During each time period, there is always a leader who
changes a basic component of society: a king or ruler. We find characteristics
of leaders as well as what changes they made in the ancient and medieval
period. It is important to study ancient history because we can learn the
mistakes and impacts of the decisions they made. During the time periods, organization
depended upon the leader that brought change to the state. The organization of
government relied upon the role of certain individuals or groups.
Amid the ancient and medieval age, we see that a
leader or a group played the important role as the leader of a chain. When
comparing and contrasting the way a king’s or group’s role is played in the
ancient age and medieval age, we find differences, particularly when it comes
to how they rule the kingdom. But we also find similarities in the way they
treated their community and the power they hold. Thus, the king or group was
considered the most important voice that brought about change in laws, social
order, and government.
During ancient Egypt, civilization was brought about because
the people picked a ruler, or king. “Two of the most important sources of life
for the ancient Egyptians were the Nile River and the Pharaoh” (William). At
the time, society was very hierarchical; the society was divided into two
groups: the privileged people and the majority. The king kept control and
managed everything ranging from politics to religion.
Although Egyptians were polytheistic, they worshiped
the sun god, Atum or Re, as he was the source of life. This is important
because the Egyptian king took the title of “Son of Re”. The king, hence the
descendant of the god, was the mother and father of all men without equal. The
king akin to the living god, and his rule was law. Despite there being no laws,
the words out of the king’s mouth were the law. As a king, he is responsible
for the army to protect his possessions and people.
His civil servants managed the King’s possessions.
Society was very hierarchical with the king at the top of the chain. The King
oversaw trade because, at the time, there was no currency. River civilizations
utilized the barter system where they traded items for other items and was
deemed necessary because not all necessities could be obtained through
Consequently, we see that the king was the important
figure that brought about change in ancient Egypt. The king was the law and had
control over everything. If the king
does or says something, then everyone is affected because they are under his
rule and control. Civilization, as we know, is depicted by a ruler at the top
of the chain and the subjects under his rule. In any civilization, there is a
need for one to be in utmost power.
Similarly to Egyptians was ancient Mesopotamia. As
cities expanded, they exercised political and economic control over the
countryside forming city-states. Sumerians viewed kingship as divine in origin.
A person once stated his petition to the king: “You in your judgment, you are
the son of Anu; Your commands, like the work of a god, cannot be reversed. Your
words, like rain pouring down from heaven, are without number” (William). Here
we also see another king who is akin to a god.
Although there were earlier Mesopotamian law codes,
Hammurabi’s is the most complete set of laws called Hammurabi’s Code that
“affected all member of society” (Horne). The law code emphasized the
principles of retribution and punishment that varied according to the person’s
social status. These collections of laws provide insight into day to day life
in Mesopotamia and give us a clue of the values of Mesopotamian early society.
Hammurabi who a man of peace and war who took interest in state affairs:
building temples, defensive walls, and water systems; supported trade; and
brought about a momentary restoration.
Thus, we see another king who was the important
figure that brought about change to civilization. The king had dominance over
everything and was seen as divine in origin. Under his rule, civilization
prospered and expanded. Hammurabi once stated, “I am indeed the shepherd who
brings peace, whose scepter is just… I held the people of the lands of Sumer
and Akkad safely on my lap” (William). We see that a king must not only be in
power, but must also love, just, and caretaker of his subjects if he wants to
Another civilization that had political, social, and
cultural achievements were the Aryans. The Aryan’s civilization closely
resembled that of the previous ancient civilizations. Since they are similar,
we can infer that there is centralized monopoly based on a ruling structure
with a ruling class, a freeman group, and commoners or slaves.
In early Aryan history, there is an account of a god
who transformed Manu into a king because of his ability to protect the people.
Later rajas, Indian king or sovereign, would claim their relationship to Manu
assert their lineage of one of protection and worthy to rule over the people.
Although men who claimed their lineage were not divine rulers, they
demonstrated that they were representatives of the gods by protecting their
Thus, kings at the time needed to provide protection
and material welfare to his subjects or suffer the consequences of unhappy
citizens. A king must dependably put his subjects first before himself. The
king of Ancient India did not possess authoritative power but instead had to
follow dharma. Sita explained in Ramayana, “…dharma is, most of all, peace by
following the path of righteousness” (Menon 163-164). It is the eternal law
and right way of living.
king needed to be honest, religious, intelligent, and willing to listen to his
subjects. Since the ruler was a man, he also had to obey the law, unlike the
Egyptian king where his word is law.
Another system where the king ruled is feudalism
during the Medieval Age. At the time of feudalism, governments ceased to be
able to defend their subjects and it became important to find a powerful lord
who could offer protection in return for service. The king leased land towards
the people he trusted who then leased it to people who served under them. He
allowed tenants he could trust to least land if they swore an oath of fealty to
the king at all times.
Under this framework, everybody but the king had a
ruling lord over them. Feudalism was a system that maintained power to rule but
was also a means to serve justice to local people under him. We see the
hierarchy from the previous civilizations as well as the need to maintain a
relationship with those under him.
the seventh and eighth centuries, Pepin assumed the kingship of the Frankish
state for himself and his family. Upon his death in 768, his son, Charles the
Great, came to the throne of the Frankish kingdom. During his rule, he
increased the Frank kingdom and gained the goodwill of the surrounding kings
and nations. There is a Greek proverb that stated, ‘Have the Frank for your
friend, but not for your neighbor’ (William).
Here we see another king that ruled over a nation.
While other civilizations emphasized money on the rich, Charlemagne rule
appeased the lower class. He was the first leader to restore some semblance of
political unity to Europe. Charlemagne that he was remembered for centuries in
Europe as being the ideal king, generating legends and songs that bards would
sing for years to come.
As we see in each civilization, there is a voice that
played a major role in the civilization. From the ancient to medieval age, we see
a leader that played a specific rule as a leader. Although the kings are not
entirely under a god, they are representatives of one because they are the
rulers of their nations who is the caregiver. Although kings rule differently,
we see that they treat their community with love and justice. Thus, the king or
group was considered the important factor that brought about change in laws,
social order, and society.
Niccolo Machiavelli was an influential writer for
kings who wanted to rule. He wrote, “For a change always leaves a dovetail into
which another will fit” (Machiavelli).
From this metaphor, we see the state is a work of art to which a ruler
desires to shape. The king is not only the caregiver for its people but also
the one who instigated change in a civilization. We see that after the King
died in each civilization, the civilization did not last long. A civilization,
in the end, is only as good as its leader or king.