Orville R. Keister THE UNIVERSITY OF AKRON
Quite often the accounting historian can locate bits of accounting lore in unexpected places. A case in point is the Code of Hammu-rabi.
Every school child learns of this Code, but the usual historical emphasis is placed on the importance the Code had in learning how to decipher the hundreds of thousands of Mesopotamian clay tablets that contain the literary brilliance of the early Sumerian, Babylonian, and Assyrian Empires. Historians stress the Code's importance as the earliest known code of law.1
Members of The Academy of Accounting Historians know well the literary and legal importance of the Code, but they can appreci-ate, too, the contributions the Code made in the development of commercial record-keeping, the seeds from which our profession grew.
To review a bit, Hammurabi was the sixth king of the first Babylonian dynasty, who ruled with considerable ability and success for an approximate reign of forty-three years, somewhere around 2200 B.C., according to many authorities.2 His Code of Laws outlined a system of law and custom which had developed from remotest antiquity to Hammurabi's time. A French expedition under M. de Morgan in 1901 discovered on the acropolis of Susa the large block of black diorite upon which the Code was inscribed. On the top front of the stele is a bas-relief of Hammurabi receiving the Code from the Sun-god. Five columns (about one-eighth of the Code) have been destroyed; the remaining 44 columns contain 248 sep-arate provisions relating to the civil and criminal law of the time. Some of the sections of the Code expressly mention commercial records and thus make a place for themselves in the history of ac-counting. For example:3
Section 7: If a man purchase silver or gold, man-servant or maid-servant, ox, sheep, or ass, or anything else from a man's son, or from a man's servant without witnesses or contracts, or if he receive [the same] in trust, that man shall be put to death as a thief.4