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What is the earliest written code in the world

The “Ulnum Code” is the earliest written code in the world known so far (before the “Hammurabi Code”), also known as the Ulnam Code and the Sumerian Code.

The Code of Ulnum was formulated by Shurji, the son of Ulnham, the founding monarch of the third dynasty of West Asia (approximately 2113 BC-2008). The original is composed of approximately 30-35 clay tablets. Most of them have not been preserved.

The earliest written code in history was promulgated by Ulnam, the founder of the third dynasty of West Asia. It adapts to the development of slavery, and is mainly used to protect slave possession and private ownership of the economy, and suppress the resistance of slaves and the poor. Most of this code is damaged and only fragments remain. Urnham, the founder of the Third Dynasty of Ur (approximately 2113 BC ~ 2006 BC) (reigned from approximately 2113 BC 2096 BC), established a powerful centralization system to take over the power of the whole country and unify the two river basins. The law adapted to the development of slavery and the needs of slave owners to suppress slave resistance, and ease the contradictions among the free people. He ordered a code written in Sumerian (cuneiform) to apply to the entire territory of Ur. “Ulnum Code”.

The code includes the preamble and the body with 29 articles (there are only 23 articles handed down). There is no conclusion, and it mainly involves politics, religion, and law. The preface declares that it was God who granted Ulnham the power to rule. Ulnham’s behavior in the world was to establish “justice” and “social order” in accordance with the divine will, and listed his actions in protecting the poor and restraining the mighty. Measures.

The earliest manuscripts that have been discovered are approximately from the Babylonian era, but most of them have been damaged and only a few fragments remain. Judging from the more severely damaged fragments of the code, the main content of the code is the provisions on slavery, marriage, family, inheritance, and punishment.

For example: the first divorce pays 1 min of silver, and the second divorce pays 1/2 min of silver, the adulterer will be executed; the female slave who rapes her will be fined 5 shekels; perjury will be charged Was fined; discounted bones in fights need to pay 1 min of silver, and damage to feet is required to pay 10 shekels; foreigners’ land is submerged, and 3 gurs (approximately 900 liters of barley) will be compensated for every 0.3 hectares of land; they will be fleeing. The slaves captured by the slaves mainly give the capturers appropriate rewards; torture and fines for harming others’ life experience; witchcraft is prohibited; those who damage the land of others must pay food compensation; female slaves will be punished for disrespect to the mistress. Women have a low status in the family, and they are executed if they commit adultery. These provisions fully demonstrated that the legislation at that time had gradually replaced homomorphic revenge with fines and compensation.

Judging from the remaining twenty-odd fragments, there are five that involve female slaves, who are often raped, traded, and beaten; two involve widows, and their social status is better than that of female slaves-mentioned in the preamble of the code Powerful people are not allowed to dominate widows. The text also mentions that men who abandon widows should compensate a certain amount of silver; the code also involves ordinary women, whose social status is higher than female slaves and women, but lower than ordinary men. Although there are still provisions in the code that allow the river god to clarify the crime of witchcraft and the crime of his wife being charged with adultery, the punishment for bodily injury is a great improvement over the original punishment.

The “Ulnham Code” has innovations in content and form. It occupies an important position in West Asia and has a great influence on the codes formulated by the countries of the Mesopotamia.


The “Ulnum Code” is a mature law, and the legal system of Sumerian civilization has undergone a long period of development. Even so, the “Ulnham Code” can still be regarded as the earliest written law in the history of human civilization.

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