Sunday, September 16, 2018

Athens & Sparta ~ A Lesson For Our Time

We are approaching one of the world's defining anniversaries this October 1st, the day that His Majesty Alexander the Great of Macedon along with the Hellenic League crushed the overwhelming Persian forces of Darius III at the Battle of Gaugamela, completely releasing Greece from the threat of Persian tyranny for a conceivable future. Persia not only lost its power and empire to Greece on this day, but would also be ruled by a Greek, Alexander. The Greeks did more than just destroy the Persian army this time. They placed the Greek government on the Persian throne. This was the time when Hellas had its strongest empire and ruled the world.

But a unified front didn't normally last with the Greeks once the threat of Persia had been vanquished. Even though Sparta and Athens, for example, had stood together against Persian invasion before Alexander, they turned on one another in the Peloponnesian War some time after, resulting in brutal devastation across the ancient Greek world. Athenian thirst for power in the Greek world around the times of Socrates also brought Athena's city disaster after the Assembly had basically developed a Manifest Destiny mentality. Apparently, they had forgotten the story of Midas and it eventually came home to roost. 

As an historian and a Hellene, it pains me so greatly to see the great Greek cities harmed not by a foreign enemy, but from within, among each other over their inabilities to live together peacefully. Had the city-states united, and remained that way, focusing on common good and not letting cultural differences break them, Greece may have ruled the known world before Alexander and after. She may have been able to prevent plague, bankruptcy, and unnecessary wars that devastate economies and societies. It's actually surreal to think of the fact that it ended up being the Persians who helped Athens overcome Sparta and restore their city.

The lesson to learn from the times of division is the power of unity. Sometimes it is true that unity cannot be possible. You can't be friends with someone who wants to kill or destroy you. But many other times, our fights are avoidable, especially if we are basically the same people. It's ridiculous, for example, for American states to fight one another. Illinois and North Carolina may have different cultures, but we're more similar than we are different, and we're both the same nationality. Unity helps us far more than division. One of the reasons America is so strong is because she is composed of 50 different states, all united in their common interests, using their individual powers and resources to help obtain and keep those interests for the common good. Peace among us is more profitable than war.

The God of war, to my mind, reminds me that He's there for a reason, and His invocation to ignite an actual battlefield is never to be done on a whim. Sometimes war is necessary. Most of the time, it's not.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Courage and Honor,
Chris Aldridge.

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