J.G. Manning

J.G. Manning, William K. and Marilyn M. Simpson Professor of Classics and History, Yale University: “Kingship Not Monarchy. Ideas and Practices of Ptolemaic Governance”


The lecture will exam how Hellenistic kings operated in the real world. I will focus on the Ptolemies but refer to the broader trends of the period.  I begin by considering the new world created in the wake of Alexander’s conquest in the late fourth century BC during which new states were formed, older states, especially the Greek cities, made major adjustments in how they operated, and the institutional bases of societies around the Mediterranean world were restructured. I then explore the implications of these adjustments by discussing the drivers of historical change. Political equilibria were difficult to establish, the immediate concerns revolved around the creation of what the historical sociologist Shauel Eisenstadt (1993) famously has termed “free-floating resources” bound up in the nexus of war-resources-coinage. The relative size of each Hellenistic state was, in turn, determined by the level of military technology, the productivity of its resource base and its administrative costs. I conclude by treating the complex institutional and cognitive frameworks set up by these new states that resulted in the constant bargaining between kings and society that shaped these new states.

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