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Was it really good to be the king?

Discussion in 'Research' started by Jabrosky, Aug 20, 2012.

  1. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

    I for one think not. It's true that kings and other leaders would have enjoyed certain luxuries and privileges unavailable to commoners, but consider how many responsibilities that would have come with all their powers. They would have needed to manage the national economy, all the provinces in their kingdoms, legal and political disputes, spiritual affairs (in theocratic societies), a colossal bureaucracy if a written language was available, international diplomacy, the military (in some cases including physically leading the warriors into battle), architectural projects, and their own families (especially bad in cultures with polygamy). All of that must have caused them throbbing administrative headaches. And then those kings who professed a special connection to their gods would have had to live up to godlike expectations in both appearance and conduct. Viewed in this light, all the privileges we associate with kingship must have functioned as compensations for all the stress most kings would have suffered.

    It makes you wonder why anyone would really want to be king!
  2. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    I think you are far to kind hearted to make a good King/ Queen/ Ruler/ Grand Vizier [etc.].
    With a few noble exceptions history is chocked full of those that didn't give a damn about anyone by themselves and were thought of as "good" rulers. While those that did think about the practicalities [clean water, cheap food, fair taxation, civil rights - you know the irrelevant stuff] were almost universally seen as weak.
    And the weak usually came to a sticky end...
  3. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

    I'm not so sure about that Joe. History is not always brilliant at letting us know stuff about ancient rulers, and accounts which do survive are tainted by the bias of those who created them, and those they were created for. The story of Caligula making his horse a senator, and various other very negative tales about the Julio-Claudians and Flavians, were probably made up by Seutonius and others like him who worked for later emperors like Nerva, Trajan and Hadrian to make themselves look better.

    For the main part it was in the best interests of the ruler to keep the people happy. Pisistratos of Athens was actually a fairly popular tyrant. He built temples, public buildings, fountain houses and didn't go around killing opponents but rather upheld the law as it stood. His sons were less popular because they abused their power and that ended rather messily, but that was exactly why Pisistratos needed to keep the hoplite class and up at the very least fairly content: because when things go wrong and people start hating you, they plot to kill you and your co-ruler brother and if you're lucky you're the brother who escapes to Persia. Pisistratos may have not succeeded in his earlier attempts at tyrany, but once he secured it in the third attempt he kept it until his death; and whilelater writers maligned him in favour of the democracy that, by their time, was a success in Athens, many stories about him, and other archaic tyrants such as Cypselus of Corinth, were probably later fabrications to demonise him and contrast the government they had at the time with the dark old days to show how much better what they had was.

    In the Roman Empire there was another guage of popularity the citizen body could rely on, at least from the mid third century onwards with a few examples before hand. The Imperial Guard. It was a prestigious position but these were generally ordinary blokes from army backgrounds, and if the Emperor was too far out of line as far as treatment of ordinary citizens or the army were concerned, you could bet he wouldn't last long. Many Emperors were killed by their own guard.

    From what I've seen, mostly the weak don't become rulers in the first place. The ones who come to sticky ends are the collosally unpopular. That might mean they're cruel, or it might mean they're unsuitable for the position, or it might mean they'd done too much in favour of the poor at the cost of the rich who themselves had the resources and ambition to replace the ruler.

    Not to say those who survived were perfect. I just think they were human. Sure they had flaws, and sure they did things which were good, but they were still human and they acted in human ways and sometimes the pressure was too much and sometimes they felt they deserved more reimbursement than they got and sometimes they tried their best to do what they thought was right.
  4. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    I was thinking more of the middle/late middle ages but I do agree with your point that "history" is written by the victors.
    For me; full-time / professional athletes are probably the closest we have to the same mix needed for success as a ruler that we have today. You need some innate skills and the gods need to smile on you but you also need a ruthless determination to succeed and be willing to sacrifice an awful lot for the goal you've set yourself.
    Nearly all of them are described as driven/determined/single-minded [I know of a cyclist described as "nearly sociopathic" by a team mate]. The number of people interviewed during the Olympics that said variations of "I haven't seen my wife/husband/children/ for six weeks"...
    But I supposed the best/most important qualification for being "King" is wanting to be...
  5. FireBird

    FireBird Troubadour

    Most rulers never did all of those things. There were always other people to do them. Most rulers in history focused on one aspect and did not pay very much attention to the others. Alexander the Great is known as a general and not much else. Look at the Roman Empire and you will see only a few good rulers. Augustus is the most popular one and he was a good emporer, but he was widely regarded as a cruel man. Do you think the bad rulers enjoyed being kings of emperors? I think so. If anything, being good at it probably meant you were less likely to enjoy it, strangely enough.
  6. Saigonnus

    Saigonnus Auror

    I would agree with most of the observations that the "Goodly" kings are something more of stories than reality; more often than not, you'd have to be fairly ruthless even if you treat the civilian population kindly. I think what most people would be a good king is one that provides protection to the people, has reasonable taxation and generally the citizens have everything they need for a comfortable life even if they are poor.

    I do think however that kings; like leaders nowadays tended to delegate some of their responsibilities to those with more ability in a certain area. They generally didn't handle the finances of the realm personally or tax collection, using accountants or bankers to oversee the finanaces and tax collectors for the collection itself. I could see them glancing at an overview of the income and expenses, but to personally se to every single expense and source of income would mean he wouldn't have time for anything else.

    Also, many kings (especially the young ones) didn't fight a war themselves, relying instead on men who'd spent a lifetime fighting and with far more experience than they themselves may have. I think all in all it would be very difficult to rule a kingdom, even considering all the perks of the job.
  7. Ivan

    Ivan Minstrel

    It's better to be the puppetmaster behind the throne!

    However, few people get to the top by being kind-hearted. Kings depended more on the powerful classes of nobles or the military than on public goodwill.
  8. Being king might be stressful, but I'd still rather be the king than a peasant.
  9. Telcontar

    Telcontar Staff Moderator

    Kings varied vastly in control over their kingdoms. Some of the French "Kings" could not go more than a day's ride from Paris because they might be kidnapped and ransomed by one of the powerful nobles (who had wealth and manpower as great as the King's) who nominally owed him fealty.

    On the other hand, some kings (or sovereigns of other title) were so feared/loved and respected that none would dare touch them, and they had their kingdoms well in hand.

    Politics are complicated, especially in a time before the idea of 'rule of law' had really gained a lot of traction in the hearts and minds of the powerful. Was it good to be king? Sure, if you were a good king ("good" meaning effective ie "in control", not anything else).
  10. gavintonks

    gavintonks Maester

    depends the one king was elected for a year given everything then sacrificed 1 year later to reignite the sun, so one year having every thing you desired and not much after that
  11. Godzilax99

    Godzilax99 Scribe

    Being king is like being the leader in the country. I heard of this saying b4. A leader points the direction, the minister prepares for the journey. So, the king is more like a visionary.. A person who will lead the country in a certain direction and to get there, it is his ministers and generals and soldiers and administrators to make it happen.

    In regards to his ways to leading the country, it really depends on the era and how the history portrays him/her. A few fine examples will be one of the famous Emperor in China, known as Emperor Qiu. He was a cruel man, who seeks to dominate all the other warlords who held lands and army in ancient china. After that, in order to prevent people from rebelling against him, he will arrest anyone who had the potential to stage a riot. He also caught all the scholars and the wise men of that time and execute them if they won't obey him. He also burned all the books during his time, so that no men will be wise enough to outsmart him.

    But his contribution to the whole of China is great. He established a standard set of words and language, known as Chinese. In the past, every states have their own language, and it's bad for trade. Also, there are a different in currency and the weight of copper coins are different as well, making it hard to be fair in trading. Many other contributions were made, but of course, through brutal ways. One famous contribution is the construction of the Great Wall of China, but as many said, the wall are supported by thousands of dead slaves, working to their death..

    So, is he a good emperor?

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