Mediterranean Anarchy, Interstate War, and the Rise of Rome

Mediterranean Anarchy, Interstate War, and the Rise of Rome

Mediterranean Anarchy, Interstate War, and the Rise of Rome

Mediterranean Anarchy, Interstate War, and the Rise of Rome

Synopsis

This ground-breaking study is the first to employ modern international relations theory to place Roman militarism and expansion of power within the broader Mediterranean context of interstate anarchy. Arthur M. Eckstein challenges claims that Rome was an exceptionally warlike and aggressive state--not merely in modern but in ancient terms--by arguing that intense militarism and aggressiveness were common among all Mediterranean polities from ca 750 B.C. onwards.

In his wide-ranging and masterful narrative, Eckstein explains that international politics in the ancient Mediterranean world was, in political science terms, a multipolar anarchy: international law was minimal, and states struggled desperately for power and survival by means of warfare. Eventually, one state, the Republic of Rome, managed to create predominance and a sort of peace. Rome was certainly a militarized and aggressive state, but it was successful not because it was exceptional in its ruthlessness, Eckstein convincingly argues; rather, it was successful because of its exceptional ability to manage a large network of foreign allies, and to assimilate numerous foreigners within the polity itself. This book shows how these characteristics, in turn, gave Rome incomparably large resources for the grim struggle of states fostered by the Mediterranean anarchy--and hence they were key to Rome's unprecedented success.

Excerpt

International politics in the ancient Mediterranean world was long a multipolar anarchy—a world containing a plurality of powerful states, contending with each other for hegemony, within a situation where international law was minimal and in any case unenforceable. None of these powerful states ever achieved lasting hegemony around the shores of the great sea: not Persia, not Athens, not Sparta; not Tarentum, not Syracuse, not Carthage. Alexander III the Great, the fearsome king of Macedon, might have established a permanent political entity encompassing the entire Mediterranean, but the conqueror of Asia died prematurely in Babylon in 323 B.C., at age 32, and the empire he had created almost immediately fell apart. During the chaos that followed Alexander’s death, several of his generals founded great territorial states themselves, Macedonian dynasties with worldwide ambitions, each in bitter competition for power with the others: the Ptolemaic regime based in Egypt; the Seleucids based in Syria and Mesopotamia; the Antigonids based in Macedon. But despite the brilliance, vigor, and ruthlessness of the founders—and the brilliance, vigor, and ruthlessness of some of their successors—none of these monarchies was ever able to establish universal domination. The world of multipolarity and unstable balances of power continued in the Mediterranean—along with the prevalence of war and the absence of international law.

PEventually, however, one state did create predominance throughout the Mediterranean world: the Republic of Rome. By the 180s B.C., al-

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