Dating back to 1792 B.C.E. the Stele of Hammurabi is a significant piece of history known worldwide. This specific piece of art is known for contributing the longest deciphered writings which allows for others to learn significantly about Babylonian art, history, code, and governing. Throughout my paper I will discuss this work of art in depth and uncover details regarding unique features, importance, and its categorization in art departments today.
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The Stele of Hammurabi is seven feet, four inches tall and constructed in black diorite. Inscribed on this stele is a code written by Hammurabi to help set rules in governing his people. On the upper part of the Stele we see a sculpture depicting Hammurabi and the Sun God, Shamash. Shamash is the Mesopotamian god of justice and in the top of Hammurabi’s stele he is depicted handing Hammurabi symbols that signify authority.
In regards to significance, The Stele of Hammurabi is first and foremost known for its remarkable description that constitutes the majority of the bottom portion of the stele. Seeing as how this piece of art gives us insight to not only people of the Mesopotamian time period and community, it provides us with a historical text in regards to law. Though this “code” of law is not in the standards that we use in our judicial systems today it rather provides guidance and expectations to the people under Hammurabi’s rule. According to Iselin Claire, “It is not a code of laws in the sense that we understand it today, but rather a compendium of legal precedents” (Claire). Not only does this stele act as an aspect of authoritative guidelines, it also provides a list of towns within Hammurabi’s kingdom.
Today the Stele of Hammurabi is located at the Louvre in Paris, France. The stele was originally found by a price in Elam, Iran and was eventually displayed in Susa acropolis (Claire). Here the stele acted as a governing force and an attribute to the Susa acropolis. Knowing that “The stele of the Babylonian king Hammurabi constitutes a summary of one of the most prestigious reigns of ancient Mesopotamia” (Claire) it was studied by the school of scribes and deciphered. Within this school the stele was used as an educational tool for the next 100 years.
My interested in The Stele of Hammurabi was peeked when I visited the Louvre in May of last year. Having previously studied aspects of The Stele of Hammurabi, it was an eye-opening experience seeing this stele in person and having a slight understanding of the importance it is to art, law, and educational history. Seeing The Stele of Hammurabi at the Louvre also peeked my interest to write this paper and learn more about the intimate details that surround the law inscribed on the bottom part and the significance of the scene portrait in the top part of the stele.
In conclusion, The Stele of Hammurabi is a piece of art significant to the world ‘s history and allows us to learn about the Mesopotamian way of government. It is especially insightful due to in-depth description of rules and codes developed by Hammurabi and the type of ruling he had over his people. It provides not only information in regards to communication and writing during this time period, but also shows the extent of literacy the Mesopotamian people had at this time period. It shows that Mesopotamian people (Hammurabi especially) were capable of governing in a rational and well thought out way. It provides as an educational tool for law history and ancient civilization history. All-in-all The Stele of Hammurabi still provides insightful information in every culture of the world and can be noted for its deep description and understanding of an ancient civilization.