Diplomacy in the ancient world

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,365
Italy, Lago Maggiore
It hasn't changed that much, if not logistically.

Obviously in ancient times they had to physically send a messenger to an other country to carry a letter and this took weeks [without communication medias they had to rely on human contact and without fast vehicles they had to travel slowly to meet the others]. So that [to make an example], when Tushratta, King of Mitanni, wrote to Tiye, Great Royal Wife of Amenhotep III and Royal Mother of Akhenaten, he had to wait weeks before of receiving an answer.

Furthermore the job of messenger wasn't so safe: it happened that when the message wasn't nice the receiver decided to kill the messenger as a way to give a clear answer!

For the rest, the main principles and processes of diplomacy are still almost the same: the final purpose is to find an equilibrium to avoid or to stop a war. It's about "soft power".

Don't think that modern diplomacy is "soft". Keep in mind that when US or NATO gives a "ultimatum" that's still about diplomacy. It's when the ultimatum expires that NATO unleashes its military force [this has happened in former Yugoslavia, in Iraq ...].
 
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Aug 2019
571
North
Don't think that modern diplomacy is "soft". Keep in mind that when US or NATO gives a "ultimatum" that's still about diplomacy. It's when the ultimatum expires that NATO unleash its military force [this has happened in former Yugoslavia, in Iraq ...].
This has not happened- it's still happening. Take macedonia for example.
 
Oct 2015
949
Virginia
One difference is that diplomatic missions were dispatched for a particular purpose or negotiation, and returned home when the mission was completed (probably due to the difficulties of communication mentioned above). Permanent residencies in foreign states apparently began in the Northern Italian city-states in the 13th century.
 
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Matthew Amt

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,008
MD, USA
It also involved royal marriages, to seal alliances, and official hostages of noble birth to help one state keep another in line. There are a number of well-known historical people who spent their youths as hostages, raised by a noble host family. They weren't locked up, and I don't *think* there was a lot of emphasis on "If your government doesn't behave, we'll kill you," they were more like collateral. At least, that's my understanding of it!

Matthew
 
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Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,726
Dispargum
Diplomatic immunity has been around for thousands of years. When Hannibal started acting up in Spain, the Romans sent a diplomat or two to Carthage asking, "Is Hannibal acting on your authority or is he a renegade?" The Carthaginians arrested and otherwise abused the Roman diplomats. This angered the Romans who accused the Carthaginians of violating the rule of civilized nations. The Romans used the diplomatic incident as another justification to go to war with Carthage.
 
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Aug 2019
131
Netherlands
The roman public disliked the actions of ceasar when he decided to kill an envoy of leaders of the usipeti and tencteri, while they came his way for diplomatic talks.
 

johnincornwall

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
7,849
Cornwall
Don't think that modern diplomacy is "soft". Keep in mind that when US or NATO gives a "ultimatum" that's still about diplomacy. It's when the ultimatum expires that NATO unleashes its military force [this has happened in former Yugoslavia, in Iraq ...].
....................eventually, if you are lucky (as not in Srebrenica)

On the OP I'm actually always amazed at the levels of dilplomacy in ancient and medieval times. I think it's because we always get the impression that everybody was always at war, hostile to each other. Because when 'nothing' happens, no source writes it down!
 

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,365
Italy, Lago Maggiore
....................eventually, if you are lucky (as not in Srebrenica)

On the OP I'm actually always amazed at the levels of dilplomacy in ancient and medieval times. I think it's because we always get the impression that everybody was always at war, hostile to each other. Because when 'nothing' happens, no source writes it down!
Yes, that's right. On the walls of temples and palaces they engraved the tales of their great victories, incredible deeds to remember, glorious military expeditions, crowning ceremonies, celebrations ... but if you want to know about diplomacy in peace time you have to be lucky to find an archive like the one of the so called "Amarna Letters". In such an archive you will read of a friendly Monarch complaining that the Pharaoh hadn't sent him yet a promised golden statue ... that is to say matters of daily life and daily relationships among powers [even if today Presidents tend not to send golden statues as presents to other leaders!].
 

johnincornwall

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
7,849
Cornwall
Yes, that's right. On the walls of temples and palaces they engraved the tales of their great victories, incredible deeds to remember, glorious military expeditions, crowning ceremonies, celebrations ... but if you want to know about diplomacy in peace time you have to be lucky to find an archive like the one of the so called "Amarna Letters". In such an archive you will read of a friendly Monarch complaining that the Pharaoh hadn't sent him yet a promised golden statue ... that is to say matters of daily life and daily relationships among powers [even if today Presidents tend not to send golden statues as presents to other leaders!].
I'm also thinking of the gift of an elephant to Charlemagne by the Abbassids of Baghdad (?) and the party of Parisien monks who went all the way to Cordoba, in company with a trade caravan from Zaragoza, in the otherwise fairly bloodthirsty reign of Haken I (again ?), to retrieve some saints bones (they werent there, so they were given alternatives!)