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How are the laws of the Twelve Tables similar to the laws of Hammurabi? How are the two codes of law different?

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These two ancient codes of law were meant to maintain order to preserve the functions of their respective societies. While they do have a number of similarities, they were separated by over a millennium and were the products of two very different societies. Therefore, they also have distinct differences.


Both law codes have separate edicts and punishments for different classes of people. They make distinctions based on one's class as well as gender. Both enforced a patriarchal system by treating women as the property of the men in their families. Both codes of law also outlawed marriages between people of different classes.

There are some similarities concerning punishments for crimes. They both dictate that some crimes, such as certain types of theft, could result in the loss of a limb. Other crimes, such as perjury and arson, were punished by execution.

Both codes have important sections dedicated to the issue of debt and payments of restitution for damages.


An obvious difference concerns the size of these legal codes. As its name might suggest, there are just twelve laws in the Twelve Tables. Hammurabi's Code includes over 280 laws.

Being much smaller, the Twelve Tables speak more generally. They are more concerned with establishing legal procedures. Hammurabi's Code gets into specific laws, crimes, and punishments.

While distinctions were still made for the different social classes, the Twelve Tables were designed from its outset to create a more just system for the lower classes.

It does not seem as if the Twelve Tables promoted social mobility. A plebian could not hope to become a patrician. Hammurabi's Code, on the other hand, seems to suggest that there were certain mechanisms by which someone's social ranking could change.

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