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Peace Movements in Greek and Roman Antiquity

A survey of the question of peace movements in the ancient Greek and Roman worlds.
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  1 Peace Movements in Greek and Roman Antiquity Craige B. Champion WORD COUNT: 8000 Throughout Greek and Roman antiquity, interstate warfare was constant, and peace movements usually concerned temporary cessation of hostilities, addressed particular two-party conflicts (often by means of third-party arbitration), and imposed peace terms of limited duration. 1  Aside from lofty and illusory utopian visions found in literature, strains of which we may detect in Aristophanic comedy, peace initiatives were never peace movements in the sense of serious attempts to bring about a permanent universal peace as the inviolable order of things. Jaundiced (Neo)-Realists could argue that classical Greek and Roman antiquity offers nothing new in this regard, but simply gives us prototypes for human history as it has played itself out in subsequent centuries. Human societies have been free from war only in the constructions of fanciful dreamers or in theories driven by tendentious politico-cultural agenda, such as the “New Age” archaeologist Marija Gimbutas’ fantasy of a peaceful, ecologically-attuned, communally-agricultural Old Europe centered on the worship of a pre-Indo-European Mother Goddess. Sober scholars are less optimistic. As Michaela Kostial has reminded us, there were 159 wars worldwide in the roughly forty-year period between the end of World War II and 1984, for an average of some four new wars each year. 2  Yet some present-day social scientists and public 1  For third-party arbitration in ancient Greece, see S.L. Ager,  Interstate Arbitration in the Greek World, 337-90 B.C.  (Berkeley 1996). 2  M. Kostial, Kriegerisches Rom? Zur Frage von Unvermeidbarkeit und Normalität  Militärischer Konflikte in der römischen Politik (Stuttgart 1995) 25 and note 70.  2 intellectuals continue to ignore brutal facts such as these and generally consider war to be a gruesome abnormality, an international disease, and a perversion of the natural order of things. In early Greece, “Peace,” or  Eirene , was personified as a goddess. She was said to be one of the  Horai , or daughters of Zeus and Themis. Her sisters were “Justice,” or  Dike , and “Good Governance,” or  Eunomia . 3  As early as Homer  Eirene  was paired with “Wealth,” or Ploutos . 4  In Athens, Kimon, hero of the Persian Wars, celebrated his resounding naval victory over the Persians at the Eurymedon river with a statue and altar of  Eirene , an early example of the goddess’ public cult. In early Greek cultural representations, then, “Peace” was a desideratum and a state of affairs worthy of receiving personified deification. In terms of peace movements broadly conceived, we can pause to consider invocations of  Eirene  in the civic education of public dramatic performances at Athens. Euripides’ Trojan Women , for example, first performed in 415 BCE , is a savage indictment of the Athenian atrocity committed on the tiny island of Melos in the preceding year, but we are justified in also seeing it more generally as a repudiation and condemnation of the Athenian war then raging against Sparta and its allies. Aristophanes’  Eirene , produced in 421 BCE , had earlier urged an end to the war, and it both reflected and generated public sentiment that led to the formal but short-lived truce in that year, brokered by the Athenian general Nicias. While it is wise to mention literary objections to war such as these in our consideration of peace movements, their actual influence was minimal. The examples we have considered from Euripides and Aristophanes conform to the general pronouncement made at the outset: they primarily advocated the end of hostilities in a particular two-party conflict, not 3   Hesiod, Theogony  901-902; Pindar, Ol y mpian  13.6–8.   4  Homer, Odyssey  24.486. In the Athenian agora, Kephisodotos’ statue depicted  Eirene  with Ploutos  as a boy on her arm was on display after the peace of 375 BCE  (Philochoros in FGrH   328 F 151; Cornelius Nepos, Timotheus  2; Pausanias, 1.8.2).  3 any sort of plan for an everlasting, universally peaceful humanity. On this last point the plot of Aristophanes’  Birds , performed in 414 BCE  at the City Dionysia and staged shortly after the launching of the disastrous Sicilian Expedition, is instructive. Two middle-aged Athenian men, tired of the bustle of the city, decide to retire to the countryside in search of a more tranquil, peaceful mode of life. But soon they find themselves scheming to create an airy embargo by the birds, which could block interchanges between mortals and gods. What started off as a quest for tranquility and peace ends up as a grandiose plan for an empire of the sky. There is no help for it—Athenians will be Athenians, and Greeks will be Greeks. Unfortunately, as we shall see, peace movements in Greek and Roman antiquity, if we can even think of such a thing, were about as effective as the search for a peaceful and contemplative solitude of Pisthetaerus and Euelpides, the protagonists of Aristophanes’  Birds . Albert Einstein once made a suggestion for understanding his own colleagues: “If you want to find out anything from the theoretical physicists about the methods they use, I advise you to stick closely to one principle: Don’t listen to their words, fix your attention on their deeds.” 5  Following Einstein’s cue, we can posit that pride of place in thinking about peace movements in antiquity must go to the actual behavior of Greeks and Romans in interstate relations. But there is good reason for beginning our consideration of peace movements in ancient Greece and Rome with idealizations and fantasies of ancient literary texts, if we frame our study within present-day scholarly debates on the nature of interstate relations. This is because a trend in recent scholarship on the questions of peace, war, and international diplomacy, which we could label as the Constructivist School of Interstate Relations, emphasizes ideological constructions (such as the ancient literary texts with which we began) as engines for actual political, diplomatic, and 5  A. Einstein, The World As I See It   (New York 1949, repr. 1956) 30.  4 military behavior on the part of sovereign states. This approach is in sharp contrast and opposition to the older Realist/Neo-Realist School, whose modern founder is Kenneth Waltz and honorary ancient exemplar is Thucydides (and to lesser extent, Polybius), which attempts to undertake a no-nonsense, empirical analysis of interstate dynamics and the underlying structures of interstate systems. To simplify, Constructivists see ideological productions as shaping and directing international realities; (Neo)-Realists see a brutal, zero-sum game, whose default condition is international anarchy, in which ideology merely follows and reflects the dictates of raw international power relations and hierarchies. The Constructivist School is characterized by greater optimism. If we can use more pacific and conciliatory discourses in our international political rhetoric, the theory goes, we can hope that the very terms in which our discourses are couched will have salutary and peaceable outcomes in the actual unfolding of world political events and the global issues we all are facing. The (Neo)-Realist School is more deterministic and pessimistic, not allowing scope for the ameliorative powers of words and ideas over behaviors. Let us consider some recent work in ancient Greek and Roman history within this framework. In a brief article on “Peace” in the award-winning Wiley-Blackwell’s  Encyclopedia of Ancient History , Martin Dreyer writes, “It is now generally accepted that, for an ancient state, peace was the desired normal relation to all other states, which could be interrupted by a declaration of war or by the beginning of war. The limitation in time of many peace treaties to five, ten, thirty, or fifty years, which used to be regarded as proof of the precarious and exceptional character of these treaties, presupposes a developed juridical concept.” 6  This 6  Dreyer cites B. Bravo, “Sylân : représsailles et justice privée contre des étrangers dans les cités grecques  ,” Annali della Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa, Cl. di Lettere e Filosofia 3.10 (1980) : 675  –  987; and A. Gräber, “ Friedensvorstellung und Friedensbegriff bei den Griechen bis  5 statement suggests that Dreyer may fall into the Constructivist camp. For an in-depth study of ancient Greece utilizing this approach, we can turn to Polly Low’s 2007 monograph,  Interstate  Relations in Classical Greece: Morality and Power  . In that work, Low suggests that in classical Greece there existed “a developed normative framework, visible in a range of ancient sources, which shapes both the conduct and the representation of interstate relations.” 7  Both international law—to the extent that it existed—and conventional diplomatic expectations, undergirded by traditional moral precepts, encompassed multiple normative systems--panhellenism, ethnicity, ideological commonalities, kinship politics, reciprocity, and  philia , all of which statesmen employed in accordance with the rhetorical and diplomatic demands of the moment. For Roman history, Paul Burton has taken a similar line of approach in his 2011 book, Friendship and  Empire: Roman Diplomacy and Imperialism in the Middle Republic (353-146  BC  ) . Burton takes the power of diplomatic language seriously as being capable of directing and shaping outcomes in interstate relations. “Perhaps the most important normative expectation of personal friendship across cultures and across time is that friends must trust each other, as comparative scholarly research and popular surveys alike reveal. In the absence of any formal constraints (such as  juridical law), friendship relies on a culturally shared notion of a compact of trust for its practice and efficacy.” 8  As this passage suggests should be the case, the Roman diplomatic term that demands most of Burton’s attention is amicitia , or “friendship.” In seeing Roman diplomatic conceptions and practices as echoes of Roman social relations, Burton’s study has affinities with Ernst Badian’s 1958 classic, Foreign Clientelae . But while Badian believed that Romans used zum Peloponnesischen Krieg,”  Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte,  Romanistische Abteilung 109 (1992)   116  –  61 .   7  P. Low,  Interstate Relations in Classical Greece: Morality and Power   (Cambridge 2007) 3. 8  P.J. Burton,  Friendship and Empire: Roman Diplomacy and Imperialism in the Middle  Republic (353-146 B.C.)  (Cambridge 2011) 39.
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