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Book: Leadership, Social Memory and Judean Discourse in the Fifth - Second Centuries BCE

Chapter: Monarchy, Oligarchy, and Democracy in the Constitutional Debate in Herodotus and in 1 Samuel 8

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.26816


This chapter compares two early samples of political theoretical reasoning: (1) the discussion on monarchy between the prophet Samuel and the elders of Israel in 1Samuel 8 and (2) the so-called Constitutional Debate in Herodotus III:80–82. For both texts the form of government is no longer considered to be divinely ordained or determined by tradition, rather it is a matter of dispute and deliberate decision. Herodotus’ Constitutional Debate is an outcome of the emergence of the citizen states in archaic Greece. 1Samuel 8 is part of the deuteronomistic History and thus an attempt to reconstitute the Judean society after the downfall of the monarchy in 587 BCE. Both texts dismiss monarchy, while they critically advocate some early form of democracy.

Chapter Contributors

  • Wolfgang Oswald ( - woswald) 'University of Tübingen'