Wer Herodots „Historien“ und Thukydides‘ „Geschichte des Peloponnesischen Krieges“ versteht, weiß wohl das Wichtigste, was es über die Natur des Menschen und des Krieges zu wissen gibt.
Ein sehr gutes Beispiel dafür liefert Robert Kaplan in The Atlantic. In seinem Essay The Art of Avoiding War beschreibt er hübsch, was die amerikanische Außenpolitik von den beiden grandiosen griechischen Geschichtsschreibern lernen kann:
The Scythians were nomadic horsemen who dominated a vast realm of the Pontic steppe north of the Black Sea, in present-day Ukraine and southern Russia, from the seventh century to the third century b.c. Unlike other ancient peoples who left not a trace, the Scythians continued to haunt and terrify long after they were gone. Herodotus recorded that they “ravaged the whole of Asia. They not only took tribute from each people, but also made raids and pillaged everything these peoples had.” Napoleon, on witnessing the Russians’ willingness to burn down their own capital rather than hand it over to his army, reputedly said: “They are Scythians!”
The more chilling moral for modern audiences involves not the Scythians’ cruelty, but rather their tactics against the invading Persian army of Darius, early in the sixth century b.c. As Darius’s infantry marched east near the Sea of Azov, hoping to meet the Scythian war bands in a decisive battle, the Scythians kept withdrawing into the immense reaches of their territory. Darius was perplexed, and sent the Scythian king, Idanthyrsus, a challenge: If you think yourself stronger, stand and fight; if not, submit.