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Q: History of Laws. ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: History of Laws.
Category: Science
Asked by: brazilian44-ga
List Price: $20.00
Posted: 26 Jul 2003 17:15 PDT
Expires: 25 Aug 2003 17:15 PDT
Question ID: 235476
I would like to obtain the text  of the Dungi Code and also some
comments on it.  Dungi was a sumerian leader or king. The Code of King
Hammurabi was based on it.

Request for Question Clarification by byrd-ga on 30 Jul 2003 10:34 PDT
Actually, it would seem that the Code of Hammurabi was based on a set
of previously recorded and observed Sumerian laws, of which the Code
of Dungi may have been one.  However, Dungi's code is mentioned only
sparsely in ancient history texts, and many do not even find it
important enough to mention at all.  Also, there seems to be some
disparity of dates. While once source gives the dates of Dungi's Code
as about three centuries before Hammurabi's ( ), this same date
is also attributed to the Ur-Nammu Code of Law, i.e. approx. 2050-2100
B.C. ( ), which many
sources state is the earliest known written code of law in the world,
and is the one most often credited as being the source of the Code of
Hammurabi.  Unfortunately, there don't appear to be any online sources
that provide the full text of even this law, though there are links to
scholarly collections having what fragments of it exist.  Since it is
apparent that there is no text of the Dungi Code, I'd be glad to
provide you with further links to mention and commentary of the
Ur-Nammu Code instead if you feel that would answer your question.  If
not, perhaps you or another Researcher will be able to find more
information on Dungi and his law code than I have been able to.  Best
of luck.  This is certainly a fascinating journey into world history.


Request for Question Clarification by tutuzdad-ga on 30 Jul 2003 11:33 PDT
King Dungi is believed to have been the one responsbile for the
codification of Babylonian law, which ultimatley became adopted (and
perhaps modified) as the Code of Hammurabi (Khammurabi). I can provide
you with the text of the Hammurabi code if you like. The 282 clauses
of the Code found engraved on a seven foot stone pillar were
deciphered by a leading university.


Clarification of Question by brazilian44-ga on 31 Jul 2003 20:33 PDT
I am working on a book about the penal stewardship of animals. A part
of this book I am sorting out as a final dissertation for the 
university course (lawschool)  I have finished.

I am analysing the history  of man from the moment when different
branches of primates evolved in different directions, the development
of man's inteligence, arriving at the first civilizations and how laws
emerged as word of mouth, tribal rulings and evolved until  our days,
setting the final focus on Brazilian penal laws. I would like to enter
into details about the Code of Dungi, because, as a sumerian king or
patesi, his code, as I have read, introduced the Talion, which was a
step forward in applying penalties to delinquents.

I have never heard of the Ur Namu Code, does it contribute to any
aspect of this evolution I am working on?

I have other questions, I shall post them later. 

Thank you in advance.

Ana Maria

Request for Question Clarification by byrd-ga on 01 Aug 2003 08:51 PDT
As I said, it does not appear, at least from an exhaustive online
search, that any written form of Dungi's Code is in existence. Rather,
the credit for the oldest extant written law code in the world goes to
the Ur-Nammu Code, of which only fragments have been discovered on
five clay tablets, and which predates the Code of Hammurabi by about
three centuries, the same time attributed to Dungi's Code.  Although
there was a king by the name of Ur-Nammu, who is generally credited
with authorship of this code, there are some sources who state that it
actually likely compiled and written by his son, Shugli.

I can provide you with quite a few references to the Ur-Nammu code, as
well as to those that mention Dungi's Code. Yes, I do believe this
code contains evidence of early elements of the doctrine of
punishments as I understand you to have explained it, though I have
not encountered the term "Talion" specifically.

In addition, I can provide you a link to a scholarly paper that
mentions another code, that of Lipit-Ishtar, which is dated about
halfway between Ur-Nammu and Hammurabi, and also several other Codes,
in particular the Codes of Eshunna, that pre-date Hammurabi's Code.
You might be especially interested in these, since the author of this
paper states, of the Codes of Eshunna, that "...repercussions are
assigned and highly delineated for a number of physical attacks.  In
detail not yet witnessed in a law code, specific monetary punishments
are listed for biting the nose, destroying an eye, an ear, foot, hand,
finger, collarbone, or slapping the face, cutting the finger, or
knocking down another man.  If this weren’t enough, “if a man should
inflict any other injuries on another man in the course of a fray, he
shall weight and deliver 10 shekels of silver” demonstrates that
physical attack was an issue in Mesopotamian society and repercussions
such as these were designed (or adopted) by the rulers to discourage
fighting, thereby settling disputes among citizens."

These monetary remedies are, as you likely know, rather different from
the doctrine of like retribution, i.e. "an eye for an eye" that is
encountered in Hammurabi's code.  But perhaps these are not what
you're looking for.  Since you apparently have access to a reference
that directly credits Dungi's Code for establishment of the principles
you're trying to trace, I would strongly suggest you might also want
to check the bibliography of that work to see from which source the
information might have been taken, as I have been unable to locate it
online, nor was Dungi's Code mentioned in the above-quoted work or in
most of the comprehensive Sumerian and/or Mesopotamian history sources
I've found.

If you'd like to accept what information I have been able to find
regarding the Ur-Nammu, Lipit-Ishtar, and Eshunna Codes as an answer
to your question, please let me know and I'll be glad to do so.  If
not, again, I wish you best of luck in finding what you're looking
for, and hope that perhaps another Researcher may be able to better
assist you.


Request for Question Clarification by byrd-ga on 01 Aug 2003 08:58 PDT
I need to clarify that when I said that I found no mention of "talion"
I meant not "outside" of Hammurabi's Code.  As I understand it, this
is the name given to the principle of like retribution, i. e. "lex
talionis — depending on one’s status in society, one could punish an
offender in measure equal to his offense — equal within classes but
not between classes."  And indeed, several sources state that, against
what one would think might be normal expectations, earlier codes of
law were less harsh in their repercussions for delinquency.

Clarification of Question by brazilian44-ga on 02 Aug 2003 14:35 PDT
Dear Byrd,

I have been researching the evolution of laws since  the beginnings of
civilization. I shall try to focus the evolution of laws in relation
to  the treatment of slaves and of women,  and then to animals.

The codes you have mentioned are of interest to me. I think your
research will undoubtly enrich my lawschool dissertation and future
book.  I do accept your indications and I shall consider your task as

Later on I shall post some more titles of ancient documents related to
 animals and I shall be happy to have someone as competent and
helpfull as you searching the web for me.

Thank you.

Request for Question Clarification by byrd-ga on 02 Aug 2003 15:10 PDT
Dear Ana Maria,

Thank you for your confidence in me.  I appreciate the opportunity to
assist you with your research in this matter.  I'll be very happy to
provide you with the information I've found, but as I have a prior
engagement that will occupy the rest of this day, I will plan to post
my answer by tomorrow (Sunday) evening.  I hope this will be
satisfactory to you.

Subject: Re: History of Laws.
Answered By: byrd-ga on 03 Aug 2003 13:25 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Dear Ana Maria,

You have indeed embarked upon a fascinating journey in your effort to
trace the evolution of law.  As I understand it, you were hoping to
find a copy of the text of the earliest introduction to the concept of
 “Talion,” or “lex talionis,” that is to say, the law of retribution
or retaliation, i.e. “an eye for an eye.”   You’ve state your current
understanding is that it was in the Code of Dungi where this concept
was first introduced.  However, from my research online it would seem
that this is not the case.  The concept of “lex talionis” appears to
have been first introduced in the Code of Hammurabi about 1770 B.C.

Furthermore, it does not appear that there exists a written record of
Dungi’s Code, at least by that name, although King Dungi of Ur is
briefly mentioned in a few places.  For example,  one source says that
Ur rose to prominence in ancient Sumeria around 2070 B.C., and “The
greatest ruler of this era was a man called Dungi. He was an able
administrator and compiled the Law Code of Dungi, which predated the
Code of Hammurabi by some three centuries.”   ( )

But although there are a few other mentions of King Dungi in ancient
history texts, the sources are by no means in agreement on his exact
placement in time.  In fact, one source states there may actually have
been two rulers by the name of Dungi, separated in time by about 450
years. To add to the confusion, if this is the case, according to this
particular source, either one would have lived much earlier than three
centuries before Hammurabi, which is the time ascribed to the earliest
written law code.  See this link:
   And there is another mention of Dungi here:

Also, rather than “Dungi’s Code,” it is the “Ur-Nammu Code,” which is
generally agreed to be the earliest written code of laws in the world.
  There is an earlier code, that of Urukagina, but as one source
states, “This code has never been discovered but it is mentioned in
other documents as a consolidation of existing ‘ordinances’ or laws
laid down by Mesopotamian kings.”  ( )

As to the authorship of the “Ur-Nammu Code.” some sources say that
although there was a king by the name of Ur-Nammu, who is generally
credited with  its creation, these laws were actually written by his
son Shugli.  Now this fact is very interesting because in another
place, it is state that “Shugli” is actually another name for “Dungi,”
and so the Ur-Nammu code may actually be the Code of Dungi by another

Another reference says, “Ur-Nammu the restored stele of Ur-Nammu from
Ur, c. 2060-1955 B.C., shows the Ur-Nammu Law Code was produced by the
founder of the third dynasty or Ur and builder of the best preserved
ziggurat in Mesopotamia. He ruled from 2112 to 2095 B.C. Twenty-nine
laws are extant, which leads to the Hammurabi Code in 1728 to 1686
with 282 laws after receiving them from the god Shamash.”  (

But the Ur-Nammu code is consistently dated by most sources to
approximately three hundred years before the Code of Hammurabi, so how
this squares with the dates given above for the reign of either of the
Dungis is still open to question.  Just to make things interesting,
here's a source that talks about “A granite bowl of Naram-Sin of Agade
(2550 B.C.), which ... (about 2250 B.C.) was presented to the temple
at Ur by the daughter of king Dungi (or, Shulgi).” 
) This date is different still from the time frame ascribed above to
the two possible reigns of Dungi, further adding to the confusion
about dates.  So, for purposes of this answer, I’ll leave the exact
placement in time of Dungi, and precise authorship of the Code of
Ur-Nammu open and proceed to discuss the code itself.

Here it is stated of Ur-Nammu’s Code that it is “The earliest known
written legal code of which a copy has been found, albeit a copy in
such poor shape that only five articles can be deciphered.” ( )  This copy is contained
in the Sch°yen Collection, which “ is located mainly in Oslo and
London. Scholars are always welcome, and are strongly encouraged to do
research and to publish material. Parts of the collection are
deposited with universities and public libraries to facilitate access
for scholars. Over 90 % of the MSS are unpublished at present.” 
Please see this link for further information:

It is MS 2064 that contains the Ur-Nammu Law Code, which is a “code of
57 laws including criminal law, family law, inheritance law, labour
law including slave rights, and agricultural and commercial tariffs.” 
( )

In addition, there is a further project, i.e. “The Electronic Text
Corpus of Sumerian Literature” which “ is based at the University of
Oxford. Its aim is to make accessible, via the World Wide Web, over
400 literary works composed in the Sumerian language in ancient
Mesopotamia during the late third and early second millennia BC.” 
Although the Law Code of Ur-Nammu is listed, it does not yet appear to
be available electronically, although that may change in the future. 
As a scholar working in the area of law history, however, you may be
able to obtain some further assistance.  Please see this link: and this: (scroll to the very end
of this one to see the catalogue number for the Ur-Nammu Code.)

As for the origin of Talion, or the doctrine of lex talionis, and its
connection to the earlier laws, whether the Code of Dungi or the
Ur-Nammu Code (even if they are one and the same), as the description
at the Schoyen Collection page states, “Hammurabi's laws represented
the inhuman Law of Retaliation, "an Eye for an Eye". One would expect
the 300 years older laws of Ur-Nammu would be even more brutal, but
the opposite is the case: "If a man knocks out the eye of another man,
he shall weigh out 1/2 a mina of silver".

Therefore it would seem that, contrary to what your previous sources
have stated, the earlier code, whether written by Ur-Nammu or Shugli,
or Dungi, is not actually the earliest source of this particular
doctine.  That distinction appears to belong to the Code of Hammurabi,
of which we do have written texts.  Here is a link where you may find
that text, in case you don’t already have it: , and
another, here: .

There are other codes which follow that of Ur-Nammu and also predate
the Code of Hammurabi.  These include the Laws of Lipit-Ishtar and the
Laws of Eshunna.  It is of interest to note that at least one source
claims that none of the codes prior to Eshunna, however, were actually
codes of law, but were instead merely “collections, within the
framework of royal inscriptions, of independent legal decrees issued
by various kings to meet specific problems.” ( )

For more information about these other codes, you might like to read a
scholarly paper entitled “The Development Of Ancient Mesopotamian Law”
at this site: 
, which also mentions these other earlier codes, and how they relate
to Hammurabi’s code.  In particular, the author states that 
“Repercussions in Hammurabi’s codes differ from previous codes in one
major respect – the use of lex talionis, the principle of “eye for an
eye”.  The clause that has made this phrase known occurs in the middle
of the codes, “if an awilu should blind the eye of another awilu, they
shall blind his eye” (xi 45-9).  The next many clauses all deal with
this talion notion. This standard provides for severe penalties.  In
addition, other punishments mentioned are death by drowning, burning,
impaling and execution with weapons.  Why would a law code supposedly
more advanced use a practice of law seemingly more barbaric to handle
disputes?  One possible explanation offered is that “this severity,
which so contrasts with Sumerian judicial tradition, can be traced
back to the Amorite influence” (Britannica, 875).  This argument is
founded on the assumption that Sumerians and Akkadians were culturally
very distinct, and that lex talonis was well founded in Akkadian

So, in summary, if you are tracing the earliest written record of the
principle of Talion, that is almost certainly contained within the
Code of Hammurabi, and is likely a feature of Akkadian culture
superimposed upon an existing, less brutal system of Sumerian law, of
which the earliest known written code is that of Ur-Nammu, which may
(or may not) have been written by Dungi of Ur.

I hope this information is helpful to you as you research this topic
for your book and dissertation.  If anything isn’t clear or needs
further explanation, please do use the “Request Clarfication” feature
before rating and closing your question, so I can be sure I’ve
provided you with an adequate answer that will fill your needs in this
regard.  Thank you again for the opportunity to assist you with this
matter.  I look forward to seeing further questions on this subject as
you proceed with your research.

Best regards,

Here are a few more links to sites with related historical
   --Mesopotamia: The First Civilization:
   --Bibliography for further reading on history of Mesopotamian law:
   --Explication of the Code of Hammurabi:
   --Simplified BC historical timeline:

Search strategy:
“Dungi’s code”
Dungi Sumeria
Dungi “law code” 
Ur Dungi
   From the returns on these initial searches, I then searched more
specifically on additional terms, including:
“ancient history” law
history law OR legal
Sumeria OR Mesopotamia
ancient law codes
history “lex talionis”
brazilian44-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $10.00
Undoubtly a five star answer, prompt,  efficient and extremely helpful
for the highly complicated work I have engaged myself into. Thank you.

Subject: Re: History of Laws.
From: byrd-ga on 03 Aug 2003 15:36 PDT
Ana Maria,

You're very welcome.  It was a pleasure working with you.  I also
enjoyed learning more about this time in world history, and I thank
you very much for the five-star rating and generous tip. They are most

Best wishes, 

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