The day jus­tice is served

iD magazine - - History -

An eye for a eye, a tooth for a tooth— it sounds like bar­baric ju­rispru­dence, but it is in fact the ba­sis of all so­cial co­ex­is­tence. Be­fore these le­gal codes were drafted, vig­i­lante jus­tice, re­venge, and chaos pre­vailed. Around 1700 BC the Baby­lo­nian King Ham­murabi com­mands a black stele (pil­lar) to be built and in­scribed with le­gal text. Ham­murabi’s Code is 282 para­graphs long; among other things, it de­scribes the right to pri­vate prop­erty. In the event of a cap­i­tal of­fense, the plain­tiff, wit­nesses, and judge had to con­vene: “It’s the fruition of law and jus­tice,” writes le­gal his­to­rian Herbert Petschow. The con­cepts don’t hold up today be­cause “eye for an eye” can hurt in­no­cents: If a man’s son is killed, the killer’s son is pun­ished in­stead of the killer him­self.

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