The Effect of Moral Behaviour of Leaders On the Early Civilizations

Between the end of the BC era and the 15th century, many impressive civilizations thrived. The central part that the leaders played in these civilizations' development and eventual collapse was one of their defining traits. This essay investigates the moral conduct of a few early civilization leaders and how it affected various facets of empire development. The essay will show how much the ability of the leaders to keep their behavior within the bounds of acceptable moral standards determined whether social, economic, and political institutions within the societies succeeded or failed. Morality of Leaders in Early Civilizations

In Legalist Teachings (32), the author notes that many small states were becoming extinct by the 3rd century due to rampant conquest by the big ones. Most of the large states were ruled by individuals who regarded themselves as political scholars. They possessed vast knowledge regarding power and techniques that leaders could use to ensure that their officials and subjects remained loyal. Though these advisors argued that the morality of the leader was not important in determining the strength of the kingdoms, it is important to appreciate that aspects of morality determine the ability of an individual to listen and heed to advice.

The author in Legalist Teachings (34) portrays legalities as the key foundation of the strength of most civilizations. However, some of the descriptions show that the leader had absolute power over the subjects and officials. Therefore, they could choose whether to heed the advice given to them or discard it. The Confucians had claimed that the qualities of a ruler and his officials are what determined the success of a kingdom.

Morality acted as a foundation for a strong legal structure within civilizations. In Legalist Teachings (32), the author quotes Duke Xiao in his meeting to discuss policies, “The proper course for the ruler is to keep in mind the sacrifices and grain from the first time he succeeds to his position….the minister is to shape the laws and devote himself to the lord of the people……I wish to change the laws……I am afraid everyone will criticize me…”This quote shows that there were no strong legal institutions. The initial process of forming and strengthening legal institutions fully depended on the leaders and their officials. These processes were only initiated where leaders had the goodwill and willingness to ensure that the collective wellbeing of the members of the society was upheld. The morality of the leaders formed a foundation for strong legal institutions and norms.

The Mongol Governor (192) describes the endeavours of the Mongols during the ninety-six years that they conquered and dominated Asia. The Mongols relied on their large population to settle their citizens and dominate most of the parts pf Western and Central Asia. In The Mongol Governor (193), the quality of the government and the fortunes of the common person fully relied on the decisions made by the governors. The Mongol dominance was sustained for over nine decades because of the morality of the governors. The appropriateness and effectiveness of the decisions made by the various Mongol leaders was assured due to their strong moral standings. For instance, the people in Xiang and Wei were facing a threat of hunger after locusts destroyed vegetation in the two areas in 1239. Minister Quduqu ordered that five thousand piculs be taken from the army and given to the people from the two regions. Famine would have driven people out of the two regions in search of food thus weakening them and exposing them to conquest by other civilizations or reclaiming their territories. One other option for the minister would have to feed the army and take it to Wei and Xiang to ensure that other civilizations did not take advantage of the weakened people. However, his decision worked to the advantage of the Mongols as individuals from the two regions remained loyal.

In Proclamations of the Hongwu Emperor (205), Zhu Yuanzhang’s rule was characterized by both despotism and conscientiousness. However, all these actions are depicted as those meant to bring out the maximum potential of the Ming dynasty. Yuanzhang was exceptional during his time because he was the first commoner to rise to the position of emperor in over 15 centuries. He mainly focused on eradicating immorality within the ranks of leadership in China.

During Yuanzhang’s era, he focused on eliminating bribery and all forms of dishonesty and corruption among the high-ranking Chinese officials. In some instances, he had to use unorthodox means. In Proclamations of the Hongwu Emperor (205), the author reviews two proclamations made by Yuanzhang during his reign. In the proclamations, the emperor brings out his thoughts and values as those of a person who holds a higher position in the Chinese social system due to his strict morals. The proclamations demonstrate that Yuanzhang’s rise was deeply rooted on his good morals.

Leaders in early civilizations had absolute power over their subjects and officials. The use of this power brought out their goodwill and morals as analysed later by scholars. Unlike most of the other emperors who focused on formulation of strong laws and legal institutions, Yuanzhang’s focus was on his officials. Yuanzhang’s proclamations were addressed to the civil and military officials. He understood that there was need to impart the rest of the population with the moral values that had fuelled his rise to the position of emperor. By doing this, the rest of the population became aware of the demands of the emperor and followed suit. The entire Ming Dynasty was strengthened due to the strong moral code passed down to the officials by Yuanzhang. The code then trickled down to the masses. The people’s attention was drawn on the need to prevent all kinds of dishonest activities. People started gaining easy access to essential government services. The efficiency enhanced loyalty, thus strengthening the Ming Dynasty.

Columbus (293) narrates his encounters with the King of some of the islands that he toured. His letter shows how the position of the king allowed him to make decisions that impacted the rest of the people within the kingdom. He notes that in order to gain access to the empires and their people, one had to get the permission of the kings. The king would evaluate the visitor to determine whether they were of benefit to the commoners. In the case of Columbus, the King of the islands referred to as Guarani allowed him in after he discovered that the visitor’s men had immense knowledge on shipbuilding that would end up benefiting his people.

Columbus’ description depicts the leaders of early civilizations as individuals who were committed to ensuring that their people made maximum use of links with the outside world. Visitors could only be allowed into the kingdoms if the leaders proved that they had good intentions for their subjects. Queen Isabella of Castle, for instance, was willing to provide limited financial backing in return for a big percentage of the profits.

Diaz (276) describes his first-hand experiences with Montezuma, the Prince. From Diaz’s description, the prince stood out as a person who was close to his soldiers and the civilians. He showed goodwill through the decisions that he made and readiness to listen to the soldiers and their commanders. He listened to the advice of Diaz’s captain on undermining his gods. Although he did not heed to the advice, the fact that he listened to it portrays him as a person who was close to his subjects and was ready to listen to them. The story by Diaz depicts the prince and the royal family as humble rulers who were ready to listen to the people and heed to their advice. Montezuma is also portrayed as a leader who had a hard time trying to balance between pleasing his gods and his subjects. When he allowed the narrator to climb to the great cu and see his gods, he remained behind and asked for forgiveness. The conquest of New Spain was overseen by a leader who was keen on ensuring that he sets a good example for his subjects.


Conquest occupied a key place in politics of early civilizations. Leaders had key roles to play right from the time of acquisition of a new territory. Most of successful conquests and reigns are characterized by an effort by the leader to remain morally upright. Scholars have also captured records of leaders who went out of the norm to impart the positive moral values on their officials and commoners.

Works Cited

A Mongol Governor.

Columbus, Christopher. Letter from the First Voyage. Peter Smith, 1847.

Diaz, Bernal. The true history of the conquest of New Spain. Vol. 2. Lulu. com, 1910.

Legalist Teachings.

Proclamations of the Hongwu Emperor.

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