PUSHING THE BOUNDARIES OF HOSPITALITY CAN BE FATAL
ARMAN NAVASARDYAN
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary






Now let’s see what can happen when diplomats ignore the laws of a foreign country and insult the dignity of their host. Darius sends his ambassadors to acquire "some earth and water” in Macedonia. The Persians liked to issue such démarches to foreign states; it was an ultimatum that endangered the political and economic independence of the state and the refusal to cede lands was usually followed by a Persian incursion, destruction, and enslavement. Faced with danger, the Macedonians promise to comply with the demands of the Persians. King Amyntas invites the Persian ambassadors to a lavish dinner. The law of hospitality was one of the most respected traditions in all the cities of Hellada, just as here in the East. The guest had a divine right and was treated with great dignity.


 
Continuing their drinking and debauchery after dinner, the Persians address Amyntas: "Prince of Macedonia, it is a custom with us Persians, whenever we have a public entertainment, to introduce our concubines and young wives. Since therefore you have received us kindly, and with the rites of hospitality, and have also acknowledged the claims of Darius, in giving him earth and water, imitate the custom we have mentioned.” "Persians,” replies Amyntas, "our manners are very different, for our women are kept separate from the men. But since you are our masters, and require it, what you solicit shall be granted.” Amyntas therefore sends for the women, who are seated opposite to the Persians. Seeing the beautiful women and drunk with wine and lust, the Persians try to rape them. Restraining himself, the son of Amyntas, Alexander (not to be mixed with Alexander III of Macedonia) turns to the Persians: "You are at liberty, Sirs, to repose yourselves with any or with all of these women. So permit them to go and bathe themselves, and they shall afterwards return.” The Persians approve of what he said, and Alexander sends the women back to their abodes, then he orders an equal number of smooth-faced young men to dress as women, arms each with a dagger and introduces them to the company. "Persians,” he says on their entering, "We have given you a magnificent entertainment and supplied you with everything in our power to procure. We have also, which with us weighs more than all the rest, presented you with our matrons and our sisters, that we might not appear to you in any respect insensible of your merits and that you may inform the king your master with what liberality a Greek and prince of Macedonia has entertained you at bed and at board.”

Having said this, Alexander places a "Macedonian woman” next to each Persian. Excited, the Persian ambassadors try to fondle them and the Macedonians put every one of them to death. Then they kill the servants and the horses of the Persians and bury all of them with their carriages and belongings in the ground.
At no great interval of time, Darius makes a strict inquisition into the business but with no result. Alexander cleverly erases all the traces of the incident. He gives generous gifts to Bubaris, a native of Persia, and one of those who had been sent to inquire into the deaths of his countrymen. By these means the assassination of the Persian ambassadors is overlooked and forgotten.

The same thing happens to two other Persian diplomatic missions, one of which goes to Athens and the other to Sparta, shamelessly demanding "earth and water.” The Greeks, the inventors of diplomatic immunity, ignore their own "invention” and ruthlessly punish the Persian emissaries. The Athenians put the Persians on trial in a court of law and then execute them by throwing them down the precipice. The Spartans are less theatrical; they simply throw the Persians into a well and tell them to "drink the water and eat the earth.”
DIPLOMATIC ESSAYS
601 reads | 23.05.2013
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