A goodly number of those who seek to reconstruct the politics, history and economics of the ancient Near East rely on texts (and style themselves ‘historians’). You know, the clay tablets found in royal archives or perhaps in the vaults of a ruling class clan. For some reason that is beyond me, these are often read rather naively, as reflecting how things actually were in everyday life, as expressing the sentiments of the people as a whole – Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians or Israelites. Here’s a humble example, from a statue of Darius, king of the Persians, originally made in Egypt:

The king of Upper and Lower Egypt, master of the Two lands, Daraywesh, may he live forever! The great king, the king of kings, the supreme lord of the earth [in its totality, the son of the] father-of-a-god Wishtapa [Hystaspes], the Achaemenid, he who appeared as king of Upper and Lower Egypt on the seat where Horus reigns over the living, like Ra at the head of the gods, eternally!

That’s just after the objective observation that the gods had made him just like them and that they had generously stated:

I give you all the countries of plain and mountain united under your sandals. I give you Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt, who address adorations to your handsome face, as to Ra’s, eternally.

Correct me if I am wrong, but this sounds suspiciously like ruling class ideology, let alone grand claims that ever so slightly exaggerate his power.

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