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Greek and Roman writers on war and peace


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


Aelian: A parable of two cities

Aelian: That is the benefit of peace

Aeschines: Following a policy of war after war; war, the destroyer of popular government

Aeschines: Peace does not feed laziness

Aeschylus: Ares, father of tears, mows the field of man

Aeschylus: The unpeopled land laments her youth

Aesop: The lies of lupine liberators

Alciphron: Content with a life of peace. Evading conscription is best.

Ammianus Marcellinus: Empowering the military…with foreseeable results

Ammianus Marcellinus: War’s landscape: discolored with the hue of dark blood

Anacreon: Rather art and love than lamentable war

Antiphanes: War and personal destiny

Apollodorus: Why do you devote all your thought to injuring one another by making war?

Appian: Drawing the sword for mutual slaughter. The tears of fratricide.

Appian: War fueled by blood and gold, excuse for expenditure of one, expropriation of the other

Aratus: Justice deserts earth with warning of wars and cruel bloodshed

Aristides on the two types of war: Bad and worse

Aristophanes: Rescuing Peace

Aristotle: How tyrants use war

Aristotle: Leader not praiseworthy in training citizens for conquest and dominion

Aristotle: A man would be regarded as a bloodthirsty monster if he were to make war just to produce battles and slaughter

Aristotle: When they had attained empire they fell, for of the arts of peace they knew nothing

Arrian: Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and the fate of conquerors

Augustine: To make war on your neighbors, what else is this to be called than great robbery?

Aulus Gellius: Thievery as school for war

Bacchylides: Paean on peace

Boethius: Provoking death’s destined day by waging unjust and cruel wars

Callimachus: Nurse peace, that he who sows may also reap

Calpurnius Siculus: The unholy War-Goddess shall yield. All wars shall be quelled in Tartarean durance.

Catullus: Appalled by fratricide, gods turned from man

John Chrysostom: God is not a God of war and fighting

Cicero: All wars, undertaken without a proper motive, are unjust

Cicero: Even war’s victories should be forgotten

Cicero: Military commands, phantom of glory and the ruin of one’s own country and personal downfall

Claudian: Hell’s numberless monsters plot war

Clement of Alexandria: Gods of war

Clement of Alexandria: Let us gird ourselves with the armour of peace

Quintus Curtius: So completely does war invert even the laws of Nature

Cyprian: War cannot consist with peace

Democritus: Strange humor: Men covet war in time of peace

Demosthenes: When war comes home, the fatal weaknesses of states are revealed

Dio Cassius: Weeping and lamenting the fratricide of war

Dio Cassius: When peace was announced the mountains resounded

Dio Chystostom: Greed leads to internal strife and foreign wars

Dio Chrysostom: On the fate of states educated only for war

Diodorus Siculus: Alexander’s first encounter with military glory

Diodorus Siculus: History is more than the recording of wars

Diogenes Laertius: Steel and eloquence

Dionysius of Halicarnassus: Numa’s arbiters of peace

Dionysius of Halicarnassus: Scorn rapine and violence and the profits accruing from war

Dionysius of Halicarnassus: Women’s plea for peace

Epictetus: I and mine, the cause of wars

Euripides: The crown of War, the crown of Woe

Florus: Scattering the flames of war over the whole world

Florus: World war, something worse than war

Fronto: Devotion to peace 

Herodian: Accommodating the military, selling an empire

Herodotus: No one is fool enough to choose war instead of peace

Hesiod: Lamentable works of Ares lead to dank house of Hades

Homer: Caging the terrible Lord of War

Homer: The great gods are never pleased with violent deeds

Homer: Mars, most unjust, most odious of all the gods

Horace: Let there be a limit to warfare

Horace: Transcending war

Isocrates: Addicted to war, lusting after imperial power

Isocrates: War zealots plunge state into manifold disasters

Jerome: We must seek peace if we are to avoid wars

Josephus: Admonition against war

Julian: Reforming the evils that war has caused

Justin: There would then assuredly be fewer wars in all ages and countries

Juvenal: Mighty warriors and their tombs are circumscribed by Fate

Juvenal: The spoils of war and the price thereof

Juvenal: War and violence, baser than the beasts

Juvenal: Weigh the greatest military commanders in the balance

Lactantius: Selections on war

Lactantius: The arms of the nations shall be burnt; and now there shall be no war, but peace and everlasting rest

Lactantius: Duties relating to warfare are accommodated neither to justice nor to true virtue

Lactantius: Justice had no other reason for leaving the earth than the shedding of human blood

Lactantius: No one can befittingly describe the cruelty of this beast, which rages with iron teeth throughout the world

Lactantius: The pernicious and impious madness of deifying warlike generals who have inundated plains with blood

Lactantius: Sacrificing to the gods of war

Lactantius: War, object of execration, and its domestic analogue

Libanius: Rulers more popular for granting mercy than possessing multitudes of soldiers

Libanius: War in time of peace

Livy: On the political utility of starting unprovoked wars

Livy: Waging war against all rights human and divine

Lucan: Over all the world you are victorious and your soldiers die

Lucian: Rejecting war’s seductive appeal

Lucian: War propaganda and its hyperbole

Lucretius: Lull to a timely rest the savage works of war

Lycophron: Ares, who banquets in gory battles

Lysias: Those who wage war imitate tyrants

Marcus Aurelius: Military conquests lead but to the grave

Martial: Let the mad be eager for wars and fierce Mars

Martial: So have fallen men

Menander: Inglorious military vainglory

Minucius Felix: War and the birth of empire

Nonnos: Brother-murdering blade. Disarming the god of war

Origen: Vanquish all demons who stir up war

Ovid: Selections on war and peace

Ovid: Add incense, ye priests, to the flames that burn on the altar of Peace

Ovid: Golden Age, before weapons were warm and bloodstained from killing

Ovid: I had naught to do with war, guardian was I of peace and doorways

Ovid: Instead of a wolf the timorous ewes dread war

Ovid: Pray for perpetual peace and a peace-loving leader

Ovid: Sabine peace

Pausanias: Peace cradling Wealth in her arms

Pausanias: Woe to man

Petronius : Dreams of war

Philo: “Ah, my friends, how should you not hate war and love peace?”

Philo: Casting off the warlike spirit in its completeness

Philo: “Nourished” for war and all its attendant evils

Philostratus: War versus love

Pindar: The arts versus war

Pindar: Shall war spread unbounded ruin round?

Plato: Selections on war

Plato: All wars arise for the sake of gaining money

Plato: A good city has peace, but the evil city is full of wars within and without

Plato: The highest good is not war but peace

Plato: No true statesman looks only, or first of all, to external warfare

Plato: Socrates on the eulogizing of war heroes

Plato: They both hate and are hated. Silver and gold and war.

Plato: The tyrant is always stirring up war, the oligarchy uses force of arms to gain power

Plautus: Military braggadocio

Pliny the Elder: Crime and slaughter and warfare. Humanity’s war against its mother

Pliny the Elder: Curious disease of the sublunary, sanguinary human mind

Plotinus: Let earth be at peace and sea, air and the very heavens

Plutarch: Selections on war and peace

Plutarch: Advanced and bettered by wars? Only if riches, luxury, dominion are preferred to security, gentleness, independence accompanied by justice.

Plutarch: Entire and universal cessation of war

Plutarch: Lover of peace changed the first month of the year

Plutarch: Motivations and consequences of war

Plutarch: Numa’s guardians of peace

Plutarch: On war and its opponents

Plutarch: The privilege of being wounded and killed in war for the defense of their creditors

Plutarch: Sharpened and whetted to war from their very infancy. So unsocial and wild-beast-like is the nature of ambition and cupidity.

Plutarch: They fought indeed and were slain, but it was to maintain the luxury and the wealth of other men

Plutarch: Venus, who more than the rest of the gods and goddesses abhors force and war

Polybius: The bestialization of man by war

Polybius: Diplomacy versus war

Polybius: Peace is a blessing for which we all pray to the gods

Procopius: A parable

Procopius: Refuge from war

Propertius: Elegy on war

Prudentius: Cruel warfare angers God

Publilius Syrus: Better plow than weapon

Quintilian: War, the antithesis of justice

Quintus Smyrnaeus: In his talons bore a gasping dove. Where never ceased Ares from hideous slaughter.

Quintus Smyrnaeus: Mass murder’s tropes: Dread Ares drank his fill of blood

Quintus Smyrnaeus: While here all war’s marvels were portrayed, there were the works of lovely peace

Rutilius Namatianus: Races of demigods who knew not iron-harnessed Mars

Sallust: Lust for dominion the reason for war

Sallust: One may become famous in peace as well as in war

Seneca the Elder: It is this that drives the world into war

Seneca the Elder: What is this hideous disease, this appalling evil that drove you to shed each other’s blood?

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

Silius Italicus: Peace is the best thing that man may know; peace alone is better than a thousand triumphs

Simonides: Dirges for the victims of the impetuous War-God

Sophocles: War the destroyer

Statius: Devilish monster’s tongue at last tells of war. “Whither, unhappy ones, whither are ye rushing to war, though fate and heaven would bar the way?”

Stesichorus: Thrust wars away

Strabo: Ares, the only god they worship

Strabo: Studying war is wickedness

Suetonius: Caligula and military glory

Suetonius: Not let slip any pretext for war, however unjust and dangerous

Tacitus: The robbery, slaughter and plunder that empire calls peace

Tacitus: When war bursts on us, innocent and guilty alike perish

Tertullian: As a last test of empire, make war on heaven

Theocritus: May spiders spin their slender webs over weapons of war

Theophrastus: Warmongering’s rumormongering

Thucydides: Admonitions against war

Tibullus: War is a crime perpetrated by hearts hardened like weapons

Varro: War’s etymologies

Velleius Paterculus: License of the sword inevitably leads to wars for profit

Virgil: On war and on peace

Virgil: Age of peace

Virgil: The blind passion of unpitying war

Virgil: None heard the trumpet’s blast, nor direful clang of smitten anvils loud with shaping sword

Virgil: Shall impious soldiers have these new-ploughed grounds?

Virgil: The War-god pitiless moves wrathful through the world

Xenophon: Selections on war and peace

Xenophon: Begin wars as tardily, end them as speedily as possible

Xenophon: Guile without guilt. Peace and joy reigned everywhere.

Xenophon: Socrates’ prescription for averting the calamities of war

Xenophon: Socrates’ war sophistry; civil crimes are martial virtues

Xenophon: War as obsession, warfare as mistress

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