Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern: Brussels vs Sparta

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern: Brussels vs Sparta

Article excerpt

Credit: Peter Jones

The EU is a federation of states (Latin foedus , 'treaty', from the same root as fides , 'trust, good faith'). But for how long can such a federation endure a recalcitrant member? At some stage the crunch will come, as it came for Sparta.

In 338 bc Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great, completed his conquest of the Greek city-states (poleis ) and formed them -- for the first time ever -- into a political federation. All poleis sent representatives to the Council meetings, but executive power was invested in Philip, and when he was assassinated in 336 bc, in Alexander, it was Macedon that called the shots, and that was the end of it. Its purpose was to keep the poleis weak, and foreshadowed the end of that autonomy which had been such a spur to the classical Greek achievement.

Enraged that Philip had deprived it of its border territories, Sparta refused to join this League. But Philip did nothing, calculating that Sparta could be safely left to stew in its own juice. …

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