So, you think you're a Diplomat?

By Joe Brennan

Do you? Think you’re a capable Diplomat? Aagh, you wouldn’t last five seasons in Ancient Athens. They ostracised their famous leaders for ten years, simply because the leaders were becoming too good at their job!

Themistocles was ostracised after he single-handedly organised the salvation of his people from Persian aggression. So he left Athens and spent the rest of his life in luxury at the court of the Persian King.

Aristides was recalled from his exile to organise the Athenian army at the Battle of Marathon. A runner/diplomat was sent to the mighty Spartan army to ask for their help. He was told, "Sorry, we’re celebrating a religious festival". The unsuccessful diplomat, Philippides, returned to Marathon, and was then asked to run to Athens with news of the battle. He ran a total of 220 kilometres, delivered his urgent message, then dropped dead. (I’ve heard worse excuses for not assisting in an attack, but only around a certain game table.)

When the Greeks met to discuss which city should lead the allied navy against Persia, Themistocles the Athenian put his own name forward. He had organised the building of 200 warships, by far the largest navy in Greece. He was refused, because Athens was known for its deceptive ways. Instead, they chose a Spartan soldier, Eurybiades, because they felt he was incorruptible. Not only did Themistocles bribe him with huge amounts of silver, but when Themistocles could not persuade Eurybiades to defend Athens, Themistocles sent a message to the Persian King, outlining how the Greek fleet could be surrounded and destroyed. (Sounds like the Payola variant.) The battle was fought at Salamis, and the Greeks won an extraordinary victory.

For a tale of valour and foul treachery, can we pass by the efforts of Leonidas? Battle King of Sparta, he led a small force of soldiers to the northern pass of Thermopylae, to withstand the might of the entire Persian army while the rest of Greece celebrated (you guessed it) a religious festival. For two days he held the pass, until a traitor showed the Persians a route through the mountains. With forces surrounding him, Leonidas told his allies to go home and save themselves. The Thebans said they would continue to stand by him and his 300 Spartans. As the Persians advanced, the Thebans changed sides! The Spartans continued to fight on until their spears broke. Then they fought on until their King died. Then they fought on till they were all dead. Yet the loss of life among the Persians was so great that their King ordered most of the dead to be buried away from the battlefield, before inviting observers from the Persian fleet.

Years later, Sparta and Athens warred with each other for decades. Alcibiades, a great Athenian soldier and statesman, was instructed to take a force and defeat Syracuse (an ally of Sparta’s in Sicily). While he was preparing, his political enemies broke off the penises of several statues of Hermes. (Hermes was extremely well endowed.) Alcibiades was blamed, but before he could be executed for the trumped up charge, he fled to Sparta and was well received there.

At the naval battle of Arginusae, Athens won a great victory. Her six admirals ordered Theramenes to pick up the shipwrecked survivors, but did not due to bad weather. Upon arriving back at Athens, charges were brought against the admirals for the loss of these castaways. All six were sentenced to death, but questions have since been asked about the fairness of the trial, in which the defence was curtailed, and the prosecutor was none other than Theramenes! Yes, treachery abounded in the ancient world. Oops, I forgot to mention; Theramenes was later killed by his friend Critias - something about not being supportive enough of Critias’ government...

The King of Lydia told his Guards’ Captain to watch his wife undress and see if she was not the most beautiful woman in the world. Although the Captain thought it wrong, the King testified that only barbarians would be ashamed to display their naked bodies. He watched, she noticed, and told him that he must kill himself or the King. The Captain killed the King and ruled in his stead, marrying the Queen to cement his sovereignty. Oh yes, treachery abounded.

Phillip II, the father of Alexander the Great, conquered Greece from his northern kingdom of Macedonia. He did so by making clever alliances and finding unusual pretexts for hostilities. As soon as he died, all of Greece went into rebellion.

In fact, diplomacy and treachery were commonplace for hundreds of years of Greek history. So many separate political entities in such a small area, all vying for influence and power....

But what is the point of all this?

What do I really want?

Was all this written just to entertain you?

Or was there a more devious purpose?

Could it be that I wish to interest you in joining the Hellas3 variant on USTR?

Well, yes, but I also have a little request for you. First, join a variant, any variant. Design the most extraordinary stab. And do it. Stab stab stab. See if you can do anything like the Ancient Greeks did. Don’t be satisfied by stabbing for the usual reasons. Say to yourself, I want to do an extraordinary stab. Maybe futile, maybe magnificent, but when asked why, or why not, you should have an answer that’s at least as good as, "We were celebrating a religious festival" or "He chopped the penis off my statue".

The best excuse I have come up with in a Standard Dip game was, "He called me fat" (I was playing Turkey under the name Fat Pasha.) Don’t you think you can be more creative in a variant? Give it a go.

Joe Brennan

If you wish to e-mail feedback on this article to the author, and clicking on the envelope above does not work for you, feel free to use the "Dear DP..." mail interface.