Recently I read The Peloponnesian War by Thucydides. It is one of the first histories, and it is an engrossing tale of a war that involved all the Greek states (and a few non-Greek states as well).
But what I found really interesting about Thucydides' account is the opposing philosophies of Athens and Sparta. Both cities championed freedom, but of two different kinds. Athens was an imperialist state that treated her 'allies' as junior partners at best, and often as little more than vassal states. So Sparta championed the independence of the Greek city states. Freedom, to the Spartans, meant freedom of the state from external control, and especially Athenian imperialism.
Athens, unlike Sparta, was a democracy. That meant that power was in the hands of the common people. The lower and middle classes in other city states were inspired by Athenian democracy, and the approach of the Athenian fleet was often the cue for the masses to rebel and overthrow the local oligarchy/tyrant.
Today, Athens and Sparta are represented by the West and Russia/China respectively. That is, western countries (especially the U.S.) encourage freedom (human rights and democracy) within developing countries. But Russia and China support the 'freedom' of developing countries from meddling foreign powers. Intranational freedom vs. international freedom. While the West is sometimes hypocritical in its support of human rights and democracy- demanding change in one country while ignoring problems in another- Russia and China oppose international intervention in cases of human rights abuse for their own reasons: they are afraid of being criticized for their own poor human rights record.
Greece today is a single nation state, and a democracy, with Athens as its capital. So even though Sparta won the Peloponnesian War, in the end it was Athens that triumphed. It is too early to say, yet, whether the modern Athens (U.S. and allies) or modern Sparta (Russia and China) will prevail in the 21st Century.