Remarks on the Ancient Evidence for Democratic Peace

Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Weart, Spencer R. (2001) Remarks on the Ancient Evidence for Democratic Peace , Journal of Peace Research 38(5): 609–613.

Responding to Eric Robinson, it is argued that evidence from ancient Greece is inadequate to provide reliable counter-examples to the democratic peace proposition, provided that the proposition is correctly defined. For the best-documented case, the Athenian invasion of Syracuse, the preponderance of evidence does make Syracuse a well-established democracy like Athens. But there is contradictory evidence not addressed by Robinson. More important, it is arguable that the decisionmaking body in Athens (the majority of the assembly) did not perceive Syracuse as behaving like a fellow democracy. That is what matters, according to an explanation of the democratic peace based not on institutional or normative causes but on the decisionmakers' perception of a shared democratic political culture. In more modern cases where such ambiguities can be checked against primary evidence, the proposition that this shared perception prevents war holds almost without exception. Other ancient cases cited by Robinson, including all those tabulated by Bruce Russett and William Antholis, involve either