David M. Pritchard - ‘From Where the Fine Warships Come’: Democratic Athens at War

On The September 23, 2019

10h00 to 12h00
26, Place Bellecour - 69002 Lyon
Meeting room - Allée A - 1st Floor

Ancient Athens developed democracy to a higher level than any other state before modern times. It was the leading cultural innovator of its age. Athens is rightly revered for its political and cultural achievements. Less well known is this state’s extraordinary record of military success. Athens transformed ancient warfare and became one of the ancient world’s superpowers.

There is a strong case that democracy was a major reason for this success. The military impact of Athenian democracy was twofold. The competition of elite performers before non-elite adjudicators resulted in a pro-war culture. This encouraged Athenians in increasing numbers to join the armed forces and to vote for war. All this was offset by Athenian democracy’s rigorous debating of war. This debating reduced the risks of Athenian cultural militarism. It also made military reforms easier and developed the initiative of the state’s generals, hoplites and sailors. Political scientists have long viewed Athenian democracy as a source of fresh ideas. Presently they cannot satisfactorily explain the warmaking of modern democracies. Consequently Ancient History can provide Political Science with new lines of enquiry into how democracy impacts on international relations today.

David M. Pritchard is Associate Professor of Greek History at the University of Queensland (Australia). He is a 2019-2020 Collegium Fellow.