Thucidides Not In The 19th Century Essay

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Thucidides, Not In The 19th Century Essay, Research Paper Jeremy Foust 10/04/98 Thucydides, Not in the 18th Century Thucydides wrote the History of the Peloponnesian War believing that it was a good picture of “the past and which (humane nature being what it is) will, at some time or other and in much the same ways, be repeated in the future.”(Thucydides 48) In this paper a comparison between the time of Thucydides and the classical balance of power in 19th century Europe will be examined. It will attempt to address the possibilities of oncoming systemic war, concepts of trust, and the earlier statement of Thucydides. Key terms that are important to this argument are Anarchy, the Security Dilemma, and the Balance of Powers. Anarchy is the system that world politics work

under: as there is no one controlling government, any state can do what ever it choose. The Security Dilemma rises out of the fear of other states building up their forces and thus becoming more of a threat to any other states. The tie between Anarchy, the Security Dilemma, and life in a sovereign state is the Balance of Powers; which “aims at primarily to preserve peace and the status quo.”(Gulick 35) Thucydides’ balance of power involved two states: Athens and Sparta. After the Persian war, Athens had become a very powerful military state, and began to assimilate the states they had recently saved in that conflict. They justified their actions by suggesting that, having won the war, they saw it as their right to become an empire. They then built walls around their new

territories and continued to increase their military power. This worried the Spartans because if Athens were to attack them it would be dificult to counter attack. Sparta, however, did not respond by building up their forces to maintain the balance. The Spartans acted slowly and tried to avoid the conflict. However, when the smaller states went to Sparta and pleaded for aid, the Spartans agreed, (for reasons described later) to defend against hostile Athenian actions. Sparta and its smaller allies soon engaged the Athenians and were eventually victorious over the Athenian threat of hegemony. The underling cause of Spartan engagement originated in the pleas of the fleeing allied city-states. They claimed that since Sparta was the only other major power that it was Sparta’s duty

to protect the smaller states. These states also created the fear in the Spartans that Athenians would develop enough power to create a hegemony, and that they all would lose their sovereignty. They stated that an Athenian attack was inevitable. The Spartans began to position troops to defend themselves, as it was better military strategy to stop Athenian forces before they gained any more power. This was considered an aggressive by the Athenians and sparked the beginning of the Athenian-Spartan conflict. In comparison Gulick’s 19th century balance of powers involved England, France, Russia, Austria, and Prussia. These five powers through communication and shared interest created a system in which they managed to maintain stable international relations. The larger powers were

responsible for maintaining the independence of the smaller states’ sovereignty. This system, though there were many small wars over territory and maintaining the balance, managed to avoid any systemic wars for ninety years after the Napoleonic war. In this alliance, England had taken on the role of a balancer and joined any side necessary to maintain the balance. The European system ran on many concepts that allowed for its stability. Their system was designed to ensure that all independent states would survive, preserve the system, and that none would control the others. The nature of their trust allowed each state to maintain a balance of power where none had to worry about the rise of hegemony. War was inevitable on a small scale to maintain the balance and status quo but