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

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


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace


From Letters of Fishermen
Translated by Allen Rogers Benner and Francis H. Fobes

Thynnaeus to Scopelus

Have you heard the most dreadful news, Scopelus? The Athenians propose to send an expedition into foreign parts because it is a fight at sea they want. Already the Paralus and the Salaminia, their fastest scout-boats, have taken on board the scout-officers, to report from whose house and when recruits must go off to war, are casting off the stern cables that hold them to the shore. The other vessels, taking on board their contingents of soldiers, need more oarsmen and especially oarsmen skilled in contending with wind and waves. So then, my good fellow, what shall we do? Do we run away or stay here? They are enlisting men from the Peiraeus and from Phalerum and Sunium and from as far as the very neighbourhood of Geraestus – toilers of the sea. How could we, who don’t even know the ways of the market-place, endure taking our post in the battle or acting as servants to men-at-arms? Though either alternative is hard – running away, at the cost of sacrificing children and wives, or facing the prospect of committing our bodies to swords and sea at the same time; yet, since staying here is unprofitable, it is clear that running away is more profitable.

From Letters of Farmers
Translated by Allen Rogers Benner and Francis H. Fobes

Phyllis to Thrasonides

If you were willing to be a farmer and to use common sense, Thrasonides, and to obey your father, you would be offering to the gods ivy and laurels and myrtles and all the flowers that are in season; and to us, your parents, you would be bringing wheat that you had harvested, and wine that you had pressed from the grapes, and, having milked your goats, the pail full of milk; but, as it is, you will have nothing to do with field or farming and are loud in your praise of a triple-crested helmet and are in love with a shield, like a hired soldier from Acarnania or from Malis. Don’t do it, my boy, but come back to us and be content with a life of peace; for farming is safe and free from danger – no armed bands, no ambuscades, no phalanxes – and in our old age we shall soon need looking after; choose acknowledged security in preference to your present precarious existence.

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