Expanding the history of the just war: the ethics of war in ancient Egypt

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This article expands our understanding of the historical development of just war thought by offering the first detailed analysis of the ethics of war in ancient Egypt. It revises the standard history of the just war tradition by demonstrating that just war thought developed beyond the boundaries of Europe and existed many centuries earlier than the advent of Christianity or even the emergence of Greco-Roman thought on the relationship between war and justice. It also suggests that the creation of a prepotent ius ad bellum doctrine in ancient Egypt, based on universal and absolutist claims to justice, hindered the development of ius in bello norms in Egyptian warfare. It is posited that this development prefigures similar developments in certain later Western and Near Eastern doctrines of just war and holy war.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbersqx009
Pages (from-to)371-384
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Studies Quarterly
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jun 2017


  • Ethics of War
  • Just war doctrine
  • Ancient Egypt
  • International relations
  • History


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