open/close all folders
- In the Elseworlds comic Superman: Red Son, Lex Luthor convinces the Soviet-raised Superman to stop controlling the Earth and forms a new world government of scientists, artists, writers, and philosophers. This government ushers the human race into a new age of prosperity, all revolving around a cult of Luthor.
- Things to Come: The H. G. Wells-scripted 1936 film ended with a society run entirely on the principle of scientific progress, in which humanity has cured the common cold before heading to the Moon(!)
- The Jedi from Star Wars, while not technically rulers, certainly exert enough power over the Old Republic to fulfil this trope to some extent.
- Played uber-straight in the 1978 Superman: The Movie, in which the scientist Jor-El acts as judge and juror in the banishment of Zod.
- Nineteen Eighty-Four: Subverted. The philosophy embraced by the ruling party is a brutal kind of nihilism, expressed through openly evil totalitarianism, which O'Brien explains is their entire goal, rather than justifying it by some higher ideal as say Communists or Nazis did (whom he speaks of contemptuously).
- Gore Vidal's Julian is a sympathetic depiction of an actual Roman Emperor with philosophical interests and his tragic attempts to live by it.
- The Republic: The Trope Namer.
- Plato was the main inspiration for Giovanni Gentile, the philosopher behind fascism. It can be said the Fascist Italy was Plato's utopia Gone Horribly Right.
- The Restaurant at the End of the Universe: The novel by Douglas Adams, features the Ruler of the Universe, a man who has so utterly embraced solipsism that he views both memory and future events as unreal, and anything outside the closed door of his shack as purely hypothetical. Thus he is completely surprised by his surroundings every day, and continuously makes discoveries, such as the ability to put pencil to paper, that most people would assume you only need to make once. This makes him the perfect person to exercise power, since he has absolutely no preconceptions about anything, and the six people who ultimately control the Universe first come to him for advice before enacting anything.
- In the original radio scripts, after the Vogons take over the Galactic Civil Service, the philosophers who had previously managed the Galaxy were sent to the Tax Return Office to lick stamps.
- While not "royalty", Professor Albus Dumbledore from Harry Potter fits this trope perfectly. He "rules" over Hogwarts under a laissez-faire, hands-off approach as part of an effort to teach the students (Harry especially) about perseverance, self-reliance and resilience. He uses his pensieve to search through his own memories and study the psychology of evil. He even possesses the Socratic idea of self-knowledge, as he is fully aware that even he is not immune to the corruptible influence of power, having turned down the offer of becoming Minister several times for this very reason, all traits befitting Plato's definition of the philosopher-ruler.
- From A Song of Ice and Fire is Stannis Baratheon, along with Tyrion, is one of the best read and most introspective aristocrats in the entire series. His conversations with Davos Seaworth and Jon Snow, features him discoursing at length on what being a ruler means, certain ideas of justice and how it applies to the situation and context at hand. He keeps reminding everyone, including his treacherous brother Renly and others, that Kings are supposed to be lonely, and distant, since it's impossible for anyone with that much power and responsibility to have true equals, and its a burden that he wears heavily. Ironically he is one of the most disliked men in the realm and perceived as an Evil Overlord. Stannis isn't quite there early in the books, however after his defeat at the Blackwater by the Lannisters and the Tyrells comes round to a better way of thinking.
Live Action TV
- The Time Lords of Doctor Who were a perfect example of this trope; their society was divided into Colleges or Chapters, and every Time Lord is sorted into one or the other by the age of eight. The Doctor, The Master and The Rani all belonged to the same college, the Prydonians, known for producing manipulators and renegades.
- Existential Comics, pictured in the trope image, parodies this, depicting Plato as the ruler of a small city state. He rules the city as if he were participating in one of his famous dialogues, responding to an invasion by trying to get the messenger to define "justice" and "army." Naturally, it ends with him getting stabbed through the gut.
- Dexter's Laboratory: In the TV Movie Ego Trip, we see a future in which Dexter's technology has created a utopia, with himself as a kind of benevolent dictator.
- Equestria in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is ruled by Princesses who must undergo rigorous academic training before assuming the title, attaining a level of understanding in magic far beyond what is expected for the lower orders.
- Princess Bubblegum in Adventure Time also fits this trope, as she divides her time between scientific experimentation and ruling her kingdom.
- The closest thing the Gummi Bears have to a leader, Zummi, is also the keeper of their lore and magic (although to be fair he didn't know about any of it until the start of the series)
- Marcus Aurelius probably fits this trope best, as he was considered one of the five "Good Emperors" of Rome by Niccolò Machiavelli and was also a highly respected Stoic philosopher.
- Saint Alfonso X el Sabio (the Wise), King of Castile (112-1284), the patron saint of scientists and scholars.
- Emperor Julian, known as "The Apostate", actually wore the Philosopher's Beard (i.e. the Roman hipster fashion) and wrote satires defending it. He also wrote several learned tracts defending Hellenism and criticizing Christianity. As an Emperor he sought to revive Hellenistic cults and make it a popular religion, and better defend antiquity from the influence of Christianity. He has been a Christian previously, hence his "apostate" title.
- The Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten, father of Tutenkamen, is often considered by historians and scholars to be the first monotheist, a man who abjured the Ancient Gods of Egpt, in favor of worshiping the Sun God Aten who is one. He changed his name Amenhotep to Akhenaten, created a new city Akhetaten (located today at Amarna) and promoted a program of aristic revolution. The art from his reign shows human figures with greater realism, and even portrays the Pharoah and his family in domestic settings rather than the frozen Godlike beings of the hieroglyphs and tombs. Letters from his regime and the prayer to the Sun God authored by the Pharoah have survived and are set to song by Philip Glass. Upon his death, all his programs and initiatives were overturned, but some argue that he inspired other monotheistic religions, such as Judaism.
- At first, Ashoka was nowhere near this trope; but then he got sick of war and became a great ruler, particularly noted for religious tolerance and the promotion of learning and trade. Under his rule, the great Buddhist conferences and the schism between Hinayana and Mahayana took place and his actions led to missionary activity and proselytizing of Buddhism in neighboring countries. Ashoka's pillars and rock edicts reflect a monarch who wanted to have a confessional relationship with his subjects, given that it's the only record in history of a ruler admitting to his war crimes and preserving it for historical memory.
- The Mughal Emperor Akbar was illiterate but he was fascinated by religion and enjoyed hanging out with intellectuals. Under his reign, he promoted a concept called "Din-E-Ilahi" which was a personal and elitist religion that recognized multiple faiths, syncretized elements from Hinduism and Islam, was hammered out by debates in the palace which the Emperor attended...and which did not long survive his reign.
- Ideally, the Emperors of China were expected to follow the teachings of Confucius; whether they did or not largely determined how the (Confucian) historians would later treat them.
- Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan is a unique example, subverting the "king" part rather than the "philosopher" part. He was the first Vice President of India and its second President. He was also a professor of philosophy and remains one of the most distinguished scholars on Hinduism and comparative religion in the world. He notably embodied the spirit of the trope, as he described democracy not as parliamentary institutions, but as "rule by moral standards."
- King Solomon of ancient Israel and Biblical fame, who is the most renowned for his wisdom. His cunning in resolving a dilemma has become a trope in itself. Traditionally he was considered the author of several books in The Bible: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon and Wisdom Of Solomon, by far the most philosophical of any in the text. Of course, modern historians find little evidence of Solomon's life outside Biblical texts (which were written long after the fact), so to what degree this really was the case may be forever unknown.
- King James I of England was a brilliant scholar, writing extensively on political philosophy, theology, and even occultism. It's unknown if he contributed, but he did sponsor the biblical translation that bears his name. Notably, he did a lot of philosophizing about being a king, systematically defending the divine right of kings and an absolute monarchy. He also encouraged this behavior in his Basilikon Doron, asserting that a good king would be well-read in the Bible and well-studied in mathematics, the common law, and world history.