Power under Pressure. Monarchies between Success and Failure

Kraftprobe Herrschaft. Monarchien im Spannungsfeld von Erfolg und Versagen


Representatives of archaeology, philology, theology and history at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz have come together to consider the successes and failures of Old World rulers in past and present perspectives.

The names of chieftains, princes, kings and emperors of bygone times are frequently used by modern historians to designate entire epochs of human history. In retrospect, these individuals appear to be omnipresent in the centre of social action. However, depending on the source, it becomes clear that the indicators of success are to be found both in the personality of the ruler and in the work of the specialists at his disposal (for example, scribes, scholars, craftsmen and the so-called elite). Although the scholarship on the subject of kings/kingship is almost incalculable in each of the disciplines represented in the Kraftprobe Herrschaftworking group, it remains a requirement to systematically establish what has been explored and published so far in relation to the primary sources, the contemporary historical settings and the personalities of current researchers.

This interdisciplinary co-operation goes far to counter-act the problem that a critical stance towards the ruling monarch can seldom be inferred from contemporary sources. Primary sources rarely indicate evidence of a ruler’s failure. Usually, it is only the strong and always successful king who rules. Nevertheless, even ancient and medieval historiography (chronicles, annals, hagiographical texts, etc.) provides grounds to legitimately question the written and iconographic representation of the ruling ideology, which can only be outlined in the synopses of different disciplines. Selective foci are on rulers from 3000 BCE to the 15th century CE, whose spheres of influence ranged from the Persian Gulf to the Bay of Biscay. These case studies serve the inductive investigations as a basis for interdisciplinary comparisons.