Home > Uncategorized > Seneca on war: Deeds punished by death when committed by individuals praised when carried out by generals

Seneca on war: Deeds punished by death when committed by individuals praised when carried out by generals

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

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Seneca
Moral Letters to Lucilius (Epistulae Morales ad Lucilium)
From Letter XCV
Translated by Richard M. Gummere

We are mad, not only individually, but nationally. We check manslaughter and isolated murders; but what of war and the much-vaunted crime of slaughtering whole peoples? There are no limits to our greed, none to our cruelty. And as long as such crimes are committed by stealth and by individuals, they are less harmful and less portentous; but cruelties are practised in accordance with acts of senate and popular assembly, and the public is bidden to do that which is forbidden to the individual. Deeds that would be punished by loss of life when committed in secret, are praised by us because uniformed generals have carried them out. Man, naturally the gentlest class of being, is not ashamed to revel in the blood of others, to wage war, and to entrust the waging of war to his sons, when even dumb beasts and wild beasts keep the peace with one another. Against this overmastering and widespread madness philosophy has become a matter of greater effort, and has taken on strength in proportion to the strength which is gained by the opposition forces.

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Categories: Uncategorized
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  1. October 25, 2014 at 2:49 am

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