Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary

Next to its brilliant achievements, Greek diplomacy has made some serious mistakes.
In 507 BCE, the Athenians sent a delegation to Persia asking for help to subdue the Spartans. This was one of the fatal and unforgivable errors in the history of Athenian diplomacy.

This step was not only giving a green light to the Persian invader, thus dividing and exposing the general Hellenic front before the probable enemy, but it also served as a bad example for the other poleis, including Sparta, which at different times and on different occasions would repeat the Athenians’ actions, taking the road of destructive separatism. The response of the Persians was immediate. And it was the only correct and unfailing move, like the shot of a sniper.

The Persians responded in the most genial way. Of course, the Greeks would be given the requested assistance in any amount and form they wished. No problem. But, as if by the way, the Persians asked for a "small service”—to cede some "earth and water” to them. The excited ambassadors rushed to sign the agreement. And that was it! They were in the trap.

This diplomatic blunder brought huge losses to the one side of the negotiating table and a huge victory to the other. The Athenians were rejoicing, congratulating one another for succeeding in their task for nothing in exchange. They were probably thinking: "How pleasant these Persians are and how naïve! They are just asking for some ‘earth and water’ in return of military assistance. What a brilliant diplomatic victory!”
970 reads | 17.06.2017

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