Abstract–Domination and Legitimacy in Early Hellenistic Basileia: The Rise of Self-Proclaimed Kings

When I first started this research I was thinking about identifying different ideal types of Hellenistic kings based on the way they exercised power. It soon became clear that they should all be treated as “charismatic leaders” in a Weberian sense, as suggested by Gehrke in his Der siegreiche König (1982). Moreover, Gehrke’s idea of the existence in Hellenistic kingship of a charisma inheritable through the establishment of a dynastic principle allowed me to understand that inherited charisma was in some regions connected to the adoption of more ancient monarchical traditions (mainly Egyptian and Mesopotamian). This paper aims to briefly discuss the charismatic nature of early Hellenistic monarchical power (from the Successors to the so-called period of stability) emphasizing both the army (military commanders and to a less extent part of the troops) as one of the main intended audiences of a self-proclaimed king the kings’ identification with more ancient monarchical traditions. Other members of the king’s circle of “friends” (philoi) included “advisers, teachers of the princes, good company in hunting and drinking parties, governors of districts and provinces [and] envoys”. (Chaniotis 2005: 64). My approach is divided into 4 sections: (1) a short introduction; (2) a study of the relationship between the king and his army, with focus on the “ritual of acclamation” and the mutual expectations between the sovereign and his men-at-arms; (3) a discussion of the effort made by the first generations of kings to adapt to the new socio-political setting by coming to terms with local elites and by connecting with ancient local traditions; and (4) conclusion.