The laws of ancient civilizations have had a great influence on the development of Canadian law. Even though Canada is a relatively young country, the roots of our legal system date back thousands of years.
Here, King Hammurabi is pictured receiving authority over the laws from Shamash, the god of justice. How might this influence Babylonians to follow the law?
He placed the 8-foot-tall stone pillar, now known the “Code of Hammurabi” in a central location for all to see so that all people would be familiar with the laws in Babylon.
It was discovered in 1901 and has since been translated and is now on display in the L’Ouvre Museum in Paris.
The Code of Hammurabi was very strict with severe punishments (as seen in the chart below) but it also established some important legal principles that still exist in our legal system today.
Crime murder theft, burglary, stealing hitting a parent lying in court kidnapping hiding runaway slaves conspiracyconspiracy-planning to commit a crime offending the gods Punishment
The concept of _______________was very important. This meant that the guilty party deserved punishment for his actions, much like today. However, the punishments were often very severe as it followed the philosophy of “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” It also could be unfair as sometimes innocent people were punished for a crime they did not commit i.e. if a man built a house for another man and it collapsed killing that man’s daughter, the builder’s daughter could be put to death.
Not all punishments were severe as it also established another important legal principle called _______________. This is where payment was made by the offender to the victim of a crime, also still present in our legal system. It also stated that the accused be given a fair trial and that people did not lie during a trial. Because the Code was placed for all to see it, nobody could claim that they were not aware of the laws. These ideas form the basis of our legal system today.
This is an artist’s rendering of the ancient city of Babylon, though the Code of Hammurabi is not visible.
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One of the greatest influences on our laws today is biblical law, also known as Mosaic Law, named after Moses.
Moses is believed to have climbed Mount Sinai where he received the 10 Commandments from God over 3000 years ago.
The 10 Commandments form the basis of Mosaic Law and have had an enormous impact on our legal system today.
Many of the 10 Commandments are still part of our legal system today.
Go through each Commandment and try to think of an example of how is was recently or still is a part of our legal system.
-Other examples of Mosaic Law are listed in the first five books in the Old Testament in the Bible. -Like the Code of Hammurabi, it was also very strict and followed the “eye for an eye” philosophy and people were often punished by death. -But penalties also focused more on restitution forcing the criminal to repay the victims rather than just punishing the criminals and it tried to only punish the guilty and not innocent, uninvolved parties.
Death was often done by “stoning.”
Today, laws against crimes such as murder and theft are at the forefront of our legal system, just as they were in Mosaic Law. Also, Canada is often referred to as a “Judeo-Christian” society as many of our laws and institutions are based on early Jewish and Christian beliefs.
Our Christian God is even mentioned in our National Anthem. Should the word “God” be in our anthem?
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Some countries in the Far East still use caning as a punishment, and often it is carried out in public.
Stoning in illegal in most Middle Eastern countries but not actively pursued as a criminal activity.
-Stoning is still used in some middle Eastern and African countries, particularly on women who have not even committed a crime. Often,…