The great influence and similarity with Byblos Government organization is its continued contact with Egypt, Mesopotamia, Anatolia and Crete all through the millenniums. The conclusion on this is that there were very similar trends in decorative motifs and way of social organization and rule and way of life. Byblos enjoyed close relationship with Egyptian kings since the Old Kingdom. Greater influence on Byblos from Mesopotamia in every way on Byblos was shown by the end of the late 3rd millennium BCE. Proof that some pyramids were built with the aid of Byblos craftsmen. The relationship with Mesopotamia is can be seen mostly in artifacts in the metal-work art. Constant flux of traders and craftsmen and people moving from place to place transported with them all the know-how and the political, social and commercial methods, rules and traditions. Art and society cannot be localized in any one place but similarities were found all around the region from Egypt to the Levant to Mesopotamia to Anatolia to Cyprus and Crete. An artifact found in Egypt of Byblos or Crete can be matched in Mesopotamia and the other way around. Way of ruling in Byblos can follow closely the Sumerian tradition or those in Egypt or Crete. Like for instance the design on scarabs circulated from Mesopotamia to Anatolia to Greece to Egypt. To resume, what is in Mesopotamia or Egypt can very well be in Byblos.
Democracy can be seen to have a lineage tracing back as far as civilization itself in the levant, in particular Byblos, in Egypt and Mesopotamia. The democratic system employed in myths such as Enuma Elish in Mesopotamia was something like a blueprint for the early city-states that developed across the region. The democratic practice can be found at the very heart of the governance in these cities. In the Phoenician cities we find strikingly similar democratic practices to those used in Mesopotamia for over 2000 years. Through the study of those Primitive Democracies, it was suggested that political process was very sophisticated and influenced much the formation of the democracy in classic Greece then Rome and the Western World.
City-states like Byblos were ruled by a pyramid of Councils, historical documents describe assemblies deliberating for days. Assemblies were open to junior, aristocrats and commoners and turned a closed Council into an open Assembly. They also invited women and teenagers. The ultimate decision maker was the Assembly or Council of the Elders with conjunction with the King, it was a kind of constitutional monarchy. The two structures King and assemblies were delicately intertwined and mutual control of the rule. Egyptians and Mesopotamians multiplied Councils and assemblies of all sorts so does Phoenician city-states. No proof of voting system but intelligible justifications for each decision of the Assembly. The Assembly or Council of the Elders was formed by family heads or tribal chiefs who held customary powers in their camps. Other representatives in the Assembly were selected on personal skills. The city-states tend to be more hierarchical. The assemblies acted also as the city law courts. The representatives in these assemblies knew what was fair or what was wrong. Rulers enacted laws after intense consultation involving many assemblies and Councils. This tradition in practicing rule was transmitted to generations. Among the founding documents were the pyramid texts of archaic Egypt. They organized rule in a pyramid of courts, representative Councils and defense districts, a form of bureaucracy which also worked for the benefit of the weak and the poor. Mesopotamian regimes look like Egyptian ones so does Phoenician city-states. Egyptians and Mesopotamians were champions of social rights. Courts were overloaded with cases. Liberty was more positive than negative. Citizens are attested to be free inhabitants. Egyptians and Mesopotamians exported and influenced the whole region including Byblos. These city-states and their ruling system spread from Mesopotamia to the eastern coast of Mediterranean for a period of three thousand years.
Middle Eastern fundamental political structural changes started out of fourth millennium BCE. These trends originated in Mesopotamia but it was the commercial activities of the Phoenicians city-states, including Byblos, from the Early Bronze through to the Iron Age that were the foundations of the economic and cultural laws and practice that laid the bases of the Western World. The Phoenician city-state have set a constitutional standard that has been followed later. The constitution of the Athenian city-state may be another adaptation of the Phoenician system. Sparta had a constitution, upon Aristotle, that followed a Phoenician prototype. The Phoenician constitutional models allowed for commercial intercourse with leading societies. It is said that laws of classical Greece and Rome were largely influenced by the Phoenician maritime commerce practice like maritime law, insurance contracts, joint financing of business ventures, aristocratic symposium, banking and interest-bearing debt. The Phoenician weights and measures were conveyed to the Romans.
For the Phoenicians the father-son metaphor conveyed an idea of political hierarchy. This system can be seen also in the relationships between a king and his high officials as well as between subjects of different rank or authority related to greater age. This similar hierarchy in the way of Lord to Servant was also common in the correspondence between kings and the Pharaoh of Egypt. Also another way of forwarding respect is seen in the correspondence between kings of the same rank where the name of the recipient preceded the name of the sender. This ordering can be seen in different forms in the society and between individuals and can be a kind of stratification in the society.
The constitutional form and dominating system of the society in Byblos was an oligarchy or an aristocracy participating in the policy decisions and straightly tied to the king. This oligarchy was consisted of the most powerful families of merchants. The oligarchy was represented in the Assembly of the Elders and in the Council of Judges. Land and maritime commerce was vastly carried out by the private merchants and the city crust being this aristocracy. The Greek historian Philo of Byblos writes about the powerful people in Byblos.
In the city-state of Byblos the dominant political system was monarchy and aristocracy. The political system was an aristocratic republic in a metropolitan system of city and was analogous to the cities in Europe like Genoa at the time when it was a maritime power. But the system tended to a democracy. The city had official and representative bodies with distribution of powers. It is said in Phoenicia and in particular Byblos that municipal liberty made its first appearance in history. The notion of an egalitarian society where citizenship was implemented and the citizens had civil rights and rights over proprietorship and the rights to amass wealth. The democratic system was divided into two powers executive power in the hand of the King and legislative power controlled by people Councils. The forms of government developed more defined democratic structures. There were other towns on the territory and the Phoenician states had a certain political dualism when royal power co-existed with a system of communities. This politico-administrative dualism in conjunction with duality in socio-economic relations. Politically the King had to govern the community in the capital city as distinct from the townships of the state.
In Phoenician City-Sates as in Byblos, citizens would allow the city to make claim for democracy. Citizens of Byblos directly addressed Egyptian officials which gives rise to the possibility of republican organization. Municipalities existed in Phoenicia in the fourteenth century BC and were ruled by deliberative forums of the citizens. From the fifteenth century BC to the fourth the Assembly was very active and Byblos could be categorized as a proto-democracy. Phoenicians had their influence on Emerging Greek City-States. In Homer’s Iliad, the Phoenicians brought ideas and knowledge from the Egyptian, Assyrian and Babylonian worlds. One idea central to the Greek is democratic governance. The Phoenicians influenced the emergence of new political forms in this period. Phoenician influence were also in the early adopters of democracy and the formation of political institutions and result was into a democratic configurations.
The High Assembly was also known following the ancient tradition as the Assembly of Elders, Seniles or Senators. The presence of the assemblies was so great amongst the Phoenicians that even religious mythology relied upon an Assembly of the Gods. The book of Ezekiel mentions the Council of the Elders in Byblos. Zakkarbaal King of Byblos to demand the extradition of the Egyptian emissary Wenamon convened the Council of the Elders. The Mosaic law ordained a social structure tending towards the egalitarian citizenry to themselves choose the judges to lead the people. The Council of Elders began in the most remote period of the history of the nomadic Hebrews as a tribal Council of the heads of the patriarchal families. Thus arose customs and a system of consuetudinary law. Each family was a corporation with the patriarch as its president who sat in the Council of Elders. The members of the Council of the Elders were the representatives of family clans, traders, priests and members of the military. The Elders executive duties were primarily connected with matters of merely local interest as for example the regulation of landmarks and boundary lines, the maintenance of order, the attestation of formal acts. It had no foreign policy initiative.
Every function of the city had a person in charge like the supervisor of the port or person in charge of the affairs of the temple. As for the Byblos sukinnu was used to designate various officials or a supposition the supreme functionary who governed the country side by side with the King. In it the sukinnu is mentioned for an official with military authority to maintain inner order in the state. The labor society was organized around workmanship like woodcutters, builders, decorators, barbers. etc. Below the King were two specific positions of importance the governor and the commander of the army. The governor was responsible for supervising the court and city administrations, royal judges and sheriffs. There were also higher order of servants somewhat like the lords in a feudal system.
A legislative body with a high civil magistrate implemented the law with a Council of Judges or magistrate. The judges were elected for their wealth and intellectual, social or military merit. A group of judges attended the civil courts which dealt with the demands and problems of local people.
Monarchy in Byblos has been recorded since approximately 3000 BCE. It had its own ruler who usually stays for life. The king was in the same time the governor and the chief priest of the temples. In Byblos the King held the title of the Priest of Astarte. He had the powers to call for popular assemblies. He had full control over the business affairs of the city and had his own private enterprise and owned ships and land whose produce he could sell. May be felling of timber was only reserved to the King. The king seems to have possessed some handicraft workshops as well. The King had the obligation to be wise and fair and just and righteous and keep order in the city. The King had absolute power even with existence of the Council of Elders. The king power was great enough to interfere occasionally with the decisions of the Elders. The king had to reckon with the community. Kings built temples and monuments in honor of deities. In his own city the king was the overlord and in some cases personally sat in judgment among citizens. Interstate ties were reserved to those between their kings. Management and guidance of military affairs was in the king’s hands. Coinage was also the king’s prerogative.
All citizens were represented within different kind of people assemblies and there was a Youth Council. The Youth Council expressed its views on different aspects of the city. The Council of Elders and the Youth Council advised the Kings.
The King usually is also the high Priest. On other occasions the Kings and priests were different people. Royal Councils it seems have influenced the organization of the priesthood. There was sometimes a direct connection between the royal and priestly class. Below the King some matters of government were also carried out by a priestly class. Priest organized affairs of the temples and performed rituals. Members of the Priesthood would have come from the royal family and leading merchant families.
The roots of modern admiralty law are rooted early in history when Phoenicians like in Byblos did commerce by sea. From 3000 years BCE a developed body of seafaring customs became the foundation of an international sea law. From its inception maritime law was independent of the will of sovereign states but dependent upon the customs and experiences the leading commercial centers in the Mediterranean. The Code of Hamurabi dating to Babylon in 1800 BCE addressed ship leasing and was an early Sumerian commercial law especially through shipping. Phoenician commercial and admiralty law developed based on the laws of Babylon. The early laws consisted of customs and practices of early merchants and seafarers and were mostly of private and commercial in character. These custom and usage were codified and were subsequently transformed into positive enactments. The Phoenicians developed maritime customs and is reported to be the basis of maritime law even to this day. These customs assimilated into the laws involved parties of more than one nation as the Mediterranean became the cradle of maritime development. Egypt inherited the basic ideas of maritime law from Mesopotamia and the Phoenicians must have had a detailed admiralty law as sophisticated as the Egyptians. Admiralty law is one of the oldest laws we see today.
The relationships between political entities or states were dictated by a set of means. The relations between the Pharaoh and the kings of the Levantine kingdoms for instance Byblos were set by means of treaties mostly during the second part of the second millennium BCE. The agreements or legal acts were realized through an oath, a standardized oath of loyalty and truth by the Levantine kings towards the Egyptian king. The Byblos King would refer to himself when addressing the Pharaoh as the loyal servant of the Pharaoh and that he would respect his obligations and duties toward him in a matter as between the Pharaoh and his subjects. The phrase employed here for loyal servant is kittu or truth, justice, correct procedures, treaty.
Traditional household relationships in Phoenicia is based on the metaphor father-son which invokes the house of the father. Patrimonialism is that system which the patrimonial household model is based on the father. Patrimonialism could explain the social and symbolic system in a Phoenician city. The patriarchal household was both a social unit and a symbol that organized as well the political relations at the level of the state. The relationships between fathers and sons and masters and servants are structuring symbols rooted in the life-world of every day.