Today, it can be safely said that there are many forms of government that a country that is aspiring for a charter or a constitutional change can choose from. There is democracy, oligarchy, dictatorship, monarchy, constitutional monarchy, federation, among others. It may also be important to mention that the classification of the different forms of government can be based on different categories. For example, the classification can be based on the distribution of power or structure of power (as in the case of confederations, federations empire, unitary states, and hegemony), the source of power as in the case autocratic, and democratic types of governments; the forms of economic and social policies being favored by the people seated in the government, as in the case of oligarchy. The discussion in this paper will only focus on one type of government, particularly the monarchy.
A monarchy is a form of government wherein all forms of power (as in executive, legislative, and judicial powers in a typical democratic government) are normally funneled in a single individual or entity only—who in this case is the monarch. Most countries that have a monarchy as their form of government often uses unique terms or names to address the head of the monarch. In the case of Egypt, for example, the head of Egypt during ancient times was referred to as the Pharaoh. In other monarchs, the head of the state was referred to as the King or in the absence of a viable King, the Queen.
It can be remembered that except for the Romans, almost every ancient society was at least for a time, a monarchy. The first question is why? This can be attributed to the fact that most people—those who managed to live during the ancient times, naturally perceived themselves to be creatures that have been created in the image and likeness of the Gods. Ancient people’s perception on the role of God in their lives was like that of a King. Most people who lived during the ancient times looked to the Gods as if they were Kings and so naturally, the system of government that they were able to create was one wherein there would be a King who is supported and almost worshipped by his followers.
In the 6th chapter of the textbook the author stated that “in the four hundred and eightieth year after the Israelites left the land of Egypt, in the month of Ziv—that is, the second month—in the fourth year of his reign over Israel, Solomon began to build the House of the Lord” . This statement only suggests that the King, Solomon, a mortal, basically treated God as his King. For hundreds of years and for many generations, ancient societies used the monarchic form of government until the Republican form of government was introduced by the Romans.
The two societies that will be compared in this paper will be the Babylonian Empire and Ancient Greece. The Topic in the assigned book readings mentioned the Babylonian Empire and some of the people who became its king (King David, and King Solomon, among others). It was one of the main topics of the 6th to 8th chapters. The Babylonian Empire was a monarchy.
It is important to know that there are two types of monarchy, at least based on how it is being classified in the modern era: absolute and constitutional monarchy. The absolute monarchy is also known as the traditional form of monarchy wherein all forms of power and authority (executive, legislative, and judicial, as in the case of a democracy) rest on a single person only, who is often the King. This means that the King can basically do anything at will. He can propose, create, and ratify his own laws—often with the help of his right hand and other advisers; and then interpret and enforce those laws. This is why it is common for kings of ancient monarchic societies to act as the judge between two conflicting parties in an attempt to serve as the person who interprets the law.
There is also a constitutional form of monarchy. In this type of monarchy, the king or head of the monarchy can be rendered powerless. This is a modern type of monarchy which often coexists with another form of government, often a democracy. In this case, the powers that are bestowed upon the head of the monarch are limited to what the constitution dictates. In the case of Japan, for example, the constitution suggests that the emperor should serve as a head of state that will not be related to any political party, which means that he would basically be powerless and would only, be selected to serve as a symbol.
Between these two types of monarchy, the one that the Babylonian Empire implemented was the absolute type of monarchy as evidenced by the degree and extent of power that its Kings had. Babylonian Kings were often selected based on their bloodline. That is, the present king would often be required to select a heir (usually the first born son becomes the first choice). It would be after his kingship that his powers as the king would be transferred to his selected heir. In Babylonia, the King basically had all the power and the authority to do whatever he wanted even to shape the empire’s culture. Solomon, for example, was a firm believer and follower of God. As king, he was able to influence the people of his Kingdom to be a firm believer and follower of God as well.
The form of government in Ancient Greece, on the other hand, was quite different. Ancient Greece was composed of different city-states. Each Greek-city state had their own type of government and majority of the city-states had a monarchy as their form of government. Sparta, for example, was ruled by a King just like Corinth and Thessalonica. To be more specific, an absolute type of monarchy was the one used by majority of the Greek city-states. Just like the Babylonian Empire, the King had absolute power and control over everything and his power and the authority came from the previous King who selected the then current King as the head of the monarch and thus the entire country or empire. In the case of the Ancient Greek city-states, the king’s decisions played a major role on how the Greek culture got affected by the invading countries.
It can be recalled that the city-states, for numerous times, waged war against each other, instead of creating a unified Greece and so they were left scattered every time invading entities arrived. As a result, Greek culture was not able to survive the dark ages marked by numerous plots for rebellion and invasion by foreign entities.
Backman, C. "The Cultures of the West." Oxford University Press (2012): 672.