Government of the Ancient Mayans

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  • Topic: Prince, Monarch, Priest
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  • Published : October 18, 2010
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Government of the ancient Mayans

The Maya Government was a hereditary absolute monarchy, ruled by nobles and kings, with a close union of the spiritual and temporal elements. This civilization developed into highly structured kingdoms during the Classic period, around 200-900 CE. the hereditary high priest, who was also king of the sacred city of Izamal, being consulted by the monarch on all important matters, besides having the care of ritual and ceremonials.

The provincial governors were nobles of the four royal families, and were supreme within their own governments. The rulers of towns and villages formed a lower order of nobility, not of royal blood. The king usually acted on the advice of a council of lords and priests. The lords alone were military commanders, and each lord and inferior official had for his support the produce of a certain portion of land which was cultivated in common by the people. They received no salary, and each was responsible for the maintenance of the poor and helpless of his district. The lower priesthood was not hereditary, but was appointed through the high priest. There was also a female priesthood, or vestal order, whose head was a princess of royal blood. The plebeians were farmers, artisans, or merchants; they paid taxes and military service, and each had his interest in the common land as well as his individual portion, which descended in the family and could not be alienated. Slaves also existed, the slaves being chiefly prisoners of war and their children, the latter of whom could become freemen by putting a new piece of unoccupied ground under cultivation. Society was organized upon the clan system, with descent in the male line, the chiefs being rather custodians for the tribe than owners, and having no power to alienate the tribal lands. Game, fish, and the salt marshes were free to all, with a certain portion to the lords. Taxes were paid in kind through authorized collectors. On the death of the owner, the...
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