Historical Roots
of Law
From Babylon to
Law and Civilizations
• Laws in the form of community
enforced rules have existed since
people began to interact
• Most were based on common sense
and passed on by word of mouth
• As populations grew and laws
became more complex, the need to
record laws in writing increased
Code of Hammurabi
(1792 – 1750 BCE)
• One of the earliest known sets of
recorded laws, written by King
Hammurabi of Babylon
• He codified, or recorded, the
rules and penalties for every
aspect of Babylonian life
Code of Hammurabi
(1792 – 1750 BCE)
• Laws reflected a patriarchal, male
dominated society
• Higher members of society would be
punished, however women or slaves
would actually receive retribution
• No distinction was made between an
accident and a deliberate action
Code of Hammurabi
(1792 – 1750 BCE)
• Many of the laws were based on
retribution – an eye for an eye type
of justice
• Other laws focused on restitution,
meaning a compensation payment
would be made to the victim
Mosaic Law (c. 1250 BCE)
• One of the greatest influence of
modern law in Canada is biblical law
• Also know as Hebrew law or Mosaic
Law these laws are often referred to
as the Ten Commandments
• Recorded in the Book of Exodus
Mosaic Law (c. 1250 BCE)
• Basic principles are similar to the Code of
Hammurabi yet the laws had evolved
• Law was more concerned with punishing
deliberate actions instead of accidental
acts of harm
• Punishment focused on the offender and
not someone of lesser status
Greek Law (c. 400 BCE)
• First form of democracy was born in
• Greek law promoted citizen
involvement in running the country
• Voting and Jury Duty were both
major responsibilities for citizens
• Sentencing was also democratic
Roman Law
(c. 450 BCE – 100 CE)
There were two basic principles to
Roman Law:
1) The Law must be recorded
1) Justice could not be left of the
hands of judges alone to
Roman Law
(c. 450 BCE – 100 CE)
• Roman Laws were codified and could
be revised when necessary
• The Twelve Tablets dictated the law of
England and is considered the
foundation for modern law
• The practice of having a legal advisor
who specializes in law first occurred
Roman Law
(c. 450 BCE – 100 CE)
• The Twelve Tablets Promoted:
– Public Prosecution of crimes
– A system of victim compensation
– Protected lower classes from the
ruling class
• Women however were not
mentioned because they were not
considered persons
Justinian’s Code
(527 - 565 CE)
• Byzantine Emperor Justinian I
commissioned the clarification and
organization of Roman law
A new body of law was completed
known as Justinian’s Code
It formed the basis for civil law
The word justice is derived from
his name
The Napoleonic Code
• The Napoleonic Code’s non•
technical style made laws
accessible to the public
Also known as the French Civil
Regulated civil matters such as
property, wills, contracts, and
family law
Key Definitions
Codified – Laws that are arranged and
recorded systematically
Retribution – Justice based on
vengeance and punishment
Restitution – Payment made by the
offender to the victim of a crime

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