Category Archives: Politics[post_grid id="10030"]
The battle of Marathon has, for millenia now, been firmly planted within the annals of western history. A decisive battle, a clash of cultures, the narrative describes an outnumbered Athenian army staying off the Persian invaders who would see the Greek civilization consumed within their empire. And as we gaze through the looking glass of time, thousands of years into the past, what began as a simple military engagement is now often considered a philosophical war between two cultures. The war for the West, that is what some believe Marathon to be. And if Greece is the cradle of western culture, could Marathon be the stance to defend it?
Meanwhile, Athens had a decision to make. The Athenians would be vastly outnumbered if they decided to face the Persians. We do not know the exact numbers, but we do know that Persia possessed a much larger infantry as well as superior cavalry and archers. It was at this time that the Stratego, Miltiades, would play a critical role in the salvation of Athens. Miltiades, a man who spent much of his life ruling in a remote military outpost in the Chersonese, would return to Athens in 493 BCE. He was promptly accused of having been a tyrant during his days as ruler, and was promptly put on trial .
It is difficult to imagine why Athens would concern themselves with one of their own citizens tyrannizing abroad, especially with a massive Persian army at their doorstep. It is not unreasonable to believe Herodotus when he tells us that the persecution of Miltiades originated from the mans political enemies.
Miltiades was a gifted general and had served in the Persian army while living in Asia Minor under Persian control. He would have been familiar with Persian tactics and was most qualified to lead a defense against the invaders. Perhaps it was the thought of Athens burning to the ground that persuaded the Athenians to acquit Miltiades, it would appear they had bigger fish to fry. Miltiades was allowed to attempt to persuade the Polemarch, Callimachus to allow him to go to war. Herodotus offers a stirring rendition of this speech.
“…It is up to you right now, to enslave Athens or to make her free, and to leave for all future generations of humanity a memorial to yourself such as not even Harmodius and Aristogiton have left. Right now, Athens is in the most perilous moment of her history. Hippias has already shown her what she will suffer if she bows down to the Medes, but if the city survives, she can become the foremost city in all Greece…” -Herodotus (The Histories)
|The concept of citizenship that was born out of the Archaic period of Greek history persisted (though with decreasing influence) well into Roman times. |
The equivalent Latin word was civitas, also meaning “citizenhood,” and it was expanded from small-scale communities to the entirety of the empire. The Romans came to the realization that granting citizenship to people from all over the empire legitimized Roman rule over conquered areas.
But perhaps ancient Greece and Rome are more the exception than the rule… because for the majority of human history, the stories are of peasants, subjects, and tribes. Indeed, the concept of the “citizen” is historically rare… but it was among America’s most valued ideals for over two centuries.
In America, just as in Greece and Rome, the concept of “citizenship” was more than just “rights,” it was a virtuous act and way to bring people together into a multicultural melting pot.
But is this still the case? It may be that American citizenship as we have known it may soon vanish.
|The Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow of Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Victor Davis Hanson, outlines the historical forces that led to this crisis in his new book, The Dying Citizen, coming out this October.|
The evisceration of the middle class over the last fifty years has made many Americans dependent on the federal government, argues Hanson, and identity politics have eradicated our collective civic sense of self. Moreover, a top-heavy administrative state has endangered personal liberty, along with formal efforts to weaken the Constitution.
Is the idea of America dying? Can the concept of Citizenship—once so essential in the ancient world—hold its importance in our modern era?
The New York Times bestselling author, Victor Davis Hanson, explains the decline and fall of the once cherished idea of American citizenship.
Make sure to pre-order your own edition of the Dying Citizen HERE to find out.
His most recent publication Virtue Politics: Soulcraft and Statecraft in Renaissance Italy explores this most fascinating time period… this time with regards to the government.