Drawing of a European-style throne under a baldachin
, placed on a dais
A throne is the seat of state of a potentate or dignitary, especially the seat occupied by a sovereign on state occasions; or the seat occupied by a pope or bishop on ceremonial occasions. "Throne" in an abstract sense can also refer to the monarchy or the Crown itself, an instance of metonymy, and is also used in many expressions such as "the power behind the throne". The expression "ascend (mount) the throne" takes its meaning from the steps leading up to the dais or platform, on which the throne is placed, being formerly comprised in the word's significance.
When used in a political or governmental sense, throne typically refers to a civilization, nation, tribe, or other politically designated group that is organized or governed under an authoritarian system. Throughout much of human history societies have been governed under authoritarian systems, in particular dictatorial or autocratic systems, resulting in a wide variety of thrones that have been used by given heads of state. These have ranged from stools in places such as a Africa to ornate chairs and bench-like designs in Europe and Asia, respectively. Often, but not always, a throne is tied to a philosophical or religious ideology held by the nation or people in question, which serves a dual role in unifying the people under the reigning monarch and connecting the monarch upon the throne to his or her predecessors, who sat upon the throne previously. Accordingly, many thrones are typically held to have been constructed or fabricated out of rare or hard to find materials that may be valuable or important to the land in question. Depending on the size of the throne in question it may be large and ornately designed as an emplaced instrument of a nation's power, or it may be a symbolic chair with little or no precious materials incorporated into the design.
When used in a religious sense, throne can refer to one of two distinct uses. The first use derives from the practice in churches of having a bishop or higher-ranking religious official (archbishop, Pope, etc.) sit on a special chair which in church referred to by written sources as a "throne", and is intended to allow such high-ranking religious officials a place to sit in their place of worship. The other use for throne refers to a belief among many of the world's monotheistic and polytheistic religions that the deity or deities that they worship are seated on a throne. Such beliefs go back to ancient times, and can be seen in surviving artwork and texts which discuss the idea of ancient gods (such as the Twelve Olympians) seated on thrones. In the major Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, the Throne of God is attested to in religious scriptures and teachings, although the origin, nature, and idea of the Throne of God in these religions differs according to the given religious ideology practiced.
In the west, a throne is most identified as the seat upon which a person holding the title King, Queen, Emperor, or Empress sits in a nation using a monarchy political system, although there are a few exceptions, notably with regards to religious officials such as the Pope and bishops of various sects of the Christian faith. Changing geo-political tides have resulted in the collapse of several dictatorial and autocratic governments, which in turn have left a number of throne chairs empty, however the significance of a throne chair is such that many of these thrones - such as China's Dragon Throne - survive today as historic examples of nation's previous government.
Fanciful depiction of Solomon
on his throne
Assyrian eunuchs carrying Sargon II's throne, detail of a wall relief from Khorsabad, Iraq Museum
Thrones were found throughout the canon of ancient furniture. The depiction of monarchs and deities as seated on chairs is a common topos in the iconography of the Ancient Near East.
The word throne itself is from Greek θρόνος (thronos), "seat, chair", in origin a derivation from the PIE root *dher- "to support" (also in dharma "post, sacrificial pole").
Early Greek Διὸς θρόνους (Dios thronous) was a term for the "support of the heavens", i.e. the axis mundi, which term when Zeus became an anthropomorphic god was imagined as the "seat of Zeus". In Ancient Greek, a "thronos" was a specific but ordinary type of chair with a , a high status object but not necessarily with any connotations of power. The Achaeans (according to Homer) were known to place additional, empty thrones in the royal palaces and temples so that the gods could be seated when they wished to be. The most famous of these thrones was the throne of Apollo in Amyclae.
The Romans also had two types of thrones- one for the Emperor and one for the goddess Roma whose statues were seated upon thrones, which became centers of worship.
The word "throne" in English translations of the Bible renders Hebrew כסא kissē'.
The Pharaoh of the Exodus is described as sitting on a throne (Exodus 11:5, 12:29), but mostly the term
refers to the throne of the kingdom of Israel, often called the "throne of David" or "throne of 1 Kings 10:18-20:
"Moreover the king made a great throne of ivory, and overlaid it with the best gold.. The throne had six steps, and the top of the throne was round behind: and there were stays on either side on the place of the seat, and two lions stood beside the stays.
And twelve lions stood there on the one side and on the other upon the six steps: there was not the like made in any kingdom."
In the Book of Esther (5:3), the same word refers to the throne of the king of Persia.
The god of Israel himself is frequently described as sitting on a throne, referred to outside of the Bible as the Throne of God, in the Psalms, and in a vision Isaiah (6:1), and notably in Isaiah 66:1, YHWH says of himself "The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool" (this verse is alluded to by Matthew 5:34-35).