Archontology: About - Archontology

About Archontology

The individuals and the groups of people holding important offices have always been an object of interest. Institutional chronology as integral part of general chronology dates back to the times of first civilizations. From the Sumerian King List to the Abydos Table to the works of Manetho and the Roman cosular lists comes the tradition of recording the names of kings, queens and officers of state in chronological order.

One of the earliest efforts of ancient historians was aimed at compiling the chronology of contemporary rulers and their predecessors. The kinglists, found in most centres of the ancient civilizations, formed a basis for building more detailed historical accounts and served as a skeleton for further historical studies.The tradition of keeping records of rulers survived through the ages and became a part of modern chronology.

The term archontology appears to have been first used in the early 17th century in Europe, deriving from from Greek, αρχων [archōn], meaning ruler and used specifically for supreme magistrates, as in Athens, or even kings, as in the Cimmerian Bosporus.

In 1613 Pierre d'Avity published an encyclopedic description of the countries of the world — as far as known in Europe at the time — including their provinces and colonies as well as segments on their history complete with list of rulers under the title 'Les Estats, Empires, et Principautez du Monde. Representez par la Description des Paÿs, mœurs des habitans, Richesses des Provinces, les forces, le gouvernement, la Religion, et les Princes qui ont gouverné chacun Estat. Avec L'origine de toutes les Religions, et de tous les Chevaliers et ordres Militaires (The States, Empires, and Principalities of the World. Represented by the description of the lands, customs of the inhabitants, riches of the provinces, the forces, the government, the religion, and the princes that have governed each state. With the origin of all Religions, and of all the Knights and military orders.) A Latin translation was published in Germany in 1628 by Johann Ludwig Gottfried as 'Archontologia Cosmica, sive Imperiorum, Regnorum, Principatum, rerumque Publicarum omnium per totum Terrarum Orbem', followed in 1638 by a German translation, also credited, posthumously, to Gottfried by Matthäus Merian, in turn followed by a new edition titled Newe Archontologia Cosmica in 1646.

While most works were limited to a particular country or region, the heyday of European colonialism enabled and indeed saw the publication of several compilations that surpassed previous efforts that, for lack of sufficient information, typically did not cover more than the Mediterranean and other European monarchies in favour of a truly global aim. Examples are

  • Anthony Marinus Hendrik Johan Stokvis]]' Manuel d'histoire, de généalogie et du chronologie de tous les états du globe, depuis les temps les plus reculés jusqu'a nos jours (1888-).
  • [[Berthold Spuler|Bertold Spuler]]'s Regenten und Regierungen der Welt. / Sovereigns and Governments of the World (1953-)
  • and, directly building on Spuler but additionally also covering an unprecedented amount of regional or sub-national entities in more than 4,000 pages: [[Peter Truhart|Peter Truhart]]'s Regenten der Welt/Regents of Nations (1st ed., 1984-1988)

The rising popularity of personal, and later also institutional websites during the 1990s has also triggered the creation of numerous websites that provide(d) archontological material of varying scope and quality. While many are still individual efforts, some do or did represent collaborative efforts. The records of truly community-driven websites like the Wikipedia by comparison do have the potential of vastly improved data but come with a much higher risk of very uneven data quality. Among the early examples of archontological websites with a global scope are:

  • Benjamin Schemmel's Rulers (1996-). <>
  • Roberto Ortiz de Zárate's World Political Leaders (1996-). <>
  • Bruce Gordon's Regnal Chronologies (1997-). <,,>
  • Kelley L. Ross's Guide and Index to Lists of Rulers (1998-). <>
  • Firās al-Ṭayyib (فراس الطيب)'s Tārīkh al-ḥukkām wa al-sulālāt al-ḥākimah (تاريخ الحكام و السلالات الحاكمة)‎ (1999-). <> *
  • Bob Hilkens' States and Regents of the World (2000-). <>
  • Benjamin M. Cahoon's World (2001-). <> *
  • V.V. Erlikhman (В.В. Эрлихман)'s Praviteli Mira (Правители Мира) (2002-) <> * the collaborative Proekt WMS (Проект WMS) / Vsemirnyy Istoricheskiy Proekt (Всемирный Исторический Проект) (2003-). <,> *
  • Enno Schulz's Regenten der Welt / World Rulers (2004-). <> * Ian Mladjov's Resources (2005-) <>

The ongoing digitization of source material all over the world does — in theory at least — enable a more thorough verification of the previously published lists and compilations and does increase the possibilities for improvements of as yet incomplete records. Community feedback furthermore allows for a more speedy correction of mistakes, that in earlier printed sources could not have been corrected as easily.