Project launch—eHammurabi

Project launch—eHammurabi

Posted by CRS Staff on February 14, 2021 for the eHammurabi project

The CRS is proud to announce the launch of its third project: eHammurabi. The single-page website lets you browse the legal statutes found in the Law Code of Hammurabi. For each item, we provide images of the cuneiform inscription, transliteration, normalization, and an English translation. This project will hopefully accomplish a few research objectives. First, we hope to analyze the laws with respect to their psychological significance. Second, we hope to invite others to contribute similar digital humanities projects that have been difficult to compile.

Project page Visit

About Hammurabi's law code

The Law Code of Hammurabi is one of the oldest legal texts from ancient Mesopotamia. The artifact, a basalt stele now located the Louvre in Paris, France, is believed to have been created between c. 1792–1750 BCE. It was discovered in 1901 in present-day Iran. The name "Hammurabi" belongs to the sixth ruler of the Old Babylonian dynasty. The cuneiform inscription is in the Old Babylonian language, which is a later dialect of ancient Akkadian. It was promptly translated by many scholars, including Robert Harper in 1902.

The inscription contains three sections composed of c. 4,150 lines: a prologue, a list of statutes, and an epilogue. The prologue contains c. 300 lines and declares Hammurabi's divine authority over the land. Therein, Hammurabi boasts of his accomplishments and intimacy with Marduk, among other deities. The bulk of the text contains 282 individual statutes, or laws, according to most scholars. The laws deal with various areas of life in Babylon: property, crime, contracts, marriage, family, and commerce. The epilogue contains c. 300 lines and codifies Hammurabi's desire to serve justice throughout the land by means of the statutes noted above.

Format and digital implementation of the laws

Most of the laws are structured in an "if-then" conditional format; that is, "if X happens, then Y is the result." The "if" clause is called the protasis and the "then" clause is called the apodosis. Some laws utilize contextual details from prior paragraphs. The website includes four columns with the following data for each law: (1) cuneiform images; (2) transliteration; (3) normalization, and; (4) translation. For a given inscription, (1) cuneiform is the writing system used. It is shown as an image in this website. The symbols are inscribed on a surface using a stylus in the form of a series of wedge-shaped marks. (2) Transliteration is the transfer of sound (phonetic) values from one script into another, and looks like this: "šum-ma a-wi-lum." Uppercase transliterations are usually logograms, or symbols that represent whole words or concepts. (3) Normalization is the application of Akkadian grammar to the transliteration. Finally, the (4) translation is the rendering of the normalization into a given language, English in the case of this website.

Utilized sources

As shown in the Bibliography of the website, the cuneiform images are derived from E.S.J. Bergmann's (1953) standard text. Most of the transliterations, normalizations, and English translations are from John Huehnergard's standard Akkadian grammar. The grouping of the laws utilized in the menu was derived from a comparison of all available sources, albeit mainly from those newer sources: Mervyn E.J. Richardson (2004, pp. 25-27) and Saad D. Abulhab (2017, p. 4). See the full Bibliography for more information.

Goal and social purpose

The goal of eHammurabi is to provide a single-page experience for viewing all of the statutes found in the Law Code of Hammurabi. While there are many publications that treat this work, these are difficult to locate and secure, most especially for individuals untrained in Akkadian. By providing a single website page for all the laws, anyone with an internet connection can browse all the laws to their pleasure with a few scrolls. Most importantly, the four-column interface allows the reader to compare the cuneiform inscription, transliteration, and English translation–all without switching tabs. The social purpose of eHammurabi is twofold: first, to invite other technologists to utilize their expertise for the purpose of studying ancient languages; and to encourage interest in the same amongst everyone else.

Data sharing between OMNIKA and eHammurabi

While the Law Code of Hammurabi is included in OMNIKA's extensive database, the legal text is quite long and data-intensive with all the images. For that reason, eHammurabi is a separate website. The two projects will nevertheless share these data so that readers can learn more about the text's rich scholarship history. If the Allo project includes an Akkadian lexicon, we may be sure that it shall be integrated into eHammurabi as well.