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date: 30 January 2023



  • Oswyn Murray


Kingship (basileia). The Mycenaean political system (see mycenaean civilization) was monarchic, with the king (wanax) at the head of a palace-centred economy; the 10th-cent. bce ‘hero's tomb’ at *Lefkandi may imply some limited continuity into the Dark Age. Kingship appears to have been rare later: *Homer borrows elements from Mycenae and the near east, but seems essentially to be describing an aristocratic world, in which the word basileus is often used in the plural of an office-holding nobility. The earliest true monarchies were the 7th–6th-cent. *tyrannies, which were regarded as aberrations; the Spartan dual ‘kingship’ (see sparta) is a form of hereditary but non-monarchic military leadership. The Classical period knew kingship only from myth and as a *barbarian form of rule, found in tribal areas and in the near east. *Sophists established a theoretical table of constitutions, with kingship and tyranny as the good and bad forms of monarchy, opposed to the rule of the few and the rule of the many (see oligarchy; democracy; political theory).


  • Greek Law
  • Philosophy

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