Decline of Classical tradition in International Relation




So, reading his work, we see that Thucydides has been one who found the reasons for war, first among all schools of international relations. But besides addressing to the question of reasons of war, Thucydides also explored some other important issues which deal directly with the theory of international relations, even nowadays. First of all, he addressed the question of morals and international politics. He is explaining, and he is addressing and studying the question of morals in the international politics, by the example of the collision which has happened between Athens and the small island Melos, which is led by its party union. Athens invaded Melos back in 416 BC, and demanded that Melians, the people who lived there, surrender and pay tribute to Athens and join their alliance or face annihilation. The Melians refused, and after the siege, the Athenians captured the city and slaughtered most of the population. The Melian Dialogue the negotiations between the two sides before the battle, which we can find in the book of Thucydides, represents one of the most ancient icons ofthe morals and power in international politics.


Melian dialogue is a discussion between the delegations of Athens and Melos. People from Athens insist on their right to do what they want, and demand that Melos surrenders. People from Melos said that they are not going to fight against Athens, they want to keep a certain neutrality, but the Athenians are very very persistent. Athenian perspective on the issue of morals is the following, the Athenians say, right as the world goes is only in question between equals and power, while the strong do what they can, and the weak suffer what they must. So we see that according to the first statements or the classical religious tradition, their moral and their right and the justice, can exist only between equals and power. But when we deal with the relationship between the stronger countries and the weak countries, according to the realist tradition, we do not speak any more about justice and about morals. According to Thucydides, the standards of justice depends on the equality of power, and we will find the same ideas in many works of those scholars who belong to the realist tradition even much later on. For example, in the work of Edward Hallet Carr, which has been written back in 1939, we find the same idea. Edward Hallet Carr writes that, morality and politics is not derived from the normal morality of the relationship between people, the morality in politics is a very special morality which is typical only for this very special sort of relationships. But after the greatest findings of Thucydides, the classical tradition experienced its decline.

 The Decline of Classical tradition has several reasons :

First, and the most important reason, was the rise of the roman empire which brought the idea of universal state civilization, Pax Romana. Roman empire developed itself from the very small republic on the West Coast of ltalian Peninsula, to the huge empire which basically embarrassed all contemporary Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, stretched from the British islands to the Palestine, and from the Morocco to the German forests. It was a superpower of that period. Another superpower was the Chinese empire in the east. But those two countries have never interacted, and the history doesn't have any experience of the relationships between the two first superpowers. Pax Romana did not leave a place for the balance of power concept, as there were no any other states to challenge their own. Relationships with Barbarians and the Romans called everybody who surrounded them, Barbarians, were never considered by the Romans as an interaction of equals. It was an eternal war between the civilized world and uncivilized periphery. What made the Romans viewed this relationships as a moral conflict of the two societies where one had a more advanced domestic order, while the second put a threat towards it. The same situation by the way, we find in the east, where the Chinese Empire has never considered its neighbors as equals. And this is the reason why the theory
of international relations has never developed in China. And today our, Chinese colleagues need to accept the international relations theory, which has been developed in Europe, where other nations for many centuries experienced the relationships between the equals, after Roman Empire collapsed.

● The other reason for the decline of classical tradition, was the emergence of Christian Universalism. After the Roman empire collapse,a new idea came from the Middle East, the idea of Christian religion. It emerged and dominated in Europe till the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Christianity suggested that a new idealistic interpretation of history, which hardly correlated with the classic tradition.
While Thucydides considered international system as a static system, christian doctrine viewed history as a permanent transformation from one condition to another. Final destination of the man kind is the End of History, Kingdom of Heavens. The return of classical tradition appeared only in the end of the fifteenth, beginning of the sixteenth century. Renaissance returned the classic tradition of international relations in the center of intellectual life. it was partly driven by emerging interest in the Ancient legacy, in Literature and philosophy. However, more importantly, the Renaissance became a birth time for the first centralized states, which formed the first post-feudal balance of power in Europe and especially, in the Eponym peninsula, during the Italian Wars of 1494 to 1559. So, exactly in the end of the fifteenth century and beginning of the sixteenth century, the first states emerged, and those states started to treat each other as equals, and that's why they needed again the ideas about how to treat each other. And that's why the thinkers of that age started to develop the new general approach to the theory of international relations, and one of the most important authors here, is Niccolo Machiavelli.












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