VIEWSrnThe Western Way of WarrnFrom Plato to NATOrnby Roger D. McGrathrnWhen I first began reading of the aneient world as a child,rnI vas mystified by the collapse of the Greek cit}’-statesrnand the fall of Rome. How coidd such a thing come to pass? Itrnseemed perfectiv reasonable that Eg)pt, Sumer, and the Hittiternkingdom should have come and gone, but not Periclean Athensrnor Caesar’s Rome. Even today, when I occasionally teach anrnancicnt-histop,- class, I do not begin to identify with the peoplesrn1 am lecturing about until I get to Greece. “I’hen, suddenlv, Irnsee Western man. Ever since I was old enough to read, to imagine,rnto long for adventure, I saw myself standing with Leonidasrnat Therniopylae or shoulder-to-shouldcr with fellow hoplilcs atrnMaratiion, fighting tiie Persians. I never saw myself .standingrnwith the Eg’ptians to repel the Hykso.s invaders or locked in battlernalongside mv fellow Sumerians against the dreaded Amorites.rnMy Greek heroes should not have followed the path ofrndiese other peoples. But the- did. Their ver’ success eventual-rn1 caused them to become expansionist and imperialist, andrntheir reacii finalh’ exceeded their grasp.rnDespite the great contributions of the Egyptians and thernSumerians, for me it all begins with the Greeks. This is not asrnbold an assertion as it sounds, even in todav’s climate of multiculturalismrnand hypersensitivity. Try reading the quintessentialrnexample of earlv Mesopotanuan literature, the Epic of Gilgamesh.rnIt is a strange tale—parts of which could be the productrnof a bad hallucination. I doubt many will identifs’ with Gilgamesh,rnEnkidii, and Utnapishtim. Then pick up the Iliad andrnthe Odyfise} Instantly, you arc transported back in time to thernPcloponnese, to the Aegean, to Troy. We not onl recognizernRoger D. McGrath is the author of Gunfighters, High\anien,rnand ‘igilantes.rn.chilles, Patroclus, and Odysseus; we know them. Westernrnman has arrived. So, too, have honor, courage, devotion, dut)’,rnloyalt)-, and justice. Not that these virtues were entirely absentrnfrom the cultures of earlier peoples; but they certainly were notrnthe cynosure that they became among the Greeks.rnThe Greeks developed what has been called the Westernrnway of war—a collision of soldiers on an open plain in a magnificentrndisplay of courage, skill, physical prowess, honor, andrnfair play, and a concomitant repugnance for decoy, ambush,rnsneak attacks, and the involvement of noncombatants. A battlernis a test of brains and brawn and guts, but within parameters designedrnto emphasize honor and to protect the innocent. Saidrn;lexander the Great when he was advised to launch a surprisernnight attack against tiie Persians: “The polic which you arernsuggesting is one of bandits and thieves, the only purpose ofrnwhich is deception. I cannot allow m glor- always to be diminishedrnby Darius’ absence, or by narrow terrain, or by tricksrnof night. I am resolved to attack openly and by daylight. Irnchoose to regret my good forhine rather than be ashamed of mvrnvictor}’.”rnThere was also no honor for the Greeks in fighting from afcir.rnAn archer or a javelin thrower who launched his weapon fromrna great distance was not held in high esteem, because he coiddrnkill with little risk to himself Only those who clashed withrnsword or spear, defying death and disdaining retreat, were honorable.rnThe surrender of the srm’iving Spartans at Pylos during thernPeloponnesian War says much about the Greek attihide. UnderrnDemosthenes, the Atiienians won a great ‘ictory, partiy byrndie use of iaclin tiirowers and archers who killed dozens ofrnSpartans. One Spartan sur i’or said that arrows would be worthrnFEBRUARY 2001/13rnrnrn