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


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Dionysius of Halicarnassus: Numa’s arbiters of peace

Dionysius of Halicarnassus: Women’s plea for peace


Dionysius of Halicarnassus
From The Roman Antiquities
Translated by Earnest Cary

And as the time dragged on in vain (for they were not injuring one another to any notable extent by sudden dashes of the light-armed troops or by skirmishes of the horse), the man who was looked upon as responsible for the war, Cluilius, being irked at lying idle, resolved to march out with his army and challenge the enemy to battle, and if they declined it, to attack their entrenchments. And having made his preparations for an engagement and all the plans necessary for an attack upon the enemy’s ramparts, in case that should prove necessary, when night came on he went to sleep in the general’s tent, attended by his usual guard; but about daybreak he was found dead, no signs appearing on his body either of wounds, strangling, poison, or any other violent death.

This unfortunate event appearing extraordinary to everybody, as one would naturally expect, and the cause of it being enquired into – for no preceding illness could be alleged – those who ascribed all human fortunes to divine providence said that this death had been due to the anger of the gods, because he had handled an unjust and unnecessary war between the mother-city and her colony. But others, who looked upon war as a profitable business and thought they had been deprived of great gains, attributed the event to human treachery and envy…


Marcius, after fulfilling all the customary requirements, entered upon the government in the second year of the thirty-fifth Olympiad…at the time when Damasias held the annual archonship at Athens. This king, finding that many of the religious ceremonies instituted by Numa Pompilius, his maternal grandfather, were being neglected, and seeing the greatest part of the Romans devoted to the pursuit of war and gain and no longer cultivating the land as aforetime, assembled the people and exhorted them to worship the gods once more as they had done in Numa’s reign…He then commended the system of government established by Numa for the Romans as excellent and wise and one which supplied every citizen with daily plenty from the most lawful employments; and he advised them to restore this system once more by applying themselves to agriculture and cattle-breeding and to those occupations that were free from all injustice, and to scorn rapine and violence and the profits accruing from war. By these and similar appeals he inspired in all a great desire both for peaceful tranquillity and for sober industry…

While instituting these administrative measures he hoped above all else to pass his whole life free from war and troubles, like his grandfather…

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