Legal Milestones in the Ancient World
TopicLegal Milestones in the Ancient World
Essential QuestionWhat aspects of ancient legal systems can be seen in our current world?
Learning Standards Content
Students are expected to know:
- legal systems and structures that emerged in the ancient world.
Students are expected to be able to do:
- identify legal milestones that marked periods of change and continue to influence the modern world. (continuity and change)
I can name legal milestones from a variety of ancient civilizations.
I can consider the ways that ancient laws continue to influence us today.
I can explain how there are consequences for our decisions and actions.
First People's Principles of LearningLearning involves recognizing the consequences of one’s actions.
One of the most popular items at the Louvre Museum in Paris is the Law Code Stele of Hummurabi. Show this 3-minute video from Khan Academy to introduce students to a famous and significant artifact from ancient Mesopotamia.
After showing the video, ask:
- What was the purpose of this artifact? Why was it made?
- Where did these laws come from? Who made these laws?
- Do you think most people in Mesopotamia could read these laws?
- Were the consequences for breaking Hammurabi’s laws fair and reasonable?
Use a Think-Pair-Share strategy to assess students’ prior knowledge:
- Can civilization exist without laws?
- What might be the first laws ever written?
- What types of laws would be necessary in the ancient world?
- Explain that laws are the foundation of civilization and that the laws of ancient civilizations continue to influence us today.
- Organize students in small groups using the Jigsaw Strategy.
- Assign each expert group one legal milestone to research.
- Provide students with access to Law Museum website or to printed copies of relevant sections of the website.
- Provide each student with a copy of the notetaking sheet “Legal Milestones in the Ancient World” and have students record their findings in the relevant section.
- Organize students into jigsaw groups so that each new group has at least one member who researched each legal milestone. Have students share their findings with members of their new group in order to complete the other sections of the notetaking sheet.
- Why are laws necessary for civilization?
- What were some of the first written laws?
- What parts of ancient legal systems can be seen in our world today?
- Students may be interested to discover that Mosaic Law contained many rules about food which have become the basis for the Jewish kosher diet. Students can learn more at My Jewish Learning.
- Highlight the fact that cultural influences and dietary restrictions influence the food choices that people make. Encourage students to consider how their culture and possible dietary restrictions (food allergies, gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan…) influence what they eat each day.
Britannica. 2013. “Code of Hammurabi.” September 11,
Britannica. 2015. “Manu-smriti: Great Law of Manu.” February 4,
Britannica. 2018. “Napoleonic Code.” January 19,
Britannica. 2018. “Roman Law.” March 29,
Britannica. 2019. “International Law. Historical Development.” November 13,
British Library. [n.d.] “Magna Carta.”
Breay, Claire. [n.d.] “Magna Carta: An Introduction.” British Library.
Canadian Law. [n.d.] “Justinian Code.”
Duhaime's Law Dictionary. 2010. “China: A Legal History: Part 2: Code of Li kvei.” May 29,
Duhaime's Law Dictionary. [n.d.] “Mosaic Law.”