Basileus

Basileus

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Basileus is a Greek term and title
Title
A title is a prefix or suffix added to someone's name to signify either veneration, an official position or a professional or academic qualification. In some languages, titles may even be inserted between a first and last name...

 that has signified various types of monarch
Monarch
A monarch is the person who heads a monarchy. This is a form of government in which a state or polity is ruled or controlled by an individual who typically inherits the throne by birth and occasionally rules for life or until abdication...

s in history. It is perhaps best known in English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 as a title used by the Byzantine
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 Emperors, but also has a longer history of use for persons of authority and sovereign
Sovereign
A sovereign is the supreme lawmaking authority within its jurisdiction.Sovereign may also refer to:*Monarch, the sovereign of a monarchy*Sovereign Bank, banking institution in the United States*Sovereign...

s in ancient Greece
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

, as well as for the kings of modern Greece
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

.

Etymology


The etymology of basileus is unclear. The Mycenaean form was gwasileus (𐀣𐀯𐀩𐀄, qa-si-re-u), denoting some sort of court official or local chieftain, but not an actual king. Most linguists assume that it is a non-Greek word that was adopted by Bronze Age
Bronze Age
The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age...

 Greeks from a preexisting linguistic substrate
Substratum
In linguistics, a stratum or strate is a language that influences, or is influenced by another through contact. A substratum is a language which has lower power or prestige than another, while a superstratum is the language that has higher power or prestige. Both substratum and superstratum...

 of the Eastern Mediterranean
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

. Schindler (1976) argues for an inner-Greek innovation of the -eus inflection type from Indo-European
Indo-European languages
The Indo-European languages are a family of several hundred related languages and dialects, including most major current languages of Europe, the Iranian plateau, and South Asia and also historically predominant in Anatolia...

 material rather than a Mediterranean loan.

Original senses encountered on clay tablets


The first written instance of this word is found on the baked clay tablet
Clay tablet
In the Ancient Near East, clay tablets were used as a writing medium, especially for writing in cuneiform, throughout the Bronze Age and well into the Iron Age....

s discovered in excavations of Mycenae
Mycenae
Mycenae is an archaeological site in Greece, located about 90 km south-west of Athens, in the north-eastern Peloponnese. Argos is 11 km to the south; Corinth, 48 km to the north...

an palaces originally destroyed by fire. The tablets are dated from the 15th century BC to the 11th century BC and are inscribed with the Linear B
Linear B
Linear B is a syllabic script that was used for writing Mycenaean Greek, an early form of Greek. It pre-dated the Greek alphabet by several centuries and seems to have died out with the fall of Mycenaean civilization...

 script, which was deciphered by Michael Ventris
Michael Ventris
Michael George Francis Ventris, OBE was an English architect and classical scholar who, along with John Chadwick, was responsible for the decipherment of Linear B.Ventris was educated in Switzerland and at Stowe School...

 in 1952 and corresponds to a very early form of Greek. The word basileus is written as qa-si-re-u and its original meaning was "chieftain
Tribal chief
A tribal chief is the leader of a tribal society or chiefdom. Tribal societies with social stratification under a single leader emerged in the Neolithic period out of earlier tribal structures with little stratification, and they remained prevalent throughout the Iron Age.In the case of ...

" (in one particular tablet the chieftain of the guild of bronze
Bronze
Bronze is a metal alloy consisting primarily of copper, usually with tin as the main additive. It is hard and brittle, and it was particularly significant in antiquity, so much so that the Bronze Age was named after the metal...

smith
Smith (metalwork)
A metalsmith, often shortened to smith, is a person involved in making metal objects. In contemporary use a metalsmith is a person who uses metal as a material, uses traditional metalsmithing techniques , whose work thematically relates to the practice or history of the practice, or who engages in...

s is referred to as qa-si-re-u). Here the initial letter q- represents the PIE
Pie
A pie is a baked dish which is usually made of a pastry dough casing that covers or completely contains a filling of various sweet or savoury ingredients....

 labiovelar consonant */gʷ/, transformed in later Greek into /b/. Linear B uses the same glyph for /l/ and /r/, now uniformly written with a Latin "r" by convention. Linear B only depicts syllables of single vowel or consonant-vowel form, therefore the final -s is dropped altogether.

Basileus vs. Wanax in Mycenaean times


The word can be contrasted with wanax, another word used more specifically for "king
Monarch
A monarch is the person who heads a monarchy. This is a form of government in which a state or polity is ruled or controlled by an individual who typically inherits the throne by birth and occasionally rules for life or until abdication...

" and usually meaning "High King" or "overlord". With the collapse of Mycenaean society, the position of wanax ceases to be mentioned, and the basileis (the plural form) appear the topmost potentates in Greek society. In the works of Homer
Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

 wanax appears, in the form ánax, mostly in descriptions of Zeus
Zeus
In the ancient Greek religion, Zeus was the "Father of Gods and men" who ruled the Olympians of Mount Olympus as a father ruled the family. He was the god of sky and thunder in Greek mythology. His Roman counterpart is Jupiter and his Etruscan counterpart is Tinia.Zeus was the child of Cronus...

 (ánax andrōn te theōn te, "king of men and of the gods
Twelve Olympians
The Twelve Olympians, also known as the Dodekatheon , in Greek mythology, were the principal deities of the Greek pantheon, residing atop Mount Olympus. Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter, Hestia, and Hades were siblings. Ares, Hermes, Hephaestus, Athena, Apollo, and Artemis were children of Zeus...

") and of very few human monarchs, most notably Agamemnon
Agamemnon
In Greek mythology, Agamemnon was the son of King Atreus and Queen Aerope of Mycenae, the brother of Menelaus, the husband of Clytemnestra, and the father of Electra and Orestes. Mythical legends make him the king of Mycenae or Argos, thought to be different names for the same area...

. Otherwise the term survived almost exclusively as a component in compound personal names (e.g., Anaxagóras, Pleistoánax) and is still in use in Modern Greek
Modern Greek
Modern Greek refers to the varieties of the Greek language spoken in the modern era. The beginning of the "modern" period of the language is often symbolically assigned to the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1453, even though that date marks no clear linguistic boundary and many characteristic...

 in the description of the royal palace i.e. anáktoron/anáktora, "[the place/home] of the ánax". The latter is essentially the same word as "wa-na-ka-te-ro", anákteros, "of the wanax/king" or "belonging to the wanax/king", used in Linear B tablets to refer to various craftsmen serving the king (e.g. the "palace", or royal, spinner, or the ivory worker), and to things belonging or offered to the king (javelin shafts, wheat, spices, precincts etc.).

Most of the Greek leaders in Homer's works are described as basileís, which is conventionally rendered in English as "kings". However, a more accurate translation may be "princes" or "chieftains", which would better reflect conditions in Greek society in Homer's time, and also the roles ascribed to Homer's characters. Agamemnon tries to give orders to Achilles
Achilles
In Greek mythology, Achilles was a Greek hero of the Trojan War, the central character and the greatest warrior of Homer's Iliad.Plato named Achilles the handsomest of the heroes assembled against Troy....

 among many others, while another basileus serves as his charioteer. His will, however, is not to be automatically obeyed. In Homer the wanax is expected to rule over the other basileis by consensus rather than by coercion, which is why Achilles throws a fit of rage (the central theme of the Iliad
Iliad
The Iliad is an epic poem in dactylic hexameters, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles...

) when he perceives that Agamemnon is bossing him around.

Archaic basileus


A study by Drews (1983) has demonstrated that even at the apex of Geometric and Archaic Greek society, basileus does not automatically translate to "king". In a number of places authority was exercised by a college of basileis drawn from a particular clan or group, and the office had term limits. However, basileus could also be applied to the hereditary leaders of "tribal" states, like those of the Arcadia
Arcadia
Arcadia is one of the regional units of Greece. It is part of the administrative region of Peloponnese. It is situated in the central and eastern part of the Peloponnese peninsula. It takes its name from the mythological character Arcas. In Greek mythology, it was the home of the god Pan...

ns and the Messenians, in which cases the term approximated the meaning of "king".

Pseudo-Archytas' definition of the Basileus as "sovereign" and "living law"


According to pseudo-Archytas
Archytas
Archytas was an Ancient Greek philosopher, mathematician, astronomer, statesman, and strategist. He was a scientist of the Pythagorean school and famous for being the reputed founder of mathematical mechanics, as well as a good friend of Plato....

's treatise "On justice and law", quoted by Giorgio Agamben
Giorgio Agamben
Giorgio Agamben is an Italian political philosopher best known for his work investigating the concepts of the state of exception and homo sacer....

 in State of Exception (2005), Basileus is more adequately translated into "Sovereign
Sovereignty
Sovereignty is the quality of having supreme, independent authority over a geographic area, such as a territory. It can be found in a power to rule and make law that rests on a political fact for which no purely legal explanation can be provided...

" than into "king". The reason for this is that it designates more the person of king than the office of king: the power of magistrates (arkhontes, "archons") derives from their social functions or offices, whereas the sovereign derives his power from himself. Sovereigns have auctoritas
Auctoritas
Auctoritas is a Latin word and is the origin of English "authority." While historically its use in English was restricted to discussions of the political history of Rome, the beginning of phenomenological philosophy in the twentieth century expanded the use of the word.In ancient Rome, Auctoritas...

, whereas magistrates detain imperium
Imperium
Imperium is a Latin word which, in a broad sense, translates roughly as 'power to command'. In ancient Rome, different kinds of power or authority were distinguished by different terms. Imperium, referred to the sovereignty of the state over the individual...

. Pseudo-Archytas aimed at creating a theory of sovereignty completely enfranchised from law
Law
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...

s, being itself the only source of legitimacy. He goes so far as qualifying the Basileus as nomos
Nomos (mythology)
In Greek mythology, Nomos is the daemon of laws, statutes, and ordinances. By one account, Nomos' wife is Eusebia , and their daughter is Dike ....

 empsykhos
, or "living law", which is the origin, according to Agamben, of the modern Führerprinzip
Führerprinzip
The Führerprinzip , German for "leader principle", prescribes the fundamental basis of political authority in the governmental structures of the Third Reich...

and of Carl Schmitt
Carl Schmitt
Carl Schmitt was a German jurist, philosopher, political theorist, and professor of law.Schmitt published several essays, influential in the 20th century and beyond, on the mentalities that surround the effective wielding of political power...

's theories on dictatorship
Dictatorship
A dictatorship is defined as an autocratic form of government in which the government is ruled by an individual, the dictator. It has three possible meanings:...

.

Use of Basileus in Classical times



In classical times, almost all Greek states had abolished the hereditary royal office in favor of democratic
Democracy
Democracy is generally defined as a form of government in which all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Ideally, this includes equal participation in the proposal, development and passage of legislation into law...

 or oligarchic
Oligarchy
Oligarchy is a form of power structure in which power effectively rests with an elite class distinguished by royalty, wealth, family ties, commercial, and/or military legitimacy...

 rule. Some exceptions existed, namely the two hereditary Kings of Sparta
Kings of Sparta
Sparta was an important Greek city-state in the Peloponnesus. It was unusual among Greek city-states in that it maintained its kingship past the Archaic age. It was even more unusual in that it had two kings simultaneously, coming from two separate lines...

 (who served as joint commanders of the army, and were also called arkhagetai), the Kings of Syracuse, the Kings of Cyrene, the Kings of Macedon and of the Molossians in Epirus
Epirus
The name Epirus, from the Greek "Ήπειρος" meaning continent may refer to:-Geographical:* Epirus - a historical and geographical region of the southwestern Balkans, straddling modern Greece and Albania...

 and Kings of Arcadian Orchomenus
Orchomenus (Arcadia)
Orchomenus or Orchomenos was an ancient city of Arcadia, Greece, called by Thucydides the Arcadian Orchomenus , to distinguish it from the Boeotian town. Its ruins are near the modern village of Orchomenos .-Situation:It was situated in a plain surrounded on every side by mountains...

. The Greeks also used the term to refer to various kings of "barbaric" (i.e. non-Greek) tribes in Thrace
Thrace
Thrace is a historical and geographic area in southeast Europe. As a geographical concept, Thrace designates a region bounded by the Balkan Mountains on the north, Rhodope Mountains and the Aegean Sea on the south, and by the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara on the east...

 and Illyria
Illyria
In classical antiquity, Illyria was a region in the western part of the Balkan Peninsula inhabited by the Illyrians....

, as well as to the Achaemenid kings of Persia. The Persian king was also referred to as Megas Basileus (Great King) or Basileus Basileōn, a translation of the Persian title xšāyaθiya xšāyaθiyānām ("King of Kings
King of Kings
King of Kings is a title that has been used by several monarchies and empires throughout history. The title originates in the Ancient Near East. It is broadly the equivalent of the later title Emperor....

"), or simply "the king". There was also a cult of Zeus
Zeus
In the ancient Greek religion, Zeus was the "Father of Gods and men" who ruled the Olympians of Mount Olympus as a father ruled the family. He was the god of sky and thunder in Greek mythology. His Roman counterpart is Jupiter and his Etruscan counterpart is Tinia.Zeus was the child of Cronus...

 Basileus at Lebadeia
Livadeia
Livadeia is a city in central Greece. It is the capital of the prefecture Boeotia. Livadeia is located 130 km NW of Athens, E of Nafpaktos, ESE of Amfissa and Desfina, SE of Lamia and west of Chalkida. Livadeia is linked with GR-48 and several kilometres west of GR-3. The area around Livadeia...

. Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

 distinguished the basileus, constrained by law, from the unlimited tyrant
Tyrant
A tyrant was originally one who illegally seized and controlled a governmental power in a polis. Tyrants were a group of individuals who took over many Greek poleis during the uprising of the middle classes in the sixth and seventh centuries BC, ousting the aristocratic governments.Plato and...

.

At Athens
History of Athens
Athens is one of the oldest named cities in the world, having been continuously inhabited for at least 7000 years. Situated in southern Europe, Athens became the leading city of Ancient Greece in the first millennium BCE and its cultural achievements during the 5th century BCE laid the foundations...

, the Archon basileus
Archon basileus
Archon Basileus was a Greek title, meaning 'king magistrate': the term is derived the words archon "magistrate" and basileus "king" or "sovereign"....

 was one of the nine archons, magistrates selected by lot. Of these, the archon eponymos, the polemarch
Polemarch
A polemarch was a senior military title in various ancient Greek city states . The title is composed out of the polemos and archon and translates as "warleader" or "warlord", one of the nine archontes appointed annually in Athens...

 and the basileus divided the powers of Athens' ancient kings, with the basileus overseeing religious rites and homicide cases. His wife had to marry Dionysus
Dionysus
Dionysus was the god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, of ritual madness and ecstasy in Greek mythology. His name in Linear B tablets shows he was worshipped from c. 1500—1100 BC by Mycenean Greeks: other traces of Dionysian-type cult have been found in ancient Minoan Crete...

 at the Anthesteria
Anthesteria
Anthesteria, one of the four Athenian festivals in honour of Dionysus , was held annually for three days, the eleventh to thirteenth of the month of Anthesterion ; it was preceded by the Lenaia...

. Similar vestigial offices called basileus existed in other Greek city-states.

By contrast, the authoritarian rulers were never called Basileus in classical Greece, but archon or tyrant; although Pheidon
Pheidon
Pheidon was a king of Argos, Greece in the 7th century BC. At that time, the monarch was purely a traditional figurehead with almost no genuine power. Pheidon seized the throne from the reigning aristocracy...

 of Argos is described by Aristotle as a basileus who made himself a tyrant.

Alexander the Great


Basileus and Megas Basileus were exclusively used by Alexander the Great and his Hellenistic
Hellenistic civilization
Hellenistic civilization represents the zenith of Greek influence in the ancient world from 323 BCE to about 146 BCE...

 successors in Ptolemaic Egypt
Ptolemaic Egypt
Ptolemaic Egypt began when Ptolemy I Soter invaded Egypt and declared himself Pharaoh of Egypt in 305 BC and ended with the death of queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt and the Roman conquest in 30 BC. The Ptolemaic Kingdom was a powerful Hellenistic state, extending from southern Syria in the east, to...

, Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

 and Macedon
Macedon
Macedonia or Macedon was an ancient kingdom, centered in the northeastern part of the Greek peninsula, bordered by Epirus to the west, Paeonia to the north, the region of Thrace to the east and Thessaly to the south....

. The female counterpart is basilissa (Queen), meaning both a Queen regnant
Queen regnant
A queen regnant is a female monarch who reigns in her own right, in contrast to a queen consort, who is the wife of a reigning king. An empress regnant is a female monarch who reigns in her own right over an empire....

 (such as Cleopatra VII of Egypt
Cleopatra VII of Egypt
Cleopatra VII Philopator was the last pharaoh of Ancient Egypt.She was a member of the Ptolemaic dynasty, a family of Greek origin that ruled Egypt after Alexander the Great's death during the Hellenistic period...

) and a Queen consort
Queen consort
A queen consort is the wife of a reigning king. A queen consort usually shares her husband's rank and holds the feminine equivalent of the king's monarchical titles. Historically, queens consort do not share the king regnant's political and military powers. Most queens in history were queens consort...

. It is precisely at this time that the term basileus acquired a fully royal connotation, in stark contrast with the much less sophisticated earlier perceptions of kingship within Greece.

Romans and Byzantines



Under Roman
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 rule, the term basileus came to be used, in the Hellenistic tradition, to designate the Roman Emperor
Roman Emperor
The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman State during the imperial period . The Romans had no single term for the office although at any given time, a given title was associated with the emperor...

 in the everyday and literary speech of the Greek-speaking Eastern Mediterranean. Although the early Roman Emperors
Principate
The Principate is the first period of the Roman Empire, extending from the beginning of the reign of Caesar Augustus to the Crisis of the Third Century, after which it was replaced with the Dominate. The Principate is characterized by a concerted effort on the part of the Emperors to preserve the...

 were careful to retain the facade of the republican
Roman Republic
The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

 institutions and to not formally adopt monarchical titles, the use of basileus amply illustrates that contemporaries clearly perceived that the Roman Empire was a monarchy in all but name. Nevertheless, despite its widespread use, due to its "royal" associations the title basileus remained unofficial for the Emperor, and was restricted in official documents to client kings in the East. Instead, in official context the imperial titles Caesar
Caesar (title)
Caesar is a title of imperial character. It derives from the cognomen of Julius Caesar, the Roman dictator...

 Augustus
Augustus (honorific)
Augustus , Latin for "majestic," "the increaser," or "venerable", was an Ancient Roman title, which was first held by Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus , and subsequently came to be considered one of the titles of what are now known as the Roman Emperors...

, translated into Greek as Kaisar Sebastos or Kaisar Augoustos, and Imperator
Imperator
The Latin word Imperator was originally a title roughly equivalent to commander under the Roman Republic. Later it became a part of the titulature of the Roman Emperors as part of their cognomen. The English word emperor derives from imperator via Old French Empreur...

, translated as Autokratōr
Autokrator
Autokratōr is a Greek epithet applied to an individual who exercises absolute power, unrestrained by superiors. In a historical context, it has been applied to military commanders-in-chief, and to Roman and Byzantine emperors as the translation of the Latin title imperator. Its connection with...

, were used.

By the 4th century however, basileus was applied in official usage exclusively to the two rulers considered equals to the Roman Emperor: the Sassanid Persian shahanshah ("king of kings"), and to a far lesser degree the King of Axum, whose importance was peripheral in the Byzantine worldview. Consequently, the title acquired the connotation of "emperor", and when barbarian kingdoms emerged on the ruins of the Western Roman Empire
Western Roman Empire
The Western Roman Empire was the western half of the Roman Empire after its division by Diocletian in 285; the other half of the Roman Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire, commonly referred to today as the Byzantine Empire....

 in the 5th century, their rulers were referred to in Greek as rēx or rēgas, the hellenized forms of the Latin title rex, king
King
- Centers of population :* King, Ontario, CanadaIn USA:* King, Indiana* King, North Carolina* King, Lincoln County, Wisconsin* King, Waupaca County, Wisconsin* King County, Washington- Moving-image works :Television:...

.

The first documented use of basileus Rhomaíōn in official context comes, surprisingly, from the Persians: in a letter sent to Emperor Maurice
Maurice (emperor)
Maurice was Byzantine Emperor from 582 to 602.A prominent general in his youth, Maurice fought with success against the Sassanid Persians...

 (r. 582–602) by Chosroes II, Maurice is addressed in Greek as basileus Rhomaíōn instead of the habitual Persian appellation qaisar i Rum ("Caesar of the Romans"), while the Persian ruler refers to himself correspondingly as Persōn basileus, thereby dropping his own claim to the Greek equivalent of his formal title, basileus basileōn ("king of kings"). The title appears to have slowly crept into imperial titelature after that: Emperor Heraclius
Heraclius
Heraclius was Byzantine Emperor from 610 to 641.He was responsible for introducing Greek as the empire's official language. His rise to power began in 608, when he and his father, Heraclius the Elder, the exarch of Africa, successfully led a revolt against the unpopular usurper Phocas.Heraclius'...

 is attested as using it alongside the long-established Autokratōr Kaisar in a letter to Kavadh II
Kavadh II
Kavadh II , twenty-third Sassanid King of Persia, son of Khosrau II , was raised to the throne in opposition to his father in February 628, after the great victories of the Emperor Heraclius...

 in 628. Finally, in a law promulgated on 21 March 629, the Latin titles were dropped altogether, and the simple formula , "faithful believer, emperor by the grace of Christ" was used instead. The adoption of the new imperial formula has been traditionally interpreted by scholars such as E. Stein and G. Ostrogorsky
George Ostrogorsky
George Alexandrovič Ostrogorsky was a Russian-born Yugoslavian historian and Byzantinist who acquired worldwide reputations in Byzantine studies.-Biography:...

 as a move indicative of the almost-complete hellenization
Hellenization
Hellenization is a term used to describe the spread of ancient Greek culture, and, to a lesser extent, language. It is mainly used to describe the spread of Hellenistic civilization during the Hellenistic period following the campaigns of Alexander the Great of Macedon...

 of the Empire by that point. In imperial coinage however, Latin forms continued to be used. Only in the reign of Leo III the Isaurian
Leo III the Isaurian
Leo III the Isaurian or the Syrian , was Byzantine emperor from 717 until his death in 741...

 (r. 717–741) did the title basileus appear in silver coins, and on gold coinage only under Constantine VI (r. 780–797). "BASILEUS" was initially stamped on Byzantine coins in Latin script, and only gradually were some Latin characters replaced with Greek ones, resulting in mixed forms such as "BASIΛEVS".


Until the 9th century, the Byzantines
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 reserved the term basileus among Christian
Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

 rulers exclusively for their own emperor in Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

. This usage was accepted by the "barbarian" kings of Western Europe themselves: despite having shed the fiction of Roman suzerainty from the 6th century on, they refrained from adopting imperial titelature. The situation began to change when the Western European states began to challenge the Empire's political supremacy and its right to the universal imperial title. The catalytic event was the coronation of Charlemagne
Charlemagne
Charlemagne was King of the Franks from 768 and Emperor of the Romans from 800 to his death in 814. He expanded the Frankish kingdom into an empire that incorporated much of Western and Central Europe. During his reign, he conquered Italy and was crowned by Pope Leo III on 25 December 800...

 as imperator Romanorum ("Emperor of the Romans
Holy Roman Emperor
The Holy Roman Emperor is a term used by historians to denote a medieval ruler who, as German King, had also received the title of "Emperor of the Romans" from the Pope...

") by Pope Leo III
Pope Leo III
Pope Saint Leo III was Pope from 795 to his death in 816. Protected by Charlemagne from his enemies in Rome, he subsequently strengthened Charlemagne's position by crowning him as Roman Emperor....

 on 25 December 800, at St. Peter's
St. Peter's Basilica
The Papal Basilica of Saint Peter , officially known in Italian as ' and commonly known as Saint Peter's Basilica, is a Late Renaissance church located within the Vatican City. Saint Peter's Basilica has the largest interior of any Christian church in the world...

 in Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

. The matter was complicated by the fact that the Eastern Empire was then ruled by the Empress Irene (r. 797–802), who had ascended the throne after the death of her husband, the Emperor Leo IV
Leo IV the Khazar
Leo IV the Khazar was Byzantine Emperor from 775 to 780 CE.Leo was the son of Emperor Constantine V by his first wife, Irene of Khazaria , the daughter of a Khagan of the Khazars...

 (r. 775–780), as regent
Regent
A regent, from the Latin regens "one who reigns", is a person selected to act as head of state because the ruler is a minor, not present, or debilitated. Currently there are only two ruling Regencies in the world, sovereign Liechtenstein and the Malaysian constitutive state of Terengganu...

 to their 9-year-old son, Constantine VI (r. 780–797). Following Constantine's coming of age, Irene eventually decided to topple him and rule in her own name. In the conflict that ensued, Irene was victorious and Constantine was blinded and imprisoned, to die soon after. The revulsion generated by this incident of filicide
Filicide
Filicide is the deliberate act of a parent killing his or her own son or daughter. The word filicide derives from the Latin words filius meaning "son" or filia meaning daughter and the suffix -cide meaning to kill, murder, or cause death...

 cum regicide
Regicide
The broad definition of regicide is the deliberate killing of a monarch, or the person responsible for the killing of a monarch. In a narrower sense, in the British tradition, it refers to the judicial execution of a king after a trial...

 was compounded by the innate Frankish aversion
Salic law
Salic law was a body of traditional law codified for governing the Salian Franks in the early Middle Ages during the reign of King Clovis I in the 6th century...

 to the concept of a ruling female sovereign
Monarch
A monarch is the person who heads a monarchy. This is a form of government in which a state or polity is ruled or controlled by an individual who typically inherits the throne by birth and occasionally rules for life or until abdication...

. Consequently, in Frankish eyes, the imperial throne was vacant and free for Charlemagne to claim. (Although it is often claimed that, as monarch, Irene called herself basileus, in fact she normally used the title "basilissa" - empress.)

Charlemagne's claim to the imperial title of the Romans sparked a prolonged diplomatic row, which was resolved only in 812 when the Byzantines agreed to recognize him as "basileus". In an effort to emphasize their own Roman legitimacy, the Byzantine rulers thereafter began to use the fuller form basileus Rhomaíōn instead of the simple "basileus", a practice that continued in official usage until the end of the Empire. The title autokratōr was also revived by the early 9th century (and appears in coins from 912 on). It was reserved for the senior ruling emperor among several co-emperors (symbasileis), who exercised actual power. The term megas basileus ("Great Emperor") was also sometimes used for the same purpose. Thus, by the Palaiologan period, the full style of the Emperor was finalized in the phrase "X, in Christ the God faithful Emperor and Autocrat of the Romans" .

The later German emperors
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

 were also conceded the title "basileus of the Franks
Franks
The Franks were a confederation of Germanic tribes first attested in the third century AD as living north and east of the Lower Rhine River. From the third to fifth centuries some Franks raided Roman territory while other Franks joined the Roman troops in Gaul. Only the Salian Franks formed a...

". The Byzantine title in turn produced further diplomatic incidents in the 10th century, when Western potentates addressed the emperors as "emperors of the Greeks". A similar diplomatic scuffle (this time accompanied by war) ensued from the imperial aspirations of Simeon I of Bulgaria
Simeon I of Bulgaria
Simeon I the Great ruled over Bulgaria from 893 to 927, during the First Bulgarian Empire. Simeon's successful campaigns against the Byzantines, Magyars and Serbs led Bulgaria to its greatest territorial expansion ever, making it the most powerful state in contemporary Eastern Europe...

 in the early 10th century. Aspiring to conquer Constantinople, Simeon claimed the title "basileus of the Bulgarians
Bulgarians
The Bulgarians are a South Slavic nation and ethnic group native to Bulgaria and neighbouring regions. Emigration has resulted in immigrant communities in a number of other countries.-History and ethnogenesis:...

 and of the Romans", but was only recognized as "basileus of the Bulgarians" by the Byzantines. From the 12th century however, the title was increasingly, although again not officially, used for powerful foreign sovereigns, such as the kings of France
France in the Middle Ages
France in the Middle Ages covers an area roughly corresponding to modern day France, from the death of Louis the Pious in 840 to the middle of the 15th century...

 or Sicily
Kingdom of Sicily
The Kingdom of Sicily was a state that existed in the south of Italy from its founding by Roger II in 1130 until 1816. It was a successor state of the County of Sicily, which had been founded in 1071 during the Norman conquest of southern Italy...

, the tsars of the restored Bulgarian Empire
Second Bulgarian Empire
The Second Bulgarian Empire was a medieval Bulgarian state which existed between 1185 and 1396 . A successor of the First Bulgarian Empire, it reached the peak of its power under Kaloyan and Ivan Asen II before gradually being conquered by the Ottomans in the late 14th-early 15th century...

, the Latin emperors
Latin Empire
The Latin Empire or Latin Empire of Constantinople is the name given by historians to the feudal Crusader state founded by the leaders of the Fourth Crusade on lands captured from the Byzantine Empire. It was established after the capture of Constantinople in 1204 and lasted until 1261...

 and the emperors of Trebizond
Empire of Trebizond
The Empire of Trebizond, founded in April 1204, was one of three Byzantine successor states of the Byzantine Empire. However, the creation of the Empire of Trebizond was not directly related to the capture of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade, rather it had broken away from the Byzantine Empire...

. In time, the title was also applied to major non-Christian rulers, such as Tamerlane or Mehmed II
Mehmed II
Mehmed II , was Sultan of the Ottoman Empire for a short time from 1444 to September 1446, and later from...

. Finally, in 1354, Stefan Dushan, king of Serbia, assumed the imperial title, styling himself in Greek as basileus and autokratōr of the Romans and Serbs.

New Testament and Jesus


While the terms used for the Roman emperor
Tiberius
Tiberius , was Roman Emperor from 14 AD to 37 AD. Tiberius was by birth a Claudian, son of Tiberius Claudius Nero and Livia Drusilla. His mother divorced Nero and married Augustus in 39 BC, making him a step-son of Octavian...

 are Kaisar Augustos (Decree from Caesar Augustus , Dogma para Kaisaros Augoustou , Luke
Luke
Luke is a male given name, and less commonly, a surname.The name Luke is derived from the Latin name , from an Ancient Greek , meaning "man from Lucania". The earliest known recording of the name is from the Bible, The Gospel of Luke, which was written around AD 70 to 90, and it is from here...

 2:1) or just Kaisar (see Render unto Caesar...
Render unto Caesar...
"Render unto Caesar…" is the beginning of a phrase attributed to Jesus in the synoptic gospels, which reads in full, "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's" ....

) and Pontius Pilate
Pontius Pilate
Pontius Pilatus , known in the English-speaking world as Pontius Pilate , was the fifth Prefect of the Roman province of Judaea, from AD 26–36. He is best known as the judge at Jesus' trial and the man who authorized the crucifixion of Jesus...

 is called Hegemon (Matthew
Gospel of Matthew
The Gospel According to Matthew is one of the four canonical gospels, one of the three synoptic gospels, and the first book of the New Testament. It tells of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth...

 27:2), Herod
Herod the Great
Herod , also known as Herod the Great , was a Roman client king of Judea. His epithet of "the Great" is widely disputed as he is described as "a madman who murdered his own family and a great many rabbis." He is also known for his colossal building projects in Jerusalem and elsewhere, including his...

 is Basileus (in his coins also Basileôs Herodou and by Josephus
Josephus
Titus Flavius Josephus , also called Joseph ben Matityahu , was a 1st-century Romano-Jewish historian and hagiographer of priestly and royal ancestry who recorded Jewish history, with special emphasis on the 1st century AD and the First Jewish–Roman War, which resulted in the Destruction of...

)

Regarding Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

 the term basileus acquires a new Christian theological meaning out of the further concept of Basileus as a chief religious officer during the Hellenistic period. Jesus is Basileus tôn Basileôn, King of Kings
King of Kings
King of Kings is a title that has been used by several monarchies and empires throughout history. The title originates in the Ancient Near East. It is broadly the equivalent of the later title Emperor....

 (Matthew
Gospel of Matthew
The Gospel According to Matthew is one of the four canonical gospels, one of the three synoptic gospels, and the first book of the New Testament. It tells of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth...

 28:18) (a previous Near Eastern phrase for rulers), Basileus tôn Ouranôn(which is translated as King of Heaven) with his Basileia tôn Ouranôn Kingship or Kingdom of Heaven
Kingdom of God
The Kingdom of God or Kingdom of Heaven is a foundational concept in the Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.The term "Kingdom of God" is found in all four canonical gospels and in the Pauline epistles...

 and Basileus tôn Ioudaiôn King of the Jews (see INRI). In Byzantine art
Byzantine art
Byzantine art is the term commonly used to describe the artistic products of the Byzantine Empire from about the 5th century until the Fall of Constantinople in 1453....

, a standard depiction of Jesus is Basileus tēs Doxēs King of Glory (in the West 'the Christ or Image of Pity'); a phrase derived from the Psalms
Psalms
The Book of Psalms , commonly referred to simply as Psalms, is a book of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Bible...

 24:10 and the Lord of Glory (Kyrios tēs Doxēs , 1 Corinthians 2:8).

Modern Greece


During the post-Byzantine period, the term basileus, under the renewed influence of Classical writers on the language, reverted to its earlier meaning of "king". This transformation had already begun in informal usage in the works of some classicizing Byzantine authors. In the Convention of London
London Conference of 1832
The London Conference of 1832 was an international conference convened to establish a stable government in Greece. Negotiations between the three Great Powers resulted in the establishment of the Kingdom of Greece under a Bavarian Prince. The decisions were ratified in the Treaty of Constantinople...

 in 1832, the Great Powers
Great power
A great power is a nation or state that has the ability to exert its influence on a global scale. Great powers characteristically possess military and economic strength and diplomatic and cultural influence which may cause small powers to consider the opinions of great powers before taking actions...

 (the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was the formal name of the United Kingdom during the period when what is now the Republic of Ireland formed a part of it....

, July Monarchy
July Monarchy
The July Monarchy , officially the Kingdom of France , was a period of liberal constitutional monarchy in France under King Louis-Philippe starting with the July Revolution of 1830 and ending with the Revolution of 1848...

 France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, and Imperial Russia) agreed that the new Greek state should become a monarchy
Monarchy
A monarchy is a form of government in which the office of head of state is usually held until death or abdication and is often hereditary and includes a royal house. In some cases, the monarch is elected...

, and chose the Wittelsbach
Wittelsbach
The Wittelsbach family is a European royal family and a German dynasty from Bavaria.Members of the family served as Dukes, Electors and Kings of Bavaria , Counts Palatine of the Rhine , Margraves of Brandenburg , Counts of Holland, Hainaut and Zeeland , Elector-Archbishops of Cologne , Dukes of...

 Prince Otto of Bavaria
Otto of Greece
Otto, Prince of Bavaria, then Othon, King of Greece was made the first modern King of Greece in 1832 under the Convention of London, whereby Greece became a new independent kingdom under the protection of the Great Powers .The second son of the philhellene King Ludwig I of Bavaria, Otto ascended...

 as its first king.


The Great Powers furthermore ordained that his title was to be "Βασιλεύς της Ελλάδος", meaning "King of Greece", instead of "Βασιλεύς των Ελλήνων", i.e. "King of the Greeks". This title had two implications: first, that Otto was the king only of the small Kingdom of Greece
Kingdom of Greece
The Kingdom of Greece was a state established in 1832 in the Convention of London by the Great Powers...

, and not of all Greeks
Greeks
The Greeks, also known as the Hellenes , are a nation and ethnic group native to Greece, Cyprus and neighboring regions. They also form a significant diaspora, with Greek communities established around the world....

, whose majority still remained under the rule of the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

. Second, that the kingship did not depend on the will of the Greek people, a fact further underlined by Otto's addition of the formula "ελέω Θεού" ("By the Grace of God
By the Grace of God
By the Grace of God is an introductory part of the full styles of a monarch taken to be ruling by divine right, not a title in its own right....

"). For 10 years, until the 3 September 1843 Revolution, Otto ruled as an absolute monarch, and his autocratic rule, which continued even after being forced to grant a constitution, made him very unpopular. After being ousted in 1862, the new Danish dynasty of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg
Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg
The House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg , known as the House of Glücksburg for short, is a German ducal house, junior branches of which include the royal houses of Denmark and Norway, the deposed royal house of Greece, and the heir to the thrones of the Commonwealth realms The House...

 took over with King George I
George I of Greece
George I was King of Greece from 1863 to 1913. Originally a Danish prince, George was only 17 years old when he was elected king by the Greek National Assembly, which had deposed the former king Otto. His nomination was both suggested and supported by the Great Powers...

. In a demonstrative move, as to assert both national independence from the will of the Powers, and as to emphasize the constitutional responsibilities of the monarch towards the people, his title was modified to "King of the Hellenes", which remained the official royal title until the abolition of the Greek monarchy
Metapolitefsi
The Metapolitefsi was a period in Greek history after the fall of the Greek military junta of 1967–1974 that includes the transitional period from the fall of the dictatorship to the Greek legislative elections of 1974 and the democratic period immediately after these elections.The long...

 in 1974.

It is interesting to note that the two Greek kings who bore the name of Constantine, a name of great sentimental and symbolic significance, especially in the irredentist context of the Megali Idea
Megali Idea
The Megali Idea was an irredentist concept of Greek nationalism that expressed the goal of establishing a Greek state that would encompass all ethnic Greek-inhabited areas, since large Greek populations after the restoration of Greek independence in 1830 still lived under Ottoman rule.The term...

, were often, although never officially, numbered in direct succession to the last Byzantine Emperor, Constantine XI
Constantine XI
Constantine XI Palaiologos, latinized as Palaeologus , Kōnstantinos XI Dragasēs Palaiologos; February 8, 1404 – May 29, 1453) was the last reigning Byzantine Emperor from 1449 to his death as member of the Palaiologos dynasty...

, as Constantine XII
Constantine I of Greece
Constantine I was King of Greece from 1913 to 1917 and from 1920 to 1922. He was commander-in-chief of the Hellenic Army during the unsuccessful Greco-Turkish War of 1897 and led the Greek forces during the successful Balkan Wars of 1912–1913, in which Greece won Thessaloniki and doubled in...

 and Constantine XIII
Constantine II of Greece
|align=right|Constantine II was King of Greece from 1964 until the abolition of the monarchy in 1973, the sixth and last monarch of the Greek Royal Family....

 respectively.

See also

  • Anthesteria
    Anthesteria
    Anthesteria, one of the four Athenian festivals in honour of Dionysus , was held annually for three days, the eleventh to thirteenth of the month of Anthesterion ; it was preceded by the Lenaia...

    , Dionysus
    Dionysus
    Dionysus was the god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, of ritual madness and ecstasy in Greek mythology. His name in Linear B tablets shows he was worshipped from c. 1500—1100 BC by Mycenean Greeks: other traces of Dionysian-type cult have been found in ancient Minoan Crete...

     festival in which a basilinna
    Basilinna
    Basilinna was the title of the wife of the Archon Basileus of ancient Athens. During the festival of Anthesteria, the basilinna was given as the ceremonial bride to Dionysus. She was attended to by the fourteen gerarai at this time...

    , wife of the archon
    Archon
    Archon is a Greek word that means "ruler" or "lord", frequently used as the title of a specific public office. It is the masculine present participle of the verb stem ἀρχ-, meaning "to rule", derived from the same root as monarch, hierarchy, and anarchy.- Ancient Greece :In ancient Greece the...

     basileus for the time, went through a ceremony of marriage to the wine god. May be compared to carnivals and others charivari
    Charivari
    Charivari is the term for a French folk custom in which the community gave a noisy, discordant mock serenade, also pounding on pots and pans, at the home of newlyweds. The loud, public ritual evolved to a form of social coercion, for instance, to force an as-yet-unmarried couple to wed...

    s.
  • Auctoritas
    Auctoritas
    Auctoritas is a Latin word and is the origin of English "authority." While historically its use in English was restricted to discussions of the political history of Rome, the beginning of phenomenological philosophy in the twentieth century expanded the use of the word.In ancient Rome, Auctoritas...

  • Imperium
    Imperium
    Imperium is a Latin word which, in a broad sense, translates roughly as 'power to command'. In ancient Rome, different kinds of power or authority were distinguished by different terms. Imperium, referred to the sovereignty of the state over the individual...

  • Sovereignty
    Sovereignty
    Sovereignty is the quality of having supreme, independent authority over a geographic area, such as a territory. It can be found in a power to rule and make law that rests on a political fact for which no purely legal explanation can be provided...


External links


  • http://projectsx.dartmouth.edu/history/bronze_age/lessons/les/25.html