Taming Ares: War, Interstate Law, and Humanitarian Discourse in Classical Greece


In Taming Ares Emiliano J. Buis examines the sources of classical Greece to challenge both the state-centeredness of mainstream international legal history and the omnipresence of war and excessive violence in ancient times. Making ample use of epigraphic as well as literary, rhetorical, and historiographical sources, the book offers the first widespread account of the narrative foundations of the (il)legality of warfare in the classical Hellenic world. In a clear yet sophisticated manner, Buis convincingly proves that the traditionally neglected study of the performance of ancient Greek poleis can contribute to a better historical understanding of those principles of international law underlying the practices and applicable rules on the use of force and the conduct of hostilities.

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Emiliano Jerónimo Buis, PhD in Classics and Postdoctoral Degree in Law (Universidad de Buenos Aires) is Professor of International Law and Ancient Greek at that university and at UNICEN, as well as researcher at the CONICET in Argentina. He has widely published on the theory and history of international law, ancient Greek literature (especially drama) and Athenian law.
'Emiliano Buis’s book, Taming Ares: War, Interstate Law, and Humanitarian Discourse in Classical Greece, is one of the rare books to look at Classical Greece texts and norms from various religious, political, social, literary and artistic sources, through the prism of international humanitarian law (IHL), and offers a fascinating perspective on the historical roots of IHL.
This book allows readers to get an in-depth view into how norms, interpolity relations and laws common to the classical Greeks were conceived during the Peloponnesian War period (431–404 BCE), and provides an enlightening analysis of some of the precursory roots of what we know today as ius ad bellum and ius in bello. Not only is the book based on meticulous research, but each of its sections is also supported by numerous examples and quotations of the original texts used as reference sources, with their English translation, allowing readers to fully appreciate how the norms and ideas preceding modern-day IHL were expressed.' Marie-Louise Tougas, in: International Review of the Red Cross, p. 1-7. Published online 18 July 2019.
"The book’s greatest strength is Buis’ engagement both with the ancient evidence and with recent thinking in the field of International Law, a combination often allows for unexpected and stimulating insights. This monograph will be valuable both for students of international law seeking an introduction to Greek thinking and practices, and for classical Greek historians interested in the perspectives of the discipline of International Law". Peter Hunt, in H-Soz-Kult. Kommunikation und Fachinformation für die Geschichtswissenschaften (2019).
Randall Lesaffer
Preliminary Considerations
List of Figures and Maps

 1  Between Ares and Athena
 2  In-between Custom and Convenience: Analyzing the Restrictive Discourse of War
 3  Towards International Law in the Ancient World: Practices and Contexts
 4  Inhumane Acts, Human Words: Analyzing the Restrictive Discourse of War

Part 1: The Concepts

1 Normativity, Hegemony, and Democratic Performance: The Case of Classical Athens
 1  International Normativity, Subordination, and Political Imposition in the Ancient World
 2  Justice, Law, Laws and Decrees: The Issue of Terminology
 3  Nomothesia: The Act of Legislating
 4  Dramatic Competitions and Athenian Festivals
 5  Justice as Spectacle in Athens: Judicial praxis
 6  The Assembly, the Theater, and the Courts: Performative Activities of Democracy
Summation: Democracy as Performative Ritual

2 Greek poleis and Their International Subjectivity
 1  Towards an Archaeology of the Subject: Did Legal Entities Have a Legal Personality in the Greek World?
 2  The Role of the polis in the Signing of Treaties during the Peloponnesian War
Summation: International Subjectivity in Ruins

Part 2: The Rules

3 Ius ad bellum and Its Limits on Inter-polis Law
 1  The Rhetoric of the Use of Armed Force in the Greek World
 2  The Vocabulary of the Grounds: The Spoken and the Unspoken in Thucydides
 3  Considerations on Guilt, Responsibility, Motivation and Encouraging: Helen’s Case
 4  Exoneration from the Attack: The Adversary’s Responsibility
 5  A ‘Legal’ Rhetoric of Self-Defense?
Summation: Restraining the Use of Armed Force

4 Ius in bello and Its Limits in Inter-polis Law
 1  Greek Warfare between Military Necessity and Limitation
 2  The Legal Matrix: The Foundations of “Common,” “Universal,” Inter-polis, and Intra-Hellenic Law
 3  Geneva in Greece: The nomos of the Greeks with Respect to the Protection of Victims and Practices in Wartime: Humanitarian Limits?
 4  The Hague in Greece: The nomos of the Greeks with Respect to the Restriction of Means and Methods of Warfare: Humanitarian Limits?
 5  Responding to Atrocity: Prosecution of War Crimes?
Summation: Towards a Framework of Restraint

Conclusions: About Apples, Branches, and Humanitarian Strategies

Appendix A: Chart of Treaties Signed by Greek poleis during the Peloponnesian War (431–404)
Appendix B: Digital Images of Treaties and Decrees
 1  Ancient Sources (Critical Apparatus of Greek Texts, Translations and Comments)
 2  Critical Bibliography
 3  Instrumenta studiorum

All interested in the history of International Law (especially in ancient times) and in International Humanitarian Law, as well as ancient historians and legal historians. It can also be interesting to those concerned with classical Greek history and the regulation of warfare.