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Reviewed by:
  • War and Peace in the Ancient World
  • Craig H. Caldwell III
War and Peace in the Ancient World. Edited By Kurt A. Raaflaub . Malden, Mass: Blackwell Publishing, 2007. ISBN 978-1-4051-4526-8. Notes. References. Index. Pp. xii, 385. $39.95.

Introducing this volume of conference and colloquia proceedings, Kurt Raaflaub states that the editor's challenge is the search for commonalities visible within diverse ancient cultures. Insofar as the range of contributions spans China, India, west Asia, the Mediterranean, and Mesoamerica and ranges in time from the second millennium BC to the eighteenth century AD, the collection also challenges the reviewer to make any general observations rather than commenting on its usefulness to specialists in various historical subfields. Several important approaches, however, are apparent in this work of comparative premodern history.

A focus on the terminology of war and peace is central to the contributions of Richard Beal on the Hittites, Richard Saloman on India, Benjamin R. Foster on Mesopotamia, David Konstan and Victor Alonso on Greece, Carlin A. Barton on Rome, and Louis J. Swift on Christians in the Roman Empire. According to Beal, the Hittite gods enforced their worshippers' elaborate peace treaties like judges ruling on contracts. In the sources of ancient India, Saloman distinguishes peace as an internal concept, not one found in the wider world. The dissonant attributes of the goddess Ishtar imply the conflict inherent to the Mesopotamian worldview in Foster's study. Konstan considers the differences in Greek literature between military opponents and personal enemies, with the attendant possibilities for noble courtesy or horrible revenge, while in the international relations of classical Greece, Alonso charts the evolution of new general treaties that replaced the older limited-duration peace agreements. According to Barton, the Romans of the Republic wrote about peace as a dangerous and enervating state, and only the civil wars introduced the serene meaning of peace that became the imperial Pax Romana. Swift notes the persistence of the ideology, if not the practice, of pacifism in Christian sources from the first to the fifth centuries.

The techniques of making war and peace are the subject of Robin D. S. Yates on early China, Lanny Bell on the Egyptians and Hittites, Josef Wiesehöfer on pre-Islamic Iran, Nathan Rosenstein on Rome, Fred M. Donner on the early Islamic empire, Ross Hassig on the Aztecs, Catherine Julien on the Inca, and Neta C. Crawford on the Iroquois. In Yates's view, the state of Qin succeeded in uniting China through an imposed peace that linked Heaven, Earth, and Man through a harsh code of laws. An extraordinary treaty described by Bell enabled peace and some cooperation between the pharaohs of Egypt and the Hittite empire. Wiesehöfer summarizes the various means of war and peace practiced by the Achaemenids, Parthians, and Sassanians in Persia. Rosenstein's Romans were experts at crafting a peace that would reconcile former enemies to their subordinate status and make them into loyal allies. Donner probes the ambivalence of the practice of jihad with its command to make war on God's behalf, but in a charitable way. In Hassig's world of the Aztecs, only hierarchies provided peace within the state, and external warfare benefited everyone, in contrast to Julien's view that the Inca empire brought formalized war and peace to the Andes [End Page 1217] where only local disputes seem to have existed earlier. Crawford asserts that the Iroquois League maintained a long-term peace based on a common history, not a balance of power.

Taken together, the contributions provide a diverse array of perspectives on ancient warfare and peacemaking. Regrettably, the sections on non-Mediterranean topics seem least connected to the remainder of the volume. They are useful introductions to their subjects, while readers may discern connections across this truly global ancient world that could not be discussed in the individual contributions.



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pp. 1217-1218
Launched on MUSE
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Archive Status
Archived 2010
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