ahorbinski: a bridge in the fog (bridge to anywhere)
Bibliographic Data: Eckstein, Arthur M. Mediterranean Anarchy, Interstate War, and the Rise of Rome. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006.

Main Argument: "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" (1). The Republic of Rome, however, did establish a system of unipolarity in the Mediterranean by the 160s BCE at the latest, a unipolar system with Rome as the hegemony that lasted for six hundred years. Rome did not establish this hegemony because it was exceptionally bellicose; indeed, it was no more or less warlike than its state-level competitors and what gave it its comparative advantage was its ability to leverage its allies through the flexible management of Roman identity (i.e. the citizenship and various other statuses), eventually being able to field far larger armies and command much greater resources than its competitors. But it is a fatal mistake to ignore the effect of its interstate environment on Rome's development, and on the exact character of the Romans' achievement; "the stress here is–and given the condition of scholarly analysis it must be–on acknowledging the previously unacknowledged role of system-level factors, both in the causation of warfare in the ancient Mediterranean and in the rise of Rome to world power" (35).

Historiographical Engagement: Mommsen, because everything old is new again and nothing ever dies; lots of "realists" throughout history--Thucydides, Hobbes, Arendt, Kissinger, Zakaria

The war of all against all, and how the East was won )

Critical assessment: This is an excellent book, although it's rather trippy to be reading something in 2006 going on about how Mommsen was right and unironically citing Henry Kissinger. And if we are led in the end back to unit-level factors by this thorough examination of the anarchic interstate system in which Rome existed and over which it ultimately triumphed, it is very nice to know that we can weight those factors and select them correctly, having carried out the exercise.

Further reading: Hobbes, Leviathan; Kant, Perpetual Peace; Harris, War and Imperialism in Republican Rome; Mattern, Rome and the Enemy

Meta notes: Rome is a black swan. Mommsen was right. Ditto Thucydides. And Polybius was right too, don't forget about him.

"We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time."


ahorbinski: shelves stuffed with books (Default)
Andrea J. Horbinski

August 2017

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