Über das Verhalten von Großmächten

Ein Kommentar zum Irak-Konflikt

Toward the end of the 5th century, while Rome and the Latins were still defending themselves against the Volsci and the Aequi the Romans began to expand at the expense of the Etruscan states. Rome’s incessant warfare and expansion during the republic has spawned modern debate about the nature of Roman imperialism. Ancient Roman historians, who were often patriotic senators, believed that Rome always waged just wars in self-defense, and they wrote their accounts accordingly, distorting or suppressing facts that did not fit this view.

The modern thesis of Roman defensive imperalism, which followed the ancient bias, is now largely discredited. Only the fighting in the 5th century BC and the later wars against the Gauls can clearly be so characterized. Rome’s relentless expansion was more often responsible for provoking its neighbors to fight in self-defense. Roman consuls, who led the legions into battle, often advocated war because victory gained them personal glory


Though the Romans did not wage wars for religious ends they often used religious means to assist their war effort. The fetial priests were used for the solemn official declaration of war. According to fetial law, Rome could enjoy divine favour only if it waged just wars – that is, wars of self-defense. In later practice, this often simply meant that Rome maneuvered other states into declaring war upon it. Then Rome followed with its declaration, acting technically in self-defense; this strategy had the effect of boosting Roman morale and sometimes swaying international public opinion.

[Britannica, Volume 20, Greek and Roman Civilizations, S. 285f.]

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