Thursday, October 30, 2014

Digital Scrapbook Entry #3 - Mesopotamia
Author: British Government Communication Service
Speiser, E. A. "Ancient Mesopotamia: A Light That Did Not Fail." The National Geographic Magazine [Washington D.C.] Jan. 1951: 41-57. Print.
Author: E. A. Speiser
   Symbolic Kings

          The role of monarchs differs from nation to nation, often based off of political and cultural beliefs of that area. Monarchs can fall anywhere on the spectrum, from supreme dictator, to a figurehead holding little or no power. This latter form of monarchy is often accompanied by some form of republic which holds true power of the nation. This form of government is often called a constitutional monarchy, in which the true power is held by a group of people. This form of government became prevalent in ancient Mesopotamia as a result of their religious, cultural, and moral beliefs. The Mesopotamian government first evolved through several different forms until reaching a government very similar to modern constitutional monarchies. Mesopotamian cities began acting as theocracies with features similar to a republic. The heads of temples and other religious centers shared the
power and together made decisions. While this is similar to a constitutional monarchy in that there is power delegated to a group of people, however the part that would make it a  monarchy, the monarch, is lacking. After this the city-states of Mesopotamia evolved into absolute monarchies, in which the monarch has absolute power. This is again only half of a constitutional monarchy, in that it actually has a monarch, but unlike the symbolic power of a constitutional monarchy, the monarch truly has complete control of their nation. The Mesopotamian cities then evolved into a system now recognized as a constitutional monarchy. This change happened due to the religious and cultural beliefs of Mesopotamia at the time. The people of Mesopotamia had a much greater sense of equality and human rights than other cultures of the time, and this was in part due to and solidified by their religion. The religion of Mesopotamia believed that all humans were held accountable under the same laws and expectations, meaning in this sense they were all equal. The gods of the Mesopotamian people were also considered very powerful and moody, meaning that pleasing them was a high priority. This belief sparked from the irregular floods of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which were believed to be in the control of the gods. In order to keep these essential floods coming, the gods had to be pleased. Because all kings were human, and fallible, and the gods had to be pleased, most kings created councils of trusted advisers to help them maintain a safe balance with their people and their gods. Over time, these councils grew in power, as the kings relied more and more on their support. This occurred until the kings had almost no power, and thus forming a constitutional monarchy. One in which a group of people, voting and deciding on decisions of a nation, are in power, while the monarch appears merely as a symbol of the nation.
          Constitutional monarchies have become even more prevalent as more and more nations are diverting power from singular rulers to larger groups of citizens. One nation which has developed a strong constitutional monarchy is the United Kingdom, which maintains a ruling monarch and a parliamentary government. The parliament holds two houses, the House of Lords and the House of Commons. Back when the class system was prevalent in the UK, the House of Lords and House of Commons were staffed by people of different backgrounds. The House
of Lords was staffed by the nobles of the nation. Meanwhile the House of Commons was made to represent the commoners and traders of the nation. These two separate houses create and withhold the laws of the nation, while the monarch acts as a symbol for the nation to unite behind. The monarchs of England have some powers, such as the ability to stop a prime minister to dissolve Parliament if it would lead to a minority party
from gaining power in the nation. They can also call Parliament into a meeting, and call for a new election for representatives into the House of Commons.
          This form of government has been created in many different places, and at many different times, however often for different reasons. The Parliament of England, which later evolved into the Parliament of the United Kingdoms, began due to nobles of England wishing to regain power within the nation as Henry III began to rely less and less upon their support. A revolution began, and after winning, the revolutionaries installed early forms of Parliament. This is radically different from the Mesopotamian evolution into a constitutional monarchy, and can give key insights into why this form of government can become prevalent. One of the most obvious reasons is that councils of people can be more trustworthy and reliable than individuals, as they can keep themselves in check and generally, with obvious exceptions, are less susceptible to personal bias influencing decisions. Monarchies are unreliable, as it is possible to have one good king, but then the next may be poor. Meanwhile councils in which representatives are voted in based on skill, and not due to family lines, are much more likely to have continually good members. People also often trust elected individuals more, as they are more sure of that individuals ability and beliefs. The second reason these governments have not evolved into complete republics is that monarchies often act as symbols from which nationalism and unity can form. This is why monarchies persist, as they are symbolic for the unity and power of the nation.

Mesopotamian Kings:
Parliamentary Elections:

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