Section 1- Primacy Source Reading
Part 1- Hammurabi’s Code
Hammurabi’s Code is a set of 282 laws. It was written in approximately 1790 B.C. and is one of the earliest sets of law known to man. The code was enacted by Hammurabi, a Babylonian King. The physical code itself was discovered by archeologist Gustave Jequier in 1901 in modern day Iran. The code is carved into large rock slabs, called steles, standing roughly seven feet tall.
The laws of Hammurabi’s Code were clearly inspired from the idea of “an eye for an eye”. For example, law 195 states that if a son should strike his father, his hands shall be cut off. Law 196 states that if a man should pull out eye of a man his equal, his eye will be pulled out. It is clear from law 196 and others that the code treats free men differently from slaves. If a person hurts or injures a free mean, often the same harm will be done unto that person, however, if a person hurts or injures a slave that person only need pay the slave’s owner just compensation, usually in the form of gold or silver.
Part 2- Homer’s Iliad
Iliad is epic poem about the ancient Trojan War. It was written around 1260 B.C. The true author is unknown, but it is attributed to Homer. Odyssey, also attributed to Homer is a sequel to Illiad. Together, Illiad and Odyssey are two of the oldest surviving literary works in western civilization.
Iliad follows the story of Mycenaean King Agamemnon and the soldier Achilles as they both command and fight in the last year of the Trojan War. Agamemnon was sieging the city of Troy and he hired Achilles and his men for their fighting prowess. Iliad covers many of the disagreements between Agamemnon and Achiles and ends with Achilles killing the Trojan Prince Hector. Hector’s father, the King of Troy, sneaks into Achilles camp at night to ask for the return of Hector’s body so that he may be given a proper Trojan burial. Achilles agree to return the body. Iliad does not actually discuss the famed Trojan horse.
Part 3- Plato’s Phaedo
Plato’s Phaedo is a dialogue discussing the death of Socrates. A dialogue is slightly different than a novel or a poem in that a dialogue is written as a conversation between several people. Phaedo was written in 360 B.C by Plato. Phaedo is written from the perspective of one of Socrates’ students, Phaedo. Phaedo is recounting to his friend Echecrates the last conversation he had with their teacher Socrates.
Prior to Phaedo, Socrates had been sentenced to death by an Athenian jury. Phaedo specifically covers the last few days before Socrates is put to death. Many of Socrates’ students visit him in his jail cell to discuss on life and death. Socrates concludes that the human soul is immortal. Socreates makes several arguments to support this conclusion, including the idea of reincarnation. Socrates argues that people often retain knowledge from previous lives, and that is how they have knowledge on topics they assume they know nothing about.
Section 2- Primacy Source Analysis
Citation and Context
Hammurabi’s Code was one of the first legal codes in the known world. It was enacted by King Hammurabi, though it is unknown if he wrote the code. The code itself was carved into a large stone, called a stele. Seeing as it was a legal code, Hammurabi’s code needed to be well-preserved so that the public could easily see and read it. The code was preserved quite successfully, as a complete set of Hammurabi’s Code was discovered in 1901, and it was in good enough physical shape to be fully translated.
Hammurabi’s Code is widely written about and there is a wealth of scholarly journal articles, magazine articles, and videos on Hammurabi’s Code. An interesting note about Hammurabi’s Code is that it is civil law. Civil law is law that is written down and codified. This is in contrast to common law, which is judge made law. In common law, law is essentially made by how judges rule on cases. Common law versus civil law is one of the oldest debate in the legal field, and it appears to go all the way back to Hammurabi’s Code.
King Hammurabi had the code placed near temples throughout Babylon. In the translation of Hammurabi’s code, Hammurabi specifically wants the code placed in the Temple of Babylon. The code was quite clearly written with the public in mind. Hammurabi wanted to make sure the general public knew how great and righteous he was.
There are several point-of-view biases throughout the document. In the prologue and epilogue of Hammurabi’s Code, Hammurabi gives himself unadulterated praise. For example, in the prologue the code states, “When Marduk sent me to rule over men, to give the protection of right to the land, I did and righteousness inand brought about the well-being of the oppressed.” In the prologue the code states, “Laws of justice which Hammurabi, the wise king, established. A righteous law, and pious statute did he teach the land. Hammurabi, the protecting king am I.” It is quite clear from the code that Hammurabi thinks highly of himself and feels the code will bring great peace and stability to his subjects.
The laws of the code also show point-of-view-bias. Under the laws of Hammurabi’s code people are treated differently depending on their social class. In laws 230 and 231, if a builder builds a faulty house and its collapses and kills its owner, the builder’s son will be put to death if the owner of the house is killed. If a slave of the homeowner is killed in the collapse, the builder only need pay the homeowner the price of the slave. Clearly ancient biases are at clear in laws like this. Slaves were considered inferior to free men, so crimes against slaves were punished less severely.
Although little is known about what was occurring at this time, Hammurabi’s Code was created only six years into Hammurabi’s forty year reign as king. Given that the code came so early in his reign, it is a reasonable assumption that Hammurabi wanted to bring codified law to his kingdom. Perhaps Hammurabi felt there was too much violence occurring, or perhaps he wanted to show the gods how righteous and pious he was.
Historians disagree as to why Hammurabi’s Code was created. Some historians argue that Hammurabi’s Code was indeed a legal code meant to adjudicate disagreements. Other historians feel it is meant mainly as a tribute to the gods, and that Hammurabi was simply trying to show the gods he was a virtuous king. Finally, some historians feel Hammurabi’s Code was simply propaganda that Hammurabi created late in his reign in order to improve his legacy after his death.
Hammurabi’s Code contributes to our understanding because it is, so far, the oldest written legal code in history. A written legal code is a major step in civilization and shows how mankind was advancing at the time. Hammurabi’s Code also gives a glimpse into the Babylonian culture. Through Hammurabi’s Code we see what is considered justice Babylonian culture.
Part 2- Peer Review Response
The student choose to write their analysis on the Epic of Gilgamesh, while I though the analysis was good, it could have been more in depth. Particularly I would have liked to see more on why the Epic of Gilgamesh was written, the student says no one knows why it was written, but it would have been helpful if the student had included reasons historians think it may have been written. It would have been helpful if the student discussed the role of legends and epic poems in the culture, and how the Epic of Gilgamesh played into that role.
Part 3- Video Response Paper
Part 1- My Thoughts
The video appears to be accurate overall, though there were some accuracy and honesty issues. A large part of the first half of the video was meant to show how the ancient Persian Empire under King Darius was one of the first multi-ethnic empires, and explains some of the ways the Persian Empire tried to include everyone, regardless of ethnicity, into its culture. This did not seem to be fully accurate, or at least Persian subjects did not perceive it to be that way.
King Darius expanded Persia by conquest, while he may have wanted to bring everyone together while they were under his rule, he used the sword to bring everyone under his rule, and not everyone under Persian control liked that. The Ionian Revolt, in which several Greek city-states rebelled against King Darius, took seven years to quell. The video mentioned only sparingly King Darius’ violent conquest of other ethnic groups and does not mention the Ionian Revolt, or any revolts, at all.
Overall, videos can be an effective way to communicate historical instruction, but video can have its failings. In this particular video, the main point was to discuss some of the major archeological finds that have occurred in the area and what those findings would look like in their prime. It seemed like, in order to make the archeological findings more interesting, the video also made some broad and inaccurate statements on the culture of the area as a whole. For example, when discussing King Darius’ Palace, the video mentioned on room in which a major ceremony took place. In order to unite everyone taking part in the ceremony, only one language was spoken during this ceremony. While that may have been true, the video used this point to make the broader point that the Persian Empire took strides to treat all ethnic groups in its vast empire equally, however history shows that the Persian Empire waged war to expand its empire, which is significantly different than what the video is suggesting. If the video had not made those broad assumptions, it would have been more accurate.
Part 2- Peer Review Response
The student had several good responses, I particularly agree with him on the length of the videos. Even though the video was split into two half-hour segments, it did feel like the segments could have been condensed without losing the essential substance of the segment. The main point of the video seemed to using the major archeological discoveries to show how the societies lived, which is why the video went so in depth on some of the buildings, the student seemed to think the focus on the buildings was excessive and ultimately boring, perhaps that suggests that using archeological discoveries to present a broad narrative on a culture and society is not very effective.