The Laws of War in Ancient Greece

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The Laws of War in Ancient Greece

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Title: The Laws of War in Ancient Greece
Author: Lanni, Adriaan M.
Citation: Adriaan M. Lanni, The Laws of War in Ancient Greece, 26 Law & Hist. Rev. 469 (2008).
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Abstract: One of the earliest and the most famous statements of realism in international law comes from ancient Greece: the Melian dialogue in history of the Peloponnesian War. In 416 B.C.E., the Athenians invaded Melos, a small island in the Aegean that sought to remain neutral and avoid joining the Athenian empire. Thucydides presents an account of the negotiation between the Athenians and the Melian leaders. The Athenians offer the Melians a choice: become a subject of Athens, or resist and be annihilated. The Melians argue, among other things, that justice is on their side. The Athenians dismiss arguments from justice as irrelevant and reply with a statement that many scholars believe represents view: “We both alike know that in human reckoning the question of justice only enters where there is equal power to enforce it, and that the powerful exact what they can, and the weak grant what they must.”
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