De Diablo Del Fora
The influence of the clergy, in an age of superstition, might be usefully employed to assert the rights of mankind; but so intimate is the connection between the throne and the altar, that the banner of the church has very seldom been seen on the side of the people. — Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
Gibbon. Right? Wrong? Handsome? Charming? What make you of his notions and the cut of his jib?
Today, quite a bit is known with certitude about the formerly murky origins of written history. We now know for a fact that written history begins sometime around 5,500 years ago (give or take 10,000 years) on the grassy plains of Sumer -- and quite possibly in the town of Kish (or any of perhaps two dozen other towns). Moreover, the name of man who invented writing has come down to us as Clay Cuneiform, although we still have left to us the scholarly work of discovering his precise dates of birth and death.
Another thing we can be absolutely certain of is the approximate, possible, and perhaps even plausible likelihood that the very first civilizations (which first arose in Sumer just a few centuries before writing) achieved political and social stability largely through the expedient of uniting church and state, throne and altar, in order to forge hierarchical societies with centralized governments powerful enough to subjugate the will of the masses to the will of the elites.
That is to say, the early city-states of Sumer managed to last a while because their kings and their priests joined forces to rule over the people. Had they not joined forces, the people of the time would have risen up and overthrown their wannabe rulers, for men and women are by human nature too unruly to slavishly obey their leaders without their leaders possessing a combination of power and authority.
Moreover, power ultimately proceeds from the barrel of a gun (as Mao famously put it), while authority is the opiate of the masses (as I myself infamously twist Marx's words on it).
Power and authority.
Force and ideology.
King and clergy.
King and clergy.
The winning combo.The reason the earliest city-states were able to hold together long enough to make a difference to the history of the world.
But what do you yourself think? What has been -- or what is -- the relationship between throne and altar, church and state, kings and clergy in terms of the ability of our world's political and social elites to govern the rest of us?