An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth

An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,

This article discusses the history and significance of the Law of Talion, which dates back to 1760 B.C. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.

“An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” is the Law of Talion

The concept of a punishment that produces harm comparable to that caused by an offense or crime is known as the law of talion. Many people in society still value and accept this type of justice today, just as they did in the past.

It is a principle of justice that demands that an offense be punished in a manner equivalent to the harm caused. In other words, whoever takes a life should be sentenced to death.

The word “talion”, which means “identical” or “similar”, is where its name comes from. Therefore, based on the definition of the term, it can be deduced that it refers to condemning identically and not equivalently.

Beginnings of the Law of Talion

The first texts of this law, also known as “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”, appear in the Code of Hammurabi, written by the eponymous king of Babylon some 16 centuries before our era.

Exodus 21:23-25, Leviticus 24:18-20 and Deuteronomy 19:21 also contain references to the law.

According to one myth, the god Shamash delivered the code directly to Hammurabi. The Louvre Museum owns a copy of this text of 282 rules. Its cost is incalculable.

Subsequently, until the Talmudic era, when the rabbis decided to transform this punishment into an economic compensation, the Law of Talion would remain in force for Judaism.

The Law of Talion

Historically, it was the first attempt of society to establish a proportionality between the damage suffered and the damage caused by the punishment. The idea of exact reciprocity is reflected in the Code of Hammurabi, which dates back to 1760 B.C. For example:

According to Law 229, if the perpetrator built a house and it collapsed, it was also punishable by the murder of the son of the owner of that house.

Another series of punishments included the mutilation of body parts in proportion to the damage committed. For example, Law 195 stated that a son who struck his father would have his hands amputated; Law 197 stated that if a man’s bone was broken, the aggressor would also have his broken.

Lesser punishments included restitution in the form of money, wine, wheat, or other goods.

Current status of the Law of Talion

The Law of Talion initially seemed clear, but over time it became apparent that some conduct could not be enforced. For example, if someone stole from you, you could not steal from them to pay them back.

This is the origin of indirect compensation. It refers to the idea of making the injured party feel some kind of compensation. Therefore, those who stole had their hands cut off and those who lied had their tongues cut off.

Exactly what kind of equity this law was supposed to create was not clear. Women and slaves often faced much harsher punishments. Although this law promoted equality, the society in which it was applied was unjust.

Despite this, this law established the fundamental principle of so-called “retributive justice,” a concept rooted in contemporary societies and based on the idea that, regardless of whether doing so would result in objective benefits for the person concerned, a fault or crime should be proportionately compensated.

Revenge by death, therefore, does not bring the deceased person back to life nor does it compensate for the loss experienced by the bereaved. However, many societies decide that it is sufficient to satiate the desire for retribution.

To prevent people from breaking the law and suffering the consequences that come with it, a collective future benefit is sought. However, it has been proven that the death penalty does not reduce the number of homicides in these nations.

Legal structures based on this law are currently in place. In Muslim nations, it is a very common occurrence.

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