Governmental Techniques in the Ancient World

Throughout history, many techniques have been used for organizing society. Experimentation with different styles primarily took place in the ancient Mediterranean world. Athenian democracy, Hebrew temple state, Hellenic city-states, Hellenistic kingdoms, the Roman Republic, and the Christian Roman Empire were all major forms of governance, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. To determine which of these forms was successful, it is impotent to look at each formís chronological development.

Hebrew State Origin

The Hebrew State began as a loose confederation of twelve tribes. A tribeís elders ruled it, and while there was intermarriage between tribes, there was no real political connection. They shared common religion, language and culture, however they did not owe allegiance to one ruler.

The roots of the Hebrew tribes lay in myth. Jacob, a patriarch of Judaism, is said to have had twelve sons, each of whom begot a tribe of people. Taking into account the legendary characteristics of each son, each tribe had specific traits. For example, the tribe of Levy were the priests of the Jews. They owned no land, and survived on the tithes of the people. The tribe of Dan were a seafaring people; their ancestral land lay on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. These twelve groups of people were by no means one nation, they raided each other occasionally, and there were often disputes as to boundaries and land rights.

In the eleventh century B.C.E., an outside threat, eminent invasion by the Philistines, drove the Hebrews to formalize their tribal ties under one leader, Saul. With the defeat of the Philistines, Saul managed to keep control over the tribes, unifying them for his successor, the warrior-poet David. Saul and David had forged the beginnings of a kingdom that would see its true glory in the tenth century B.C.E., under Davidís son Solomon.

Under Solomon, the Temple State truly emerged. Until now, there were two main reasons the Hebrews had stayed together: outside threats, and monotheistic belief in Yahweh.

Monotheism as a State

Solomon, the most powerful king of the Hebrews shared their belief in monotheism or belief in one god above all others. The Hebrews were the first people known to believe in the existence of a single, omnipotent god. Their religion was dominant in their lives, as they had rules and regulations for every conceivable situation. The Torah, their holy works, was very specific in the manner in which their lives were conducted.

With the rigidity of their religion, it was relatively easy for Solomon to secure his power base in Israel. He built a lavish central temple in his capital, Jerusalem, and secured control over the dominant class, the Levies, or priests. With the new "City of God," Solomon ushered in a period of peace and prosperity for the kingdom of Israel.

The Fall of the Hebrew State

As is often the case when a state is control by a strong personality, the Hebrew Stateís glory was short lived. With Solomonís death, succession problems and favoritism tore the realm apart. Ten of the original twelve tribes organized their own state, called Israel. Israel fell to Assyrian invaders 200 years later. The dispersion of the tribes to various parts of the Assyrian Empire led to their assimilation. They were subsequently labeled "The Lost Tribes."

The remaining two tribes, Judah, Solomonís tribe, and Levy, the priests, formed the significantly smaller state of Judah. In 586 B.C.E., 386 years after the death of Solomon, Judah fell to the Chaldeans. The Chaldeans deported the Jews to Babylon, and thus the Jews lost their statehood.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Israelís primary strength lay in her peopleís religion. The monotheistic Jews were a people apart from the world. Nowhere else, at the time, did people worship a single god. They were distinct from the world, and that difference unified them. Unfortunately for the Jews, their monotheism also affected their view of government. They looked to Solomon almost as a representative of their God, with his death; they were without their real leader. While he lived the Jews were strong and prosperous; without him they were divided by petty problems.

The Hellenic City State

Greece was a region that shared similarities with the Hebrews. While the Greeks shared a religion and a language, their tribes, called