War, peace and interstate relations

Katelijn Vandorpe, Sophie Démare-Lafont, Geoffrey MacCormack, Mark McClish, Patrick Olivelle, Nicolas Wiater

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Chapter 4 surveys a wide range of friendly and hostile interstate relations in ancient societies, where war was often the normal state of affairs. Notwithstanding the numerous conflicts, polities tried in the end, through alliances and diplomatic relations, to establish peaceful relations in view of political stability and economic prosperity. The chapter analyses hospitality rules regarding foreigners, treaties between polities and the establishment of diplomatic relations, which emerged as an international system in the ancient Near East during the mid-fourteenth century BCE. An alternative to diplomacy in conflict management, typical of the Greek world, was arbitration and mediation with the help of a third party. In a final section, the chapter outlines how states, when diplomacy failed, started a war procedurally. In conclusion, the chapter argues that, in the absence of an international court, the enforcement of diplomatic rules and treaties was in many ancient societies ensured by the supranational authority of the gods.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCambridge comparative history of ancient law
EditorsCaroline Humfress, David Ibbetson, Patrick Olivelle
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages35
ISBN (Electronic)9781009452243
ISBN (Print)9781107035164
Publication statusPublished - May 2024


  • Hospitality rules
  • Interstate relations
  • Diplomacy
  • Treaties
  • Natural law
  • Arbitration
  • Just war
  • Declaration of war
  • Peace
  • Divine authority


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