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Prudentius: Cruel warfare angers God


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace


From A Reply to the Address of Symmachus
Book II

Translated by H.J. Thomson

Only concord knows God; it alone worships the beneficent Father aright in peace. The untroubled harmony of human union wins his favour for the world; by division it drives Him away, with cruel warfare it makes Him wroth; it satisfies Him with the offering of peace and holds Him fast with quietness and brotherly love. In all lands bounded by the western ocean and lightened by Aurora at her rosy dawning, the raging war-goddess was throwing all humanity into confusion and arming savage hands to wound each other.

sola Deum novit eoneordia, sola benignum
rite colit tranquilla Patrem: placidissimus ilium
foederis humani consensus prosperat orbi,
seditione fugat, saevis exasperat armis,
munere pacis alit, retinet pietate quieta.
omnibus in terris quas continet occidualis
oceanus roseoque Aurora inluminat ortu,
miscebat Bellona furens raortalia cuncta
armabatque feras in vulnera mutua dextras.


Come then, Almighty; here is a world in harmony; do Thou enter it. An earth receives Thee now, O Christ, which peace and Rome hold in a bond of union. These Thou dost command to be the heads and highest powers of the world. Rome without peace finds no favour with Thee…

en ades, Omnipotens, concordibus influe terris:
iam mundus te, Christe, capit, quem congrege nexu
pax et Roma tenent. capita haec et culmina rerum
esse iubes, nee Roma tibi sine pace probatur…


Now of right I am called venerable, the head of the world, when I shake my helmet with its red crests under a sprig of olive and veil my cruel sword-belt with a garland of greenery, worshipping God in arms but with no guilt of bloodshed.

nunc, nunc iusta meis reverentia conpetit annis,
nunc merito dicor venerabilis et caput orbis,
cum galeam sub fronde oleae cristasque rubentes
concutio viridi velans fera cingula serto
atque armata Deum sine crimine caedis adoro.

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