International Relations in the Ancient Near East, 1600-1100 B.C.

By Mario Liverani | Go to book overview
Save to active project

The Rules of War

The gap between the theological view of war as trial by ordeal and the practical conduct of military operations is filled by an ideological but secular view of war. Like any social activity, war has to follow accepted rules in order to be a constitutive rather than disruptive feature of the overall socio-political order. The unavoidable destruction of war affects single elements in the system, not the system itself. If the rules are followed, the stability of the civilized world is not prejudiced; people who do not follow the rules are disqualified from membership they are barbarians.

The rules of war are rules of speech as well as rules of action: what to say is as important as how to act. These rules are linked both to the theological evaluation of war (trial by ordeal) and to its tactical/material practice. Their purpose is twofold: to demonstrate that we are right, and to win. The model war must be righteous (according to the theological norm), correct (conducted according to the rules) and, of course, victorious. The system is coherent: no victory is possible in the absence of proper conduct and a just cause. The defeated peoples are either barbarians, unaware of rules and justice; or they are nominally members of civilized society but in fact in the actual circumstances of this war sinful or unwilling to observe the rules.

War is a legal procedure and not a mere search for material advantages. As a result, the rules tend to put the contenders on the same level, to provide both of them with the same chances of victory this being determined by righteousness, courage and personal valour. Ruse and fraud are not a constitutive element of the paradigm of war among civilized peoples. As with any game or other form of contest, 1 a fair war, and its climax in the pitched field-battle, has to take place in a delimited space, at a fixed time, according to equivalent if not identical moves and balanced


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
International Relations in the Ancient Near East, 1600-1100 B.C.


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 241

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?