THE INSTITUTION OF SACRAL KINGSHIP

THE INSTITUTION OF SACRAL KINGSHIP – People perform rituals in order to purify either themselves or a particular place; to predict what will happen; to propitiate a divine being; or to create abundance. When a person moves from one stage of his/her social life to another, from, say, the daughter of a house to the wife of someone in another village, a ritual usually marks the transition. In most simple cultures, where an individual has multiple roles (as son, nephew, elder brother, client, etc.), the appropriate etiquette is important. Because a tribal chief eats the same food and uses the same tools as his followers, symbols and social etiquette are, again, necessary to assert that he is the leader, spokesman, and performer of ancestral rituals.

Early kings, too, had little coercive force at their command, and little privilege as regards ownership of land or irrigation water. The more the potential for conflict in their societies, the more they vested their office in mystical values that placed them above criticism. As an Egyptian text of the Middle Kingdom says, “What is the King of Upper and Lower Egypt? He is a god by whose dealings one lives, the father and mother of all men, alone by himself, without equal.” We recall that the “Uruk expansion” involved not just the implanting of Mesopotamian methods of sealing and recording in settlements at a distance, but also architecture typical of Mesopotamian religious buildings.

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