Laws and the justice system have had an important role all throughout history. The development of laws has an effect on each civilization, its people, and even religion. Different sets and types of laws can be linked to different government systems. For example, the laws of a democratic society are very different from those of a communist society. The ways that each civilization over time controlled the people and carried out punishments are all very different, yet in a way the same. Many civilizations build off of each other, and extend off of the past laws. During the course of my project, I really enjoyed seeing how we got to where we are today. It all started somewhere, and it was interesting to find the places where things began.
I traced all the way back to 1 BC and before. I started my research in Mesopotamia, 1780 BC, where I went in depth on Hammurabi’s code. King Hammurabi’s code of laws is one of the earliest that we have records of today. The laws clearly distinguish the social system, where free and wealthy men were at the top, serfs in the middle, with the poor and slaves on the bottom. At this point, crimes could be compensated for with money. So this obviously meant that the rich had options others did not. This code of laws had an “eye for an eye” outlook on punishment. The punishment for crime was equal to the crime committed. If something was stolen, it was returned, replaced, or paid for. The punishments for some things were rather harsh; as in law number 192. This law states that if any child disrespects their adoptive parents by saying, “you are not my real father/mother,” that their tongue would be cut off. These laws were effective in scaring the people, causing the crime rate to go down. Hammurabi’s Code influenced the laws of many civilizations yet to come.
Another law code originates in China around 1000 BC. The Chou Dynasty Laws were the earliest full Chinese code of laws, and governed China as a feudal system. The states within China were constantly at war with one another, causing dynasties to come and go. These laws went hand in hand with Legalism, the beliefs of that time. The laws were written on strips of bamboo, which would string together and roll up like a scroll. The Chou Dynasty laws are similar to Hammurabi’s Code in the sense that the punishment had to be even with the crime. The Chinese rulers believed at the time that this was the only way to restore the natural balance of things. Executions were only allowed to be performed, by law, in nature’s seasons of decay and death, fall and winter. The laws and their punishments were extreme, and like the laws of Hammurabi, scared the people into being well-behaved.
Another law system with extreme punishment appears in Greece, 621 BC. A lawmaker named Draco was chosen to write a code of law for Athens. The laws he wrote were the first ones to be written for Greece. His penalty for breaking many of the laws was death by execution. (This was so harsh that the...