The Detroit Hammurabi Project
The Hammurabi Monument project began three years ago. We plan to create a larger than life-size figure of the Great King seated upon his throne, on a base with an
elaborate relief of lotus blossoms. A history of Hammurabi, his people and excerpts from the Law Code will also be inscribed on the base. If the figure were to stand, it
would measure well over eight feet tall. We have attempted to portray the king in a new light, to interpret rather than copy what is known or thought to be known, of
his appearance and dress.
Hammurabi and the culture he brought to our lands, as well as that which he found and incorporated, is a significant figure in world history because he represents a
shift from the city-state to an imperial reign. It was not merely to express a desire for power that it became increasingly evident that larger groups of cities would have
to be forged into empires. It was because the warfare between cities, often quite in close proximity, impeded growth and the development of the arts of civilization
and the trade and commerce essential to that growth and development.
An Empire under whose sway and protection, the caravans and merchants of the day could freely and under the King's protection, pass between and among the
'corners of the earth", brought stability, knowledge and increased the world-view and sophistication, the vistas of the mind, of the inhabitants of each city within the
The difficulty was that each city had its own laws, as it did its own gods and customs. The Great King says in the introduction to his Code that he has heard the cries
for justice of his people who could not be sure of what the laws and customs were in each of cities in the empire, and were therefore at the mercy of the authorities in
each city. It was to make a "unified" code for all the cities, and for writing it down so it could be referred to by his people, that Hammurabi is remembered today by the
His Code of Laws was not new, it was not invented by him or his people alone. Many today are unable to find in it much that they would consider just or humane. But
seen from their perspective, an "eye for an eye" was a vast improvement upon an eye, hand and foot, for an eye. In time, money fines would be levied instead of
acts of retribution, and that would lead to incarceration and the hope of reformation as well.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE CODE OF HAMMURABI
Hammurabi, the great king of Babylon, who lived in the 18th century BC, has his name forever engraved on our minds as someone who looked to improving the lives
of his people, someone willing to make a change in the customs which had been in use for centuries before his time. We know he did not actually write the laws in
his Code, neither were they invented by him, nor were they exclusive to his time and place. What, then, was his great accomplishment?
Until his day that area consisted of city-states, which periodically made and broke alliances. Each city had it's own laws and though they may not have been written
down, the learned scribes attached to the temples could be called upon whenever a question might arise.
Having pacified the jealousies so detrimental to security and prosperity by uniting several cities to form his empire, Hammurabi found that the often conflicting laws,
many of which applied to only specific cities, had the effect of denying true justice to the people, who could offend custom and law unwittingly as they moved about
the empire on business or travel. Not knowing which law applied where, or what the laws of another city might be, the people were at the mercy of local authorities in
each of the places they passed through.
In the preface to the Code, Hammurabi says that he has heard the voice of his people crying out for justice, for protection against the strong or wicked. What is
impressive in his reaction is not so much the actual laws, for they aren't really laws, as we understand the term. They are more like guidelines..."if such and such a
thing happens, you can do so and so about it". They are not complete nor, by any means, comprehensive. Neither do they appear humane to our modern
sensibilities, though in many instances they substituted milder punishments than those previously in force. This is not why the world honors him.
What makes his achievement so impressive is that he cared to create an equitable system, one in which "fairness" under the law should replace local customs, no
matter of how great a duration. To do this he had the Code inscribed on stone tablets and copies installed in each city of his empire. The idea of "fairness", that it
was the better part of government to give the people a chance to know the law rather than simply take action against those who broke it, and that it was wrong to
punish ignorance... this was his grand
idea. If it had not happened, we could not have moved on to justice in the law or, finally, the greatest development of all; mercy and compassion under the law.
He was a brave man to dare a move which seems so "natural" to us now, nearly four thousand years later. There were, no doubt, many counselors and prominent
people who warned of dire consequences, who always do when change is undertaken. It wasn't only the idea for a unified code which places Hammurabi among
the great figures who altered the course of human development for the better, it was the courage to implement it and the vision to see far ahead to a day when the
complexity and quality of civilized life would require that, if mankind were to progress and not only multiply, this step would have to be taken.
It is fitting that we, his closest direct descendants honor him in every way. One way in which we can do this, is by adopting a custom used by the ancients, which
was to erect boundary stones, "Kudurus", to indicate the farthest reaches of their conquests and settlements. These have been unearthed at various locations and
show how vast was the range of influence our people brought to bear on their surroundings. We, living in all parts of the world can do the same, continuing a custom
formed thousands of years ago. We can honor our heritage, inspire our young people, let our neighbors know who we are, all by planting a Kuduru, in this case a
monument of the Great King himself.
We would indicate by this not only how far we've traveled from our original homelands, on another sort of journey of trade and conquest, but also that we realize we
have been on an intellectual journey since then as well. One in which, after countless disappointments and setbacks, we yet appreciate the value of our heritage
and have learned how to honor and preserve it in our new homelands... that we understand our culture and heritage must be replenished and revived if they are to go
on into the future, as our Great King would have wished. Our ancestors gave their time, their lives in every sense of the word, not just to ensure prosperity for
themselves. They built everything, whether monuments or ideas, with an eye to the future...for the ages... for all time. There is a direct quote from another king at a
later date in which he says..."I built monuments...and left them for the future."
Hammurabi made equity, or "fairness under the law", a new and supreme consideration whereas before it had merely been punishment for transgression of any law
because it WAS a law. He recognized that it was not "fair" to punish people who could not be expected to know the laws of every city they passed through within
the empire. His recognition of the principle of fairness, and therefore "equality" under the Law was a milestone in the development of Civilization and it is for that he is
remembered and respected today.
Without this step, there could never have developed the next concept, that of true equity, equity which would one day include women and all people ...followed by
"justice".... and leading by a direct chain to the highest
virtue of all, "mercy" under the Law.
The Hammurabi Monument is being funded as the Ashurbanipal and the Sumuramat Monuments were. We are asking people to donate $6,000.00 towards the cost
of completing it. There are already fifteen donors, each of whom will have his or her name inscribed on the base of the monument, and who will receive a signed and
numbered bronze copy of the maquette used to create the monument. These names will be on the monument as a tribute to our ancestors whose bas-reliefs and
monuments were filled with Cuneiform and Aramaic writing.
To that end an effort is being made to create a bronze, public monument over life-size, of Hammurabi, to be placed in downtown Detroit. With the help and support of
our people, in Detroit, around the nation, and in Europe we have been at work for three years. We hope others will join us so that we may announce an unveiling
date as soon as the monument is completed.
Please join the following platinum sponsors of the Hammurabi project. We need a total of 30 donors for this monument to cover costs.
The following people have already purchased a maquette and are Platinum ($6000) donors:
1. Youra Tarverdi - San Jose, California
2. Dr. Robert Karoukian - San Francisco, California
3. Dr. Ron Michael - Chicago, Illinois
4. Maggy Khoffri - Switzerland
5. Dr. Shamiran Golani - Livonia, Michigan
6. Martin Manna - Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
7. Assyrian American Social Club of Michigan (AASC)
8. Eddie & Jacob Bacall - Canton, Michigan
9. Chaldean Iraqi American Association of Michigan (CIAAM)
10. Sam Yono - Waterford, Michigan
11. Chaldean American Ladies of Charity (CALC)
12. Sabah Yokhana - Sterling Heights, Michigan
13. Atour Golani - Dearborn Heights, Michigan
14. Sahir Haddad - West Bloomfield, Michigan
15. In Memory of Stephen Najor - West Bloomfield, Michigan