Law and Politics

Start Free Trial

What are modern laws?

The term "modern laws" usually refers to modern definitions of legal notions and ideas that originated in ancient times. For example, modern statutes providing for monetary damages for defamation can trace their origin to the Hammurabi Code.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The term "modern laws" is generally used to refer to the codification of legal principals that trace their origin to time immemorial.

For example, Hammurabi's Code—so-called as it was promulgated by Hammurabi, sixth king of the Babylonian dynasty—came into force in the second millennium B.C. and contained edicts such as:

If a man bring an accusation against a man, and charge him with a crime, but cannot prove it, he, the accuser shall be put to death.

This generally describes the modern legal proscription against defamation, or the act of damaging someone's good reputation through word or deed and the right of the injured party to seek restitution against the wrongdoer. While the modern incarnation of defamation provides for monetary damages only (as opposed to death) and is somewhat more expansive than simply false accusation of a criminal act, it draws its inspiration from the the long-held principal established by Hammurabi that persons should not face false charges.

Another example from Hammurabi's Code arises from its proscription against domestic violence. Specifically, the code states:

If a son strike his father, they shall cut off his fingers.

In modern times, we have enacted statute laws that codify and update the general principal that bodily harm should not be inflicted by persons in a domestic relationship, such as cohabitating relatives with domestic violence legislation. While modern laws do not set out removal of extremities like the Babylonian edicts from which they draw inspiration, they nonetheless still hold true to the general idea of the Hammurabi Code.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team