This is a follow-up article on “Arise, Boeotia!” By Mustasaar. I believe, that in the article the author is correct on searching for analogies in the history of Hellenistic world to our present-day civilization. Indeed, history in general terms tend to repeat itself – the same inborn qualities in men, archetypes, types of social order tend to re-appear in each society regardless of technological or other secondary actors. This is a truth that ancient civilizations knew and that such historians like Oswald Spengler and Arnold Toynbee describe with their theories of history. I will use their theory and terms do look at the mission of “Boeotia” (which in this case – is us) in a broader context of the situation of our civilization. Like Toynbee, I believe that it is impossible to understand the meaning of history of any national state (and also its tasks) without the context of civilization.
The example of Boeotia is an interesting one. The time of their hegemony over Greece in 4th century B.C. is part of “time of troubles” and “period of contending states” for Hellenic world – era that lasted until the beginning of our millennia and rise of Augustus in Rome. This corresponds to the modern era of Western civilization starting with the wars of Napoleon, continuing with the System of Great Powers and it’s break up in the two world wars. For ancient Hellenic world the question was the same as it is for us – will the civilization so tired of “brother wars”, domination of money over spiritual values, demographic decline, nihilism etc. be able to unite itself in a “universal state” to end the breakdown and disintegration and secure its culture and values for the future?
There were many attempts in the Hellenistic world to create such a universal state – and one can find analogies in the modern era. The similarities are sometimes surprising. Nevertheless, these are only examples to help to understand the time we are living. There are also differences and sometimes the differences are at least with the same importance as the similarities.
So, here are the examples of these attempts:
Sparta: it was a militaristic and ultra-conservative regime that wanted to freeze the existing social structure despite the new conditions of the world. The discipline of Spartans brought them many victories, but in the end their militarism gained them many enemies and their inflexibility made them vulnerable. It was a unique regime – maybe Prussia and Imperial Germany could be the most similar with their strict discipline and respect to the aristocratic tradition. German will to dominate Europe created many enemies for them and in the end they lost two world wars because of this. The difference – Imperial Germany accepted the bourgeoise vales and was more “progressive” than Sparta.
Athens: it was a “democratic” regime of ancient Hellenic world that used all the possibilities of the growing economical and militaristic powers – at the cost of the values of their ancestors. They created an alliance with other Hellenic city states against the foreign threats (Persia – the Russia for the Hellenic world), but used this to exploit their former allies, to centralize power in Athens and force their regime on other city states. You can see many similarities with the European Union of the Brussels which speaks of democracy and freedom, but at the same time acts with arrogance and disrespect to the other member-states of the union.
Boeotia: as mentioned in the article by Mustasaar it had similarities with the idea of Intermarium. It was located between two hostile powers and between the seas – they used this situation to unite, become stronger, to defeat the aggressors and to create a confederation of city states that was more successful than the Athenian one – it was created from an agreement of city states, like the Athens, but they escaped the temptation to impose the “democratic imperialism” on others like Athens did and escaped the ultra-conservative trap of Spartan system. They were not successful enough in the end (just like the project of Pilsudski) and the mission of Boeotia was taken over by another power – Macedon.
Empire of Alexander and its successors: With the Macedon and the successor states of Alexander the Great one can see a new era. What started as an adventurous and heroic expansion like that of Napoleon grew in to a new type imperialism. It was an imperialism of merchants who ruled as colonial empires and tried to create a mass culture and multicultural experiment within their empires, while the involvement in the political processes of the citizens became less and less important – in contrast with the Hellenic world of the previous centuries. These states were experiments of creating the one universal state. But all of them were too decadent and too involved in fighting each other to accomplish it. These were mainly sea-powers and Carthaginian Empire fits in this category as well. Similarities with British Empire and France comes in mind and the United states (although – a lot more successful and with a strong tradition of conservativism of their own.)
Roman Empire: With all the unsuccessful examples of attempts to create the Hellenic universal state mentioned previously, emergence of Roman Empire was both an accident and a miracle. It was an accident, because any other of these Hellenic superpowers had better possibilities, intellectual potential and historical heritage than the half-barbaric Roman Republic, which was just waging wars to ensure its existence against the hostile neighboring powers. Figuratively speaking, any of these states could become Rome. But Rome itself accidentally became the universal state of Hellenic civilization – so accidentally, that it almost collapsed from the weight of its success. And this is where the miracle begins – with the rule of Augustus that allowed this universal state to last for more than four centuries. In the end – this was the true mission of Rome – not to conquer and rule the world, but to serve as the guardian of Hellenic culture and a bridge to a new culture and new civilization, the Western (Christian) Civilization. Some greater plan was hidden in all of this – and now we are at the same point.
There is also the negative archetype for the universal state – Babylon. It is the shadow of the universal state. Christian prophets had grasped the truth about the decadent Roman Empire, when they called it the “whore of Babylon”. Because in a spiritual sense it was no more a Rome, it was the opposite of its former self. It was an hedonistic, anti-spiritual oppressor, a force of entropy. Rome collapsed because for variety of reasons, one of which was also the lack of competition in the unified empire. Creation of European kingdoms on the ruins of Rome allowed the competition to happen again and this was one of the main driving powers of the progress for Western civilization.
So what should we strive for? The universal state like Rome which secures the existence of our culture, while serving as a bridge towards some hidden plan, a mystery which we do not know yet and we never be able to experience ourselves… A spiritual state that is on the guard against the forces of materialism and hedonism. At the same time this “universal state” should be more like a confederation, not a federation – an extended Boeotia. This would ensure that there is no tyranny and stagnation within this structure. This universal state could be a European Union, if the ideas and power of the anti-federalist and realist forces will win over the federalists. In any case, the core of this movement is and will be in the countries of Intermarium.