EDIT: I've been asked to make this question simpler so here is my best attempt:

I'm looking for sources, either primary, secondary, or even good pieces of historical fiction, that deal with the daily life for a city official in the ancient world. Specifically, I'm looking for what an individual (ie somebody like a King) did on a daily basis to keep the city running.

If anybody knows of any sources that deal with daily governance, in any time period really, it would be most helpful.

and on a side note, i don't think i did a very good job at making this question simpler

original, and more detailed, question below

I’m looking for good sources on governance in the ancient world. Specifically, I’m trying to find sources that can help me from the development of a new city (ie something like the foundation of a greek colony during archaic period, or foundation of colonies through the roman period) but it could be from the development of cities in the Neolithic or bronze age periods, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be Greek/Roman, in fact, the more variety of cultures the better.

Specifically, I’m trying to look at this from a more human perspective. Everything I’ve read are either historical accounts of major events in the ancient world (ie somebody like Livy gives you general outlines of the foundations of Rome, and then during the actual Republic/Empire period they give you major events, but not what the government did, and the issues it dealt with, and how it dealt with them, on a day to day basis.)

There are the 3-4 types of governance I’m interested in.

Monarchy: Throughout much of the Bronze Age/Dark Age/Archaic/Classical and beyond period (including the Roman Empire which is a defacto complex monarchy), there were always monarchies, so this is quite relevant in understanding what/why/how government worked from a day in day out basis.

Aristocracy: From the Carthaginians, to the early romans, many societies were run by the powerful, as a group. How this was organized and examples of the what/why/how of day to day governance in an Aristocracy.

Democracy: Obviously we know the Athenians during the Classical period were run as a democracy ( and I mean a true democracy) we can follow the historical events that were from decisions of governance, but how was Athens and it’s empire governed/run on a day to day basis? We know that there were councilors who were chosen by lots who ran certain districts/held certain positions, but what did these people do on a day to day basis? How did they do it?

Republic: The roman republic is what I’m thinking here, and many of the above can largely answer how, and as Polybius says, the Roman republic was synthesis of all 3 of the above governments. But still, what/why/how was the governance done on a daily basis?

And by governance on a daily basis, I mean from how the kings, aristocrats, down through every layer of bureaucracy till you get to your local tax collector; what/why/how these people ran the government administration on a day to day basis, from dealing with a rival city who recently stole one of your citizens crops, to pirates interfering with trade on the Mediterranean, to drought, city administration, what to do with tax money, local neighborly disputes, superstition, weather, crime, theft, laws and battles of ideology, to political rivalries and infighting, to a foreigner spreading strange religious ideas in the city (or dealing with somebody accused of a crime they claim they did not commit), I mean everything and everything these officials may have dealt with, daily, and how they changed over time.

Obviously this is a pretty broad question, and I don’t care if these are primary sources, to collaborative works by modern historians, to historical fictions (as I’m sure much of this detail will be left to the imagination as not much evidence will remain), but I’m looking for how humans ran societies, and the issue they dealt with, on a day to day basis, because people live on a day to day basis, and don’t, like historians, summarize a decade in a couple of pages of writing.

I’m sure that no one work will answer any of the above focuses, but any source that can clue me into any of the above would be appreciated. Feel free to ask me any clarification questions if you don’t understand what I’m asking.

PS: If there are works on the medieval period, or even the colonial period in the United States that seems like it could be relevant here, that is fine too, and as I’m sure many of the issues will overlap.

PPS: Maybe much of what the government did was basically just sitting around waiting for something to happen, which is fine, but I’m still curious how an early Village would evolve into a polis city state, and what governance issues they had to deal with from a human perspective, ie daily.

  • 1
    Question is probably too broad, and source requests are often out of scope. Could you revise this to be more precise, to require a smaller answer? I'm impressed with the way you posed it; you clearly thought about the problem. Most of the answer is 'they didn't do that' - day to day activities were delegated to local executives. Many of the other issues we simply don't know, because we have so few records; you're looking for microhistories before they were written.
    – MCW
    Feb 17, 2016 at 22:48
  • Those Roman tablets discovered at Hadrian's Wall might be a good place to start, just off the top of my head.
    – Merkava120
    Feb 18, 2016 at 2:15
  • Given that you're asking about 'day to day governance', I assume Aristotles Politics won't be helpful. Feb 18, 2016 at 2:35
  • @MarkC.Wallace The difficulty with shortening my question is that I wanted it big so that anybody could post anything relevant. I'm not really sure how to to even ask the question without it being simply the title of the post. Let me think about it and I will attempt an edit with a simple question at the opening. Feb 18, 2016 at 3:27
  • 2
    This is too broad, you should start several questions and pick a specific example to ask about in each question.
    – Semaphore
    Feb 18, 2016 at 8:06


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