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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Authority, polity, and tenuous elites in Iron Age Edom (Jordan)


The strategies political elites implement to garner political authority and legitimacy in emergent polities are scrutinized in a case study from Iron Age Edom, located in modern southern Jordan and the south-east corner of the State of Israel. Edom provides a productive context in which to conduct this investigation as local elites managed a fractious polity consisting of unstable segmentary identities, while at the same time, remaining loyal to the successive Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian empires that dominated them. This tenuous position required elites to maintain a flexible elite identity while promoting broader metaphors of attachment (e.g. Edomite) among their disparate constituents. This case study ultimately moves toward an understanding of political polities, not as disembodied entities (e.g. States), but as embedded phenomena within the societies they comprise.

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