Kings into Gods

How Prostration Shaped Eurasian Civilizations


One might be surprised, astonished or indignant seeing men and women prostrating themselves in front of other men and other women. Or one might feel it is right to bow down before God, Allah, the saints, the Holy Virgin or the gods. Kings into Gods: How Prostration Shaped Eurasian Civilizations investigates the reasons why men prostrate themselves before deities or before powerful men. Through an in-depth historical and cultural analysis, this book highlights the connection between rituality and royalty within the Eurasian civilizations. The narrative and iconic documentation gathered and analyzed concerns the Greek and Roman world, the Mongolian civilization during the Middle Ages, the Hindu and Chinese civilizations, the Islamic civilization in India in the fourteenth century, the Mughal civilization and European civilization in the late Middle Ages. The different forms of the rituals in the courts of kings and emperors are tightly connected with the concept of royalty. The prostration is an act of humiliation of defeated enemies, a means to establish a abysmal distance between powerful elite and the people, a way of creating hierarchies within the elite itself.

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Vittorio Cotesta is professor of Sociology at the Università degli Studi Roma Tre. His fields of interest are Global Society, Human Rights, Modernity, Civilizations, and Ethnic Relations and Ethnic Conflicts. Among his works are: Global Society and Human Rights (Brill, Leiden/Boston, 2012); Sociologia dello straniero (Carocci, Roma, 2012); Sociologia dei conflitti etnici (revised edition, Laterza, Roma-Bari, 2009); Images du Monde et société globale. Grandes interprétations et débats actuels (Les Presses de l’Université Laval, Québec, 2006).
List of Figures

Chapter One: Proskýnesis in Herodotus’s Histories

Chapter Two: An Enquiry on Alexander. Apotheosis, Multicultural Empire and Clash of Civilization
1. The Journey to the Temple of Ammon Rā
2. Proskýnesis and the Struggle between Greeks and Persians

Chapter Three: The Great Divergence between East and West
1. The Quest for Glory
2. Power is Instituted by God for the Good of Men
3. The Origin of the Great Divergence Between East and West

Chapter Four: Proskýnesis at the Centre of the Clash of Civilizations
1. Europe and China
2. To Prostrate Oneself Might be Right – though Not Always
3. Macartney’s Genuflection
4. A Clash of Civilizations

Chapter Five: Proskýnesis in the Euroasiatic Continent. Unity and Diversity
1. The Persian Model
2. Callisthenes’s Model
3. The Mongolian Model
4. The Indian Models
5. The Chinese Model
6. The Byzantine Model
7. The European Model
8. Heracles’s Model

Dialogue between the Old Oligarch and the Neo-illuminist
A Short Glossary of the Main Terms and the Main Characters
All interested in sociology, in political theory, in the history of Eurasian civilizations, and in the history of rituals.
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