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Raven Shaw

In the Stele of Hammurabi, punishments were different depending on what class you were. Punishments for elites involved paying fines, and punishments for lower class people involved physical violence and death. Rules were different for women, reflecting expected obedience to their husband but also men’s responsibility to financially care for women. It is interesting that the stele seems to be a record of legal precident, rather than actual solid laws. And that it was placed in a public place so that people would gain comfort in the defined order that their king brought to their lives — even if some of the rulings sucked.

Cylinder seals were used like we use our ID and signature today. The level of artistry of one’s seal could tell people how high or low in class you were. Rich people could afford to hire the best artists, so their seals were beautiful and highly detailed. Rough or simple seals showed that you were low class. This makes me think of the business card scene in American Psycho, but set in Mesopotamia.

Size mattered in carved scenes, showing that the higher class were shown as much larger than the “little people.’ Rulers were shown as nearly the size of gods, and it seems like society was built around worship of the gods through the living rulers.

Most of the scenes that showed regular people depicted them as slaves, servants, and soldiers in service to their royalty. All attention is payed to the central royal figure, all movement is in supplication to them. This would suggest that the lower class only existed to serve royalty, but it could also mean that the people who had money and time were the ones to chisel the history scenes. I have to assume that the lower classes still knew how to party, they just weren’t recorded.