2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Politics and government

Despotism is a form of government by a single authority, either an individual or tightly knit group, which rules with absolute political power. On its classical form, a despotism is a state where one single man wields all the power and authority, and everyone else is considered as his slave. This form of despotism was the first known form of statehood and civilization; the Pharaoh of Egypt is a hallmark of a classical despot.

The term now implies tyrannical rule. However, under the concept of benevolent or enlightened despotism, which came to prominence in 18th century Europe, absolute monarchs used their authority to institute a number of reforms in the political systems and societies of their countries. This movement was probably largely triggered by the ideals of the Enlightenment.

Even though the word has modern pejorative meaning, it was once a legitimate title of office in the Byzantine Empire. Just as the word "Byzantine" is often used in a pejorative way (for specific reasons by certain Enlightenment authors wishing to express disapproval of that period in history), the word Despot was equally turned around for negative meaning. In fact, a Despot was an Imperial title, first used under Manuel I Komnenos (1143–1180) who created it to his appointed heir Alexius-Béla. According to Gyula Moravcsik this title was a simple translation of Béla's Hungarian title 'úr', but other historians believe it comes from the ancient greek, despotes (literally, 'the master').

It was typically bestowed on sons-in-law and later sons of the Emperor, and beginning in the 13th century it was bestowed to foreign princes. The Despot wore an elaborate costume similar to the Emperor's and had many privileges. Despots ruled over parts of the empire called Despotates. In the Orthodox Liturgy, if celebrated in Greek, the priest is addressed by the deacon as "despot" even today.

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