Origins of Western Warfare: Militarism and Morality in the Ancient World

James Doyne Dawson, Author, Doyne Dawson, Author
James Doyne Dawson, Author, Doyne Dawson, Author Westview Press $35 (216p) ISBN 978-0-8133-2940-6
Reviewed on: 09/02/1996
Release date: 09/01/1996
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The roots of the Western way of war are plumbed with distinction by Dawson (Cities of the Gods) in this fascinating study. Dawson traces the development of the Western European ideas of warfare from primitive society (revenge and honor) through the ancient world, explains what aspects of these ideas were inherited by medieval and Renaissance Europe and examines how Western European thought has transformed this classical tradition. Drawing on an impressive array of classical writers (Aristotle, Thucydides, Xenophon, Plato, Caesar, Livy, Tacitus and others), Dawson shows how Greece and Rome refined the idea of the just war, used war as a rational instrument of foreign policy and developed the idea of civic militarism. Christian Europe received these ideas and refined them even further. Early modern European thinkers like Machiavelli and Botero, the author demonstrates, helped transmit the idea of civic militarism to monarchies. This neoclassical synthesis fell apart in the 1700s, however, as ethical and strategic thought separated; a gulf divides them even today. Dawson's well-researched, clearly written account delineates an important but often misrepresented underpinning of the classical world. (Oct.)
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