find all the signs you need somewhere in the eight Signs to Learn lists on the Cuneiform exercises pages.

Level 1

Level 2

Level 3

Level 4

For a full translation of Hammurabi's laws, see Roth, Law Collections (2nd ed. 1997).

Content last modified on 09 Jan 2017.

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