“They Had, They Thought, Their Champion of Freedom”: Social Constructivism and Greek Politics, 217-199.
International Relations theories colour modern approaches to political history and, hence, to classical studies. Since the Second World War, Realism and Neorealism have been amongst the most pervasive, portraying the international process as something inherently anarchical and self-interested, animated by acontextual variables of power and security. But such approaches leave little room for social, cultural, and ideational variables in the international process; and we know that Greek culture, like others, exerted a powerful influence in the social, political, and economic spheres.
This thesis accordingly uses a more recent IR paradigm, Social Constructivism, to challenge Realism, by accounting for things like rational choice and the role of ideas. It specifically appraises the period of Greek history marked by its early engagements with Rome (217-199), in order to explore the roles of Greek ideas, identities, and agents in animating interstate behaviour. Through this lens, it can be argued that the Greeks’ conceptions of interest, whether we deem them to have been upright or cynical, were shaped as much by human variables as by structural ones. Ideas like Panhellenism, barbarism, and the freedom of the Greeks galvanised interstate action; and they militated Greek poleis, federal states, Hellenistic kings, and, later, Roman commanders towards acting (or wishing to be seen as acting) in accordance with popular conceptions of the ‘Hellenic’ interest.