Translated by Robert Ernest Wallis
Doubtless the illustrious and noble justice of the Romans had its beginning from the very cradle of the growing empire. Did they not in their origin, when gathered together and fortified by crime, grow by the terror of their own fierceness? For the first people were assembled together as to an asylum. Abandoned people, profligate, incestuous, assassins, traitors, had flocked together; and in order that Romulus himself, their commander and governor, might excel his people in guilt, he committed fratricide. These are the first auspices of the religious state! By and by they carried off, violated, and ruined foreign virgins, already betrothed, already destined for husbands, and even some young women from their marriage vows – a thing unexampled – and then engaged in war with their parents, that is, with their fathers-in-law, and shed the blood of their kindred. What more irreligious, what more audacious, what could be safer than the very confidence of crime? Now, to drive their neighbours from the land, to overthrow the nearest cities, with their temples and altars, to drive them into captivity, to grow up by the losses of others and by their own crimes, is the course of training common to the rest of the kings and the latest leaders with Romulus. Thus, whatever the Romans hold, cultivate, possess, is the spoil of their audacity. All their temples are built from the spoils of violence, that is, from the ruins of cities, from the spoils of the gods, from the murders of priests. This is to insult and scorn, to yield to conquered religions, to adore them when captive, after having vanquished them. For to adore what you have taken by force, is to consecrate sacrilege, not divinities. As often, therefore, as the Romans triumphed, so often they were polluted; and as many trophies as they gained from the nations, so many spoils did they take from the gods. Therefore the Romans were not so great because they were religious, but because they were sacrilegious with impunity. For neither were they able in the wars themselves to have the help of the gods against whom they took up arms; and they began to worship those when they were triumphed over, whom they had previously challenged. But what avail such gods as those on behalf of the Romans, who had had no power on behalf of their own worshippers against the Roman arms?
Translated by G. G. Ramsay
[W]ould you like to be courted like Sejanus? To be as rich as he was? To bestow on one man the ivory chairs of office, appoint another to the command of armies, and be counted guardian of a Prince seated on the narrow ledge of Capri with his herd of Chaldaean astrologers? You would like, no doubt, to have Centurions, Cohorts, and Illustrious Knights at your call, and to possess a camp of your own? Why should you not? Even those who don’t want to kill anybody would like to have the power to do it…
What was it that overthrew the Crassi, and the Pompeii, and him who brought the conquered Quirites under his lash? What but lust for the highest place pursued by every kind of means? What but ambitious prayers granted by unkindly Gods? Few indeed are the kings who go down to Ceres’ son-in-law save by sword and slaughter – few the tyrants that perish by a bloodless death!
The spoils of war and trophies fastened upon stumps – a breast-plate, a cheek-strap hanging from a broken helmet, a yoke shorn of its pole, the flagstaff of a captured galley, or a captive sorrowing on a triumphal arch – such things are deemed glories too great for man; these are the prizes for which every General strives, be he Greek, Roman, or barbarian; it is for these that he endures toil and peril: so much greater is the thirst for glory than for virtue! For who would embrace virtue herself if you stripped her of her rewards?
Sooner will you find a false witness against a civilian than one who will tell the truth against the interest and the honour of a soldier.
From The Politics
Translated by Benjamin Jowett
There are firstly the prescriptions mentioned some distance back, for the preservation of a tyranny, in so far as this is possible; viz., that the tyrant…must prohibit literary assemblies or other meetings for discussion…Another art of the tyrant is to sow quarrels among the citizens; friends should be embroiled with friends, the people with the notables, and the rich with one another. Also he should impoverish his subjects; he thus provides against the maintenance of a guard by the citizen and the people, having to keep hard at work, are prevented from conspiring. The Pyramids of Egypt afford an example of this policy; also the offerings of the family of Cypselus, and the building of the temple of Olympian Zeus by the Peisistratidae, and the great Polycratean monuments at Samos; all these works were alike intended to occupy the people and keep them poor. Another practice of tyrants is to multiply taxes, after the manner of Dionysius at Syracuse, who contrived that within five years his subjects should bring into the treasury their whole property. The tyrant is also fond of making war in order that his subjects may have something to do and be always in want of a leader.
[A] tyrant, when he is absent from home, has more reason to fear the guardians of his treasure than the citizens, for the one accompany him, but the others remain behind. In the second place, he should be seen to collect taxes and to require public services only for state purposes, and that he may form a fund in case of war, and generally he ought to make himself the guardian and treasurer of them, as if they belonged, not to him, but to the public. He should appear, not harsh, but dignified, and when men meet him they should look upon him with reverence, and not with fear. Yet it is hard for him to be respected if he inspires no respect, and therefore whatever virtues he may neglect, at least he should maintain the character of a great soldier, and produce the impression that he is one.
Now in all states there are three elements: one class is very rich, another very poor, and a third in a mean. It is admitted that moderation and the mean are best, and therefore it will clearly be best to possess the gifts of fortune in moderation; for in that condition of life men are most ready to follow rational principle. But he who greatly excels in beauty, strength, birth, or wealth, or on the other hand who is very poor, or very weak, or very much disgraced, finds it difficult to follow rational principle. Of these two the one sort grow into violent and great criminals, the others into rogues and petty rascals. And two sorts of offenses correspond to them, the one committed from violence, the other from roguery….Again, those who have too much of the goods of fortune, strength, wealth, friends, and the like, are neither willing nor able to submit to authority. The evil begins at home; for when they are boys, by reason of the luxury in which they are brought up, they never learn, even at school, the habit of obedience. On the other hand, the very poor, who are in the opposite extreme, are too degraded. So that the one class cannot obey, and can only rule despotically; the other knows not how to command and must be ruled like slaves. Thus arises a city, not of freemen, but of masters and slaves, the one despising, the other envying; and nothing can be more fatal to friendship and good fellowship in states than this: for good fellowship springs from friendship; when men are at enmity with one another, they would rather not even share the same path. But a city ought to be composed, as far as possible, of equals and similars…
Translated by Gerald H. Rendall
Unless I am mistaken, all kingship or empire is sought in war and extended by victory. War and victory depend on the capture and generally the overthrow of cities. That business is not put through, without injury to the gods. Walls and temples have one destruction; citizens and priests alike are slain; the plunder of wealth is the same whether is is sacred property or that of laymen. Then the sacrileges of the Romans are exactly as many as their trophies; their triumphs over gods as many as over races; their spoils in war as many as the statues still left of captured gods…
Let the Emperor, as a last test, make war on heaven, carry heaven captive in his triumph, set a guard on heaven, lay taxes on heaven. He cannot…
We can count your troops; the Christians of one province will be more in number. For what war should we not have been fit and ready even if unequal in forces – we who are so glad to be butchered – were it not, of course, that in our doctrine we are given ampler liberty to be killed than to kill?
[N]othing is more foreign to us than the State. One state we know, of which all are citizens – the universe.
From De Spectaculis
Translated be Gerald H. Rendall
So it begins and so it goes on, – to madness, anger, discord to everything forbidden to the priests of peace.
Translated by J.M. Edmonds
Newsmaking is the putting together of fictitious sayings and doings at a man’s own caprice; and the Newsmaker is one that no sooner meets a friend than his face softens and he asks him with a smile ‘Where do you come from? How do you? and Have you any news of this?’ and throwing himself, so to speak, upon him ‘Can there be any greater news? nay, and it is good news’; and without suffering him to answer, ‘What?’ cries he, ‘have you heard nothing? methinks I can give you a rare feast.’
And it seems he has some soldier, or a servant of Asteius the flute-player’s, or maybe Lycon the contractor, come straight from the battle-field, who has told him all about it. Thus his authorities are such as no man could lay hands on. Yet he recounts, with them for sponsors, how that Polyperchon and the King have won a battle, and Casander is taken.
And if it be asked him ‘Do you believe this? ‘he will reply that it is so indeed, ’tis common talk, and the report gains ground, and everyone says the same; all agree about the battle, and the butchers’ bill is very long; he can tell it from the faces of the Government, they are all so changed. Moreover, he has been told in secret that they are keeping in close hiding one that came four days ago out of Macedonia who has seen it all. While this long tale is telling, you cannot think how true to life are his cries of woe: ‘Poor Casander! unhappy man! do you see how luck turns? Well, he was a strong man once, and now!’ and he ends with saying, ‘But mind you, this must go no further,’ albeit he has
been running up to all the town to tell them of it.
It is a marvel to me what object such men can have in making their news. They not merely tell lies, but forge tales that bring them no profit. For often-times have they lost their cloaks gathering crowds at the baths, or been cast in their suits-at-law by default a-winning battles by land or sea in the Porch, or it may be have missed their dinner taking cities by assault of word. Their manner of life is hard indeed; for what porch is there, or workshop, or part of the market-place which they do not haunt day in day out, to the utter undoing of their hearers, so do they weary them with their lying tales?
Translated by Benjamin Jowett
For the common opinion is, that work is for the sake of play, war of peace; whereas in war there is neither amusement nor instruction worth speaking of. The life of peace is that which men should chiefly desire to lengthen out and improve.
A good city has peace, but the evil city is full of wars within and without.
Let us first of all, then, have a class of laws which shall be called the laws of husbandmen. And let the first of them be the law of Zeus, the God of boundaries. Let no one shift the boundary line either of a fellow-citizen who is a neighbour, or, if he dwells at the extremity of the land, of any stranger who is conterminous with him, considering that this is truly ‘to move the immovable,’ and every one should be more willing to move the largest rock which is not a landmark, than the least stone which is the sworn mark of friendship and hatred between neighbours; for Zeus, the god of kindred, is the witness of the citizen, and Zeus, the god of strangers, of the stranger, and when aroused, terrible are the wars which they stir up.
From On The Latin Language
Translated by Roland G. Kent
Gladium ‘sword,’ from clades ‘slaughter,’ with change of C to G, because the gladium is made for a slaughter of the enemy; likewise from its omen was said pilum, by which the enemy periret ‘might perish,’ as though perilum.
The third gate is the Janual Gate, named from Janus, and therefore a statue of Janus was set up there, and the binding practice was instituted by Pompilius, as Piso writes in his Annals, that the gate should always be open except when there was no war anywhere. The story that has come down to us is that it was closed when Pompilius was king, and afterwards when Titus Manlius was consul, at the end of the first war with Carthage, and then opened again in the same year.
The enemy are called perduelles ‘foes’; as perfecit ‘accomplished’ is formed from per ‘through, thoroughly’ and fecit ‘did,’ so perduellis is formed from per and duellum ‘war’: this word afterward became belbim. From the same reason, Duellona ‘Goddess of War’ became Bellona.
In The Story of the Helmet-Horn is the verse”:
Who for ten years fought for wages (latrocinatus) for the King Demetrius.
Those were called latrones ‘mercenaries’ from latus ‘side,’ who were at the King’s side and had a sword at their own side (afterwards they called them stipatores ‘body-guards’ from stipatio ‘close attendance’) and were hired for pay: for this pay is in Greek called λάτρον. From this, the old poets sometimes call regular soldiers latrones. But now the name latrones is given to the highwaymen who block the roads, because like regular soldiers they have swords, or else because they latent ‘lie in hiding’ to ambush their victims.
Translated by J.M. Edmonds
We were slain in a glen of Dirphys, and the mound of our grave is made beside Euripus at our country’s charge, and rightly so; for by abiding the onset of the cruel cloud of war we lost our lovely time of youth.
In these men’s breasts the impetuous War-God washed the long-pointed arrow with crimson drops, and instead of javelineers this dust shrouds the living memorials of corpses without life.
Some one rejoices that I, Theodorus, am dead; another will rejoice over him; we are all debts due to Death.
Since the day the sea parted Europe from Asia and the impetuous War-God first haunted the cities if mankind…This bow and its arrows that lie beneath the roof of Athena’s temple their lamentable warfare done…
Rest so, thy fine long ash, against the tall pillar, abiding ever sacred to Zeus the Diviner; for thy bronze point is grown old and thy thyself art worn out with much wielding in dreadful war.
Plutarch: Advanced and bettered by wars? Only if riches, luxury, dominion are preferred to security, gentleness, independence accompanied by justice.
The Comparison of Numa with Lycurgus
Translated by John Dryden
Numa’s muse was a gentle and loving inspiration, fitting him well to turn and soothe his people into peace and justice out of their violent and fiery tempers…Numa did not out of cowardice or fear affect peace, but because he would not be guilty of injustice…
Numa’s whole design and aim, the continuance of peace and goodwill, on his death vanished with him; no sooner did he expire his last breath than the gates of Janus’s temple flew wide open, and, as if war had, indeed, been kept and caged up within those walls, it rushed forth to fill all Italy with blood and slaughter; and thus that best and justest fabric of things was of no long continuance, because it wanted that cement which should have kept all together, education. What, then, some may say, has not Rome been advanced and bettered by her wars? A question that will need a long answer, if it is to be one to satisfy men who take the better to consist in riches, luxury, and dominion, rather than in security, gentleness, and that independence which is accompanied by justice.
Translated by J.M. Edmonds
I like not him who at his drinking beside the full mixing-bowl tells of strife and lamentable war, but rather one that taketh thought for delightsome mirth by mingling the Muses and the splendid gifts of Aphrodite.
The doughty Agathon who died for Abdera, was mourned at his pyre by all this town; for blood-loving Ares never slew in the whirl of hateful battle such a youth as he.
This is the tomb of Timocritus, a stanch man in the wars; for it is the craven, not the brave, that are spared by Ares.
Clement of Alexandria
From Exhortations to the Greeks
Translated by G.W. Butterworth
There is for example Ares, who is honoured, so far as that is possible, in the poets –
Ares, thou plague of men, bloodguilty one, stormer of cities;
this fickle and implacable god…
Come then, let us add this, that your gods are inhuman and man-hating daemons, who not only exult over the insanity of men, but go so far as to enjoy human slaughter. They provide for themselves sources of pleasure, at one time in the armed contests in the of the stadium, at another in the innumerable rivalries of war, in order to secure every possible opportunity of glutting themselves to the full with human blood. Before now, too, they have fallen like plagues on whole cities and nations, and have demanded drink-offerings of a savage character…
[W]arlike Ares is so called from arsis and anairesis, abolition and destruction; which is the chief reason, I think, why many tribes simply fix their sword in the ground and then offer sacrifice to it as if to Ares.
From The Judgment of the Goddesses
Translated by A.M. Harmon
I am at your side, and if you judge me beautiful, Paris, you shall never leave the field of battle defeated, but always victorious, for I shall make you a warrior and a conqueror.
I have no use, Athena, for war and battle. As you see, peace reigns at present over Phrygia and Lydia, and my father’s realm is free from war…
Translated by J.M. Edmonds
Come, Muse, thrust wars away, and with me in the honour of a wedding of Gods and a feast of men and eke a merrymaking of the Blest…
When a man dies, all his glory among men dies also.
From The Thirteenth Discourse:
In Athens, about his Banishment
Translated by J.W. Cohoon
And thus it came about that I too endeavoured to talk to the Romans when they had summoned me and invited me to speak, but I did not take them by twos and threes in wrestling-schools and cloistered walks; for it was not possible to meet them thus in that city; but when a great number had gathered in one place, I would tell them that they needed a better and more carefully planned education, if they were ever to be happy in truth and reality and not merely in the opinion of the majority, as was now the case; that if anyone should win them to this view and take them in charge and teach them that not a single one of those things is a good to which they devoted themselves and which they strove with all their zeal to acquire, in the belief that, the more they acquired, the better and happier their life would be; but that if they wholeheartedly practised temperance, manliness, and justice, and took them into their souls, securing from somewhere teachers who taught these things and all the other things too, not caring whether the men were Greeks or Romans, or, for that matter, if there is among the Scythians or the Indians a man who teaches the things of which I have spoken, – not, as I think, archery and horsemanship, but far better, if there were a physician who, knowing how to treat the infirmities of the body, is in that way competent to heal the maladies of the soul – a teacher, I mean, who would be able to rid of licentiousness and covetousness and all such infirmities those who were dominated by them – of that man, I say, they should take possession and lead him to their homes, inducing him to come either by argument or by friendship – for by money such a man cannot be induced nor by any other gifts – and after establishing him on their acropolis they ought to issue an edict bidding all the young men to resort to him regularly and associate with him, and equally the older men too, until all of them, having become enamoured of righteousness, and having learned to despise gold and silver and ivory, yea, and rich food too and perfume and the lust of the flesh, should thereafter live happy lives, and be masters first and foremost of themselves and afterwards of all other men as well.
“For only then,” I continued, “will your city be great and strong and truly imperial, since at present its greatness arouses distrust and is not very secure. For,” said I, “in proportion as courage, justice, and temperance increase among you, in that degree there will be less silver and gold and furniture of ivory and of amber, less of crystal and citron-wood and ebony and women’s adornments and embroideries and dyes of many hues; in short, all the things which are now considered in your city precious and worth fighting for, you will need in smaller quantities, and when you have reached the summit of virtue, not at all. And the houses in which you live will be smaller and better, and you will not support so great a throng of idle and utterly useless slaves and – the most paradoxical thing of all – the more god-fearing and pious you become, the less frankincense and fragrant offerings and garlands there will be among you, and you will offer fewer sacrifices and at less expense, and the whole multitude that is now being supported in your city will be much smaller; while the entire city, like a ship that has been lightened, will ride higher and be much more buoyant and safer…But as your possessions are now, on account of the great amount of wealth, all of which has been collected from all the world into this one place, luxury and covetousness being prevalent, the situation is similar to that in which Achilles, after heaping high the pyre of Patroclus with many logs of wood, with many coverlets and garments, and also with fat and olive oil in addition, summons the winds, with libations and promise of sacrifices, to come and set it afire and burn it. For such possessions as yours are no less likely to kindle the wanton spirit and licentiousness of human beings.”
I did not, however, maintain that it was difficult for them to become educated, “for,” said I, “although you have hitherto been no whit better than other men, you learned easily enough all the other things that you wished.” I refer to horsemanship, archery, fighting in heavy armour .
From The Migration of Abraham
Translated by F.H. Colson and Rev. G.H. Whitaker
“[F]or the Lord thy God is with thee.” This companionship brings wars to an end, builds up peace, overthrows the host of evil things to which we grow accustomed, rescues the scanty band of those beloved of God, every loyal adherent of which loathes and hates the battalions of the earth-bound.”
The fool’s whole course through every moment of his journey depends on this pair, fierce spirit and desire; since he has got rid of mind, who is the charioteer and monitor. The man of the opposite character has exscinded fierce spirit and desire, and chosen as his patron and controlling guide the Divine Word. Even so Moses, best beloved of God, when offering the burnt sacrifices of the soul, will “wash out the belly,” that is, will cleanse away desire in every shape, but “the breast from the ram of consecration he will take away.” This means, we may be sure, the warlike spirit in its completeness; and the object of taking it away is that the better portion of the soul, the rational part, that is left, may exercise its truly free and noble impulses towards all things beautiful, with nothing pulling against it any longer and dragging it in another direction.
From Divine Institutes
Translated by William Fletcher
To think that men were so barbarous, so savage, that they gave the name of sacrifice to the slaughter of their own children, that is, to a deed foul, and to be held in detestation by the human race; since, without any regard to parental affection, they destroyed tender and innocent lives, at an age which is especially pleasing to parents, and surpassed in brutality the savageness of all beasts, which – savage as they are – still love their offspring! O incurable madness! What more could those gods do to them, if they were most angry, than they now do when propitious, when they defile their worshippers with parricide, visit them with bereavements, and deprive them of the sensibilities of men? What can be sacred to these men? Or what will they do in profane places, who commit the greatest crimes amidst the altars of the gods? Pescennius Festus relates in the books of his History by a Satire, that the Carthaginians were accustomed to immolate human victims to Saturn; and when they were conquered by Agathocles, the king of the Sicilians, they imagined that the god was angry with them; and therefore, that they might more diligently offer an expiation, they immolated two hundred sons of their nobles: “So great the ills to which religion could prompt, which has ofttimes produced wicked and impious deeds.” What advantage, then, did the men propose by that sacrifice, when they put to death so large a part of the state, as not even Agathocles had slain when victorious?
From this kind of sacrifices those public rites are to be judged signs of no less madness; some of which are in honour of the mother of the gods, in which men mutilate themselves; others are in honour of Virtus, whom they also call Bellona, in which the priests make offsprings not with the blood of another victim, but with their own. For, cutting their shoulders, and thrusting forth drawn swords in each hand, they run, they are beside themselves, they are frantic. Quintilian therefore says excellently in his Fanatic: “If a god compels this, he does it in anger.” Are even these things sacred? Is it not better to live like cattle, than to worship deities so impious, profane, and sanguinary?
The foolish, therefore, err in a twofold manner: first, in preferring the elements, that is, the works of God, to God Himself; secondly, in worshipping the figures of the elements themselves under human form. For they form the images of the sun and moon after the fashion of men; also those of fire, and earth, and sea, which they call Vulcan, Vesta, and Neptune. Nor do they openly sacrifice to the elements themselves. Men are possessed with so great a fondness for representations, that those things which are true are now esteemed of less value: they are delighted, in fact, with gold, and jewels, and ivory. The beauty and brilliancy of these things dazzle their eyes, and they think that there is no religion where these do not shine. And thus, under pretence of worshipping the gods, avarice and desire are worshipped. For they believe that the gods love whatever they themselves desire, whatever it is, on account of which thefts and robberies and murders daily rage, on account of which wars overthrow nations and cities throughout the whole world. Therefore they consecrate their spoils and plunder to the gods, who must undoubtedly be weak, and destitute of the highest excellence, if they are subject to desires. For why should we think them celestial if they long for anything from the earth, or happy if they are in want of anything, or uncorrupted if they take pleasure in those things in the pursuit of which the desire of men is not unreservedly condemned? They approach the gods, therefore not so much on account of religion, which can have no place in badly acquired and corruptible things, as that they may gaze upon the gold, and view the brilliancy of polished marble or ivory, that they may survey with unwearied contemplation garments adorned with precious stones and colours, or cups studded with glittering jewels. And the more ornamented are the temples, and the more beautiful the images, so much the greater majesty are they believed to have: so entirely is their religion confined to that which the desire of men admires.
From Institutio Oratoria
Translated by H.E. Butler
The opening of the Thebans’ plea presents no difficulty and is likely to win the approval of the judges, since they are seeking to recover by right what was taken from them by force. But out of this point arises a violent controversy as to the right of war, since the Thessalians urge that kingdoms and peoples and the frontiers of nations and cities depend upon these rights. To meet this argument it is necessary to discover in what respect this case differs from others which are concerned with property that has fallen into the hands of the victor: the difficulty moreover lies not so much in the proof as in the way it should be put forward. We may begin by stating that the rights of war do not hold good in any matter which can be brought before a court of justice, and that what is taken by force of arms can only be retained by force of arms, and consequently, wherever the rights of war hold good, there is no room for the functions of a judge, while on the contrary where the functions of the judge come into play, the rights of war cease to have any force. The reason why it is necessary to discover this principle is to enable us to bring the following argument into play: that prisoners of war are free on returning to their native land just because the gains of war cannot be retained except by the exercise of the same violence by which they were acquired.
Translated by A.W. Mair
And now Ares, the dancer, fires the land, with his conch leading the chant of blood. And all the land lies ravaged before my eyes and, as it were fields of corn, bristle the fields of the gleaming spears. And in my ears seems a voice of lamentation from the tower tops reaching to the windless seats of air, with groaning women and rending of robes, awaiting sorrow upon sorrow.
That woe, O my poor heart, that woe shall wound thee as a crowning sorrow, when the dusky, sworded, bright-eyed eagle shall rage, with his wings marking out the land – the track traced by bandied crooked steps – and, crying with his mouth his dissonant and chilly cry, shall carry aloft the dearest nursling of all thy brothers, dearest to thee and to his sire the Lord of Ptoön, and, bloodying his body with talon and beak, shall stain with gore the land, both swamp and plain, a ploughman cleaving a smooth furrow in the earth.
And many woes, on this side and that alternately, shall be taken as an offering by Candaeus or Mamertus – or what name should be given to him [Ares] who banquets in gory battles?
And many contests and slaughters in between shall solve the struggles of men, contending for dread empire, now on land, now on the plough-turned backs of earth…
From Soliloquies in England and Later Soliloquies (1922)
Their soldiering is over; they remember, with a strange proud grief, their comrades who died to make this day possible, hardly believing that it ever would come; they are overjoyed, yet half ashamed, to be safe themselves: they forget their wounds; they see a green vista before them, a jolly, busy, sporting, loving life in the old familiar places. Everything will go on, they fancy, as if nothing had happened.
Good honest unguided creatures! They are hardly out of the fog of war when they are lost in the fog of peace. If experience could teach mankind anything, how different our morals and our politics would be, how clear, how tolerant, how steady! If we knew ourselves, our conduct at all times would be absolutely decided and consistent; and a pervasive sense of vanity and humour would disinfect all our passions, if we knew the world. As it is, we live experimentally, moodily, in the dark; each generation breaks its egg-shell with the same haste and assurance as the last, pecks at the same indigestible pebbles, dreams the same dreams, or others just as absurd, and if it hears anything of what former men have learned by experience, it corrects their maxims by its first impressions, and rushes down any untrodden path which it finds alluring, to die in its own way, or become wise too late and to no purpose. These young men are no rustics, they are no fools; and yet they have passed through the most terrible ordeal, they have seen the mad heart of this world riven and unmasked, they have had long vigils before battle, long nights tossing with pain, in which to meditate on the spectacle; and yet they have learned nothing. The young barbarians want to be again at play. If it were to be only cricket or boating, it would be innocent enough; but they are going to gamble away their lives and their country, taking their chances in the lottery of love and of business and of politics, with a sporting chance thrown in, perhaps, of heaven. They are going to shut out from view every thing except their topmost instincts and easy habits, and to trust to luck. Yet the poor fellows think they are safe! They think that the war perhaps the last of all wars is over!
Only the dead are safe; only the dead have seen the end of war. Not that non-existence deserves to be called peace; it is only by an illusion of contrast and a pathetic fallacy that we are tempted to call it so. The church has a poetical and melancholy prayer, that the souls of the faithful departed may rest in peace. If in that sigh there lingers any fear that, when a tomb is disturbed, the unhappy ghost is doomed to walk more often abroad, the fear is mad; and if it merely expresses the hope that dead men’s troubles are over, the wish is superfluous; but perhaps we may gloss the old superstition, and read into it the rational aspiration that all souls in other spheres, or in the world to come upon earth, might learn to live at peace with God and with things. That would be some thing worth praying for, but I am afraid it is asking too much. God, I mean the sum of all possible good, is immutable; to make our peace with him it is we, not he, that must change. We should need to discover, and to pursue singly, the happiness proper to our nature, including the accidents of race and sex and the very real advantages of growing old and of not living for ever; and we should need to respect without envying all other forms of the good…
From Numa Pompelius
Translated by John Dryden
To the other months they gave denominations according to their order; so the fifth was called Quintilis, Sextilis the sixth, and the rest, September, October, November, and December. Afterwards Quintilis received the name of Julius, from Caesar, who defeated Pompey; as also Sextilis that of Augustus, from the second Caesar, who had that title. Domitian, also, in imitation, gave the two other following months his own names, of Germanicus and Domitianus; but, on his being slain, they recovered their ancient denominations of September and October. The two last are the only ones that have kept their names throughout without any alteration. Of the months which were added or transposed in their order by Numa, February comes from februa; and is as much a Purification month; in it they make offerings to the dead, and celebrate the Lupercalia, which, in most points, resembles a purification. January was also called from Janus, and precedence given to it by Numa before March, which was dedicated to the god Mars; because, as I conceive, he wished to take every opportunity of intimating that the arts and studies of peace are to be preferred before those of war. For this Janus, whether in remote antiquity he were a demigod or a king, was certainly a great lover of civil and social unity, and one who reclaimed men from brutal and savage living; for which reason they figure him with two faces, to represent the two states and conditions out of the one of which he brought mankind, to lead them into the other. His temple at Rome has two gates, which they call the gates of war, because they stand open in the time of war, and shut in the times of peace; of which latter there was very seldom an example, for, as the Roman empire was enlarged and extended, it was so encompassed with barbarous nations and enemies to be resisted, that it was seldom or never at peace. Only in the time of Augustus Caesar, after he had overcome Antony, this temple was shut; as likewise once before, when Marcus Atilius and Titus Manlius were consuls; but then it was not long before, wars breaking out, the gates were again opened. But, during the reign of Numa, those gates were never seen open a single day, but continued constantly shut for a space of forty-three years together; such an entire and universal cessation of war existed. For not only had the people of Rome itself been softened and charmed into a peaceful temper by the just and mild rule of a pacific prince, but even the neighbouring cities, as if some salubrious and gentle air had blown from Rome upon them, began to experience a change of feeling, and partook in the general longing for the sweets of peace and order, and for life employed in the quiet tillage of soil, bringing up of children, and worship of the gods. Festival days and sports, and the secure and peaceful interchange of friendly visits and hospitalities prevailed all through the whole of Italy. The love of virtue and justice flowed from Numa’s wisdom as from a fountain, and the serenity of his spirit diffused itself, like a calm, on all sides; so that the hyperboles of poets were flat and tame to express what then existed; as that –
“Over the iron shield the spiders hang their threads,” or that –
“Rust eats the pointed spear and double-edged sword.
No more is heard the trumpet’s brazen roar,
Sweet sleep is banished from our eyes no more.”
For during the whole reign of Numa, there was neither war, nor sedition, nor innovation in the state, nor any envy or ill-will to his person, nor plot or conspiracy from views of ambition. Either fear of the gods that were thought to watch over him, or reverence for his virtue, or divine felicity of fortune that in his days preserved human innocence, made his reign, by whatever means, a living example and verification of that saying which Plato, long afterwards, ventured to pronounce, that the sole and only hope of respite or remedy for human evils was in some happy conjunction of events which should unite in a single person the power of a king and the wisdom of a philosopher, so as to elevate virtue to control and mastery over vice. The wise man is blessed in himself, and blessed also are the auditors who can bear and receive those words which flow from his mouth; and perhaps, too, there is no need of compulsion or menaces to affect the multitude, for the mere sight itself of a shining and conspicuous example of virtue in the life of their prince will bring them spontaneously to virtue, and to a conformity with that blameless and blessed life of good-will and mutual concord, supported by temperance and justice, which is the highest benefit that human means can confer; and he is the truest ruler who can best introduce it into the hearts and practice of his subjects. It is the praise of Numa that no one seems ever to have discerned this so clearly as he.
From Calvary (1886)
Translated by Louis Rich
That evening I did not go out and remained at home to muse in solitude. Stretched on a sofa, with half-closed eyes, and body made torpid by the heat, almost slumbering, I liked to go back to my past, to bring to life things dead and to recall memories which escaped me. Five years had passed since the war – the war in which I began my apprenticeship in life by entering the tormenting profession of a man-killer…Five years already!…
During the war I had killed a man who was kindly, young and strong, and I had killed him just at the moment when, fascinated, with beating heart, he was rapturously watching the rising sun! I had killed him while hidden behind a tree, concealed by the shadow, like a coward! He was a Prussian? What difference does it make! He, too, was a human being, a man like myself, better than myself. Upon his life were depending the feeble lives of women and children; a portion of suffering humanity was praying for him, waiting for him; perhaps in that virile youth, in that robust body that was his, he had the germs of those superior beings for whom humanity had been living in hope? And with one shot from an idiotic, trembling gun I had destroyed all that.
Translated by H. Rushton Fairclough
When living creatures crawled forth upon primeval earth, dumb, shapeless beasts, they fought for their acorns and lairs with nails and fists, then with clubs, and so on step by step with the weapons which need had later forged, until they found words and names wherewith to give meaning to their cries and feelings. Thenceforth they began to cease from war, to build towns, and to frame laws that none should thieve or rob or commit adultery. For before Helen’s day a wench was the most dreadful cause of war, but deaths unknown to fame were theirs whom, snatching fickle love in wild-beast fashion, a man stronger in might struck down, like the bull in a herd. If you will but turn over the annals and records of the world, you must needs confess that justice was born of the fear of injustice…
Cum prorepserunt primis animalia terris,
mutum et turpe pecus, glandem atque cubilia propter
unguibus et pugnis, dein fustibus, atque ita porro
pugnabant armis, quae post fabricaverat usus,
donee verba, quibus voces sensusque notarent,
nominaque invenere; dehinc absistere bello,
oppida coeperunt munire et ponere leges,
ne quis fur esset, neu latro, neu quis adulter,
nam fuit ante Helenam cunnus taeterrima belli
causa, sed ignotis perierunt mortibus illi,
quos venerem incertam rapientis more ferarum
viribus editior caedebat ut in grege taurus.
iura inventa metu iniusti fateare necesse est,
tempora si fastosque veils evolvere mundi.
Lucius Annaeus Florus
From Epitome of Roman History
Translated by E. S. Forster
Almost the whole world having been now subjugated, the Roman Empire was too strong to be overcome by any foreign power. Fortune, therefore, envying a people that was sovereign of the world, armed it to its own destruction. The fury of Marius and Cinna had, indeed, formed a prelude, and as it were a preliminary trial, within the city; the thunder of the storm raised by Sulla had rolled over a wider area, but within the confines of Italy. The rage of Caesar and Pompeius, like a flood or a fire, involved the city and Italy, and then tribes and nations, and finally the whole extent of the empire. It cannot, therefore, justly be called merely a civil war, nor a war between allies, nor yet a foreign war, but was rather a war with all these characteristics and something worse than a war. If one looks at the leaders, the whole senate was ranged on one side or the other; if one considers the forces engaged, on one side were eleven legions, on the other eighteen, all the flower and strength of Italy’s manhood; if one looks at the aid given by the allies, one finds on one side the levies of Gaul and Germany, on the other side Deiotarus, Ariobarzanes, Tarcondimotus, Cotys and Rhascypolis, all the strength of Thrace, Cappadocia, Macedonia, Cilicia, Greece and the whole East. If one considers the duration of the war, it lasted for four years, a short period in view of the destruction which it wrought. If one looks at the ground and space which it covered, it began in Italy, it next directed its course into Gaul and Spain, and then, returning from the West, settled in full force upon Epirus and Thessaly; thence it suddenly leaped across into Egypt, whence it cast a backward glance upon Asia, brooded over Africa, and finally wheeled back into Spain, where at last it died out. But the close of the war did not see the end of party hatred, which did not subside until the rancour of those who had been defeated sated itself with the murder of the victor in the city itself, in the midst of the senate.
The cause of this great calamity was the same which caused all our calamities, namely, excessive good fortune. In the consulship of Quintus Metellus and Lucius Afranius, when the majesty of Rome held sway throughout the world and Rome was celebrating in the theatres of Pompeius her recent victories and her triumphs over the peoples of Pontus and Armenia, the excessive power enjoyed by Pompeius excited, as often happens, a feeling of envy among the ease-loving citizens…Crassus happened at this time to be at the height of a reputation due to his birth, wealth and the high offices which he had held, and yet he wished to increase his riches; Gaius Caesar’s fame for eloquence and courage was now enhanced by his tenure of the consulship; but Pompeius occupied a higher position than either of them. Caesar, therefore, being desirous of winning, Crassus of increasing, and Pompeius of retaining his position, and all alike being eager for power, readily came to an agreement to seize the government. So, each striving with the support of the others to win glory for himself, Caesar entered upon the government of Gaul, Crassus upon that of Asia, and Pompeius upon that of Spain. They possessed three great armies, and the rule of the whole world was vested in these by association of the three leaders…
Pompeius being routed and in flight, Caesar preferred to set the provinces in order before he pursued him…Marseilles, however, as he was passing through on his way at once attack Pompeius’ armies in Spain, dared to close its gates to him; the luckless city, desirous of peace, became involved in war through its dread of war. But since it was protected by walls, he gave orders that it should be reduced for him in his absence…Brutus, to whom the operations had been entrusted, defeated and overcame them by land and sea. They quickly surrendered and were deprived of everything which they possessed except the most valued of all their possessions, their liberty.
With the death of Pompeius, who could but suppose that the war was over? Yet the embers of the conflagration in Thessaly burst forth again in flames with far greater fury and violence. In Egypt, indeed, a war broke out against Caesar which had no connection with the party faction…In Asia too a fresh disturbance arose from Pontus…[I]n Africa Caesar had a much more bitter struggle against his fellow-countrymen than at Pharsalia. It was on the coast of Africa that the tide of flight had cast ashore the remnants of the shipwrecked faction – remnants, indeed, one can hardly call them, but rather material for a fresh war. Their forces had been scattered rather than defeated, and the fate of their leader had in itself confirmed the obligation of their oath, and they were no degenerate leaders who succeeded him; for the names of Cato and Scipio had a sufficiently imposing sound to take place of that of Pompeius. Juba, king of Mauretania, also joined their forces…Just as though there had been no fighting hitherto, warfare and party spirit broke out afresh, and Spain outdid Africa, just as Africa surpassed Thessaly…How great was the rage and fury of the victors in the slaughter of the enemy can be gathered from the fact that, when the fugitives had retreated to Munda, and Caesar immediately ordered that his conquered foes should be besieged, a rampart was constructed of corpses piled up and held together by the javelins and missiles which were thrust through them…
How powerful is fate! The plot had become widely known; on the very day fixed for its execution, written information of it had been presented to Caesar, and, though he sacrificed a hundred victims, he had been unable to obtain favourable omens. Yet he came into the senate-house thinking of his campaign against Parthia. As he was seated there in his curule chair the senators attacked him, and he was borne to the ground wounded in twenty-three places. Thus he who had filled the whole world with the blood of his fellow-citizens at last filled the senate-house with his own.
In the consulship of Marcus Antonius and Publius Dolabella, while fortune was already transferring the Roman Empire to Caesar, diverse and manifold confusion afflicted the State. Just as, in the annual revolutions of the heavens, the constellations by their movements cause thunder and make known their changes of position by storms, so, in the change which came over the Roman dominion, that is, the whole world, the body of the empire trembled through and through and was disturbed by every kind of peril, by wars, civil, foreign, and against slaves, by land and by sea.
Translated by G.R. Mair
Beneath both feet of Boötes mark the Maiden [Virgo], who in her hands bears the gleaming Ear of Corn [Spica]. Whether she be daughter of Astraeus, who, men say, was of old the father of the stars, or child of other sire, untroubled be her course! But another tale is current among men, how of old she dwelt on earth and met men face to face, nor ever disdained in olden time the tribes of men and women, but mingling with them took her seat, immortal though she was. Her men called Justice; but she assembling the elders, it might be in the market-place or in the wide-wayed streets, uttered her voice, ever urging on them judgements kinder to the people. Not yet in that age had men knowledge of hateful strife, or carping contention, or din of battle, but a simple life they lived. Far from them was the cruel sea and not yet from afar did ships bring their livelihood, but the oxen and the plough and Justice herself, queen of the peoples, giver of things just, abundantly supplied their every need. Even so long as the earth still nurtured the Golden Race, she had her dwelling on earth. But with the Silver Race only a little and no longer with utter readiness did she mingle, for that she yearned for the ways of the men of old. Yet in that Silver Age was she still upon the earth; but from the echoing hills at eventide she came alone, nor spake to any man in gentle words. But when she had filled the great heights with gathering crowds, then would she with threats rebuke their evil ways, and declare that never more at their prayer would she reveal her face to man. “Behold what manner of race the fathers of the Golden Age left behind them! Far meaner than themselves! But ye will breed a viler progeny! Verily wars and cruel bloodshed shall be unto men and grievous woe shall be laid upon them.” Even so she spake and sought the hills and left the people all gazing towards her still. But when they, too, were dead, and when, more ruinous than they which went before, the Race of Bronze was born, who were the first to forge the sword of the highwayman, and the first to eat of the flesh of the ploughing-ox, then verily did Justice loathe that race of men and fly heavenward and took up that abode, where even now in the night time the Maiden is seen of men, established near to far-seen Boötes.
German and other German-language writers on peace and war
From The Hymns
Translated by A.W. Mair
And thou thyself didst take up the child from the golden earth and lay him in thy lap and thou spakest saying: “O mighty and of many altars and many cities, bounteous earth! Rich continents and ye islands set around lo! I am as thou see’st – hard of tillage; yet from me shall Apollo be called ‘Of Delos’, and none other among all lands shall be so beloved by any other god…Thus didst thou speak and the child drew the sweet breast.
Wherefore from that day thou art famed as the most holy of islands, nurse of Apollo’s youth. On thee treads not Enyo nor Hades nor the horses of Ares; but every year tithes of first-fruits are sent to thee: to thee all cities lead up choirs, both those cities which have cast their lots toward the East and those toward the West and those in the South, and the peoples which have their homes above the northern shore…
Hail, goddess, and save this people in harmony and in prosperity, and in the fields bring us all pleasant things! Feed our kine, bring us flocks, bring us the corn-ear, bring us harvest! And nurse peace, that he who sows may also reap…
Translated by John C. Rolfe
The barbarians, who are always alert and nimble, threw at our men huge clubs, hardened in the fire, and ran their swords through the breasts of those who showed most resistance; thus they broke through the left wing. When this gave way, a strong troop of reserves bravely hastened to their aid from near at hand, and rallied them when death already sat upon their necks. Then the battle grew hot and the slaughter was great; all the more active rushed into the thick of the fray and met their death from the arrows that flew like hail, or from the swords. Those who fled were pursued on this side and on that by troops of cavalry, who with mighty strength slashed at their heads and backs; and likewise on both sides by foot soldiers, hamstringing those who were in the toils of fear and had fallen. And while the whole battlefield was covered with corpses, some were lying among them who were mortally wounded, and cherished a vain hope of life; some were smitten with a bullet from a sling or pierced with arrows tipped with iron; the heads of others were split through mid forehead and crown with swords and hung down on both shoulders, a most horrible sight…Finally, some of the dead, who were men of distinction, were buried in such manner as the present circumstances allowed; the bodies of the rest of the slain were devoured by the foul birds that are wont at such a time to feed upon corpses, as is shown by the plains even now white with bones…
Here one might see a barbarian…his cheeks contracted in a hiss, hamstrung or with right hand severed, or pierced through the side, on the very verge of death threateningly casting about his fierce glance; and by the fall of the combatants on both sides the plains were covered with the bodies of the slain strewn over the ground, while the groans of the dying and of those who had suffered deep wounds caused immense fear when they were heard…The ground covered with streams of blood whirled their slippery foothold from under them, so they could only strain every nerve to sell their lives dearly; and they opposed the onrushing foe with such great resolution that some fell by the weapons of their own comrades. Finally, when the whole scene was discoloured with the hue of dark blood, and wherever men turned their eyes heaps of slain met them, they trod upon the bodies of the dead without mercy…
French and other French-language writers on war and peace
Octave Mirbeau: It was not enough that war should glut itself with human flesh, it was necessary that it should also devour beasts, the earth itself, everything that lived in the calm and peace of labor and love
From The Attic Nights
Translated by John C. Rolfe
Among the Lacedaemonians…many famous writers, who have composed records of their laws and customs, affirm that thieving was lawful and customary, and that it was practised by their young men, not for base gain or to furnish means for indulging or amassing wealth, but as an exercise and training in the art of war; for dexterity and practice in thieving made the minds of the youth keen and strong for clever ambuscades, and for endurance in watching, and for the swiftness of surprise.
Marcus Cato, however, in the speech which he wrote On Dividing Spoils among the Soldiers, complains in strong and choice language about unpunished thievery and lawlessness. I have quoted his words since they pleased me greatly: “Those who commit private theft pass their lives in confinement and fetters; plunderers of the public, in purple and gold.”
Octave Mirbeau: It was not enough that war should glut itself with human flesh, it was necessary that it should also devour beasts, the earth itself, everything that lived in the calm and peace of labor and love
From Numa Pompelius
Translated by John Dryden
“…The very points of my character that are most commended mark me as unfit to reign, love of retirement and of studies inconsistent with business, a passion that has become inveterate in me for peace, for unwarlike occupations, and for the society of men whose meetings are but those of worship and of kindly intercourse, whose lives in general are spent upon their farms and their pastures. I should but be, methinks, a laughingstock, while I should go about to inculcate the worship of the gods and give lessons in the love of justice and the abhorrence of violence and war, to a city whose needs are rather for a captain than for a king.”
When Numa had, by such measures, won the favour and affection of the people, he set himself without delay to the task of bringing the hard and iron Roman temper to somewhat more of gentleness and equity. Plato’s expression of a city in high fever was never more applicable than to Rome at that time; in its origin formed by daring and warlike spirits, whom bold and desperate adventure brought thither from every quarter, it had found in perpetual wars and incursions on its neighbours its after sustenance and means of growth, and in conflict with danger the source of new strength; like piles, which the blows of the hammer serve to fix into the ground. Wherefore Numa, judging it no slight undertaking to mollify and bend to peace the presumptuous and stubborn spirits of this people, began to operate upon them with the sanctions of religion. He sacrificed often and used processions and religious dances, in which most commonly he officiated in person; by such combinations of solemnity with refined and humanizing pleasures, seeking to win over and mitigate their fiery and warlike tempers…
It was he, also, that built the temples of Faith and Terminus, and taught the Romans that the name of Faith was the most solemn oath that they could swear. They still use it; and to the god Terminus, or Boundary, they offer to this day both public and private sacrifices, upon the borders and stone-marks of their land; living victims now, though anciently those sacrifices were solemnized without blood; for Numa reasoned that the god of boundaries, who watched over peace, and testified to fair dealing, should have no concern with blood. It is very clear that it was this king who first prescribed bounds to the territory of Rome; for Romulus would but have openly betrayed how much he had encroached on his neighbours’ lands, had he ever set limits to his own; for boundaries are, indeed, a defence to those who choose to observe them, but are only a testimony against the dishonesty of those who break through them. The truth is, the portion of lands which the Romans possessed at the beginning was very narrow, until Romulus enlarged them by war; all those acquisitions Numa now divided amongst the indigent commonalty, wishing to do away with that extreme want which is a compulsion to dishonesty, and, by turning the people to husbandry, to bring them, as well as their lands, into better order. For there is no employment that gives so keen and quick a relish for peace as husbandry and a country life, which leave in men all that kind of courage that makes them ready to fight in defence of their own, while it destroys the licence that breaks out into acts of injustice and rapacity. Numa, therefore, hoping agriculture would be a sort of charm to captivate the affections of his people to peace, and viewing it rather as a means to moral than to economical profit, divided all the lands into several parcels, to which he gave the name of pagus, or parish, and over every one of them he ordained chief overseers; and, taking a delight sometimes to inspect his colonies in person, he formed his judgment of every man’s habits by the results; of which being witness himself, he preferred those to honours and employments who had done well, and by rebukes and reproaches incited the indolent and careless to improvement.
Numa, also, was founder of several other orders of priests, two of which I shall mention, the Salii and the Fecials, which are among the clearest proofs of the devoutness and sanctity of his character. These Fecials, or guardians of peace, seem to have had their name from their office, which was to put a stop to disputes by conference and speech; for it was not allowable to take up arms until they had declared all hopes of accommodation to be at an end, for in Greek, too, we call it peace when disputes are settled by words, and not by force…
British writers on peace and war
Translated by Walter C.A. Ker
Marcellinus, true offspring of a good father, you who the numbing Bear covers with her Parrhasian car, hear what an old friend, and your father’s, wishes for you, and keep those prayers in a remembering heart. See that your valour be wary; let not rash ardour bear you into the midmost fray of swords and savage spears. Let those who lack sense be eager for wars and fierce Mars…
Marcelline, boni suboles sincera parentis,
horrida Parrhasio quem tegit ursa iugo,
ille uetus pro te patriusque quid optet amicus
accipe et haec memori pectore uota tene:
causa sit ut uirtus nec te temerarius ardor
in medios enses saeuaque tela ferat.
Bella uellint Martemque ferum rationis egentes…
“O manners! O times!” cried Tully once when Catiline was planning his sacrilegious crime, when son-in-law and father-in-law were clashing in dreadful war and the weeping earth was drenched with civil carnage. Why do you now cry “O manners!” why now “O times!” What is it displeases you, Caecilianus? No savagery of captains is here, no frenzy of the sword: we may enjoy unbroken peace and pleasure. ‘Tis not our manners that make your times despicable to you, but your own manners, Caecilianus, make them so.
Dixerat ‘o mores! o tempora!’ Tullius olim,
sacrilegum strueret cum Catalina nefas,
cum gener atque socer diris concurreret armis
niaestaque civili caede maderet humus,
cur nunc ‘o mores!’ cur nunc ‘o tempora!’ dicis?
quod tibi non placeat, Caeciliane, quid est ?
nulla ducum feritas, nulla est insania ferri;
pace frui certa laetitiaque licet,
non nostri faciunt tibi quod tua tempora sordent,
sed faciunt mores, Caeciliane, tui.
From On the Embassy
Translated by Charles Darwin Adams
Though the blessings we were enjoying were so great, we again brought war against the Lacedaemonians, persuaded by the Argives; and at last, in consequence of the eagerness of our public men for war, we sank so low as to see a Spartan garrison in our city, and the Four Hundred, and the Impious Thirty; and it was not the making of peace that caused this, but we were forced by orders laid upon us. But when again a moderate government had been established, and the exiled democracy had come back from Phyle, with Archinus and Thrasybolus as the leaders of the popular party, we took the solemn oath with one another “to forgive and forget” – an act which, in the judgment of all men, won for our state the reputation of the highest wisdom. The democracy then took on new life and vigour. But now men who have been illegally registered as citizens, constantly attaching themselves to whatever element in the city is corrupt, and following a policy of war after war, in peace ever prophesying danger, and so working on ambitions and over-excitable minds, yet when war comes never touching arms themselves, but getting into office as auditors and naval commissioners – men whose mistresses are the mothers of their offspring, and whose slanderous tongues ought to disenfranchise them – these men are bringing the state into extreme peril, fostering the name of democracy, not by their character, but by their flatteries, trying to put an end to the peace, wherein lies the safety of the democracy, and in every way fomenting war, the destroyer of popular government.
Translated by H. G. Dakyns
[H]e was condemned to death by the Spartan authorities for disobedience to orders; and now, finding himself an exile, he came to Cyrus. Working on the feelings of that prince…he received from his entertainer a present of ten thousand darics. Having got this money, he did not sink into a life of ease and indolence, but collected an army with it, carried on war against the Thracians, and conquered them in battle, and from that date onwards harried and plundered them with war incessantly, until Cyrus wanted his army; whereupon he at once went off, in hopes of finding another sphere of warfare in his company.
These, I take it, were the characteristic acts of a man whose affections are set on warfare. When it is open to him to enjoy peace with honour, no shame, no injury attached, still he prefers war; when he may live at home at ease, he insists on toil, if only it may end in fighting; when it is given to him to keep his riches without risk, he would rather lessen his fortune by the pastime of battle. To put it briefly, war was his mistress; just as another man will spend his fortune on a favourite, or to gratify some pleasure, so he chose to squander his substance on soldiering.
After this they marched into the country of the Taochians five stages – thirty parasangs – and provisions failed; for the Taochians lived in strong places, into which they had carried up all their stores. Now when the army arrived before one of these strong places – a mere fortress, without city or houses, into which a motley crowd of men and women and numerous flocks and herds were gathered – Cheirisophus attacked at once…
And here a terrible spectacle displayed itself: the women first cast their infants down the cliff, and then they cast themselves after their fallen little ones, and the men likewise. In such a scene, Aeneas the Stymphalian, an officer, caught sight of a man with a fine dress about to throw himself over, and seized hold of him to stop him; but the other caught him to his arms, and both were gone in an instant headlong down the crags, and were killed. Out of this place the merest handful of human beings were taken prisoners, but cattle and asses in abundance and flocks of sheep.
Octave Mirbeau: Stupidly, unconsciously, I had killed a man whom I loved, a man with whom my soul had just identified itself
From Calvary (1886)
Translated by Louis Rich
Hardly had I time enough to squat down behind the oak tree, when on the road, at a distance of twenty paces in front of me, there suddenly appeared a large shadow, surprisingly immobile, like an equestrian statue of bronze, and this enormous shadow which obtruded itself almost entirely upon the brightness of the eastern sky was terrible to behold…The man appeared to me superhuman, inordinately large against the sky!…He wore the flat cap of the Prussians, a long black cloak, under which the chest was bulging out greatly. Was he an officer or a plain soldier? I did not know, for I could not distinguish any insignia of rank on the dark uniform…His features, at first indistinct, became more accentuated. He had clear eyes, very limpid, a broad beard, his bearing bespoke youthful strength; his face breathed power and kindness along with something noble, audacious and sad which struck me. Holding his hand flat on his thigh, he studied the country before him, and his horse scraped the ground with its hoofs and puffed long streams of vapor in the air through its quivering nostrils…Evidently this Prussian was reconnoitering, he came to observe our position, the nature of the ground; undoubtedly a whole army was swarming behind him, waiting for a signal from this man to throw themselves on the plain!…
Well hidden in my woods, with rifle ready, I was watching him…He was handsome indeed, life flowed abundantly in this robust body…What a pity! He kept on studying the country, and it seemed to me as though he were studying it more like a poet than a soldier…I detected a sort of emotion in his eyes…Perhaps he forgot why he had come here and allowed himself to be fascinated by the beauty of this virginal and triumphant dawn. The sky became all red, it blazed up gloriously, the awakened fields unrolled themselves in the distance, emerging one after another from their veil of mist, rose-colored and blue, which floated like long scarves ruffled by invisible hands. The trees were dripping dew, the hovels separated themselves from the pink and blue background, the dove-cot of a large farm whose new tile roofs began to glitter, projected its whitish cone into the purple glare of the east…Yes, this Prussian who started out with the notion to kill, was arrested, dazzled and reverently stirred by the splendor of a new-born day, and his soul for a few minutes was the captive of love.
“Perhaps it’s a poet,” I said to myself, “an artist; he must be kind, since he is capable of tenderness.”
And upon his face I could see all the emotion of a brave man which agitated him, all the tremors, all the delicate and flitting reactions of his heart, moved and fascinated…I feared him no longer. On the contrary, a sort of infatuation drew me towards him, and I had to hold on to the tree to keep myself from going to this man. I would have liked to speak to him, to tell him that it was well that he contemplated the heaven thus, and that I liked him because of his receptiveness to beauty…But his face grew sombre, a sadness stole into his eyes…Ah, the horizon over which they swept was so far, so far away! And beyond that horizon there was another and further on, still another! One had to conquer all that!…When was he to be relieved of his duty ever to spur his horse on through this nostalgic territory, always to cut a way through ruins and through death, always to kill, always to be cursed!…
And then, undoubtedly, he was thinking of the things he had left behind; of his home resounding with the laughter of his children, of his wife, who was waiting for him and praying to God while doing so…Will he ever see her again?…I was sure that at this very moment he was recalling the most fugitive details, the most childish habits of his life at home … a rose plucked one evening, after dinner, with which he adorned the hair of his wife, the dress which she wore when he was leaving, a blue bow on the hat of his little daughter, a wooden horse, a tree, a river view, a paper knife!… All the memories of his joys came back to him, and with that keenness of vision which exiled persons possess, he encompassed in a single mental glance of despondency all those things by means of which he had been happy until now…
The sun rose higher, rendering the plain larger, extending the distant horizon still farther…I felt a compassion for this man and I loved him…yes I swear I loved him!…Well, then, how did that happen?…A detonation was suddenly heard, and at that very moment I caught sight of a boot in the air, of a torn piece of a military cloak, of a mane flying about wildly on the road…and then nothing, I heard the noise of a blow with a sabre, the heavy fall of a body, furious beats of a gallop…then nothing…My rifle was warm, and smoke was coming out of it…I let it fall to the ground…Was I the victim of hallucination?…Clearly not. Of the large shadow which rose skyward at the middle of the road like an equestrian statue of bronze there was left but a small corpse all black, stretched out face downward, with crossed arms…I recalled the poor cat that my father had killed, when with fascinated eyes she had been following the flight of a butterfly…
Stupidly, unconsciously, I had killed a man whom I loved, a man with whom my soul had just identified itself, a man who in the dazzling splendor of the rising sun was retracing the purest dreams of his life!… Perhaps I had killed him at the very moment that that man had said to himself: “And when I shall see her again at home…” Why? For what reason? Since I loved him, since, if soldiers had menaced him, I would have defended him! Why of all men was it he I assassinated? In two bounds I was beside this man; I called him…he did not move. My bullet had pierced his neck under the ear, and blood was gushing from an opened vein with a gurgling sound, collecting into a red pool and sticking to his beard…With trembling hands I raised him slowly, his head swung from side to side, fell back, inert and heavy…I felt his chest where the heart was: it beat no longer…Then I raised him again, supporting his head with my knees, and suddenly I saw his eyes, his two clear eyes which looked at me sadly, without hatred, without reproach, his two eyes which seemed to be alive!…I thought I was going to faint, but gathering all my strength in a supreme effort, I clasped the dead body of the Prussian, placed it right in front of me and pressing my lips against this bleeding face from which long, purple threads of congealed slaver were hanging, I desperately kissed it!…
From this moment on I don’t remember anything…I see again smoky fields covered with snow, and ruins burning incessantly, ever recurring dismal flights, delirious marches during the night, confusion at the crossroads congested with ammunition wagons, where the dragoons with drawn swords were driving their horses right into our midst and trying to cut a way through the wagons; I see again funeral carriages, followed by dead bodies of young men which we buried in the frozen ground, saying to ourselves that tomorrow would be our turn; I see again, near the cannon carriages, large carcasses of horses dismembered by howitzer shells, stiff, cut up, over which we used to quarrel in the evening, from which we used to carry away, into our tents, bleeding portions which we devoured growling, showing our teeth like wolves!…And I see again the surgeon, with sleeves of his white coat rolled up, pipe in mouth, amputating on a table, in a farmhouse, by the smoky light of a tallow candle, the foot of a little soldier still wearing his coarse shoes!…
Seneca the Elder: What is this hideous disease, this appalling evil that drove you to shed each other’s blood?
Seneca the Elder
Translated by M. Winterbottom
Look: often have armies of citizens and relatives taken their stand, drawn up to join battle; the hills on either side are filled with cavalry; and suddenly the whole terrain is strewn with the bodies of the slaughtered. Suppose someone amid that mass of corpses and looters should ask: What was it that compelled man to commit crime against man? Beasts do not war among themselves, and even if beasts did wars would we be unworthy of man, a quiet species, and nearest to the divine. What is this hideous disease, this fury that drove you to shed each other’s blood – though you are of one stock, one blood? What is this appalling evil that fate or chance has inflicted on this species alone?
From Labor (1901)
Translator not identified
The good Mazelle sat, entirely overlooked, between Judge Gaume and Captain Jollivet. Up to this time he had only opened his mouth to put into it large mouthfuls of food, which he masticated slowly for fear of disordering his digestion. Social economics did not interest him, since, thanks to the nature of his income, he was beyond risk from storms. But he was forced to lend an ear to the theories of the captain, who was delighted to impart them to so kindly an auditor. The army was the school for the nation, and France could never be anything, according to her immutable traditions, but the land of a warlike people; she would recover her proper place only on the day when she reconquered Europe and ruled it by the sword. It was foolish to accuse the system which sent young men to perform military service of disorganizing labor. Whose labor? What labor? Was there any such thing? Socialism was an immense humbug! There would always be soldiers, and peoples under them for fatigue duty. The sword was something tangible which could be seen, but who had ever seen an idea, this famous idea, which people pretended was the queen of the world? He laughed at his own wit, and the kind hearted Mazelle, who had a profound respect for the army, laughed with him out of complaisance, while his fiancée, Lucille, regarded him with an expression of enigmatical tenderness…
“Ah, the feudal system had its good points; all the worthless men in those days went to the wars, if they had no property and knew that they would never have any.”
Laughter and jest continued. All present, however, had felt the great wind of to-morrow pass over them; the breath of the future swept across the table, blowing away its iniquitous luxury and its poisonous pleasures. They all, therefore, began to talk about questions of interest, of capital, of bourgeois society and capitalists, all of which are based on the wage system.
“The republic will destroy itself when it interferes with property,” said Gourier, the mayor. “The laws are still in force, but everything will give way when they are no longer administered,” said Judge Gaume.
“What does it matter, in any event?” said Captain Jollivet; “the army is here for our protection, and it will never permit these rascals to triumph.”
Boisgelin and Delaveau assented approvingly to these sentiments, for the present social forces worked in their interest. Luc understood the situation. The government, the ministry, the magistracy, the army, and the Church, all were engaged in sustaining this terrible social system, this monstrous frame-work of iniquity, by means of which labor destroyed the many in order that the few might be maintained in luxury and corruption…
From The Politics
Translated by Benjamin Jowett
The law of which I speak is a sort of convention, the law by which whatever is taken in war is supposed to belong to the victors. But this right many jurists impeach, as they would an orator who brought forward an unconstitutional measure: they detest the notion that, because one man has the power of doing violence and is superior in brute strength, another shall be his slave and subject….
Others, clinging, as they think, simply to a principle of justice (for law and custom are a sort of justice), assume that slavery in accordance with the custom of war is justified by law, but at the same moment they deny this. For what if the cause of the war be unjust? And again, no one would ever say he is a slave who is unworthy to be a slave. Were this the case, men of the highest rank would be slaves and the children of slaves if they or their parents chance to have been taken captive and sold.
The charge which Plato brings, in the Laws, against the intention of the legislator, is likewise justified; the whole constitution has regard to one part of virtue only – the virtue of the soldier, which gives victory in war. So long as they were at war, therefore, their power was preserved, but when they had attained empire they fell, for of the arts of peace they knew nothing, and had never engaged in any employment higher than war. There is another error, equally great, into which they have fallen. Although they truly think that the goods for which men contend are to be acquired by virtue rather than by vice, they err in supposing that these goods are to be preferred to the virtue which gains them.
Once more: the revenues of the state are ill-managed; there is no money in the treasury, although they are obliged to carry on great wars, and they are unwilling to pay taxes. The greater part of the land being in the hands of the Spartans, they do not look closely into one another’s contributions. The result which the legislator has produced is the reverse of beneficial; for he has made his city poor, and his citizens greedy.
A social instinct is implanted in all men by nature…For man, when perfected, is the best of animals, but, when separated from law and justice, he is the worst of all; since armed injustice is the more dangerous, and he is equipped at birth with arms, meant to be used by intelligence and virtue, which he may use for the worst ends. Wherefore, if he have not virtue, he is the most unholy and the most savage of animals, and the most full of lust and gluttony. But justice is the bond of men in states, for the administration of justice, which is the determination of what is just, is the principle of order in political society.
Lactantius: The pernicious and impious madness of deifying warlike generals who have inundated plains with blood
From Divine Institutes
Translated by William Fletcher
And so Hercules, when he perceived that his muscles were disfigured by ulcers, neither wished to be healed nor to grow old, that he might not at any time appear to have less strength or comeliness than he once had. They supposed that he ascended into heaven from the funeral pile on which he had burnt himself alive; and those very qualities which they most foolishly admired, they expressed by statues and images, and consecrated, so that they might for ever remain as memorials of the folly of those who had believed that gods owed their origin to the slaughter of beasts. But this, perchance, may be the fault of the Greeks, who always esteemed most trifling things as of the greatest consequence. What is the case of our own countrymen? Are they more wise? For they despise valour in an athlete, because it produces no injury; but in the case of a king, because it occasions widely-spread disasters, they so admire it as to imagine that brave and warlike generals are admitted to the assembly of the gods, and that there is no other way to immortality than to lead armies, to lay waste the territory of others, to destroy cities, to overthrow towns, to put to death or enslave free peoples. Truly the greater number of men they have cast down, plundered, and slain, so much the more noble and distinguished do they think themselves; and ensnared by the show of empty glory, they give to their crimes the name of virtue. I would rather that they should make to themselves gods from the slaughter of wild beasts, than approve of an immortality so stained with blood. If any one has slain a single man, he is regarded as contaminated and wicked, nor do they think it lawful for him to be admitted to this earthly abode of the gods. But he who has slaughtered countless thousands of men, has inundated plains with blood, and infected rivers, is not only admitted into the temple, but even into heaven. In Ennius Africanus thus speaks: “If it is permitted any one to ascend to the regions of the gods above, the greatest gate of heaven is open to me alone.” Because, in truth, he extinguished and destroyed a great part of the human race. Oh how great the darkness in which you were involved, O Africanus, or rather O poet, in that you imagined the ascent to heaven to be open to men through slaughters and bloodshed! If this is the virtue which renders us immortal, I for my part should prefer to die, rather than to be the cause of destruction to as many as possible. If immortality can be obtained in no other way than by bloodshed, what will be the result if all shall agree to live in harmony? And this may undoubtedly be realized, if men would cast aside their pernicious and impious madness, and live in innocence and justice. Shall no one, then, be worthy of heaven? Shall virtue perish, because it will not be permitted men to rage against their fellow-men? But they who reckon the overthrow of cities and people as the greatest glory will not endure public tranquillity: they will plunder and rage; and by the infliction of outrageous injuries will disturb the compact of human society, that they may have an enemy whom they may destroy with greater wickedness than that with which they attacked.
But if this is agreed upon among themselves, that gods were made from men, why then do they not believe the poets, if at any time they describe their banishments and wounds, their deaths, and wars, and adulteries? From which things it may be understood that they could not possibly become gods, since they were not even good men, and during their life they performed those actions which bring forth everlasting death.
Therefore there is no virtue in any one when vices bear rule; there is no faith when each individual carries off all things for himself; there is no piety when avarice spares neither relatives nor parents, and passion rushes to poison and the sword: no peace, no concord, when wars rage in public, and in private enmities prevail even to bloodshed; no chastity when unbridled lusts contaminate each sex, and the whole body in every part. Nor, however, do they cease to worship those things which they flee from and hate. For they worship with incense and the tips of their fingers those things which they ought to have shrunk from with their inmost feelings; and this error is altogether derived from their ignorance of the principal and chief good.
From The Wine Press: A Tale of War (1913)
The troop-train couplings clanged like Fate
Above the bugles’ din.
Sweating beneath their haversacks,
With rifles bristling on their backs,
Like heavy-footed oxen
The dusty men trooped in.
It seemed that some gigantic hand
Behind the veils of sky
Was driving, herding all these men
So few of them could understand,
So many of them must die.
“They say that war’s a noble thing!
They say it’s good to die,
For causes none can understand!
They say it’s for the Fatherland!
They say it’s for the Flag, the King,
And none must question why!”
The train shrieked into a tunnel.
“Duty? Yes, that is good.
But when the thing has grown so vast
That no man knows, from first to last,
The reason why he finds himself
Up to his neck in blood;
When you are trapped and carried along
By a Power that runs on rails;
Why, open that door, my friends, and see
The way you are fixed. You think you are free,
But the iron wheels are singing a song
That stuns our fairy-tales;
Like cattle into a cattle-pen,
When you are lifted up like this
Between a finger and thumb,
And dropt you don’t know where or why,
And told to shoot and butcher and die,
And not to question, not to reply,
But go like a sheep to the shearers,
A lamb to the slaughter, dumb;
What? Are the engines, then, our God?
Does one amongst you know
The reason of this bitter work?”
From On the Peace
Translated by George Norlin
And those who claim the right to stand at the head of the Hellenes ought to become leaders of such enterprises much rather than of war and of hireling armies, which at the present time are the objects of our ambition.
I could wish that, even as to praise virtue is a facile theme, so it were easy to persuade hearers to practise it. But as things are I am afraid that I may be expressing such sentiments to no purpose. For we have been depraved for a long time by men whose only ability is to cheat and delude – men who have held the people in such contempt that whenever they wish to bring about a state of war with any city, these very men who are paid for what they say have the audacity to tell us…
[A]lthough we seek to rule over all men, we are not willing to take the field ourselves, and although we undertake to wage war upon, one might almost say, the whole world, we do not train ourselves for war but employ instead vagabonds, deserters, and fugitives who have thronged together here in consequence of other misdemeanours, who, whenever others offer them higher pay, will follow their leadership against us.
We are concerned about our polity no less than about the safety of the whole state and we know that our democracy flourishes and endures in times of peace and security while in times of war it has twice already been overthrown, but we are hostile to those who desire peace as if suspecting them of favouring oligarchy while we are friendly to those who advocate war as if assured of their devotion to democracy.
I know, however, that it is difficult for one who attempts to denounce that imperial power which all the world lusts after and has waged many wars to obtain to impress his hearers as saying anything which is not intolerable. Nevertheless, since you have endured the other things which I have said, which, although true, are offensive, I beg you to be patient also with what I shall say upon this subject and not to impute to me the madness of having chosen to discourse to you on matters so contrary to the general opinion without having something true to say about them. Nay, I believe that I shall make it evident to all that we covet an empire which is neither just nor capable of being attained nor advantageous to ourselves.
And they became so addicted to war and the perils of war that, whereas in times past they had been more cautious in this regard than the rest of the world, they did not refrain from attacking even their own allies and their own benefactors…
From The Jewish War
Translated by H. St. J. Thackeray
“How absurd it were, because of one man to make war on a whole people…But war once set on foot cannot be lightly either broken off or carried through without risk of disaster…All who embark on war do so in reliance on the support either of God or man; but when, in all probability, no assistance from either quarter is forthcoming, then the aggressor goes with his eyes open to certain ruin. What is there, then, to prevent you from dispatching with your own hands your children and wives and from consigning this surpassingly beautiful home of yours to flames? By such an act of madness you would at least spare yourselves the ignominy of defeat. It were well, my friends, it were well, while the vessel is still in port, to foresee the coming storm, and not to put out into the midst of the hurricane to meet your doom. For the victims of unforeseen disaster there is left at least the meed of pity; but he who rushes to manifest destruction incurs opprobrium to boot.”
Even those who had been reputed the very mildest of men were instigated by avarice to murder their adversaries; for they would then with impunity plunder the property of their victims and transfer to their own homes, as from a battle-field, the spoils of the slain, and he who gained the most covered himself with glory as the most successful murderer. One saw cities choked with unburied corpses, dead bodies of old men and infants exposed side by side, poor women stripped of the last covering of modesty, the whole province full of indescribable horrors; and even worse than the tale of atrocities committed was the suspense caused by the menace of evils in store.
Ernest Poole: The hatred rising in all men has already butchered millions and will butcher millions more!
From Blind (1920)
In the next few years, I have no doubt, there will be Cook’s tours innumerable to European battlefields; and this will be called “Seeing the War.” But the blinding-vast tornado, with the deep changes that it wrought, will really not be seen at all till a generation or two have gone and other turbulent events have taken place upon the earth. God pity the poor devils who have to write its history now.
Aunt Amelia came over for supper that night. She wanted to get the latest news and “talk it over thoroughly.” She was deeply disturbed and indignant about it. “A perfectly awful butchery, without rhyme or reason!” she declared. She spoke of the war she had seen as a girl and recounted some of the horrors – the price. That had at least been worth the price; a great ideal had been at stake. But what this terrible struggle was for she could not for the life of her make out.
“If it does come about,” she said, “there is just one thing for us to do – keep perfectly friendly to both sides and help bring peace as soon as we can. Larry,” she demanded, “what do those socialist friends of yours mean by not putting a stop to this? I should think they would be ashamed to look each other in the face! After all they have said about brotherhood – and the rights of the common people! The common people don’t want this war ”
Together we tried to picture Dorothy living in Berlin – but all Europe to our eyes went suddenly under clouds of smoke from which was heard the roar of guns. She had been such a warm blithe lovable girl, and such an intimate part of this house. It was as though the long arm of the war were suddenly reaching down into the very foundation stones of this peaceable old building, making it quiver with alarm. Gone was Aunt Amelia’s hope of our keeping friendly to both sides – for already this news had fanned into flame the vague instinctive feelings that had been in me from the start against the German side of it. I had never been to Germany – knew very little about it, in fact – but now I began to inveigh against the entire Teuton race, their pig-headed ways, their intolerance. Then noticing the anxiety in Aunt Amelia’s restless eyes, I grew grimly practical.
“The world is a bristling jungle of ‘war-lies’ in every land, and every conceivable prejudice and distortion of the facts…”
He stopped for a moment, and then in a low voice he said,
“Last week I was at Oxford, and out in front of the library on a misty moonlit night I saw a couple of hundred chaps in mufti – undergraduates – standing at ease with their cigarettes, chatting and laughing. Then I heard the order passed back, ‘No lights – no smoking – absolute silence.’ And a few moments later they went off into the mist – so quietly. It was as though they were passing out of existence.”
I never saw this man again, for in the last year of the war he was killed in Flanders.
“Tell me really what you think,” he said, with his ironic smile. “Be frank. I am no chauvinist.”
“I have seen so little,” I began.
‘You are lucky,” he interrupted. “With me it is different – I have seen! For months I have been like a man submerged in a flood of blood and hatred. It is what no man but a paranoiac could have pictured coming over the world. But it has come! The hatred rising in all men has already butchered millions and will butcher millions more! And not only that!” he cried. “It is not even hatred well expressed! I read not only German, but Russian, English, French, Italian – and whenever I had a chance I have searched for one book, one play, one song! I find nothing but cheap drivel – the most frightful patriotic bosh!”
“Yes, I am a patriot! But all this silly nonsense about white papers and red blood – what is it? What does it decide? Shall I tell you? It decides for us all that every little lieutenant is God – not only here but in England and France! And so long as we live, this ignorant fellow will be the god to whom we bow down – excuse me, I should say, salute! Around him will be written plays that make a man sick to think about! Through him and his standards the crowd will be a hundred-fold more ignorant and brutalized even than before the war – they will cultivate prize fighters’ souls! And I who am a patriot – I am against this bloody farce! And,” he ended grimly, “my bitterness does me no good – for I must keep it all inside. I cannot speak. It is an ocean. I am drowned.”
“In England I read in the papers that they have had a hard time to get their working-men to enlist.”
“They are cowards,” said a peasant.
“Yes, but they did not start the war. I tell you it was started by a lot of fat rich people. And we are the fellows who have to get killed. And if we don’t get killed, by God, we will have to pay war taxes! And think of the widows we’ll have to help! All the fellows who are killed are leaving in every village widows and old mothers and little brats who will have to be fed! And the village will have to feed them!”
“Well, we’re in for it,” somebody sighed.
“All the same,” said the lean-faced man, “I’ll be glad when there’s peace. I’ll be glad when we jump out of the trenches and the Frenchmen do the same, and we run across and shake hands with each other.”
“That will be fine,” said the good-natured peasant. We’ll do it as soon as the war is over.”
“Some fellows have done it,” the speaker replied. What?” Instantly all were wide awake.
“Some fellow told me that where he was, our men held up spades and the French did the same – and then they ran out and all shook hands. And they did like this at the trenches.” He thumbed his nose, and at this they laughed. But the laugh soon stopped and there was a silence.
“You can’t do that to your officers,” said one man uneasily.
“It is a lie and it never happened,” said another peasant. “You are making it up.”
“Perhaps it is a lie,” said the speaker. “But that is what the fellow said.” He threw a vigilant glance along the row of faces. “And when you come to think of it,” he continued quietly, “it is not so bad, what those fellows did. You must obey your officers – because this is war. If we didn’t obey, everything would be all mixed up, and the French would charge and kill us all. But if whole regiments everywhere jumped out of the trenches, as he said, and the French and English did the same, and we met in the middle of the field – then there would be war no more – and no need of officers.”
Translated by R.G. Bury
[Socrates] “Whither haste ye, O men? Yea, verily ye know not that ye are doing none of the things ye ought, seeing that you spend your whole energy on wealth and the acquiring of it…Yet it is because of this dissonance and sloth…that brother with brother and city with city clash together without measure or harmony and are at strife, and in their warring perpetrate and suffer the uttermost horrors…
Translated by R.G. Bury
[Socrates] In truth, Menexenus, to fall in battle seems to be a splendid thing in many ways. For a man obtains a splendid and magnificent funeral even though at his death he be but a poor man; and though he be but a worthless fellow, he wins praise and that by the mouth of accomplished men who do not praise at random, but in speeches prepared long beforehand. And they praise in such splendid fashion, that, what with their ascribing to each one both what he has and what he has not, and the variety and splendour of their diction, they bewitch our souls; and they eulogize the State in every possible fashion, and they praise those who died in the war and all our ancestors of former times and ourselves who are living still; and so that I am myself, Menexenus, when thus praised by them feel mightily ennobled, and every time I listen fascinated I am exalted and imagine myself to have become all at once taller and and nobler and more handsome. And as I am generally accompanied by some strangers, who listen along with me, I become in their eyes also all at once majestic; for they also manifestly share in my feelings with regard to both to me and to the rest of the City, believing it to be more marvellous than before, owing to the persuasive eloquence of the speaker. And this majestic feeling remains with me for over three days: so persistently does the speech and voice of the orator ring in my ears that it is scarcely on the fourth or fifth day that I recover myself and remember that I am really hear on earth, whereas till then I almost imagined myself to be living in the Islands of the Blessed…
Paean on peace
Translated by Christopher North
Innumerous are the boons bestow’d on man by gracious Peace!
The Flowers of Poets honey-tongued, and Wealth’s immense increase.
Then to the joyful altars unto the gods arise
The fumes of sheep’s and oxen’s flesh in ruddy sacrifice;
In crowds to the gymnasium the strenuous youth resort,
Or to the pipe the revellers pursue their madd’ening sport;
The spider black doth weave his web on iron-handled shield,
And sharp-set spear and two-edged sword to mouldy canker yield;
No longer anywhere is heard the trumpet’s brazen blare,
From men’s eyes soul-delighting sleep at midnight wont to scare;
Banquets heaped high with food and wine are spread in every street,
And songs from youthful companies are sounding strong and sweet.
To mortal men Peace giveth these good things:
Wealth, and the flowers of honey-throated song;
The flame that springs
On craven altars from fat sheep and kine,
Slain to the gods in heaven; and, all day long,
Games for gold youths, and flutes, and wreaths, and circling wine.
Then in the steely shield swart spiders weave
Their web and dusky woof:
Rust to the pointed spear and sword doth cleave;
The brazen trump sounds no alarms;
Nor is sleep harried from our eyes aloof,
But with sweet rest my bosom warms:
The streets are thronged with lovely men and young,
And hymns in praise of boys like flames to heaven are flung.
From City of God
Translated by Marcus Dods
[W]hat reason, what prudence, there is in wishing to glory in the greatness and extent of the empire, when you cannot point out the happiness of men who are always rolling, with dark fear and cruel lust, in warlike slaughters and in blood, which, whether shed in civil or foreign war, is still human blood; so that their joy may be compared to glass in its fragile splendor, of which one is horribly afraid lest it should be suddenly broken in pieces.
Justinus, who wrote Greek or rather foreign history in Latin, and briefly, like Trogus Pompeius whom he followed, begins his work thus: “In the beginning of the affairs of peoples and nations the government was in the hands of kings, who were raised to the height of this majesty not by courting the people, but by the knowledge good men had of their moderation. The people were held bound by no laws; the decisions of the princes were instead of laws. It was the custom to guard rather than to extend the boundaries of the empire; and kingdoms were kept within the bounds of each ruler’s native land. Ninus king of the Assyrians first of all, through new lust of empire, changed the old and, as it were, ancestral custom of nations. He first made war on his neighbors, and wholly subdued as far as to the frontiers of Libya the nations as yet untrained to resist.” And a little after he says: “Ninus established by constant possession the greatness of the authority he had gained. Having mastered his nearest neighbors, he went on to others, strengthened by the accession of forces, and by making each fresh victory the instrument of that which followed, subdued the nations of the whole East.” Now, with whatever fidelity to fact either he or Trogus may in general have written – for that they sometimes told lies is shown by other more trustworthy writers – yet it is agreed among other authors, that the kingdom of the Assyrians was extended far and wide by King Ninus. And it lasted so long, that the Roman empire has not yet attained the same age; for, as those write who have treated of chronological history, this kingdom endured for twelve hundred and forty years from the first year in which Ninus began to reign, until it was transferred to the Medes. But to make war on your neighbors, and thence to proceed to others, and through mere lust of dominion to crush and subdue people who do you no harm, what else is this to be called than great robbery?
Silius Italicus: Peace is the best thing that man may know; peace alone is better than a thousand triumphs
Translated by J.D. Duff
“For I propose that we should now sue for peace, should now lay down the arms that are stained by a breach of treaty, and avoid a war that will destroy us. Or rather, do you yourselves weigh well his proposals; there is no other decision for us to come to. He asks for arms, soldiers, and gold, for fleets, provisions, and elephants. Had he been defeated, he could not have asked for more. We have drenched the soil of Italy with Roman blood, and all Latium is laid low on the battle-fields. Then suffer us at last, noble conqueror, to forget our troubles and take our ease at home; suffer us to keep some children in the families so often thinned by the insatiable demands of war…Shall we, forsooth, snatch from their mothers’ laps boys who are not yet fit to carry heavy armour, and make them fight? Shall we, at his demand, build a thousand ships of war and ransack all Libya for elephants, in order that Hannibal may prolong his command and fight on for years and exercise a tyrant’s sway till the day of his death? But I appeal to you – for the trap is set in our sight – rob not your homes of your loved ones, but set a limit to the armies and the power of these potentates. Peace is the best thing that man may know; peace alone is better than a thousand triumphs; peace has power to guard our lives and secure equality among fellow-citizens. Let us then after so long recall peace to the city of Carthage…”
“nunc pacem orandum, nunc improba foedere rupto
arma reponendum et bellum exitiale cavendum
auctor ego. atque adeo vosmet perpendite, quaeso,
quid ferat; haud aliud nobis censere relictum est.
tela, viros, aurum, classes, alimenta precatur
belligeramque feram. victus non plura petisset.
sanguine Dardanio Rutulos saturavimus agros,
et iacet in campis Latium. deponere curas
tandem ergo, bone, da, victor, liceatque sedere
in patria; liceat non exhaurure rapacis
impensis belli vacuatos saepe penates…”