Invoking the authority of Shamash, Hammurabi appears before the god of truth and justice in this detail of his 18th-century B.C.E. law code inscribed on a black basalt stele. Like other Mesopotamian kings, Hammurabi believed that the world was controlled by gods such as Shamash, and he sought guidance from them by slaughtering sheep and studying their organs for omens. The practice lasted centuries and was used by such later Mesopotamian kings as Sargon II, ruler of Assyria from 721 to 705 B.C.E.