Democracy's Ancient Ancestors examines the political landscape of the ancient Near East through the archive of over 3000 letters found in the royal palace of Mari. These letters display a rich diversity of political actors, encompassing major kingdoms, smaller states and various tribal towns. Mari's unique contribution to the ancient evidence is its view of tribal organization, made possible especially by the fact that its king Zimri-Lim was first of all a tribal ruler, who claimed Mari as an administrative base and source of prestige. These archaic political traditions are not essentially unlike the forms of pre-democratic Greece, and they offer fresh reason to recognize a cultural continuity between the classical world of the Aegean and the older Near East. This book bridges several areas of interest, including archaeology, ancient and classical history, early Middle and Near East, and political and social history.