revenge, armed conflict


From the very outset, Western civilization postulated revenge as a significant cause of armed conflict. The Iliad’s storyline, the first extant literary text in our Western tradition, revolves around the concept of a Greek retaliatory military campaign against a foreign enemy. The Greeks sail to Priam’s city, intending to make the Trojans pay for the abduction of Helen. The first historiography work in the Western canon (Herodotus’ Histories) posits a framework of an eternal cycle of revenge between East and West. The “Father of History” structures the narrative at the beginning of his work as a cycle of abduction of women in mythical times, culminating in the Achaemenids’ imperialist expansion that led to the Persian Wars. Thus, as many scholars have pointed out, the concept of retribution (τίσις, tisis) is pervasive and accounts for the most crucial factor for historical explanation in the Histories. Revenge would play a vital role in the classical Greek culture of the 5th and 4th centuries BCE. Retribution is also a motivating factor in multiple events in universal history across time — from the history of the Crusades to the 9/11 attacks.