Landlords Were The Elite of the Preindustrial Elites
Who was included in the ancient elite? Its members and size varied, of course, from place to place and time to time, but it always included government officials, priests, and army officers. In the great cities of the Hellenistic empires, wealthy merchants and businessmen were marginal members of the ruling class, or hoped to be. They were literate, rich, and powerful, and generally were accepted into the elite. The most important group within the ruling class was the landlords, whose role as suppliers of food was essential. In the ancient Near East not much was needed in the way of shelter or clothing; with a secure food supply the land could support a large population. Some of the subjects of the pharoahs might live miserably but they survived as long as the food supply was maintained. Landlords were essential in preindustrial society, and as the dominant group within the elite they set the tone of the ruling class.
— Norman F. Cantor, The Civilization of the Middle Ages, p. 8
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