By W. M. Spellman
This short narrative survey of political inspiration over the last millennia explores key principles that experience formed Western political traditions.
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Extra resources for A Short History of Western Political Thought
Rome may have had its full share of nasty reprobates who wore the imperial purple, but in a world where even the saved are sinners, Augustine was prepared to allow that the wicked ruler was most likely an instrument of God’s anger. The hope, of course, was that the Christian prince would fulfill his obligations to rule justly as a matter Christian practice. But when monsters wield power and take aim at God’s law, passive resistance is the strongest permissible recourse. The faithful must avoid complicity in City-States and Republics c.
491–518), Pope Gelasius (r. ”15 With such language a parallel monarchy was in the making, one where the Pope was responsible for matters pastoral, and by extension for the eternal well-being of all Christians under his charge. A separate church government and legal system evolved alongside this nascent monarchy, until by the reign of Pope Gregory the Great (r. 590–604) the jurisdictional reach of the episcopal see of Rome extended as far north as the British Isles. Concerned over the survival of the Church in an area of Europe where temporal rule seemed so ineffective, Gregory went so far as to affirm that the ultimate sanction of excommunication, a move that would leave the accused without hope of personal salvation, could be employed against secular rulers as well as clergy.
A reciprocal relationship developed whereby legitimate political authority slowly emerged out of network of relationships centered on land, its acquisition through conquest, and its alienation by compact. The most successful of the new type of warrior-king was Charlemagne (r. 768–814), head of the Carolinigian family of rulers, who displaced the successors of Clovis in Gaul during the early eighth century. Clovis had established the Merovingian dynasty by virtue of success on the battlefield, but those who followed him on the throne carelessly alienated crown estates, ultimately weakening their own position in relation to their nearest potential rivals.
A Short History of Western Political Thought by W. M. Spellman