ANCIENT CIVILIZATIONS           home | history

Failed Geoplitics

Alexander's father, Philip II, had united Macedonia and the Greek city-states and, with this established order, Alexander created his great empire. During the three centuries that followed Alexander's death his divided successors, the various ruling dynasties, would fail to establish a balance of power or other understandings among them. After more than a couple of centuries of warring among themselves, the divided Hellenistic states were about to be eclipsed and overpowered by a power that did create an international unity of sorts, including a large network of foreign allies. This was Rome, on the rise while the Hellenistic states were on their way down.

While the rulers of Hellenistic states were engaged in what was little more than anarchy among them and little diplomacy. There was on the city-level of politics a more sensible response to opportunity, a desire to acquired benefit from organization, order and cooperation. Cities encouraged trade with one another by eliminating or reducing import and export duties. Cities created greater freedom of movement by offering other cities exchanges of citizenship. This occurred first between Athens and Rhodes, then between the Peloponnesian cities of Messene and Phigalia. The island of Paros offered exchanges of citizenship, as did Pergamum, Temnos, Miletus and others. Common legal formalities appeared among various cities. And, in place of trial by local juries, an inter-city system developed in which commissions came from other cities to hear cases and settle lawsuits that would otherwise have been subject to local prejudices, politics and passions. Conflicts that might otherwise have erupted into war were now more inclined tobe arbitrated, with the arbiters often a commission from a third city. All this was accompanied by a rise in cosmopolitanism, or internationalism, bugaboo words that annoy those chauvinistic about their location.

The dynasties, meanwhile, were focused on holding onto, or extending their political power. They were more egoistic than they were interested in cooperation. In his book Mediterranean Anarchy, Interstate War, and the Rise of Rome, the historian Arthur M Eckstein has described these rulers as continuing to reach for the prestige and greatness associated with Alexander the Great. These rulers were, writes Eckstein, "first and foremost generalissimos. The standard public apparel of kings was that of a Macedonian soldier." They led their armies and navies into battle in person. They were imbued with the ideology of militarism, glory and competition for territory.

Diplomacy was largely for expressing ultimatums (compulsion diplomacy). Submitting to ultimatums was a sign of weakness which made one appear to be fair game for aggression. Each power was under pressure to maintain a fearsome military force. Generally, conflicts were generally settled by war. It was a rare year that war was not taking place among them.

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