Perspectives of War: Ancient Greece and Today

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“Everlasting peace is a dream, and not even a pleasant one; and war is a necessary part of God’s arrangement of the world.” Count Helmuth von Moltke wrote these words in a letter to Dr. J.K. Bluntschli in December of 1880. Von Moltke’s words, spoken from his experience in the Franco-Prussian War, portray an unusual philosophy. Instead of debating on the ethics of war, he speaks of its continuity and necessity to man. His reasoning has inspired an uncommon belief that it is not whether war is right or wrong that holds importance, but its inevitability. War is a perpetual and endless occurrence of strength, dominance, and destruction that is motivated by the debated morality of violence, the destructive instinct of man, and the inevitable acceptance of war. Despite the vast difference in culture and time of the ancient Greeks and that of today’s society, scholars have found that the views of war are still quite similar on both sides, and such is an issue both societies must contend with in order to survive . The Iliad, an epic by Homer that describes the war between the ancient cultures of Greece and the city of Troy, is one such document that helps to provide this insight.

The most common and most debated issue of war is the morality of violence. Being an almost expected component of war, it is difficult to advocate war without advocating violence. In The Iliad, violence seems to be a necessary factor for the purpose of the tale: to describe the brutal battle that was the Trojan War. However, violence was still seen as controversial. For example, in Book I, line 187, King Agamemnon says to the war hero Achilles, “You actually like fighting and war…”, showing that violence and war are not common place pleasures. Thomas Palaima, a professor of classical studies at the University of Austin-Texas, performed a study and found that the views of violence in soldiers from Vietnam and soldiers from Troy were in fact very similar. In today’s society, many...
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