Our final visit to the super ancient world for the History Lessons for the Social Media Practitioner Series takes us to Babylon in the year 1772 BC (or so). Hammurabi ruled the Babylonians for 42 years, and during that time, something inspired him to have some really important laws scratched on to 8′ tall rocks. We’re glad that he had this done, because Hammurabi’s Code remains one of the oldest known sets of written laws in the world. It’s a shame he doesn’t get to enjoy that part, huh?
The thing about Hammurabi’s Code that struck me the very first time I heard about it was that it was kind of…rough. Hammurabi’s Code introduced the world, for example, to the concept of “an eye for an eye.” In other words, if you gouge my eye out of my face, I can do the same thing to you, assuming I can see well enough.
Some of the specific laws contained in the code would be pretty helpful in controlling the online world so many many millennia later, but the punishments make me wonder if our behavior is really more reprehensible than I had previously thought. Here, let me show you what I’m talking about.
22. If a man has committed highway robbery and has been caught, that man shall be put to death.
Highway robbery. Well, you might think that this phrase would have nothing to do with the online world, but actually my friend Ameena Falchetto has experienced highway robbery first-hand. Would Hammurabi put the hammer down on her copy-catter? It seems so.
Now here’s another one. There is always a lot of talk about “a-holes” and “d-bags” in the online world, and one might rightly call this namecalling a series of “low blows.” Interestingly, Hammurabi had a lot to say about hits below the belt.
- 202. If a man has smitten the privates of a man, higher in rank than he, he shall be sourged with sixty blows of an ox-hide scourge, in the assembly.
- 203. If a man has smitten the privates of a patrician of his own rank, he shall pay one mina of silver.
- 204. If a plebeian has smitten the privates of a plebeian, he shall pay ten shekels of silver.
- 205. If a slave of anyone has smitten the privates of a free-born man, his ear shall be cut off.
Now, who wants to monitor the online world and make sure that for every low blow, there is appropriate retribution? This might reduce the online drama a bit, right? I think it’s a good idea, anyway.
218. If a physician make a large incision with the operating knife, and kill him, or open a tumor with the operating knife, and cut out the eye, his hands shall be cut off.
This is a lot of pressure to put on a physician. I wonder if Hammurabi would be equally tough on people offering business or marketing advice online. If your advice doesn’t work, I’m afraid your hand needs to be cut off. Ouch. Then again, it would be interesting to see if the advice being offered would suddenly change radically, right?
Of course, many of the laws contained in the Code of Hammurabi have to do with slaves and animals…oxen and….asses. Well, I suppose if we were mean-spirited we could draw some parallels there, but I don’t want to make a false claim, which would result in me having to ” leap into the river” and hopefully not sink, which would prove my innocence.
See? Hammurabi is making me behave better online already.
So what do you think? What can we learn about ourselves here in the 21st plugged-in century by reflecting on one of the first sets of laws ever to be written? I think it’s sort of refreshing to see that humans really haven’t changed that much. We’re still building houses that fall down. We’re still stealing each others’ spouses, pushing over oxen, and doing all kinds of other dumb stuff. Is that comforting, or an argument against evolution?
You tell me!
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/un_cola/64424869/ via Creative Commons