Everybody heard that the US returned an artifact back to Iran and Obama and Rouhani spoke on the phone, right? Good.
On Wednesday the US has returned Iran’s 2,700 years old silver drinking cup in the form of a griffin. The winged griffin cup was stolen decades ago and was caught in the beginning of the 2000s when a New York art dealer named Hicham Aboutaam tried to smuggle the piece into the US. Though last week the winged griffin returned home.
The US embassy in Iran also announced the news with a warm message, adding “It is considered the premier griffin of antiquity, a gift of the Iranian people to the world, and the United States is pleased to return it to the people of Iran. ” The return of the lost eagle of Iran was quickly followed by an another positive development on the US-Iran front. The president Barack Obama and Hasan Rouhani spoke on the phone for 15 minutes, 34 years too late. The last phone call between the leaders of the two countries happened in 1979, the year the Iranian Islamic revolution took place. The topic of this historic phone call was about Iran’s nuclear program. Even though the subject is not the most friendly looking one, both leaders have showed, that they are ready to communicate to solve their problems, which is a big step forward.
These two actions of the US in the last week are comparable to Rome’s foreign policy in the East in her days of the republic. After becoming a kind of a guardian angel of the Greek city-states following the 2nd Macedonian War (200-197 BC), Rome masterfully conducted a defensive imperialistic policy. This foreign policy of protecting the weak city-states against the powerful ones (Macedonia, Seleucids…) aimed at neither the annexation of the weak ones, nor the total destruction or removal of the powerful ones. The Senate only wanted to keep the power balance in the East as it was. After defending the city-states she made peace with Macedonia and instead of removing Philipp V, the Macedonian King, she made him her ally. She had no eyes on the eastern lands, but she also didn’t want a state as powerful as herself. Moreover, the Consul Flamininus (197) declared that all the Greek city-states were now free and independent. No Roman garrison stayed on the Greek peninsula, once the war was over they all returned to Rome. This was defensive imperialism at its finest and today the US also practising a similar strategy. The opening of the communication ways with the “enemy” was a necessary one. The victory on the field should be followed by words on the table, so that the peace can follow. But it is much better to reason with the other side before even trying to gain a victory on the field. Laurels of such a victory would be priceless.
 H. H. Scullard excellently explains this policy in his book A History of the Roman World 753 to 146 BC (4th Edition, Routledge).
 The invasion of Iraq in order to remove a threat to the world peace is still a controversial one, but the intervention of the US in the region, the removal of Saddam Hussein and the arrival of democracy with the return of the troops back to the US once a moderate public order has been established are comparable to Rome’s intervention in the East. Hence the similarity, but not exactly the same. Though one should not forget that there are huge differences between the world of the 21st century and the world of the 2nd century BC. We must also not forget that after the 2nd Macedonian war, 2 other Macedonian Wars and a Seleucid War followed and in 146 BC, Corinth sacked, first Macedonia and and later Greece became Roman provinces.