Site Loader
Rock Street, San Francisco

War is a way to exercise power. Today, nations cannot defend themselves without developed militaries. They often fight to ward off hostile regimes or terrorist groups, but we live in a world where technology is more advanced than ever before. We have many agencies, weapons, and protocols protecting us, and with actors like the United Nations, states have committed to promoting peace. Meanwhile, if we turn back the clock a few thousand years, global affairs were hostile. War was a more prominent political and social instrument than it is today. Societies were either protecting themselves or conquering one another, and if a civilization was not strong enough to fight back, it was gone in a heartbeat. I have a difficult time understanding why people would romanticize and glorify war, but history does not align with a black and white morality. The social contexts of the time made war a necessity. It gave leaders a way to ascend the social hierarchy, and aristocrats lusted for the power that would come from each victory. This paper will be a case study examining two civilizations: Athens and Rome. Both had different ways of integrating war into their society, both used it to advance their ideologies, and they both had philosophies that influence how we conduct war today.Part 1Athenian warfare was centered around democracy. Every citizen could vote on whether to go to war. So unless the public thought they could gain something from a battle, it would not happen. Since middle-class class citizens fought in the Athenian military, the public vote mattered. Most soldiers shared the same background. This demographic represented a significant part of Greek society. So when the public agreed to go to war, they empowered the soldiers, and they ensured that each battle would unify their way of life. Athens also benefitted from having a strong navy. They equipped it with slaves, foreigners and poor citizens. In doing so, they maintained an armed ground force. Their ships meant they could defend themselves against the Persians and Spartans. Those states prioritized their foot soldiers. Meanwhile, Athenians could navigate at impressive speeds. The trireme’s design was long and narrow. This feature meant they could crash into larger, bulkier ships. With their innovative navy, Athens could protect their Mediterranean border. As a result, they controlled overseas trade, and other states had to change their tactics if they wanted to invade.The Athenian navy supplemented the role of democracy in wartime. One component of democracy is each citizen has the power to contribute, but to be an eligible ground soldier, people needed enough money to pay for their weapons. To promote equality, rowers on the trireme received guaranteed pay. As a result, poor people and foreigners were no longer excluded from the war. Now, they could fulfill their civic duty and dedicate themselves to upholding democracy. These people were the runts of the social hierarchy. Any other Greek city-state at the time would have considered them unworthy, but Athens proved that any man, despite his status, could fight on behalf of his state. Another civic duty of Athenians was to pay taxes. Athens used them to finance their military and give the oarsmen a source of income. Furthermore, it solidified the view that war was essential for politics and society. The Persians, in particular, wanted to hijack Athens’ government, but when Sparta aligned with Athens, the two were able to chase them out of Greece. Tax dollars allowed the two polises to collaborate. It also led to them developing a relationship during peacetime. Spartans would pay Athens to use their navy to prevent Persia from invading. Thus, Athens exhibited features of today’s democratic nations: negotiating and protecting allies.Athens made war a collaborative force in which everyone could join. They called upon every citizen to either vote for war efforts or take part in them, and taxes were another way of expressing loyalty. Citizens paid money for the military to protect their way of life. Now, for the most part, Athens was able to succeed thanks to their superior navy, but with democracy, citizens dedicated their voice, resources, and money to the cause. All these factors were a part of the Athenian spirit of war. They were a group of citizens wanting to protect their rights. Every nation needs a reason to fight, and I admire the Athenian cause. Athens was not competing to destroy and conquer. Instead, they were challenging traditional political and social models. They would often go to war against oligarchies and aristocracies. As such, they were defending the voice of the people. Of course, their way of structuring society was not perfect. Over time, their democratic model could not match the empires of Persia and Macedonia, but they committed themselves to allying and expanding their forces, and they provided an early template for society to have a voice in political affairs. Part 2:Romans treated warfare as a societal ritual. Leaders cemented their status through military expertise and commanding forces, serving in the army was mandatory, dying in battle was the highest honor anyone could have, and soldiers were determined to emerge victorious in every battle they started. For Rome, warfare was more than a civic duty or a way to defend their state’s pride. It was a form spiritual fortitude that motivated Roman society, and with their immense fighting spirit, Rome persevered through the darkest times. The cornerstone of Rome’s renown military came from their legion. A legion was an army comprised of farmers who were drafted to serve. Like Athens, these men had to pay for their weapons, but Rome created distinct combat units which gave their military a formidable structure. The wealthiest citizens fought in the cavalry (equities). The most impoverished citizens fought on foot (pedites). These men could not afford anything more than a shield and a spear, and they were not proficient in hand-to-hand combat. So people’s economic circumstances determined their ability to fight, and unlike Athens, Rome did not give positions to people who did not have enough money. Generals aligned their infantry subunits based on age and economic status. The weak farmers created a thin border meant to protect the stronger soldiers. They threw spears and skirmished to prevent enemy forces from getting past them. Behind them stood the hastati and the principes. These men wielded swords, and they were the primary source of offense. They arranged themselves into groups called maniples. Each maniple comprised of two sub-groups called centuries. With such an elaborate infrastructure, Roman armies could diversify their attacks. Having many groups of soldiers meant they could use different strategies. Plus, dividing them into maniples made the soldiers hard to defeat.Armed with spears, swords, and sheer will, Rome fought against the most dominant forces. Even when suffering significant casualties, they refused to quit. Other nations began realizing how persistent they were, and as a result, they did not dare to try and infiltrate them. Engaging in combat was not worth losing much of their men. So the most important weapon for the Roman’s was fear. The might of their military allowed them to expand, and they seized each opportunity to declare war. Now that they were a global power, Rome revamped their political and social structure.Rome had a voting system in which each adult male citizen could vote on laws, but compared to Athens, this was not a pure democracy. Wealthy patrons dominated the public opinions, and less prominent citizens had to oblige. Roman aristocrats considered disobeying orders to be treasonous. Plus, their vote did not count as much as the patrons. Much like in wartime, lower-tier citizens adhered to their position in society. Along with protecting them in battle, they also had to uphold the opinions of the upper class. After all, a strict order enabled their military to succeed. So the same guidelines should work in the rest of society. Moreover, Roman senators advised and debated laws that the aristocrats proposed, and they would compete with other senators to maintain their family line. Their need to gain the upper hand in office shows how hostile Roman politics were. Athenian democracy involved each citizen and official trying to be on the same page, but Roman leaders wanted to control military and become war heroes. So political power was a battle of who could lead forces to victory. Romans had to earn their status above other senators and in the eyes of the public. They wanted everyone to celebrate them and associate them with pride and glory.Part 3:The Athenian and Roman armies operated under two different social contexts. Each one allowed them to succeed in a unique way.Rome used their military to build an empire that endured for over a thousand years. They embodied imperialism better than any other nation, past or present. In doing so, they created a global identity that no one could match at the time, and they set the standard for how much power a society could wield.Historians commend Rome’s capacity to conquer, but I disagree with the social ideology that influenced them. Roman society defined merit through their military. They espoused the notion that the public praises aggressive, barbaric men. So people could only become renown if they claim territory and kill others. Albeit, I have the benefit of hindsight. My modern perspective has a different view of how states should relate to one another. I picture leaders discussing what kind of relationship they want, and military should only be used when dealing with extremist, radical views. Rome, in contrast, pursued war. They wanted reasons to battle other states, and none of the wealthy citizens or senators questioned what they were doing. Instead, they only saw the glory and the chance to become immortal. I am sure Rome was not the only nation with this hostile mentality, but I prefer a social model that isn’t as harsh. Every casualty was a person who could’ve lived a fulfilling life, and each time Rome refused to relent, they could have taken the chance to negotiate peace. I admire the never-say-die spirit of Roman soldiers and citizens, but no man should take orders from a general to blindly fulfill a political agenda. Instead, a society can gain power by giving its people a voice. Then, the public can think about why they fight and what principles they wish to uphold. With that, the social context of Athens surpasses Rome. Athenian warfare was about protecting, innovating, and unifying. When looking at the size of Athen’s territory, they do not come close to the height of Rome, but unlike Rome, they did not terrorize other civilizations or instigate conflict. Instead, warfare was a tool to defend their land and the public. Their navy kept invaders away, and they were content with having times of peace whereas Rome would seek out other battles. Plus, they found ways to conduct foreign affairs that did not involve killing anyone. The Delian League allowed Athens to negotiate peace with Persia. While it did not last, it was at least an alternative political paradigm. So despite being small, Athens was a dignified city-state. Moreover, Athenian democracy meant they would only fight if the public supported them, and the fact that ordinary citizens did most of the fighting puts wars into perspective. These people did not have fancy calvary or endless units guarding them. They were average men chosen from a draft, put in a position to die for their state. They were not fighting to preserve an aristocracy. They were fighting alongside and on behalf of their fellow man. Athens believed everyone played an equal part in building a functioning society, and their military was significant in both exercising freedom and defending it. Even the most impoverished people took part, and each fight carried a spirit of social unity.  Conclusion:We cannot relate our modern view of militaries to Greek and Roman sensibilities. Any attempt to do so is short-sighted and disingenuous, but the way they organized, romanticized and innovated warfare is still with us today. The United States inherited Rome’s desire to expand, and they copied Athens view that anyone could join the military. The phrase “history repeats itself” is more than a cliche. It is a method of combining truths of the past with new understandings, and war exemplifies that philosophy. When looking at the two societies, I lean towards Athens. I admire their principles, and from their history, we can remember how important freedom is. We must continue fighting for it the as they did. 

Post Author: admin


I'm Dora!

Would you like to get a custom essay? How about receiving a customized one?

Check it out