Laws of War in the Pre-Dawn Light: Institutions and Obligations in Thucydides’ Peloponnesian War


This Essay in honor of Oscar Schachter criticizes both ahistorical renderings of the law of war and realist depictions of Peloponnesian War by asking whether Thucydides describes the conditions of a law of war. Examining the history in detail, Sheppard considers whether Thucydides described a sufficient institutional structure to recognize and enforce an intermunicipal law during war, as well as concepts of jus ad bellum and jus in bello. Despite the tradition of reading Thucydides as a realist, this Essay concludes that a more accurate reading would be that Thucidydes not only describes a form of a law of war but provided ample evidence of the benefits of its acceptance and the dangers of its breach.