This sanctity was, if anything, only enhanced by the consensus in political theory that had developed in late antiquity. Whereas classical political analysis divided government into three basic types (democracy, aristocracy, monarchy) and their corrupt counterparts (ochlocracy, oligarchy, tyranny), by late antiquity a sole ruler had prevailed for hundreds of years in the West, and even longer in the East. Monarchy, accordingly, was considered the only viable form of government.8 Alternatives, if they were considered at all, were used only in negative contrast to the benefits of monarchy. Eusebius, for instance, confidently asserts in his oration that 'Monarchy excels all other kinds of constitution and government,' deriding 'a polyarchy based on equality' as the cause of anarchy and civil war (LC 3.6). In a bit of vintage Constantinian reasoning, the first Christian emperor echoed these sentiments when he defended his choice of monotheism by pointing to the lack of a clear chain of command in polytheism: 'To which one should prayers and entreaties be made first, and which last?' he asks.

How could I cultivate one especially without dishonouring the others? If I gave thanks to one for granting some earthly favour, I would cast aspersions on the one who opposed it. From which one should I expect to learn the cause of a crisis and how to resolve it? Or suppose that a response had been given us through revelations or oracles but it was not within their power and belonged to a different god . . . Wrath and strife and recriminations would ensue, and through greed no one would be content with his own lot or station until there was complete and utter confusion.9

Polytheism brought discord. Only monotheism could create unity and concord on earth to mirror the unity and concord of the heavenly realm.

Because of this consensus, late antique thinkers focused not on the variety of constitutions, but on the variety of rulers. The virtue of the monarch was all-important, for it was by means of this virtue that he maintained that bond with the divine that was so essential to successful rule. One strand of political thought that Rome inherited from the monarchies of the Hellenistic world held that the ruler's duty was to appear to his subjects as a likeness, or eíkwv, of the heavenly kingdom; indeed, true rulers could be distinguished from false by the degree to which they inspired virtue in their subjects. As one such tract put it, 'merely to look upon a good king ought to affect the souls of

8 Discussed from various aspects in Emma Gannagé et al., eds., The Greek strand in Islamic political thought. See further G. Fowden, Empire to commonwealth; A. Al-Azmeh, Muslim kingship.

9 From the speech known as 'The oration to the saints' (Oratio ad sanctorum coetum), 3.3-4 (GCS - Eusebius Werke, i: 156-7).

0 0

Post a comment