Origin of the Concept of Royalty

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Origin of the Concept of Royalty

#1  Postby Sovereign » May 02, 2014 2:00 am

I was having a discussion with a friend and we were talking about the paper regarding the smallest social unit and a discussion on where the concept of royalty/ruling family line came from started. It's a fairly common practice around the world but how did it come to be? What were the advantages for this? Was it from a simple I rule so my kid will rule/keep it in the family situation that got morphed into a divine mandate and royal bloodlines? Also, how did society come to generally accept this practice? Was it the same situation where the people were not strong enough to challenge the initial idea and just accepted it as the concept grew? I haven't been able to find anything and I have no idea where to start looking. Does anybody know?
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Re: Origin of the Concept of Royalty

#2  Postby Keep It Real » May 02, 2014 3:12 am

Was it from a simple I rule so my kid will rule/keep it in the family situation that got morphed into a divine mandate and royal bloodlines?

Sounds likely to me. Powerful monkey = breedy monkey.
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Re: Origin of the Concept of Royalty

#3  Postby virphen » May 02, 2014 3:18 am

I doubt you'd find much other than speculation, it's definitely a pre-historical concept.
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Re: Origin of the Concept of Royalty

#4  Postby Sovereign » May 02, 2014 4:55 am

virphen wrote:I doubt you'd find much other than speculation, it's definitely a pre-historical concept.


I was afraid of that. :(
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Re: Origin of the Concept of Royalty

#5  Postby lpetrich » Aug 10, 2014 7:37 am

The Heir Apparency of Gamal Mubarak by Jason Brownlee has a good discussion of this issue.

The problem is how to choose a leader's successor. Does a society have some well-defined mechanism for doing so that is independent of the leader's family and close associates?

Democracy is an obvious leader-independent mechanism, but non-democratic regimes may also have such mechanisms. In a nation with one dominant political party, like a Communist country, that party's ruling committee chooses the leader.

But without such a mechanism, it is a much more difficult problem. A leader's associates might feel tempted to try to get the job early. That is especially true of associates selected as successors, something that some political scientists have called the "crown prince problem".

In that sort of situation, a leader's safest choice is often his son, since his son is often less likely to overthrow him than someone outside his family. It also makes for a more orderly succession than succession by coup, complete with purges of the old leader's supporters.

This explains "Papa Doc" and "Baby Doc" in Haiti, Hafez and Bashar Assad in Syria, etc. Saddam Hussein wanted to be succeeded by one of his sons Qusay and Uday, but those two are now as dead as their father. Likewise, Muammar Khadafy wanted to be succeeded by one of his sons, but they are either dead, jailed, or exiled. Then there is that great oddity among Communist leaders, the Kim dynasty of North Korea, now at its third generation.

So we've seen monarchies emerge in several places in the world.

This likely explains older society's monarchies also. Monarchy has been pretty much universal for every society larger than a city-state until recent centuries. The Roman Republic was the biggest exception, but it turned into a monarchy: the Roman Empire.

So why has monarchy been in such steep decline over the last century or so? Why have many monarchs abdicated or gotten overthrown, with their successors not wanting to make themselves successor monarchs? Why have several of the remaining monarchs become figurehead monarchs? The British royal family has found an additional career, it seems: being professional celebrities.

A part of it may have been the success of the United States in being a republic. In the mid-1990's, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright stated "We don’t do kings" in response to a possibility of Serbia's monarchy getting restored. President Woodrow Wilson could also have stated that in 1918 when he demanded -- and got -- the abdication of Germany's Kaiser. When much of Latin American became independent in the 1820's, most of it became republics. George Washington did not want to be crowned king, he refused any titles fancier than "Mister President", he reluctantly was President for a second term, and he retired after that.
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Re: Origin of the Concept of Royalty

#6  Postby Agrippina » Aug 10, 2014 10:41 am

In the absence of records from pre-history we can only guess about it. The records exist of king lists in the ancient world though, starting with the first civilisations in Sumer and Akkad (the fertile plain between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers modern day, Iraq)..

Wikipedia Sumerian King List.

The civilisations that came after the era of the Near East, followed the idea with the Romans and their Emperors from the first century of the common era. When the Roman Empire collapsed, the principalities of Europe followed, and from there war leaders in Britain were local kings, becoming one kingdom under WIlliam the Conqueror in 1066.

The rulers of the Greek states were war leaders, more than potentates. The idea of kings with palaces, and minions who grovelled before them came after Alexander conquered Persian and took over the cities of the kings he conquered. The kings of Persia were kings in the sense that we know them today, The Achaemenid Empire

The rulers of the Far East, were being established at around the same time the Near East was expanding into city states, around the middle of the third millennium BCE

Ancient Chinese dynasties[edit]
Main article: History of China
The Xia dynasty of China (from c. 2100 to c. 1600 BC) is the first dynasty to be described in ancient historical records such as Sima Qian's Records of the Grand Historian and Bamboo Annals.[9][10]

Following this was the Shang dynasty, which ruled in the Yellow River valley. The classic account of the Shang comes from texts such as the Classic of History, Bamboo Annals and Records of the Grand Historian. According to the traditional chronology, the Shang ruled from 1766 BC to 1122 BC, but according to the chronology based upon the "current text" of Bamboo Annals, they ruled from 1556 BC to 1046 BC.

The Zhou dynasty of (c. 1046–256 BC lasted longer than any other dynasty in Chinese history. However, the actual political and military control of China by the dynasty, surnamed Ji (Chinese: 姬), lasted only until 771 BC, a period known as the Western Zhou. This period of Chinese history produced what many consider the zenith of Chinese bronze-ware making. The dynasty also spans the period in which the written script evolved into its modern form with the use of an archaic clerical script that emerged during the late Warring States period.


Fascinating stuff, ancient history.
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Re: Origin of the Concept of Royalty

#7  Postby trubble76 » Aug 10, 2014 10:41 am

There also seems to be a religious element to the issue of royalty. Leaders are assumed to be in power by consent of the favoured deity/s (how could it be otherwise?) and so if a man is so favoured by a god, how could his progeny be "ordinary"? As well as the powerful king being favoured, all that is his or comes from him is similarly favoured. Obviously, his son is more favourable to the deity that the son of some other person.

I think it's a kind of 'trial by combat' stretched out across multiple generations, with the preferred deity of the region as ultimate arbiter.
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Re: Origin of the Concept of Royalty

#8  Postby Agrippina » Aug 10, 2014 10:49 am

trubble76 wrote:There also seems to be a religious element to the issue of royalty. Leaders are assumed to be in power by consent of the favoured deity/s (how could it be otherwise?) and so if a man is so favoured by a god, how could his progeny be "ordinary"? As well as the powerful king being favoured, all that is his or comes from him is similarly favoured. Obviously, his son is more favourable to the deity that the son of some other person.

I think it's a kind of 'trial by combat' stretched out across multiple generations, with the preferred deity of the region as ultimate arbiter.


Indeed. The first rulers of the Near East were also priests who interceded with the gods. The Romans established this with their consuls serving as Pontifex Maximus (the high priest) at least once during their voyage up the cursus honorem. The pontifex was much like the pope of today, an elected position and the priest of Jupiter an appointment for life.

Marius, appointed Julius Caesar to this position as an attempt to circumvent what he perceived as a rival for the position of the "best" military leader potential in him when he was in his teens. This position as priest of Jupiter (flamen dialis) carried prohibitions on participation in war.

In 85 BC, Caesar's father died suddenly, so at sixteen Caesar was the head of the family. His coming of age coincided with a civil war between his uncle, Gaius Marius, and his rival Lucius Cornelius Sulla. Both sides, whenever they were in the ascendancy, carried out bloody purges of their political opponents. While Marius and his ally, Lucius Cornelius Cinna, were in control of the city, Caesar was nominated to be the new high priest of Jupiter, and married to Cinna's daughter Cornelia. But following Sulla's final victory, Caesar's connections to the old regime made him a target for the new one. He was stripped of his inheritance, his wife's dowry and his priesthood, but he refused to divorce Cornelia and was forced to go into hiding. The threat against him was lifted by the intervention of his mother's family, which included supporters of Sulla, and the Vestal Virgins. Sulla gave in reluctantly, and is said to have declared that he saw many a Marius in Caesar.

Julius Caesar in Wikipedia.
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