The Good Kings: Absolute Power in Ancient Egypt and the Modern World by Kara Cooney compares the ruling styles of ancient Pharaohs to today’s tactics of the ruling class. Ms. Cooney is an Egyptologist and processor in UCLA.
- 400 pages
- Publisher : National Geographic
- Language : English
- ISBN-10 : 1426221967
This book was a surprising find, unlike any other National Geographic books I’ve read before. Ms. Cooney looks five Pharaohs (Khufu, Senwosret III, Akenhaten, Ramses II, and Taharqa), analyzes their ruling style, and draws relations to today’s leaders.
I do have to give Kara Cooney credit, The Good Kings: Absolute Power in Ancient Egypt and the Modern World is certainly a gutsy book. While I’m sure she held back, her political persuasions certainly come through, her comparisons somewhat disturbing.
The author takes a look at Egyptian history in a critical eye, without the celebrity-style fawning we, or at least I, are used to reading. Life was hard, the rulers weren’t benevolent, the huge monuments took their toll in blood and treasure, the propaganda was so effective it lasts to this day.
This book could be looked at as a warning, when the world is moving more and more towards strongmen authoritarian regimes. Even in countries where these candidates lose elections, it seems only by a hair.
I was looking forward to reading about Ramses II. Of course, he’s one of the most famous Pharaohs we’ve all heard about.. every year in Passover. Even though I have read that the biblical Moses might be based on Akenhaten, we’ll probably never know.
The last chapter attempts to pull it all together. The author analyzes how systems of absolute power traps its citizens to make them believe they work in their best interests. That the monarchs know better because they are either appointed by the gods, or talk directly through them. These people don’t have to be rulers. Religious leaders, for example, use similar tactics.
This book made me think, and I agree with the author that we have much to learn from past history. I enjoyed the author’s analysis, but I am not informed enough about Egyptology to argue neither here nor there. The narrative is not a lecture, but written in a conversational tone of a professor who is informed and entertaining.
Zohar — Man of la Book
Disclaimer: I got this book for free from TLC Book Tours
*Amazon links point to an affiliate account