Saturday, September 13, 2008

History of Peace Plans from Antiquity to the Modern Era

[I have written this for next week's UPA discussion on the same topic]

History of Peace from Antiquity to the Christian Era
by Ryan Haecker

Perpetual Peace Attempts in Antiquity:

Internecine warfare was endemic to the Greek world throughout the recorded history. The first attempt at an intercity organization to arbitrate disputes was the Amphictyonic League(600BC-200AD) which was founded as a religious organization to host the Olympic games. The League doctrine established rules of conduct in wartime. After the Persian Wars(498-448BC), and the subsequent collapse of the Greek Alliance, the Athenians rallied the Ionian Greeks and created the Delian League; a multi-state federations founded with the expressed purpose of fighting the Persian Empire. The league was slowly transformed into a despotic Athenian Empire. The Delian league would clash with the multi-state alliance called the Peloponnesian League led by Sparta during the 27 year long Peloponnesian War. The first representative federal league was the Boeotian League(371-335BC) which was founded by the Thebans and the surrounding peoples of Boetia. The Boeotian League extended suffrage to all members of the Hoplite class, created a common market with common coinage, and established a assembly with representatives from all 11 districts of Boeotia. The Boeotian League scored an initial success with the utter defeat of Sparta at the Battle of Luectra(371BC) but was ultimately unmade after the sack of Thebes(335BC) by Alexander the Great.

Despite the end of Greek independence after the conquest of Greece by the Macedonians, Ancient writers continued to hope that a monolithic state could bring about world peace. The Athenian orator Isocrates (436–338 BC) dreamed of uniting all Greek peoples under a single ruler, who would then redirect the martial energies of the Greek peoples against the Persian barbarians:

“I am about to advise you to stand at the head of a Greek alliance and lead a Greek campaign against the barbarians[Persians]” -Letter from Isocrates to Phillip II

His hope was fulfilled in the year of his death when Phillip II united all of Greece under the Macedonian dominated Corinthian League(338BC). His 19 year old son Alexander III would later go on to conquer the majority of the known world(334-323BC). However the wars of the “Diadochi”(322-281BC), the successors of Alexander, would end all hope of a universal kingdom. Greek power would become increasingly fragmented during the Hellenistic period until the final conquest of the eastern Mediterranean by the Roman Republic(71-31BC). Many Greeks still hoped that the Roman Empire would bring about world peace, and for two centuries, from the triumph of Augustus to the assassination of Commodus(27BC-180AC), the Roman world enjoyed an unprecedented era of peace and prosperity which historians call the “Pax Romana”(the Roman Peace). But this peace proved to be despotic, increasing the disparity of wealth and impoverishing the great majority of the empire. Eventually the empire would sink into desolation and ruin and the peace projects of antiquity would be forgotten.

Perpetual Peace attempts in the Christian Era:

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.”—Luke 6:27-31

After the conversion of Constantine at the Battle of Milvian Bridge(312BC) and the subsequent conversion of the Roman World to the Christian faith when Theodosius I proclaimed Christianity the religion of the Roman Empire(380), many Christian's hoped that as the Empire became increasingly Christian, war would cease to haunt their daily lives. But despite the pacific message of the Christian faith, war would remain endemic to human existence despite the best intentions of the faithful. With the realization that warfare could not be wholly avoided, St. Augustine of Hippo(354-430AD) formulated theories of Just War by which Christian princes should govern.

In the darkest years after the collapse of Roman power in the western world, Monasticism developed as a means of escaping from internecine strife and protesting the social and political oppression of the times. Monastic orders such as the Benedictines and Augustinians sought to achieve spiritual tranquility in a time when peace between kingdoms was unattainable.

During the Middle Ages, the Catholic church, the Western World's greatest international institution, attempted to, like the Amphictionic League, set standards for the just conduct of war. The “Pax Die” or Peace of God (989AD-) movement was one of the ways that the Catholic Church attempted to Christianize and pacify the feudal structures of society through non-violent means. Begun in the year 989AD at the Synod of Charroux, local clergy would issue proclamations which granted peasants, clergy, women, and children immunity from civil strife. Excommunication would be the punishment for an offender who attacked or robbed the defenseless. “Treuga Dei” or the Truce of God were days set aside in which violence would not be permitted. Papal and episcopal arbitration settled countless disputes; and just-war legal and some theological thought affirmed rights of individual conscience and popular consensus against war.

During the Renaissance, humanist scholars like Sir Thomas More hoped that the spread of the Gospel through printmaking would bring about an end to war. Franciscan friars like Bartolomé de las Casas attempted to restrain the imperial excesses of the Spanish conquistadors and worked for peace and justice for the Mexican Natives. A French political writer named Émeric Crucé(1590-1648AD) hypothesized in a work on international relations in which he envisaged an international body which would gather the representatives of the Princes of Europe to meet in Venice with the task of resolving disputes among nations. In his “Permanent Peace Congress”, Crucé envisaged a federally united Europe with a uniform standard of weights and measures, a common currency, and free trade.

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1 comment:

John said...

The problem with the idea of peace coming through the spread of any idea is that there is an inherent contradiction in the basic argument. If for instance Christianity spread to all of the world and there were only religion, conflict would arise from the next margin, maybe between races, or classes, etc. This will always occur because resources are not infinite, so wars exist as a form of rationing devices.