STORY TELLING

THE GREAT KING: HAMMURABI

There are many sources which today, portray Babylonian king, Hammurabi as a harsh and cruel ruler. But our young writer Lalantika had a different perspective on it: for someone to think about justice so much, to the brink of obsession, they must have some humanity in them. She gives us here not a harsh ruler, but one that was kind hearted with a kindred spirit. After all, history does tend to forget the good, at times.

(Part 1 of 2)
Susa, Persia, 1901:

hammurabi

This is horrible, Frank thought as he dug deeper, this isn’t what a teenager should spend his summer like. He didn’t want to be a part of this excavation. He was forced into it by his crazy maternal French mining engineer uncle, Jacques de Morgan, who insisted on believing that he would find the ancient words of a lost civilization- 250 miles away from the supposed site of the civilization.

Plunk plunk pl-

Frank’s shovel refused to dig any further- it appeared as if it was connecting with a solid space, rather than dry mud. Frank decided to see for himself what it was. Little did he know that he had uncovered the biggest third of the broken stele- the written record of Hammurabi’s reign.

“Uncle!” Frank called excitedly, “I think I might have found something!” His uncle came rushing over, followed by equally excited members of the archaeological survey team. “Oui.” His uncle muttered as he carefully handled the table. “Tres bien mon cher! This only means that we were right to dig here. Let’s continue team, we must find the remaining pieces and have them shipped to the Louvre!” And just like that, everyone got to work again. *

Louvre Research Wing, Paris, 1901:

This is indeed an intriguing piece, Jean-Vincent Scheil thought to himself as he decoded the now 3 joint pieces of the stele. This talked about a great Mesopotamian king- Hammurabi, and the laws with which he presided over his kingdom. He thanked his stars that he had learnt about their culture and heritage.

Private Chambers, Palace of Babylon, Babylon, c.1810 BCE:

King Sin-Muballit paced the hallway of his private chambers nervously. His beloved wife, Raaza had been in labour for hours. The midwives had assured him that they were trying their best to have a safe delivery, but it could be complicated. They suggested he go and give the Gods more offerings. Muballit had just returned from the temple. He vowed to the gods that if his child and beloved survived, he would build a grand temple for the Gods, instead of a simple room. After what seemed like days of pacing around, the chief midwife finally came out. “Congratulations! It’s a boy!” She said as she gestured for him to follow.

Muballit looked nervously at his beloved first-her eyes were closed. “Don’t worry,” a midwife assured him, “she is merely resting.” Relieved, Muballit took his son into his arms. He couldn’t believe it. King Sin-Muballit had no doubt to what he must name him, it would be Hammurabi or the great family. Hammurabi would take forward the name of his family while ensuring that he is a great ruler. It was destiny you see.

*

Years passed and Prince Hammurabi grew up into a strong, learned young lad who would one day take over the kingdom from his just father. However, he was never allowed to go out of the walls of the palace, and that flustered him. He decided that soon, he would sneak out of the palace, and see the world beyond. Meanwhile, King Muballit grew more ill day by day. You see, he had failed to keep up his promise of building the large temple for the gods. And he feared that this was his punishment. It wasn’t that he had forgotten to build the temple, just that he was more preoccupied with running the kingdom and teaching Hammurabi the ways of this life. He always intended to get around to building the magnificent temple.

Lying on his bed, he knew that the last thing he wanted to tell his son was that he must build the grand temple. The only way to make it the grandest of them all was to win wars and conquer slaves, along with the precious stones of the other kingdoms. That was the final lesson he had to teach his son.

*

Hammurabi knew that sneaking out of the palace, dressed like a commoner was wrong. But he was about to turn 17. He would soon take over the kingdom! And what kind of a ruler would he be, if he didn’t know his own kingdom?! It was late, but he had heard of the ports- area where goods are exchanged and taxed. It was often open at night too, so Hammurabi decided to visit the port.

He had heard of poverty and poor people, but what he saw when he stepped outside the palace gates shocked him. Old and sick people ridden with the dirt on the roads, and surrounded by fleas lay on the roads, with expressions of extreme suffering on their faces. They looked malnourished, weak and sick. Hammurabi felt like gagging, but carried on. As he was walking along, at what he presumed was the city square, he came across his father’s statue. In the moonlight, it looked more magnificent than he had ever imagined. Hammurabi scoffed at how much the artist had changed his father’s appearance. For one, his father was not muscular, nor did he have an exceedingly long beard that made him appear wise. It was his father’s eyes that made him appear wise. As he was staring at the artwork that was his father, he didn’t realise that someone was running towards him, until they bumped into him.

Hammurabi felt anger surge through him-if they knew who he was, they would be kneeling at his feet right now. He turned around to look at the culprit, who was picking up his things off the ground. No wait, it was a girl. As she stood up, Hammurabi couldn’t stop staring. She had the prettiest grey eyes in all of the lands ever known to the Gods. But she ran away just as fast as she had come, and Hammurabi hadn’t had the chance to ask her who she was. When asked by the mob that followed soon, where she’d gone, Hammurabi shrugged and pretended not to know where she went. Thankfully, the mob went in the opposite direction.

Hammurabi decided it was enough ‘adventure’ for one night, and snuck back into his palace. The next morning, his ailing father called him to his bed

“My son,” he croaked, “I have spent many a year’s preparing this kingdom for you, and teaching you lessons about this life. Now it is time for me to give you your final lessons,” he said as he held Hammurabi’s hand. “Don’t say that father,” Hammurabi protested, but his father shrugged him away. “Listen to me my child, I do not have much time. First, remember that to run a successful kingdom, you must have the Gods on your side. Build the grandest temple in all of the lands, and they will not go anywhere. To build the grandest temple, conquer as many lands as you can. Remember, you are Hammurabi, the greatest King this kingdom has ever known. You will conquer many lands, and claim many prizes. But you must never take it for granted. Finally, your mother-my beloved- passed away soon after your birth. But she was the best thing that ever happened to me. Find yourself a beautiful bride, and cherish the time you have together. You get only one chance to enjoy this life son, make it worthwhile.” Hammurabi took a moment, wiped his tears, kissed his still father’s cheek for the last time and walked out of the room.

To be continued…….


Lalantika Arvind

Student Reporter
November-2016