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The Political Realism of the Egyptian Elite: A Comparison between The Teaching For Merikare and Niccolò Machiavelli’s Il Principe

In: Journal of Egyptian History
Author:
Christian Langer Ägyptologisches Seminar, Freie Universität Berlin Fabeckstraße 23–25, 14195 Berlin Germany langerc@zedat.fu-berlin.de

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A comparison between The Teaching for Merikare and Niccolò Machiavelli’s Il Principe produces some astonishing results. While Machiavelli’s treatise is generally thought to be representative of the dawn of modern Western political realism, its essential properties are already present in Merikare. This includes the firm belief in strong authority, the fallibility of man, the need to appease the masses, and, if necessary, the demand to repress any developing threat to the power of the elite. In terms of the history of political thought Merikare is placed between the works of the moral realism of Greek philosophers like Plato and the political realism of Thucydides and Machiavelli. With the latter being heavily influenced by ancient authors, questions regarding the genesis of Greek political thought can be asked. It may well be that Greek political thought was, at least indirectly, influenced by Egyptian political thought.

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