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Ancient States and Infrastructural Power: Europe, Asia, and America, by Clifford Ando and Seth Richardson, editors

Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017. Pp. vi, 310. Illus., maps, notes, indices. $69.95. ISBN: 0812249313.

The Implements of Power in Ancient Cultures

The editors, respectively author of Law, Language, and Empire in the Roman Tradition and the editor of The Journal of Near Eastern Studies, have brought together nine essays by themselves and several colleagues that try to elucidate the nature of state power in nine ancient cultures; early Mesopotamia, Archaic Greece, Western Zhou China, the Early Roman Empire, the later Roman Empire, Persia, the Inca, Visigothic Iberia, and the Byzantine Empire.

Each essay explores issues such as the powers each state claimed for itself, the abilities and implements each culture possessed to assert such powers, how closely the subjects identified with their respective states, and what "spaces and social fields" might have remained outside the purview of the state.

The essays yield some interesting answers, and parallels often emerge. Naturally many patterns are discussed, as these societies varied widely due to culture, religion, and economy. Some examples will suggest the similarities and differences that can be found. Virtually all states included religion in varying degrees as within their purview. Both ancient Babylon and Rome asserted authority over morality. Zhou China and Ancient Persia mixed despotism with aristocratic autonomy, somewhat like a feudal system, while the Inca imposed a divine despotism.

A volume in the University of Pennsylvania Press “Empire and After” series, ‘Ancient States and Infrastructural Power’ is for the serious scholar, and while individual essays will be of use to students of particular cultures, the work will also be of great value for those interested in comparative history.


Note: Ancient States and Infrastructural Power is also available as an e-book, ISBN 978-0-8122-9417-0


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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