Basileus , ancient Greek Βασιλεύς Basileús ( genitive Βασιλέως Basiléōs ), modern Greek Βασιλιάς Vasiljás , German 'king' , was the title of several Greek rulers as well as the emperors and kings of the Byzantine Empire .
The feminine form is Basílissa , ancient Greek Βασίλισσα , and was used both for the consorts of a king and for self-ruling monarchs.
Origin of the word
The etymology of the word "basileus" is unclear. Most linguists assume that it is a non-Greek word that was adopted from languages that already existed in the Eastern Mediterranean during the Greek Bronze Age .
The term “basileus” (qa-si-re-u / gwasileus /) was already found on tablets of the linear script B from the 13th or early 12th century BC. BC, which were found in several Mycenaean palace archives . Originally "qasireu" was the name for certain officials. The exact function and position of the "gwasileus" is unclear and controversial among historians . What is certain is that the term did not designate a monarch.
The meaning of the word later developed into “ king ”, as the epics of Homer suggest, in which a “basileus” was not usually a “ monarch ”, but a “ great ”, whereby it was there could be several such in a community.
Mycenaean times and "dark centuries"
In the Mycenaean palace period (approx. 1400 to 1190/80 BC) the rulers of the Greek states were referred to as "Wanax" (Linear-B: "wa-na-ka") according to most researchers . The title “Wanax” (from “ Ϝαν-άγειν ”, “[to lead an army]”) - which later became “Anax” due to the omission of the sound value Digamma - is mostly translated as “high king” and probably means “king who Exercising sovereignty over other kings ”. "Anax" is at least the title Agamemnon and Priam later used in Homer's Iliad . The position of an “Anax” who exercised power over several local “Basileis” fits in with a proto- feudal social structure as it existed in Bronze Age Greece according to several researchers. It is noteworthy, however, that the "qa-si-re-u" - as evidenced by the Linear B -texts - apparently minor, perhaps with only one ore mining and metal smelting areas addressing local officials was.
How the name of a local “ great ” developed from this office in the “dark centuries” between the 12th and 8th centuries BC is still being discussed in research. As mentioned, it is certain that “Basileus” initially referred to a nobleman rather than a monarch ; Thus, in Homer and Hesiod , several “basileis” are almost always mentioned next to one another (apparently they were responsible in particular for jurisdiction in a municipality). In Homer's work, the “basileus” Alkinous says of himself: “Emphasized as basileis, twelve leading men rule here among the people, and I am the thirteenth” (Hom. Odyssey 8,390f.). An archaic inscription from Chios mentions chosen basileis and other officials next to them. The adoption of the originally non-Greek word " tyrant " as an initially value-free designation for an autocrat suggests that the Greeks around 700 BC. Chr. Had no own word for a monarch - not even "Basileus".
Classical Greece and Hellenism
In the further history of the Greek states, the title "Basileus" was then increasingly used as a name for a monarch; the original "(W) anax" was converted to a poetic or mythological description of rule. As a designation for nobles sat down instead Basileus now aristoi ( "best") or Eugeneis ( εὐγενεῖς , "the well-born") by, while "Bane" soon took on more and more the importance of "illegitimate ruler". In classical times, the Greeks regarded the Persian king as the "basileus" par excellence; the Macedonian monarch was also called this. The Persian king was also called "Basileus Megas" (" Great King ") or "Basileus Basileon" ("King of kings") while taking his self-designation . The fact that a “basileus” in the Greek context did not necessarily have to be a monarch until the end (as the current German translation as “king” suggests) is shown by a look at Sparta , where there was not just one but two “basileis” who also had only limited powers and should rather be addressed as the holder of a hereditary military command. Inscriptions in several Poleis on Crete also show that there were colleges of chosen “Basileis” there.
Since the 5th century BC, the “basileus” was regarded by the Greek philosophers as a “legitimate” counterpart to the tyrant: For Aristotle (384–322 BC) a “basileus” was a “good” sole ruler, while a “ tyrannos ” was a illegitimate tyrant. It should be noted, however, that for Aristotle a legitimate sole rule over Greeks was at best theoretically possible; For him and, insofar as the sources allow this conclusion, also for the other Hellenes, royalty was a “barbaric” form of government that was incompatible with the nature of the polis : a “basileus” might be appropriate for Scythians, Persians or Macedonians, but not for the Greeks of his time. Aristotle's assertion that the monarchy in Hellas preceded the aristocracy, and the latter in turn preceded democracy, has long been accepted uncritically; Only recently have more and more historians been of the opinion that contrary to this later construction of the philosopher, in archaic times there was no kingship at all in most of the Greek states (see above).
Not every single ruler was allowed to call himself a "basileus"; “Basileus” was possibly a title reserved for dynastically legitimized rulers. In the democratic classical Athens the title “Basileus” was used for one of the archons , but here only symbolically in the priestly function (“Archon basileus”).
The meaning of "Basileus" as a monarch finally prevailed in Hellenism . The title "Basileus" was used by Alexander the Great and his successors in Egypt , Syria , Asia Minor and Macedonia , the Diadochi . When the Romans conquered the Hellenistic East, the name “Basileus” was quickly and unofficially transferred to the Roman Emperor.
Since 629, “Basileus” was the official title of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) emperors , who until then had always referred to themselves as “Autocrator” or “ Imperator ”. Unofficially, "Basileus" was already in use at least since the Roman division of the empire in 395 ; The inhabitants of the Greek-speaking eastern half of the Roman Empire had already used "Basileus" (as a translation of "Imperator") and "Sebastos" ( σεβαστός , as a translation of "Augustus") in the principate to designate the emperor . The Eastern Roman-Byzantine "basileus" was "anointed ruler" or "ruler on God's behalf" .
The Byzantine basileus did not have to be - as in Hellenistic times - " purple-born ", that is, of lordly descent. Rather, the old Roman practice remained in effect, according to which the imperial office was not hereditary. On the other hand, many elements of the Hellenistic ruling ideology penetrated the Byzantine one early on.
Emperor Herakleios was the first Eastern Roman ruler to choose the title "Basileus" in an official context. The use of this title is first attested on March 21, 629. Herakleios thus showed both a turn to Greek culture, which dominated his territory, and a departure from the Roman tradition. The Latin language, which still played an important role in the Eastern Roman Empire in the 6th century, now finally became a foreign language in Byzantium.
The traditional Roman titles such as "Caesar" , "Augustus" and " Imperator " were also devalued and used in an overly inflationary manner through constant intervention by both the Teutons and the Eastern Roman rulers . "Basileus" no longer meant "king", but "emperor".
With the title “Basileus”, the respective rulers - such as the Hohenstaufen in the Holy Roman Empire - also raised a claim to religious leadership. In contrast to the investiture dispute in the west of the Roman Empire, the religious component of the office in the east remained relatively intact. The title "Basileus" is used in various Orthodox national churches even after the fall of Byzantium .
Carolingian Era and Holy Roman Empire
On December 25, 800, the Frankish King Charlemagne was in Rome from Pope Leo III. crown as (west) roman emperor; in doing so, he also claimed the Eastern Roman throne, since the basileus in Constantinople had recently died and no successor had been appointed. For legitimation, Karl wanted to marry the imperial widow Irene , who had ruled in her own name in the meantime; Irene, however, refused and justified this with the "lower descent" of the "Germanic" Karl. Although Karl was the son of the Frankish King Pippin the Younger of royal blood, Pippin was not yet the ruler himself when Charles was born; accordingly, Karl was not “born purple” . After the death of Karlman's son Karlman , Basileus Michael Rhangabes received a provisional recognition of the emperor.
During the heyday of the Holy Roman Empire , the title was claimed by the German emperors in diplomatic dealings with Byzantium: Otto the Great was recognized by the Byzantine emperor Johannes Tsimiskes as a "co-basileus". In addition, his son Otto II married Theophanu , the niece of Basileus, in 972 . However, according to the Byzantine reading, only the Eastern Emperor was always the true Basileus ton Rhomaion , the "Emperor of the Romans", while the Western Emperor was at most a Basileus ton Phranggion , an "Emperor of the Franks".
The last to rule under the title “Basileus” were the kings of Greece until 1974, most recently Constantine II.
Like the older Roman titles, the basileus ended as a courtesy and name designation. Even powerful families in Byzantine rule soon called their children Basileus to demonstrate their claim to the throne, sometimes with success.
- Robert Drews: Basileus. The evidence for kingship in geometric Greece (= Yale Classical Monographs. Vol. 4). Yale University Press, New Haven CT et al. a. 1983, ISBN 0-300-02831-8 .
- Michael Janda : Approaching basileús . In: Thomas Krisch, Thomas Lindner u. Ulrich Müller (Ed.): Analecta Homini Universali Dicata ... Festschrift for Oswald Panagl on his 65th birthday . Vol. 1. Hans Dieter Heinz, Stuttgart 2004, pp. 84-94.
- Martin Schmidt : Some Remarks on the Semantics of ἄναξ in Homer. In: Sigrid Deger-Jalkotzy , Irene S. Lemos (ed.): Ancient Greece. From the Mycenaean palaces to the age of Homer (= Edinburgh Leventis Studies. Vol. 3). Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh 2006, ISBN 0-7486-1889-9 , pp. 439-447.
- Valerian von Schoeffer : Basileus 1) . In: Paulys Realencyclopadie der classischen Antiquity Science (RE). Volume III, 1, Stuttgart 1897, Col. 55-82.
- Chester G. Starr: The Decline of the Early Greek Kings. In: Historia . Vol. 10, No. 2, 1961, pp. 129-138, JSTOR 4434691 .
- Андрей В. Зайков: Юрисдикция спартанских царей. (к интерпретации Hdt. VI. 57. 4–5). In: Античная древность и средние века. Vol. 31, 2000, Digitized . , pp. 5–30, ( The jurisdiction of the Spartan kings. (On the interpretation of Herodotus. VI 57, 4–5). In Russian and Cyrillic script, with a German-language summary ),
- However, the ancient historian Tassilo Schmitt put forward the thesis in 2009 that there were no monarchs in Mycenaean times, rather the "wa-na-ka" was a deity .
- It is different in a more recent publication, however, Marko Müller: On the prehistory of the Greek “kingship”. Methodical, TH Uq 434 and a new interpretation of qa-si-re-we. In: Kadmos 54, 2015, pp. 55-106, who interprets the qa-si-re-we as palace officials who were responsible for the cattle management.
- Russell Meiggs, David Lewis: A Selection of Greek Historical Inscriptions to the End of the Fifth Century BC Clarendon Press, Oxford 1969, No. 8 = Kai Brodersen / Wolfgang Günther / Hatto H. Schmitt : Historical Greek Inscriptions in Translation. (HGIÜ) Volume 1: The archaic and classical times (= texts on research. Volume 59). Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1992, ISBN 978-3-534-02243-4 , p. 10.
- at least according to some historians