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Legendary lawgivers

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Perhaps the best-known legendary lawgiver is Moses in the Old Testament; that document describes him as receiving a large number of laws from the Biblical God. However, many other societies have had legendary founders and lawgivers.

Greco-Roman lawgivers

  • Minos: Crete
  • Theseus: Athens
  • Lycurgus: Sparta
  • Cadmus: Thebes
  • Perseus: Mycenae
  • Romulus: Rome
  • Numa Pompilius: Rome

Some of them even claimed to have gotten their laws from gods: Minos from Zeus, Numa Pompilius from Egeria, etc.

Bertrand Russell

But as Bertrand Russell had noted in his History of Western Philosophy (p. 510),

Machiavelli's political thinking, like that of most of the ancients, is in one respect somewhat shallow. He is occupied with great law givers, such as Lycurgus and Solon, who are supposed to create a community all in one piece, with little regard to what has gone before. The conception of a community as an organic growth, which the statesmen can only affect to a limited extent, is in the main modern, and has been greatly strengthened by the theory of evolution. This conception is not to be found in Machiavelli any more than in Plato.

Bertrand Russell's concept of a community having rules and customs that evolve in a way similar to organic growth predates the concept of Memetics by Richard Dawkins but is clearly similar.

This article was originally at the Beacon Library (now defunct).

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