Piety and Politics: The Dynamics of Royal Authority in Homeric Greece, Biblical Israel, and Old Babylonian Mesopotamia

By Dale Launderville | Go to book overview

PREFACE

Polis is usually translated as city or city-state. This does not capture the
full meaning. Polis means, rather, the place, the there, wherein and as
which historical being-there is. The polis is the historical place, the
there in which, out of which, and for which history happens.

Martin Heidegger, Introduction to Metaphysics1

A meaningful life can be gained only through engagement with other humans, with nature, and with God or the gods. This place of engagement is the locus where harmony and conflict converge, where integration and fragmentation counterpoint each other, where mind and heart meet. The “sense of place” that wells up within a person when such engagement happens is captured in the statement: it is good that we are here. The creating or “authoring” activity that leads to this “sense of place” manifests the authority essential to human community. Heidegger refers to the polis as this treasured place in which humans create themselves and their world. This primordial sense of polis is not simply a geographical location but much more profoundly and elusively a place of convergence of the spiritual and the material, of the social and the natural. Such convergence is a new beginning that must be gained over and over again. The thinking, the acting, and the existing involved in sustaining such a place of new beginnings constitute political thinking in its most basic sense.

The peoples who created and lived within the worlds and traditions of Homeric Greece, biblical Israel, and Old Babylonian Mesopotamia were political

1. Martin Heidegger, Introduction to Metaphysics (New York: Doubleday, 1959), p. 128.

-ix-

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