Countless hundreds of Ancient Greek city-state littered the eastern Mediterranean world from 750 B.C. to A.D. 550. The most famous were the Greek mainland city-states of Athens, Sparta, and Thebes.
GENERAL REMARKS: HANS VAN WEES — Ph.D. — Professor at University College of LondonDear Jonathan,I can indeed confirm that factional politics were a powerful element in the Greek world. The precise nature of factions is a matter of debate. They were certainly not like political parties with an institutional structure and express aims, but much more personal and temporary groupings, consisting of one or more leading men and their followers. The nature of the ties between leader and followers is debated, as is the size of factions, and the relation between political faction and broader (popular) political support. A classic study is WR Connor, The New Politicians of Fifth-Century Athens. Factional politics often erupted into violence: this is often thought to have been a typically classical phenomenon (e.g. A Lintott, Violence, Civil Strife and Revolution in the Classical Greek City), but it has recently been emphasised that the same is true of archaic Greece (e.g. S Forsdyke, Exile, Ostracism and Democracy, and my own article in the Entretiens Hardt of 2008).As for their impact on war, the most striking evidence is Aeneas Tacticus’ treatise How To Defend a City under Siege, a fourth-century work, which is almost entirely dedicated to a discussion if how one can prevent a discontented political faction from betraying the city to an enemy (rather than with discussion fortifications, artillery, etc. as one might have expected). The loss of cities through treason by one or other faction was extremely common throughout Greek antiquity.All very best wishes,Hans—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-KURT RAAFLAUB — Ph.D. – Professor at Brown UniversityDear Dr. Kolkey,I very much agree with your basic thesis. As i said, I cannotcomment on medieval or Renaissance conditions, but for the ancient world thereis a rich literature, focusing largely on Thucydides, that illuminates theseissues. The work of Josiah Ober and Barry Strauss as well as my edited volumeson War and Society in the Ancient World (1999) and War and Peace in the AncientWorld (2007) will offer you good starting points. Your project sounds veryinteresting and I wish you good success with it.Sincerely,Kurt Raaflaub———————————————————————————————————————————————————-RONALD MELLOR — Ph.D. Yale University – Professor at University of California, Los AngelesDear Dr. Kolkey, It is more complicated for Greece – not least because there is less evidence. I think Robert Connor and others have written on the “new politicians” of Athens who are looking at personal interests (as did the Alcmaeonid family in the earlier period). But there still seems to be more emphasis on policy – in Greek historiography: trade under the Peisistratids, democratic institutions of Cleisthenes, anti-Persian attitudes under Themistocles, democracy under Pericles, etc. But scholars also have been deconstruction those ideologies while looking for personal interest. Some recent writers are Josiah Ober, Kurt Raaflaub, Robert Wallace, etc. who are trying to come to a deeper understanding of democracy. I hope this helps a little. Best, Ron Mellor—————————————————————————————————————————————–RICHARD WEIGEL — Ph.D. — Professor at Western Kentucky UniversityI think your thesis makes a lot of sense, first within the context of the Greek city-states and particularly in the last century of the Roman Republic. Starting with Marius’ recruitment change, you could make a case that all of the wars are at least influenced by if not directly attributable to individual, family, or “party”. It is less appropriate for the early Republic, but even in the second century some individuals could be accused of making or extending wars. The more debatable area is to what extent were the wars of the 5th-3rd centuries generated by senatorial planning. we don’t have enough documentation on most of them and a master plan of conquest is going too far, but you could find some evidence even there to support your thesis. Have you seen Arthur Eckstein’s book, Senate and General?——————————————————————————————————————————————————–MICHAEL WHITBY — Ph.D. — Professor at University of WarwickDear Jonathan,Nothing provocative, since what you are suggesting is accepted wisdom for parts of the ancient world.Best wishes,Michael Whitby————————————————————————————————————————————————JOSIAH OBER — Ph.D. – Professor at Stanford UniversityDear Dr. Kolkey,It’s not an unreasonable thesis, certainly.Let me suggest two books to you that might help you – the first is a general account of how elites have operated to dominate most states through most of history, by a Nobel prize winner in econ and two distinguished colleagues. The second remains the best treatment of factions in classical Athens.Best wishes,Josiah Ober————————————————————————————————————————————————FRANK L. HOLT — Ph.D. – Professor at University of HoustonThis is a huge topic, but a good place to start is with Herodotus’ stories about, say, the Alkmaeonid clan in Athens and also the tyrant Hippias’ role in the Persian War.Best wishes,Frank—————————————————————————————————————————————————-CLIFFORD ORWIN — Ph. D. – Professor at University of Toronto In general, there are sufficient public grounds for any feasible decision in the international sphere to permit a party to confuse in good conscience its interests with that of the city as a whole. According to Aristotle, this is the rule in political life (not that parties are simply indifferent to the common good, but that their view of it is skewed according to their interests), and Thucydides appears to agree with him.With best wishes,C.O.One slight reservation – Dear Dr. Kolkey,I have addressed this issue throughout my book on Thucydides, so I won’t address it in detail here. I will say that certainly Thucydides presents domestic political considerations, and within these factional ones, as playing an important role in almost every decision regarding war or peace undertaken by any of the cities in the course of the war. (A possible exception: the initial Spartan decision to go to war against Athens.) At the same time, I doubt that he would agree that any of these decisions could be reduced entirely to such considerations, except in cases where the very survival of a regime depended on its throwing itself into the embrace of one or the other combatants, or in those of extreme personal corruption (i.e., Cleon). In general, there are sufficient public grounds for any feasible decision in the international sphere to permit a party to confuse in good conscience its interests with that of the city as a whole. According to Aristotle, this is the rule in political life (not that parties are simply indifferent to the common good, but that their view of it is skewed according to their interests), and Thucydides appears to agree with him.With best wishes,C.O.——————————————————————————————————————-BARRY STRAUSS – Ph. D. – Professor at Cornell UniversityDr. Kolkey,I wrote about the interplay of factional politics and foreign policy in my first book, Athens After the Peloponnesian War: Class, Faction and Policy 403-386 B.C. (1987), especially in the first chapter. You might find it worthwhile to have a look. The discussion there should allow you to form your own conclusions.Best wishes,Barry Strauss———————————————————————————————————————————-VICTOR HANSON — Ph.D. – Professor at California State University, FresnoI think if you look at an edited volume on the polis (replete with references to his own articles) by Kurt Raaflaub and MH Hansen (Polis) , almost all your questions are discussedDonald Kagan (his four volume history of the Peloponnesian War) caused a storm in the 1970s by saying that factions accounted for various war/ no war positions among the Greek city-states. For a while MI Finley said there were no such things, no parties, no political affiliations, just “statuses” based on a neo-Marxist idea of economic affinities (he reprinted that article about a zillion times in various anthologies).tons have been written on Thucydides’ use of ‘prophasis’ (pretext) and ‘aitia’ (the real reason) of going to war, the so-called realist cynical school that follows him in believing the apparent reason for going to war is always not the real reason,good luck!vdh——————————————————————————————————————————-CRAIGE B. CHAMPION – Ph.D. – Professor at Syracuse UniversityDear Jonathan,Certainly personal ambition was an important factor in the outbreak of many wars in Greek and Roman antiquity (one need only think of the careers of Alexander the Great or Julius Caesar).For individual cases:In Roman history, the disastrous battle at Cremera in 479 BCE (Livy, 2.49-50) nearly wiped out the Fabian clan; this battle was practically a war of the Fabian clan against the Etruscan city of Veii.In Greek history, one need only think of the careers of any of the Greek tyrants of the 7th and 6th centuries BCE. See particularly the account of Periander and Thrasybulus in Herodotus. A. Andrews wrote the definitive book on Greek tyranny in English (1954).The Hellenistic monarchs (successors of Alexander) legitimated their rule by claiming their kingdoms were “spear-won territory.”But it must be said that warfare was necessary for survival in this brutal interstate environment. See A.M. Eckstein, *Mediterranean Anarchy, Interstate War, and the Rise of Rome* (Berkeley 2006), drawing on the work of Kenneth Waltz and the Realist school of International Relations theorists.I have recently published an essay on imperial citizenship myths in classical Athens and republican Rome in R.K. Balot, ed., *Blackwell’s Companion to Greek and Roman Political Thought* (2009). I attach a pdf. of this book chapter, as well as a recent article that shows that for the ancient world, your interpretation may leave out some of the historical complexities of ancient warfare.Yours,Craige Champion———————————–EDMUND BURKE – Ph.D. Tufts University – Professor at Coe CollegeDear Jonathan,I think most who work the area agree that typically hoplite wars in thearcdhaic and earlier classical periods were fought by elite, i.e. men oflanded means, over land, that the elite hoplites looked to excludenon-elite from significant participation in combat, thereby to void anyclaim that the non-elite might make for increased politicalparticipation as a consequence of their military service. W. RobertConner and Josh Ober have important articles on this. The Persian Warswere different in kind. The rules changed in the 5th century,especially during the Peloponnesian War. The Athenian navy was oared bythetes and naval warfare did not subscibe to the same set of ritualizedrules as informed hoplite combat. If I read Thucydides correctly, whatdrove the rowers in the fleet was money, the opportunity to get paid,and decisions concerning war and peace were made in the ekklesia wherethetes dominated numerically and thus decided policy. See Thucydides onthe motive for the Sicilian expedition, for instance. …I do think that in Athens, at least, it was the democratic element in the statethat was the driving force behind the going to war in the fifth century.Ed Burke
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