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The Strength of the Vizier - A Lesson of Influence

Updated on March 8, 2013

Hammurabi, the King of Babylon, trained his son from the age of 3 in leadership preparation. The Prince developed into the firm but wise commander of the Western Army by the age of 23, but his learning was far from complete even then.

10 years earlier, during the victory celebration of a 4 year campaign against the Persians, the Prince sat with his mentor, General Abisare. The Prince smiled as he watched the festivities; the fire roared, blazing hot in the night, and the servants danced in a circle around it, laughing in the presence of the clapping officers. Dogs snarled over a bone at the edge of the circle, and the young soldiers embraced their wives and lovers.

Men of Skill and Wisdom

His eyes drifted to the men he admired most: Naplanum sat gazing into the fire, the deep pool of his eyes lost in thought. He was the Master of Arms, and the organizer of all training.

Marduk, the Head of Diplomacy stood tall and noble, clapping his large hands with a smile beginning to creep over his face.

Gulkishar was already drunk and danced merrily, arm in arm with the servant girls. His wisdom in the field of siege machinery and tactics had earned him a permanent pardon for his love of wine, and he was a lighthearted drunk besides.

A perplexed expression furrowed on the Prince’s brow as his gaze settled upon Sumuel, the Vizier of the Kingdom. Sumuel was powerfully built, but modest, almost humble in appearance. He did not dress up to the occasion with gold, precious stones, and fine clothing like the others, but the men flocked around him, speaking to him eagerly but respectfully, appreciative as he met their conversation on equal ground.

The Question

‘Master, I understand that Naplanum can train hound and man alike in any manner of warfare, and that Marduk can charm the above and more besides. Gulkishar can assemble and maneuver his weaponry blindfolded, probably even now after his wine, but Sumuel… what is his value? He is not of royal blood. His speech is acceptable but far from beguiling - and his knowledge? I have heard no man commend the agility of his mind as they do about you, or the power of his javelin. Why is he second in command to my father?’

The General nodded silently, drawing from his pipe twice before answering.


The Strength of Sumuel the Vizier

‘Young Prince, the Vizier has strengths that these men all understand and respect, but have no name to put to it. They – we, know under the surface of our thoughts that without his rank he is still the most powerful of us all, though it will be hard to show you why.”

The General puffed again on his pipe, scratching his beard in thought, then he nodded his head again, turning to the Prince.

‘When we sleep tonight it will seem but a moment before the sun shines on our faces. The sun that wakes us does many other things we often fail to notice. Think of the plants; the sun does not command them, or wilt them as punishment, but he gives his light freely. The rays of light he shines on them bring life, and the plants turn gratefully to their giver. This is how the Sumuel became noticed, despite his common blood, and this is how he continues.’

The General then stood and pointed to the temple.

‘What is it that keeps this temple from collapsing?’

The Prince thought, then answered quickly.

‘The columns hold it together!’

‘Yes, and if I asked you whether this temple or my house would last longer, what would you say?’

‘The temple of course!’

‘And why?’

‘Because Nur-Adad is the greatest architect who ever lived; he shames even the wise men with his knowledge of mathematics! The temple is his masterpiece.’

The General smiled.

‘Now you’ll understand why Sumuel is Vizer of the Kingdom. A temple is made of many parts, and you’re right, the pillars keep it from collapsing. But what makes it a masterpiece is not the foundation or the pillars, but the craftsmanship; the detail of the measurements, the skillful mathematics.

This army and the Kingdom has many parts like the temple, and the men you admire are the pillars. But pillars do not place themselves.

Now who do you think the craftsman is?’

The Prince’s eye’s followed Sumuel as he walked with the people, and a new understanding solidified in his mind.



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