Legitimising the present through the past : some observations on the use of the past in territorial disputes

Title: Legitimising the present through the past : some observations on the use of the past in territorial disputes
Source document: Graeco-Latina Brunensia. 2017, vol. 22, iss. 2, pp. 241-253
  • ISSN
    1803-7402 (print)
    2336-4424 (online)
Type: Article
License: Not specified license

Notice: These citations are automatically created and might not follow citation rules properly.

One of the most common expedients for preventing conflicts, especially from the Hellenistic period onwards, was the recourse to interstate arbitrations. The phenomenon was not restricted only to the great powers of the day; smaller states would often resort to the process in order to pursue their own interests through less demanding, in militaristic and financial, terms. From the Archaic period to the Hellenistic and Roman periods, and from prominent poleis like Athens and Sparta to smaller ones, the past was prominently used in the context of interstate arbitrations to legitimise claims or actual possession of territories. A favourable verdict would offer direct and tangible benefits for the winning side. However, much like its use in the political discourse, the past played a central role in the arbitrating courts. More so, a positive verdict was not only the outcome of compelling argumentation, but it was supported by historical evidence both in the form of mythical and/or historical accounts and of historical memories. Thus, alongside the many practical benefits, there are other, at least equally, important advantages; namely, the effective alteration of the modes of self-representation and the ability to mould civic identities. This paper will discuss various instances of the use of the past within the interstate arbitration corpus and will examine its central position in yet another aspect of the political life of Ancient Greece, especially from the Hellenistic period onwards.
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