Sole rule and the Greek polis: legitimising monocratic power from the Archaic Period to the Early Hellenistic Period
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date04/12/2022
Ellis, Samuel Benjamin
My thesis investigates the discourse of sole rule in the Greek polis from the Archaic Period to the Early Hellenistic Period. In particular, the thesis analyses how sole rulers were able to legitimise their position throughout a long temporal span during which attitudes towards sole rule were constantly changing. Traditionally, scholarship has compartmentalised sole rule in the Greek World into separate categories: Homeric basileia, Archaic tyrannoi, Hellenistic kingship. I argue that these categories should be challenged, and my thesis aims to demonstrate both chronological continuity and geographic spread in the methods of legitimisation used by sole rulers from as early as the Homeric period right down to the death of Hiero II in 215 BC, the date at which this thesis ends. I identify two major stumblingblocks to sole ruler legitimacy that monocrats had to overcome to stay in power. The first of these was the rise of an ideology of eunomia that centred on the rule of law in the seventh and sixth centuries BC. Sole rulers now had to frame their power within the confines of the law, and I adopt a New Institutionalist methodology to examine how sole rulers sought to institutionalise their power to counter accusations of lawlessness and illegitimacy. The second issue I discuss is the changing discourse surrounding sole rule from the seventh century onwards that led to increasingly negative stereotypes and conceptual metaphors that sole rulers had to contend with. The stereotypes largely portray the sole ruler as a sacrilegious, violent, lawless tyrant, an image the sole ruler had to negate to maintain his position. These stereotypes were further exacerbated in the fifth century following the Persian Wars when sole rule became increasingly perceived as a foreign trait, leading to the stereotype of the barbarian ruler. We can further trace changing attitudes towards sole rule in the underlying conceptual metaphors that existed in Greek society. Early conceptual metaphors focused on the sole ruler as protector of his people, such as a father, a shepherd, or a doctor. These were exploited negatively as sole rule became increasingly criticised, while the fifth century despotes conceptual metaphor depicted the sole ruler as a master of slavish subjects. From the fourth century philosophical works examined positive forms of monarchy, and the rise of Hellenistic kingship meant conceptualisations once again focused on positive aspects of sole rule, culminating in the extensive use of the euergetes conceptual metaphor. The changing conceptual metaphors are representative of changes in communal perception of sole rule and have important implications for our understanding of the discourse of sole rule and ancient Greek political thought. The thesis is divided into two parts. The first part consists of three thematic chapters that focus on the wider picture of sole ruler discourse, while the second part features three case-studies demonstrating my conclusions in action. Chapter One introduces the methodological framework for the thesis and highlights the historiographical problems with many existing studies of sole rule. This methodological framework is provided by the New Institutionalist school of political analysis, while also introducing aspects of cognitive theory such as conceptual metaphors. These tools are used, throughout, in tandem with more traditional philological analysis of literary and epigraphic source material. Chapter Two examines ancient responses to sole rule and the development of the rule of law vs. rule of man ideology following the increasing importance of eunomia in the seventh and sixth century Greek polis. The chapter concludes by examining sole ruler responses to this new requirement for eunomia through the promotion of socalled ‘lawful’ sole rule. Chapter Three analyses three particular aspects of the discourse surrounding sole rule: stereotypes, conceptual metaphors, and nomenclature. The chapter looks at both positive and negative linguistic and conceptual representations of sole rule and to how these perceptions changed over time, before analysing how sole rulers attempted to combat these negative perceptions to maintain legitimacy. The remaining three chapters look at individual casestudies in order to contextualise and support the conclusions drawn from Part One. Chapter Four examines the Battiad dynasty of Cyrene of the seventh fifth centuries BC, Chapter Five examines Classical Thessaly and the position of tagos, while Chapter Six examines the discourse of sole rule in Syracuse, beginning with Gelon I and concluding with the Early Hellenistic reigns of Agathocles and Hiero II. The detailed analysis carried out in this thesis provides a comprehensive study of the methods of legitimisation used by sole rulers from the Archaic Period to the Early Hellenistic Period, establishing threads of continuity across chronological and geographical boundaries.