Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary

People usually avoid pronouncing the word "prostitution” in a civilized world and they call it the world’s "first oldest profession” for decorum. How old is diplomacy as a profession? There is no doubt that it is one of the oldest professions, which came either before or after prostitution, or around the same time. Maybe it is that proximity that the two professions are unconsciously, sometimes even deliberately, equated, and the diplomats are blamed for deception, fraud, lying, and a thousand other earthly and divine faults.

Let people think whatever they like, but diplomacy is one of the noblest and self-sacrificing professions, the trade of a selected few. Despite all of this, diplomacy is indeed an old profession. It is as old as man himself. They are twins. They have affected and shaped one another since the dawn of humanity. And the first milestone that our forefathers have reached in diplomacy has been the discovery of immunity. The history of diplomacy, in reality, has begun from the moment when a tribal leader has decided to hear out the messenger before giving the order to kill and eat him. If it were not for that epoch-forming caesura, the "know-how,” communities wouldn’t have been able to announce ceasefires to gather up the wounded and to bury the dead, they wouldn’t have been able to divide the hunting areas, and they wouldn’t have had economic, marital, and familial intertribal relations. In other words, had it not been for immunity, they would have continued to devour with the same zeal the messengers of the other tribes. It is difficult to say if we would have reached this point had it been otherwise.

Diplomacy as a science and a form of art originated in ancient Greece. The Greeks proclaimed immunity as a norm and mandatory law in international relations. And not just that. They have greatly contributed to the development of the techniques of diplomacy and international rights. They created such a mechanism of intergovernmental relations and diplomatic service that it became the basis of diplomacy in ancient Rome and it formed medieval and modern diplomacy.

Diplomacy in Ellada evolved in the conditions and dictates of mythic, polytheistic, and pagan dogmas. Mysticism and the inexplicable phenomena of nature made people think of ambassadors as the divine messengers of the gods. But mysticism aside, the Athenians established the real features of diplomacy in various areas, including military-political and commercial-economic unions and alliances, negotiation, conference and shuttle diplomacy, symposiums, legal-conventional documents, official correspondence, archival work, and courier connection. As surprising as it may be, all of this existed in ancient Greece in the fifth century BCE. Foreign secret service was created and developed parallel to diplomacy in those early days. Diplomacy and espionage have been integrated and have noticeably developed during the Greek-Persian wars.

Diplomatic conversation and the art of rhetoric reached a high level in Ellada. Socrates, Pericles, Demosthenes and many others were unequaled masters; they could have taught at diplomatic institutions even today . . .

What about diplomatic cadre politics? Can we rival the Greeks in that question? It is desirable, but highly improbable. The ambassadors in ancient Greece were elected by the Council of Citizens in open and direct elections in the presence of six thousand Athenians. The ambassadors were mature citizens past their fifties who enjoyed a good reputation in society. They had to be people who were financially and materially secure so that they wouldn’t steal from the government. The work of the diplomat was a respectable state job, remuneration was purely symbolic—it was not measured with money. The transparency and supervision of the ambassadors’ activities were simply enviable. Returning from a business trip they would report to the Council of Citizens on political affairs, while a special committee would check their financial affairs to ensure proper expenditure of public finances.

The same can be said about the Roman Empire, where all the activities of the ambassadors were examined by the Senate. (Only in our dreams would we be able to see the statements of Armenian ambassadors at the National Assembly). And if those structures would catch any official negligence or, God forbid, a case of corruption, it would be the end of a diplomat’s career. The Persian King Artaxerxes, for instance, had given expensive gifts to the ambassador of Athens, Timagoros, during negotiations. Thus, the Persian King had also recruited him. Back in Greece, Timagoros was accused of state treachery and beheaded.
History has recorded many other instances of capital punishment for diplomatic treachery in the antiquity.
1616 reads | 06.04.2013

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