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The Concept of Sacred War in Ancient Greece

By By Frances Anne Skoczylas

Abstract: This thesis will trace the origin and development of the term “Sacred War” in the corpus of extant Greek literature. This term has been commonly applied by modern scholars to four wars which took place in ancient Greece between the sixth and fourth centuries B. C. The modern use of the attribute “Sacred War” to refer to these four wars in particular raises two questions. First, did the ancient historians give all four of these wars the title “Sacred War?” And second, what justified the use of this title only for certain conflicts?

In order to resolve the first of these questions, it is necessary to examine in what terms the ancient historians referred to these wars. As a result of this examination, it is clear that only two of the modern series of “Sacred Wars” (the so-called Second and Third Sacred Wars) were actually given this title in antiquity. The other two wars (the so-called Second and Third Sacred Wars), although they were evidently associated by the ancients with the “Sacred Wars,” were not given this attribution. Consequently, the habit of grouping all four wars together as “Sacred Wars” is modern. Nevertheless, the fact that the ancients did see some connection between these wars does justify this modern classification to some degree.

Read the full article [NOTE: Opens as a pdf.]

(H/T History of the Ancient World)

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