Common Sentences Throughout History

Includes: Babylonian, Roman, King John, and Napoleonic law.

Wait- What is this? I thought this was about common sentences- this isn't even about English.

As it happens, this is not an article about commonly found sentences in the English language. Throughout time, law has drastically changed from the simple minded and often barbaric system to more complex and open ways. In this article, we'll be touching on Babylonian, Roman, The Rule of King John and Napoleonic law.

Babylonian Law

Crazy Sentences in Babylonian Law

Babylonian law is know for its harsh nature and often unforgiving decrees. Babylonian law refers to The Code of Hammurabi (whoa that sounds crazy intense, man-what is it?). The Code of Hammurabi is the first known recording of laws (1795 B.C.E) and rules in the history of-like-ever. It was created by -you guessed it- Hammurabi, the king of Babylon. Hammurabi first created the code to please his gods.

The code is most notable for its concept of "an eye for an eye". The phrase "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" actually originates from two seperate laws that states:

"If a man put out the eye of a nobleman (amelu), his eye shall be put out. [An eye for an eye ]"

"If a man knocks out the teeth of his equal, his teeth shall be knocked out. [tooth for a tooth]"

Punishments in Hammurabi's Code will often either end in a sentence equal to the crime or death.

The Code itself was recorded on a large slab of rock and displayed in the city This way no one could claim to not have being aware of a certain law because they were publicly displayed for all to see.

Bruh! This is so boring! Give some laws now!

Aside from the most commonly known laws ("an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth"), Hammurubi's Code usually favoured noble men. Examples of both include:

1. If any one accuses another of murder but cannot prove it, then the accuser shall be put to death.202. If any one strikes the body of a man higher in rank than he, he shall receive sixty blows with an ox-whip in public.

209. If a man strikes a free-born woman so that she loses her unborn child, he shall pay ten shekels for her loss

210. If the woman dies, his daughter shall be put to death.

(note: that law 209 and 210 are directly related).

Roman Law

The more logical Roman law

The Roman era (450 B.C.E) widely regarded as the more modern period of the Ancient World. Ancient Rome brought to us the inventions of aqueducts, newspaper, welfare, and battlefield surgery- but it also brought to us Roman Law which greatly influenced the creation of modern law systems.

Roman law was far more fair and just then Babylonian law, it included trials and juries to properly conclude the verdict of a case. It also brought included International Law or laws that applied to foreigners in Rome. The Twelve Tables, which recorded Roman Law, included many laws on varying topics including: family, property, and trial systems.

A few examples of laws from the Twelve Tables include:

Table II.

2. He whose witness has failed to appear may summon him by loud calls before his house every third day.

Table IV.

1. A dreadfully deformed child shall be quickly killed.

2. If a father sells his son three times, the son shall be free from his father.

Table VI

13. It is unlawful for a thief to be killed by day....unless he defends himself with a weapon; even though he has come with a weapon, unless he shall use the weapon and fight back, you shall not kill him. And even if he resists, first call out so that someone may hear and come up.

Ok, so is that it?

Basically. Roman law when in comparison to Babylonian seems a millions of years ahead. While Babylonian law was created mainly for the gods of that time, Roman Law was meant to serve the people.

The Rule of King John/Magna Carta

King John Kicking his own Feet

The Rule of King John or Magna Carta (1215 A.C.E) was the revolutionary act that placed the King of England under the law. This was the first time that a King has ever been put under the law and equal to barons (in the eyes of the law). The Magna Carta was meant to prevent the King (King John) from abusing his power. The Charter also held the King responsible for crimes he had committed. Like the Roman Law, the Magna Carta promised laws that were fair and included trials.

Laws Included:

20. For a trivial offence, a free man shall be fined only in proportion to the degree of his offence, and for a serious offence correspondingly, but not so heavily as to deprive him of his livelihood. In the same way, a merchant shall be spared his merchandise, and a husbandman the implements of his husbandry, if they fall upon the mercy of a royal court. None of these fines shall be imposed except by the assessment on oath of reputable men of the neighbourhood.

54. No one shall be taken or imprisoned on account of the appeal of a woman concerning the death of another than her husband.

Although, the Magna Carta was meant to restrain King John he eventually violated the Charter and plunged England in a civil war (Barons vs. King John fight to the death.

So um this was kinda useless, huh?

At the time, yeah,


And the Dawn of the Napoleonic Law

The French Revolution is really only known as the setting for Les Miserables but the Revolution actually has significance besides that of Hollywoods film inspiration. The French Revolution brought on The Napoleonic Code, a Code that brought equality to (mostly) all people of France. Not only did it include equality rights for the French but also a newly revised criminal code.

Examples include:

226. The wife may make a will without the authority of her husband.

11. A foreigner shall enjoy in France the same civil rights as are or shall be accorded to Frenchmen by the treaties of that nation to which such foreigner shall belong.

  1. Sentence to natural death shall imply civil death.

Wait-why does this seem familiar?

The Napoleonic Code was greatly influenced by Roman law and Germanic law. One could even argue that it is simply a revised version of the Twelve Tables with more of a French touch.

Uh so can you summarize that ?

um yeah thanks

So what can we gather from these eras?

Over the course of human evolution and time, laws have gradually become far more fair and logically. Common sentences no longer guaranteed death and fair trials were common place. From the code of Hammurabi to King John, we notice that he overall quality of law improves and that laws are adjusted to meet the people.

Ok, ok but the summary, man!

Babylonian Law:

  • Babylonian law was harsh and cruel
  • it favoured the rich man over slaves and women
  • almost all punishments resulted in death
  • and eye for an eye
  • did not necessarily reflect society but more over what the Hammurabi wanted

Roman Law:

  • divided up into the Twelve Tables
  • addressed all aspects of society and culture
  • punishments were not cruel
  • trials were brought to court
  • death sentences were not common
  • was a more "modern" aspect of ancient law
  • created laws for foreigners in Rome

King John/ Magna Carta:

  • placed the King under the law
  • brought equality to all free men (specifically nobles and kings)
  • put limits and restrictions on the king
  • prevented him (the King) from doing whatever

Napoleon Code:

  • very similar to roman law
  • codified equality in mankind (notice: MAN not anyone else- specifically white man)
  • called for democracy
  • trials were also common and fair
  • courts were open to all
  • punishments reflected the crime


Ancient History Sourcebook: The Twelve Tables, C. 450 BCE." Internet History Sourcebooks. Fordham University. Web. 22 Sept. 2014. <>.

Horne, Charles.F, Claude Hermann Walter Jones, and L.W King. "Ancient History Sourcebook: Code of Hammurabi, C. 1780 BCE." Internet History Sourcebooks. Fordham University. Web. 21 Sept. 2014. <>.

King, L.W. "Hammurabi's Code of Laws." Web. 22 Sept. 2014. <'s laws.htm>.

Magna Carta Transcript." Magna Carta Transcript. History Learning Site. Web. 22 Sept. 2014. <>.

N/A, N/A. "The Civil Code Index." The Civil Code Index. Web. 22 Sept. 2014. <>.

The Magna Carta (The Great Charter)." The Magna Carta 1215. Constitution. Web. 22 Sept. 2014. <>.


This was written by Farah Siddiqui