Ancient Kingship And Rulers Essay

1486 words - 6 pages

Kings and rulers started to emerge as soon as people moved away from living in tribes. This was the case with the Jews when they have decided to unite under one ruler. However, long before them the first empire was established in Mesopotamia by Sargon of Akkad in 2334 BCE (Kelly, 2011). The essay will compare kingship in three geographically and chronologically different societies. They are the following: Babylonians during Hammurabi’s reign (1792-1750 BCE), Neo-Assyrians (934-610 BCE), and the Jews (1000 BCE). In order to avoid historical distortions, primary sources from those time periods will be used. These three communities have influenced each other in different fields. Therefore, we can see similarities in their ruling systems. Nevertheless, there are also major differences which probably emerged as the result of circumstances. Due to these similarities and differences we can presume how people lived at that time, and how their society was shaped by the authority. Additionally, we can draw lessons from their kingship system to avoid mistakes in the future.
Most rulers across the regions of ancient world were somehow related to divine power. If we consider Babylonians, Neo-Assyrians and the Jews, all of them believed in active involvement of God(s) (Sanders, p.61-81). Firstly, according to the Code of Hammurabi, Hammurabi was sent by gods in order to establish law and justice in Babylon (Sanders, p.65-66). He was granted different features, such as wisdom, by gods; and he was the only who could rule. Hardly anyone opposed him, as gods would “break his (rival’s) scepter and curse his fate” (Sanders, p.69). Thus we can see that no other person could compete with him in power. Next, Neo-Assyrians have adopted some elements of the Babylonian system (Sanders, p.69). They have also believed in active involvement of gods, so they have modified laws a bit. According to the Advice to a Prince, gods only could judge and punish the ruler, for example, “if he (ruler) takes silver… Marduk, lord of Heaven and Earth, will set his foes upon him…” (Sanders, p.70). Consequently, we can assume that ruler’s power have increased enormously, since no matter what he does (even despotism) is supposed to be controlled by gods. Finally, the kingship in Israel has some differences as Jews are monotheistic. Nonetheless, the Jews believed in god’s involvement in daily life as well. More importantly, god (Yahweh) was believed to decide who the king is and whether he must be changed (Sanders, p.72). This shows some parallels with Assyrians where gods only could judge the ruler. As a result, it is seen that regardless of regions and number of gods (monotheism or polytheism) rulers in ancient times were connected with divine power. In fact, at ancient times rulers often represented the choice of god(s), whereas presently they represent the choice of people. This, I think, led to more fearful and respectful attitude towards rulers due to their divine support.
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