War, Peace, and Alliance in Demosthenes Athens

Every Athenian alliance, every declaration of war, and every peace treaty was instituted by a decision of the assembly, where citizens voted after listening to.
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The Enforcement of Morals in Classical Athens. Thucydides and the New Written Word. The Limits of Political Realism.

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War, Peace, and Alliance in Demosthenes' Athens

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A History of Battle in Classical Antiquity. The Highest Stage of Capitalism. The Funeral Oration in the Classical City. A History of Combat and Culture. On the False Embassy Oration Imperial Strategy in the Principate. Popular Religion in Greek Tragedy. In Hunt's view, assembly speeches give us an excellent opportunity to probe the diverse considerations that come into play in Athenian deliberations concerning action abroad.


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Hunt makes a good case for taking the evidence of these speeches seriously I would not go so far as to say, however, that they "were typically delivered by experts to a well-informed and interested audience" [13] , and offers reasonable guidelines for drawing on materials from other sources, including assembly speeches in the historians — these must be treated with caution, but "most historical speeches present arguments well within the mainstream of Athenian thinking" Athenian thinking concerning interstate relations, Hunt proposes, "is structured and generally coherent, but not rigorously developed or logically consistent" 13 and "many apparent contradictions between speakers — or among the speeches of a single speaker — are merely a matter of speakers placing more or less weight on different types of arguments in different circumstances" Although I find Athenian thinking in this sphere to be less systematic than Hunt suggests, his general point seems valid.

Chapter 2 argues persuasively that in the mid-fourth century, the pursuit of profit does not appear to have been the primary force driving Athenians to undertake war, to judge from deliberative speeches, in which "we hear little about material gain and a great deal about the high cost of war" Hunt acknowledges that the city's dependence on imported grain created pressure for it to use its navy to protect grain routes; this shaped the city's foreign policy, and could lead to strategic military action or negotiation of peace, but did not constitute "naval imperialism" pure and simple.

Hunt reasonably posits that rich and poor may have viewed the prospect of war differently, with rich men more concerned about the cost this might pose to them, and poorer men at least at times drawn to the potential financial gains to be had from it. Chapter 3 considers another possible "internal reason" for Athenians to be drawn to war, namely the high value Athenians placed on military prowess and service. Hunt observes that while "Athens was not particularly militaristic by the standards of its time 59 ," Athenians clearly valued military service Appendix 3 collects the frequent claims of military service made by forensic litigants , and militarism may well have "made the recourse to war appear more attractive to the Athenians" Hunt notes that, while orators addressing the Assembly usually emphasize external reasons for war rather than arguing that war will allow citizens to display virtues and earn praise, they invoke "a brand of history distorted by patriotism" that includes praise of the military virtues of their ancestors and this may have encouraged Athenians to embrace the prospect of war too readily and optimistically.

Chapter 4 advances the thesis that "the Athenians tended to place more weight on actions than on status" of states in their deliberations Hunt considers several "different categories of status-based arguments found in assembly speeches" 77 , starting with ethnicity. Hunt argues that negative representations of "barbarians" could sway audiences, but Athenians gave priority to calculations of interest and the actions of others in their deliberations. Greek polytheism and readiness to assimilate foreign gods meant that Greeks did not fight "religious wars, in the sense of a war whose purpose is to fight people and states who follow another religion" 84 ; religion and politics were, however, intertwined, as is conspicuous in the Sacred Wars over control of the sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi.

Athens' foreign policy in Demosthenes' time also "took little account of other states' political systems" 90 ; whereas fifth-century imperial Athens tended to support democracies abroad, this became less common as a matter of policy in the fourth century, though a speaker could still advocate the support of a state on this basis as Demosthenes does in On the Liberty of the Rhodians.

Finally, Hunt argues provocatively that Athenians in Demosthenes' time were inclined to view other Greek states not in hierarchical terms based on relative power but as equals, and this shaped the city's deliberations concerning relations with them. Chapter 5 argues that "The most direct, simple, and emotional appeals of Athenian war rhetoric Thus, orators goaded their audiences to embrace war so as to set themselves apart from their slaves e. While there is nothing surprising in these observations, Hunt does well to consider these as important features of deliberative oratory.

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Analyses in detail some crucial decisions in Athenian history, explaining how, but also why, these decisions were taken The first comprehensive study of the fifteen surviving Athenian assembly speeches Enriches the analysis with fresh perspectives drawn from fields such as anthropology and international relations.

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