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America: A Modern Sparta?

In the days of Greek prominence, Sparta was one of, if not the most formidable group in Ancient Greece. They had the most powerful land force in all of Greece and was known for its fighting culture and warrior spirit. During this time, another Greek city-state was rising to prominence. Known for its philosopher mentality and democratic way of governing, Athens slowly expanded their empire throughout all of the Meditteranean. Thucydides says that Athen’s rise to power threatened Sparta and was one of the prominent reasons that the two powers came to blows (Thucydides). In today’s society, the United States is in a similar position with a foreign adversary. In recent decades the United States has fallen into a Thucydides Trap with Russia, with the United States consistently feeling threatened with the rise of their global presence and power. This threatened feeling has almost resulted in conflict on numerous occasions. 

The threat of Russia to the United States as a prominent global power began near the beginning of the Cold War with the USSR. At this time, the United States and the USSR were at the height of their arms and space races, both trying to outdo the other for power. The USSR was being extremely aggressive with the creation of nuclear weaponry, and their growing power is something that scared the United States. In addition to this, the USSR’s commitment to spreading their communist ideals threatened the United States view that democracy should be the more prominent political ideology in the world after WWII (Congress archives). Due to the fact that the United States was recognized as the prominent global power at the time, this threat from the USSR is something that they took very seriously, which in turn led to the beginning of the Cold War. This is one case where the United States came to a sort of ‘war’ with Russia because of their rise in power. 

Another instance of the United States feeling threatened by Russia and their rise in power is in more recent times. In the past few years Russia has been going through many different situations that could potentially threaten the United States. Russia has been threatening neighboring countries, mainly Ukraine and the Crimean peninsula, and has an inner circle of diplomats who help advise him on these erratic actions (Forbes). Not only this, but they have continued to stockpile nuclear weapons and have stated that they are prepared and ready for action. In addition to this Russia feels that the west has it out for them in a way, which has increased their resentment towards the United States, and pushed the two countries closer to a conflict. 

In general, the United States and Russia have had a very tentative relationship for many years now. The United States has done a multitude of actions in response to Russia’s increasing power and in many different cases has been threatened by their recent rise in power. These two powers represent a clear modern day representation of Sparta and Athens, with the United States feeling the same threat that Sparta did back in their time. 

-Chris Gregoire

-Word Count: 519

Thucydides: History of the Peloponnesian War primary source

2 thoughts on “America: A Modern Sparta?

  1. Chris, wow. I love all of the connections you made here, and I completely agree with them all. However, I disagree on one crucial point upon which your entire blog post is based around. I do not believe that as the existing power, it is inevitable that we come into conflict with this upcoming power, whomever it may be. In other words, I disagree with Thucydides’ philosophical conclusion and the entire concept of the Thucydides trap. This is because in the modern world stage, the Earth is big enough for multiple superpowers to exist all at once. While this may not have always been the case, it definitely is now because of the threat of mutually assured destruction. No one man would ever be crazy enough to begin a nuclear war and begin the destruction of humanity, while at the same time being smart enough to get a majority of the power within one of these global superpowers. Additionally, the world is much more interdependent, with many countries relying on allies but also rivals for basic needs and consumer goods. The increased prominence of the worldwide trade web and the global economy could be humanity’s new way of determining which faction is the most dominant, especially with China’s new Silk Road initiatives and the United States’ attempts to reset many of its major trade deals. Only time will tell, but I believe we may be entering into a new stage of humanity in which we can all coexist without any major conflicts and without any imminent threats to human existence as a whole. Great blog


  2. It is important to make the connections like you did in the opening statement of your blog. Making the connection between the past and what we now see in today’s society in the United States. The connection you make is the Thucydides Trap in ancient times versus the Thucydides Trap the United States finds itself with Russia. It’s interesting and important that you made this connection because even as future leaders of our nation, it is important to understand that by looking at the past, we can get a better understanding and make smarter decisions for the future. I love how you used Russia as an example, it is a bit harder to compare with since we rely on Russia as much as they do with us because of both our formidable nuclear power capabilities that we have. In a sense it would’ve been easier to compare and analyze our relationship with Iran, so the fact that you decided to tackle Russian relations is pretty impressive. Overall, a well written blog.


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