Archive for November, 2015

Juvenal: The spoils of war and the price thereof

November 30, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Juvenal: Mighty warriors and their tombs are circumscribed by Fate

Juvenal: War and violence, baser than the beasts

Juvenal: Weigh the greatest military commanders in the balance


From Satires
Translated by G. G. Ramsay

[W]ould you like to be courted like Sejanus? To be as rich as he was? To bestow on one man the ivory chairs of office, appoint another to the command of armies, and be counted guardian of a Prince seated on the narrow ledge of Capri with his herd of Chaldaean astrologers? You would like, no doubt, to have Centurions, Cohorts, and Illustrious Knights at your call, and to possess a camp of your own? Why should you not? Even those who don’t want to kill anybody would like to have the power to do it…

What was it that overthrew the Crassi, and the Pompeii, and him who brought the conquered Quirites under his lash? What but lust for the highest place pursued by every kind of means? What but ambitious prayers granted by unkindly Gods? Few indeed are the kings who go down to Ceres’ son-in-law save by sword and slaughter – few the tyrants that perish by a bloodless death!

The spoils of war and trophies fastened upon stumps – a breast-plate, a cheek-strap hanging from a broken helmet, a yoke shorn of its pole, the flagstaff of a captured galley, or a captive sorrowing on a triumphal arch – such things are deemed glories too great for man; these are the prizes for which every General strives, be he Greek, Roman, or barbarian; it is for these that he endures toil and peril: so much greater is the thirst for glory than for virtue! For who would embrace virtue herself if you stripped her of her rewards?

Sooner will you find a false witness against a civilian than one who will tell the truth against the interest and the honour of a soldier.

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Aristotle: How tyrants use war

November 29, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

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


From The Politics
Translated by Benjamin Jowett

There are firstly the prescriptions mentioned some distance back, for the preservation of a tyranny, in so far as this is possible; viz., that the tyrant…must prohibit literary assemblies or other meetings for discussion…Another art of the tyrant is to sow quarrels among the citizens; friends should be embroiled with friends, the people with the notables, and the rich with one another. Also he should impoverish his subjects; he thus provides against the maintenance of a guard by the citizen and the people, having to keep hard at work, are prevented from conspiring. The Pyramids of Egypt afford an example of this policy; also the offerings of the family of Cypselus, and the building of the temple of Olympian Zeus by the Peisistratidae, and the great Polycratean monuments at Samos; all these works were alike intended to occupy the people and keep them poor. Another practice of tyrants is to multiply taxes, after the manner of Dionysius at Syracuse, who contrived that within five years his subjects should bring into the treasury their whole property. The tyrant is also fond of making war in order that his subjects may have something to do and be always in want of a leader.


[A] tyrant, when he is absent from home, has more reason to fear the guardians of his treasure than the citizens, for the one accompany him, but the others remain behind. In the second place, he should be seen to collect taxes and to require public services only for state purposes, and that he may form a fund in case of war, and generally he ought to make himself the guardian and treasurer of them, as if they belonged, not to him, but to the public. He should appear, not harsh, but dignified, and when men meet him they should look upon him with reverence, and not with fear. Yet it is hard for him to be respected if he inspires no respect, and therefore whatever virtues he may neglect, at least he should maintain the character of a great soldier, and produce the impression that he is one.


Now in all states there are three elements: one class is very rich, another very poor, and a third in a mean. It is admitted that moderation and the mean are best, and therefore it will clearly be best to possess the gifts of fortune in moderation; for in that condition of life men are most ready to follow rational principle. But he who greatly excels in beauty, strength, birth, or wealth, or on the other hand who is very poor, or very weak, or very much disgraced, finds it difficult to follow rational principle. Of these two the one sort grow into violent and great criminals, the others into rogues and petty rascals. And two sorts of offenses correspond to them, the one committed from violence, the other from roguery….Again, those who have too much of the goods of fortune, strength, wealth, friends, and the like, are neither willing nor able to submit to authority. The evil begins at home; for when they are boys, by reason of the luxury in which they are brought up, they never learn, even at school, the habit of obedience. On the other hand, the very poor, who are in the opposite extreme, are too degraded. So that the one class cannot obey, and can only rule despotically; the other knows not how to command and must be ruled like slaves. Thus arises a city, not of freemen, but of masters and slaves, the one despising, the other envying; and nothing can be more fatal to friendship and good fellowship in states than this: for good fellowship springs from friendship; when men are at enmity with one another, they would rather not even share the same path. But a city ought to be composed, as far as possible, of equals and similars…

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

November 28, 2015 Leave a comment



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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace


From Apology
Translated by Gerald H. Rendall

Unless I am mistaken, all kingship or empire is sought in war and extended by victory. War and victory depend on the capture and generally the overthrow of cities. That business is not put through without injury to the gods. Walls and temples have one destruction; citizens and priests alike are slain; the plunder of wealth is the same whether it is sacred property or that of laymen. Then the sacrileges of the Romans are exactly as many as their trophies; their triumphs over gods as many as over races; their spoils in war as many as the statues still left of captured gods…

Let the Emperor, as a last test, make war on heaven, carry heaven captive in his triumph, set a guard on heaven, lay taxes on heaven. He cannot…

We can count your troops; the Christians of one province will be more in number. For what war should we not have been fit and ready even if unequal in forces – we who are so glad to be butchered – were it not, of course, that in our doctrine we are given ampler liberty to be killed than to kill?

[N]othing is more foreign to us than the State. One state we know, of which all are citizens – the universe.

From De Spectaculis
Translated be Gerald H. Rendall

So it begins and so it goes on, – to madness, anger, discord to everything forbidden to the priests of peace.

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Theophrastus: Warmongering’s rumormongering

November 27, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace


From Characters
Translated by J.M. Edmonds

Newsmaking is the putting together of fictitious sayings and doings at a man’s own caprice; and the Newsmaker is one that no sooner meets a friend than his face softens and he asks him with a smile ‘Where do you come from? How do you? and Have you any news of this?’ and throwing himself, so to speak, upon him ‘Can there be any greater news? nay, and it is good news’; and without suffering him to answer, ‘What?’ cries he, ‘have you heard nothing? methinks I can give you a rare feast.’

And it seems he has some soldier, or a servant of Asteius the flute-player’s, or maybe Lycon the contractor, come straight from the battle-field, who has told him all about it. Thus his authorities are such as no man could lay hands on. Yet he recounts, with them for sponsors, how that Polyperchon and the King have won a battle, and Casander is taken.

And if it be asked him ‘Do you believe this? ‘he will reply that it is so indeed, ’tis common talk, and the report gains ground, and everyone says the same; all agree about the battle, and the butchers’ bill is very long; he can tell it from the faces of the Government, they are all so changed. Moreover, he has been told in secret that they are keeping in close hiding one that came four days ago out of Macedonia who has seen it all. While this long tale is telling, you cannot think how true to life are his cries of woe: ‘Poor Casander! unhappy man! do you see how luck turns? Well, he was a strong man once, and now!’ and he ends with saying, ‘But mind you, this must go no further,’ albeit he has
been running up to all the town to tell them of it.

It is a marvel to me what object such men can have in making their news. They not merely tell lies, but forge tales that bring them no profit. For often-times have they lost their cloaks gathering crowds at the baths, or been cast in their suits-at-law by default a-winning battles by land or sea in the Porch, or it may be have missed their dinner taking cities by assault of word. Their manner of life is hard indeed; for what porch is there, or workshop, or part of the market-place which they do not haunt day in day out, to the utter undoing of their hearers, so do they weary them with their lying tales?

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

November 26, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Plato: Selections on war


From Laws
Translated by Benjamin Jowett

For the common opinion is, that work is for the sake of play, war of peace; whereas in war there is neither amusement nor instruction worth speaking of. The life of peace is that which men should chiefly desire to lengthen out and improve.


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


Let us first of all, then, have a class of laws which shall be called the laws of husbandmen. And let the first of them be the law of Zeus, the God of boundaries. Let no one shift the boundary line either of a fellow-citizen who is a neighbour, or, if he dwells at the extremity of the land, of any stranger who is conterminous with him, considering that this is truly ‘to move the immovable,’ and every one should be more willing to move the largest rock which is not a landmark, than the least stone which is the sworn mark of friendship and hatred between neighbours; for Zeus, the god of kindred, is the witness of the citizen, and Zeus, the god of strangers, of the stranger, and when aroused, terrible are the wars which they stir up.

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Varro: War’s etymologies

November 24, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace


From On The Latin Language
Translated by Roland G. Kent

Gladium ‘sword,’ from clades ‘slaughter,’ with change of C to G, because the gladium is made for a slaughter of the enemy; likewise from its omen was said pilum, by which the enemy periret ‘might perish,’ as though perilum.


The third gate is the Janual Gate, named from Janus, and therefore a statue of Janus was set up there, and the binding practice was instituted by Pompilius, as Piso writes in his Annals, that the gate should always be open except when there was no war anywhere. The story that has come down to us is that it was closed when Pompilius was king, and afterwards when Titus Manlius was consul, at the end of the first war with Carthage, and then opened again in the same year.


The enemy are called perduelles ‘foes’; as perfecit ‘accomplished’ is formed from per ‘through, thoroughly’ and fecit ‘did,’ so perduellis is formed from per and duellum ‘war’: this word afterward became belbim. From the same reason, Duellona ‘Goddess of War’ became Bellona.


In The Story of the Helmet-Horn is the verse”:

Who for ten years fought for wages (latrocinatus) for the King Demetrius.

Those were called latrones ‘mercenaries’ from latus ‘side,’ who were at the King’s side and had a sword at their own side (afterwards they called them stipatores ‘body-guards’ from stipatio ‘close attendance’) and were hired for pay: for this pay is in Greek called λάτρον. From this, the old poets sometimes call regular soldiers latrones. But now the name latrones is given to the highwaymen who block the roads, because like regular soldiers they have swords, or else because they latent ‘lie in hiding’ to ambush their victims.

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

November 23, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace


Translated by J.M. Edmonds

We were slain in a glen of Dirphys, and the mound of our grave is made beside Euripus at our country’s charge, and rightly so; for by abiding the onset of the cruel cloud of war we lost our lovely time of youth.


In these men’s breasts the impetuous War-God washed the long-pointed arrow with crimson drops, and instead of javelineers this dust shrouds the living memorials of corpses without life.


Some one rejoices that I, Theodorus, am dead; another will rejoice over him; we are all debts due to Death.


Since the day the sea parted Europe from Asia and the impetuous War-God first haunted the cities if mankind…This bow and its arrows that lie beneath the roof of Athena’s temple their lamentable warfare done…


Rest so, thy fine long ash, against the tall pillar, abiding ever sacred to Zeus the Diviner; for thy bronze point is grown old and thy thyself art worn out with much wielding in dreadful war.

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

November 22, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Plutarch: Selections on war and peace


The Comparison of Numa with Lycurgus
Translated by John Dryden

Numa’s muse was a gentle and loving inspiration, fitting him well to turn and soothe his people into peace and justice out of their violent and fiery tempers…Numa did not out of cowardice or fear affect peace, but because he would not be guilty of injustice…

Numa’s whole design and aim, the continuance of peace and goodwill, on his death vanished with him; no sooner did he expire his last breath than the gates of Janus’s temple flew wide open, and, as if war had, indeed, been kept and caged up within those walls, it rushed forth to fill all Italy with blood and slaughter; and thus that best and justest fabric of things was of no long continuance, because it wanted that cement which should have kept all together, education. What, then, some may say, has not Rome been advanced and bettered by her wars? A question that will need a long answer, if it is to be one to satisfy men who take the better to consist in riches, luxury, and dominion, rather than in security, gentleness, and that independence which is accompanied by justice.

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Anacreon: Rather art and love than lamentable war

November 21, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace


Translated by J.M. Edmonds

I like not him who at his drinking beside the full mixing-bowl tells of strife and lamentable war, but rather one that taketh thought for delightsome mirth by mingling the Muses and the splendid gifts of Aphrodite.


The doughty Agathon who died for Abdera, was mourned at his pyre by all this town; for blood-loving Ares never slew in the whirl of hateful battle such a youth as he.


This is the tomb of Timocritus, a stanch man in the wars; for it is the craven, not the brave, that are spared by Ares.

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Clement of Alexandria: Gods of war

November 20, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

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


Clement of Alexandria
From Exhortations to the Greeks
Translated by G.W. Butterworth

There is for example Ares, who is honoured, so far as that is possible, in the poets –

Ares, thou plague of men, bloodguilty one, stormer of cities;

this fickle and implacable god…

Come then, let us add this, that your gods are inhuman and man-hating daemons, who not only exult over the insanity of men, but go so far as to enjoy human slaughter. They provide for themselves sources of pleasure, at one time in the armed contests in the of the stadium, at another in the innumerable rivalries of war, in order to secure every possible opportunity of glutting themselves to the full with human blood. Before now, too, they have fallen like plagues on whole cities and nations, and have demanded drink-offerings of a savage character…

[W]arlike Ares is so called from arsis and anairesis, abolition and destruction; which is the chief reason, I think, why many tribes simply fix their sword in the ground and then offer sacrifice to it as if to Ares.

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Lucian: Rejecting war’s seductive appeal

November 19, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Lucian: War propaganda and its hyperbole


From The Judgment of the Goddesses
Translated by A.M. Harmon


I am at your side, and if you judge me beautiful, Paris, you shall never leave the field of battle defeated, but always victorious, for I shall make you a warrior and a conqueror.

I have no use, Athena, for war and battle. As you see, peace reigns at present over Phrygia and Lydia, and my father’s realm is free from war…

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George Santayana: Selections on war

November 18, 2015 Leave a comment
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Stesichorus: Thrust wars away

November 17, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace


Translated by J.M. Edmonds

Come, Muse, thrust wars away, and with me in the honour of a wedding of Gods and a feast of men and eke a merrymaking of the Blest…

When a man dies, all his glory among men dies also.

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

November 16, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Dio Chysostom: Greed leads to internal strife and foreign wars


Dio Chrysostom
From The Thirteenth Discourse:
In Athens, about his Banishment

Translated by J.W. Cohoon

And thus it came about that I too endeavoured to talk to the Romans when they had summoned me and invited me to speak, but I did not take them by twos and threes in wrestling-schools and cloistered walks; for it was not possible to meet them thus in that city; but when a great number had gathered in one place, I would tell them that they needed a better and more carefully planned education, if they were ever to be happy in truth and reality and not merely in the opinion of the majority, as was now the case; that if anyone should win them to this view and take them in charge and teach them that not a single one of those things is a good to which they devoted themselves and which they strove with all their zeal to acquire, in the belief that, the more they acquired, the better and happier their life would be; but that if they wholeheartedly practised temperance, manliness, and justice, and took them into their souls, securing from somewhere teachers who taught these things and all the other things too, not caring whether the men were Greeks or Romans, or, for that matter, if there is among the Scythians or the Indians a man who teaches the things of which I have spoken, – not, as I think, archery and horsemanship, but far better, if there were a physician who, knowing how to treat the infirmities of the body, is in that way competent to heal the maladies of the soul – a teacher, I mean, who would be able to rid of licentiousness and covetousness and all such infirmities those who were dominated by them – of that man, I say, they should take possession and lead him to their homes, inducing him to come either by argument or by friendship – for by money such a man cannot be induced nor by any other gifts – and after establishing him on their acropolis they ought to issue an edict bidding all the young men to resort to him regularly and associate with him, and equally the older men too, until all of them, having become enamoured of righteousness, and having learned to despise gold and silver and ivory, yea, and rich food too and perfume and the lust of the flesh, should thereafter live happy lives, and be masters first and foremost of themselves and afterwards of all other men as well.

“For only then,” I continued, “will your city be great and strong and truly imperial, since at present its greatness arouses distrust and is not very secure. For,” said I, “in proportion as courage, justice, and temperance increase among you, in that degree there will be less silver and gold and furniture of ivory and of amber, less of crystal and citron-wood and ebony and women’s adornments and embroideries and dyes of many hues; in short, all the things which are now considered in your city precious and worth fighting for, you will need in smaller quantities, and when you have reached the summit of virtue, not at all. And the houses in which you live will be smaller and better, and you will not support so great a throng of idle and utterly useless slaves and – the most paradoxical thing of all – the more god-fearing and pious you become, the less frankincense and fragrant offerings and garlands there will be among you, and you will offer fewer sacrifices and at less expense, and the whole multitude that is now being supported in your city will be much smaller; while the entire city, like a ship that has been lightened, will ride higher and be much more buoyant and safer…But as your possessions are now, on account of the great amount of wealth, all of which has been collected from all the world into this one place, luxury and covetousness being prevalent, the situation is similar to that in which Achilles, after heaping high the pyre of Patroclus with many logs of wood, with many coverlets and garments, and also with fat and olive oil in addition, summons the winds, with libations and promise of sacrifices, to come and set it afire and burn it. For such possessions as yours are no less likely to kindle the wanton spirit and licentiousness of human beings.”

I did not, however, maintain that it was difficult for them to become educated, “for,” said I, “although you have hitherto been no whit better than other men, you learned easily enough all the other things that you wished.” I refer to horsemanship, archery, fighting in heavy armour .

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Philo: Casting off the warlike spirit in its completeness

November 15, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

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

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


From The Migration of Abraham
Translated by F.H. Colson and Rev. G.H. Whitaker

“[F]or the Lord thy God is with thee.” This companionship brings wars to an end, builds up peace, overthrows the host of evil things to which we grow accustomed, rescues the scanty band of those beloved of God, every loyal adherent of which loathes and hates the battalions of the earth-bound.”


The fool’s whole course through every moment of his journey depends on this pair, fierce spirit and desire; since he has got rid of mind, who is the charioteer and monitor. The man of the opposite character has exscinded fierce spirit and desire, and chosen as his patron and controlling guide the Divine Word. Even so Moses, best beloved of God, when offering the burnt sacrifices of the soul, will “wash out the belly,” that is, will cleanse away desire in every shape, but “the breast from the ram of consecration he will take away.” This means, we may be sure, the warlike spirit in its completeness; and the object of taking it away is that the better portion of the soul, the rational part, that is left, may exercise its truly free and noble impulses towards all things beautiful, with nothing pulling against it any longer and dragging it in another direction.

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Lactantius: Sacrificing to the gods of war

November 14, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Lactantius: Selections on war


From Divine Institutes
Translated by William Fletcher

To think that men were so barbarous, so savage, that they gave the name of sacrifice to the slaughter of their own children, that is, to a deed foul, and to be held in detestation by the human race; since, without any regard to parental affection, they destroyed tender and innocent lives, at an age which is especially pleasing to parents, and surpassed in brutality the savageness of all beasts, which – savage as they are – still love their offspring! O incurable madness! What more could those gods do to them, if they were most angry, than they now do when propitious, when they defile their worshippers with parricide, visit them with bereavements, and deprive them of the sensibilities of men? What can be sacred to these men? Or what will they do in profane places, who commit the greatest crimes amidst the altars of the gods? Pescennius Festus relates in the books of his History by a Satire, that the Carthaginians were accustomed to immolate human victims to Saturn; and when they were conquered by Agathocles, the king of the Sicilians, they imagined that the god was angry with them; and therefore, that they might more diligently offer an expiation, they immolated two hundred sons of their nobles: “So great the ills to which religion could prompt, which has ofttimes produced wicked and impious deeds.” What advantage, then, did the men propose by that sacrifice, when they put to death so large a part of the state, as not even Agathocles had slain when victorious?

From this kind of sacrifices those public rites are to be judged signs of no less madness; some of which are in honour of the mother of the gods, in which men mutilate themselves; others are in honour of Virtus, whom they also call Bellona, in which the priests make offsprings not with the blood of another victim, but with their own. For, cutting their shoulders, and thrusting forth drawn swords in each hand, they run, they are beside themselves, they are frantic. Quintilian therefore says excellently in his Fanatic: “If a god compels this, he does it in anger.” Are even these things sacred? Is it not better to live like cattle, than to worship deities so impious, profane, and sanguinary?


The foolish, therefore, err in a twofold manner: first, in preferring the elements, that is, the works of God, to God Himself; secondly, in worshipping the figures of the elements themselves under human form. For they form the images of the sun and moon after the fashion of men; also those of fire, and earth, and sea, which they call Vulcan, Vesta, and Neptune. Nor do they openly sacrifice to the elements themselves. Men are possessed with so great a fondness for representations, that those things which are true are now esteemed of less value: they are delighted, in fact, with gold, and jewels, and ivory. The beauty and brilliancy of these things dazzle their eyes, and they think that there is no religion where these do not shine. And thus, under pretence of worshipping the gods, avarice and desire are worshipped. For they believe that the gods love whatever they themselves desire, whatever it is, on account of which thefts and robberies and murders daily rage, on account of which wars overthrow nations and cities throughout the whole world. Therefore they consecrate their spoils and plunder to the gods, who must undoubtedly be weak, and destitute of the highest excellence, if they are subject to desires. For why should we think them celestial if they long for anything from the earth, or happy if they are in want of anything, or uncorrupted if they take pleasure in those things in the pursuit of which the desire of men is not unreservedly condemned? They approach the gods, therefore not so much on account of religion, which can have no place in badly acquired and corruptible things, as that they may gaze upon the gold, and view the brilliancy of polished marble or ivory, that they may survey with unwearied contemplation garments adorned with precious stones and colours, or cups studded with glittering jewels. And the more ornamented are the temples, and the more beautiful the images, so much the greater majesty are they believed to have: so entirely is their religion confined to that which the desire of men admires.

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Quintilian: War, the antithesis of justice

November 13, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace


From Institutio Oratoria
Translated by H.E. Butler

The opening of the Thebans’ plea presents no difficulty and is likely to win the approval of the judges, since they are seeking to recover by right what was taken from them by force. But out of this point arises a violent controversy as to the right of war, since the Thessalians urge that kingdoms and peoples and the frontiers of nations and cities depend upon these rights. To meet this argument it is necessary to discover in what respect this case differs from others which are concerned with property that has fallen into the hands of the victor: the difficulty moreover lies not so much in the proof as in the way it should be put forward. We may begin by stating that the rights of war do not hold good in any matter which can be brought before a court of justice, and that what is taken by force of arms can only be retained by force of arms, and consequently, wherever the rights of war hold good, there is no room for the functions of a judge, while on the contrary where the functions of the judge come into play, the rights of war cease to have any force. The reason why it is necessary to discover this principle is to enable us to bring the following argument into play: that prisoners of war are free on returning to their native land just because the gains of war cannot be retained except by the exercise of the same violence by which they were acquired.

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Lycophron: Ares, who banquets in gory battles

November 12, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace


From Alexandra
Translated by A.W. Mair

And now Ares, the dancer, fires the land, with his conch leading the chant of blood. And all the land lies ravaged before my eyes and, as it were fields of corn, bristle the fields of the gleaming spears. And in my ears seems a voice of lamentation from the tower tops reaching to the windless seats of air, with groaning women and rending of robes, awaiting sorrow upon sorrow.

That woe, O my poor heart, that woe shall wound thee as a crowning sorrow, when the dusky, sworded, bright-eyed eagle shall rage, with his wings marking out the land – the track traced by bandied crooked steps – and, crying with his mouth his dissonant and chilly cry, shall carry aloft the dearest nursling of all thy brothers, dearest to thee and to his sire the Lord of Ptoön, and, bloodying his body with talon and beak, shall stain with gore the land, both swamp and plain, a ploughman cleaving a smooth furrow in the earth.


And many woes, on this side and that alternately, shall be taken as an offering by Candaeus or Mamertus – or what name should be given to him [Ares] who banquets in gory battles?

And many contests and slaughters in between shall solve the struggles of men, contending for dread empire, now on land, now on the plough-turned backs of earth…

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George Santayana: Only the dead have seen the end of war

November 11, 2015 Leave a comment


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

American writers on peace and against war

George Santayana: Selections on war


George Santayana
From Soliloquies in England and Later Soliloquies (1922)

Their soldiering is over; they remember, with a strange proud grief, their comrades who died to make this day possible, hardly believing that it ever would come; they are overjoyed, yet half ashamed, to be safe themselves: they forget their wounds; they see a green vista before them, a jolly, busy, sporting, loving life in the old familiar places. Everything will go on, they fancy, as if nothing had happened.

Good honest unguided creatures! They are hardly out of the fog of war when they are lost in the fog of peace. If experience could teach mankind anything, how different our morals and our politics would be, how clear, how tolerant, how steady! If we knew ourselves, our conduct at all times would be absolutely decided and consistent; and a pervasive sense of vanity and humour would disinfect all our passions, if we knew the world. As it is, we live experimentally, moodily, in the dark; each generation breaks its egg-shell with the same haste and assurance as the last, pecks at the same indigestible pebbles, dreams the same dreams, or others just as absurd, and if it hears anything of what former men have learned by experience, it corrects their maxims by its first impressions, and rushes down any untrodden path which it finds alluring, to die in its own way, or become wise too late and to no purpose. These young men are no rustics, they are no fools; and yet they have passed through the most terrible ordeal, they have seen the mad heart of this world riven and unmasked, they have had long vigils before battle, long nights tossing with pain, in which to meditate on the spectacle; and yet they have learned nothing. The young barbarians want to be again at play. If it were to be only cricket or boating, it would be innocent enough; but they are going to gamble away their lives and their country, taking their chances in the lottery of love and of business and of politics, with a sporting chance thrown in, perhaps, of heaven. They are going to shut out from view every thing except their topmost instincts and easy habits, and to trust to luck. Yet the poor fellows think they are safe! They think that the war perhaps the last of all wars is over!

Only the dead are safe; only the dead have seen the end of war. Not that non-existence deserves to be called peace; it is only by an illusion of contrast and a pathetic fallacy that we are tempted to call it so. The church has a poetical and melancholy prayer, that the souls of the faithful departed may rest in peace. If in that sigh there lingers any fear that, when a tomb is disturbed, the unhappy ghost is doomed to walk more often abroad, the fear is mad; and if it merely expresses the hope that dead men’s troubles are over, the wish is superfluous; but perhaps we may gloss the old superstition, and read into it the rational aspiration that all souls in other spheres, or in the world to come upon earth, might learn to live at peace with God and with things. That would be some thing worth praying for, but I am afraid it is asking too much. God, I mean the sum of all possible good, is immutable; to make our peace with him it is we, not he, that must change. We should need to discover, and to pursue singly, the happiness proper to our nature, including the accidents of race and sex and the very real advantages of growing old and of not living for ever; and we should need to respect without envying all other forms of the good…

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Plutarch: Entire and universal cessation of war

November 10, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Plutarch: Selections on war and peace


From Numa Pompelius
Translated by John Dryden

To the other months they gave denominations according to their order; so the fifth was called Quintilis, Sextilis the sixth, and the rest, September, October, November, and December. Afterwards Quintilis received the name of Julius, from Caesar, who defeated Pompey; as also Sextilis that of Augustus, from the second Caesar, who had that title. Domitian, also, in imitation, gave the two other following months his own names, of Germanicus and Domitianus; but, on his being slain, they recovered their ancient denominations of September and October. The two last are the only ones that have kept their names throughout without any alteration. Of the months which were added or transposed in their order by Numa, February comes from februa; and is as much a Purification month; in it they make offerings to the dead, and celebrate the Lupercalia, which, in most points, resembles a purification. January was also called from Janus, and precedence given to it by Numa before March, which was dedicated to the god Mars; because, as I conceive, he wished to take every opportunity of intimating that the arts and studies of peace are to be preferred before those of war. For this Janus, whether in remote antiquity he were a demigod or a king, was certainly a great lover of civil and social unity, and one who reclaimed men from brutal and savage living; for which reason they figure him with two faces, to represent the two states and conditions out of the one of which he brought mankind, to lead them into the other. His temple at Rome has two gates, which they call the gates of war, because they stand open in the time of war, and shut in the times of peace; of which latter there was very seldom an example, for, as the Roman empire was enlarged and extended, it was so encompassed with barbarous nations and enemies to be resisted, that it was seldom or never at peace. Only in the time of Augustus Caesar, after he had overcome Antony, this temple was shut; as likewise once before, when Marcus Atilius and Titus Manlius were consuls; but then it was not long before, wars breaking out, the gates were again opened. But, during the reign of Numa, those gates were never seen open a single day, but continued constantly shut for a space of forty-three years together; such an entire and universal cessation of war existed. For not only had the people of Rome itself been softened and charmed into a peaceful temper by the just and mild rule of a pacific prince, but even the neighbouring cities, as if some salubrious and gentle air had blown from Rome upon them, began to experience a change of feeling, and partook in the general longing for the sweets of peace and order, and for life employed in the quiet tillage of soil, bringing up of children, and worship of the gods. Festival days and sports, and the secure and peaceful interchange of friendly visits and hospitalities prevailed all through the whole of Italy. The love of virtue and justice flowed from Numa’s wisdom as from a fountain, and the serenity of his spirit diffused itself, like a calm, on all sides; so that the hyperboles of poets were flat and tame to express what then existed; as that –

Over the iron shield the spiders hang their threads,” or that –

“Rust eats the pointed spear and double-edged sword.
No more is heard the trumpet’s brazen roar,
Sweet sleep is banished from our eyes no more.”

For during the whole reign of Numa, there was neither war, nor sedition, nor innovation in the state, nor any envy or ill-will to his person, nor plot or conspiracy from views of ambition. Either fear of the gods that were thought to watch over him, or reverence for his virtue, or divine felicity of fortune that in his days preserved human innocence, made his reign, by whatever means, a living example and verification of that saying which Plato, long afterwards, ventured to pronounce, that the sole and only hope of respite or remedy for human evils was in some happy conjunction of events which should unite in a single person the power of a king and the wisdom of a philosopher, so as to elevate virtue to control and mastery over vice. The wise man is blessed in himself, and blessed also are the auditors who can bear and receive those words which flow from his mouth; and perhaps, too, there is no need of compulsion or menaces to affect the multitude, for the mere sight itself of a shining and conspicuous example of virtue in the life of their prince will bring them spontaneously to virtue, and to a conformity with that blameless and blessed life of good-will and mutual concord, supported by temperance and justice, which is the highest benefit that human means can confer; and he is the truest ruler who can best introduce it into the hearts and practice of his subjects. It is the praise of Numa that no one seems ever to have discerned this so clearly as he.

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Octave Mirbeau: War, apprenticeship in man-killing

November 9, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Octave Mirbeau: Selections on war


Octave Mirbeau
From Calvary (1886)
Translated by Louis Rich


That evening I did not go out and remained at home to muse in solitude. Stretched on a sofa, with half-closed eyes, and body made torpid by the heat, almost slumbering, I liked to go back to my past, to bring to life things dead and to recall memories which escaped me. Five years had passed since the war – the war in which I began my apprenticeship in life by entering the tormenting profession of a man-killer…Five years already!…

During the war I had killed a man who was kindly, young and strong, and I had killed him just at the moment when, fascinated, with beating heart, he was rapturously watching the rising sun! I had killed him while hidden behind a tree, concealed by the shadow, like a coward! He was a Prussian? What difference does it make! He, too, was a human being, a man like myself, better than myself. Upon his life were depending the feeble lives of women and children; a portion of suffering humanity was praying for him, waiting for him; perhaps in that virile youth, in that robust body that was his, he had the germs of those superior beings for whom humanity had been living in hope? And with one shot from an idiotic, trembling gun I had destroyed all that.

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Horace: Transcending war

November 8, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Horace: Let there be a limit to warfare


From Satires
Translated by H. Rushton Fairclough

When living creatures crawled forth upon primeval earth, dumb, shapeless beasts, they fought for their acorns and lairs with nails and fists, then with clubs, and so on step by step with the weapons which need had later forged, until they found words and names wherewith to give meaning to their cries and feelings. Thenceforth they began to cease from war, to build towns, and to frame laws that none should thieve or rob or commit adultery. For before Helen’s day a wench was the most dreadful cause of war, but deaths unknown to fame were theirs whom, snatching fickle love in wild-beast fashion, a man stronger in might struck down, like the bull in a herd. If you will but turn over the annals and records of the world, you must needs confess that justice was born of the fear of injustice…

Cum prorepserunt primis animalia terris,
mutum et turpe pecus, glandem atque cubilia propter
unguibus et pugnis, dein fustibus, atque ita porro
pugnabant armis, quae post fabricaverat usus,
donee verba, quibus voces sensusque notarent,
nominaque invenere; dehinc absistere bello,
oppida coeperunt munire et ponere leges,

ne quis fur esset, neu latro, neu quis adulter,
nam fuit ante Helenam cunnus taeterrima belli
causa, sed ignotis perierunt mortibus illi,
quos venerem incertam rapientis more ferarum
viribus editior caedebat ut in grege taurus.

iura inventa metu iniusti fateare necesse est,
tempora si fastosque veils evolvere mundi.


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Florus: World war, something worse than war

November 7, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Florus: Scattering the flames of war over the whole world


Lucius Annaeus Florus
From Epitome of Roman History
Translated by E. S. Forster

Almost the whole world having been now subjugated, the Roman Empire was too strong to be overcome by any foreign power. Fortune, therefore, envying a people that was sovereign of the world, armed it to its own destruction. The fury of Marius and Cinna had, indeed, formed a prelude, and as it were a preliminary trial, within the city; the thunder of the storm raised by Sulla had rolled over a wider area, but within the confines of Italy. The rage of Caesar and Pompeius, like a flood or a fire, involved the city and Italy, and then tribes and nations, and finally the whole extent of the empire. It cannot, therefore, justly be called merely a civil war, nor a war between allies, nor yet a foreign war, but was rather a war with all these characteristics and something worse than a war. If one looks at the leaders, the whole senate was ranged on one side or the other; if one considers the forces engaged, on one side were eleven legions, on the other eighteen, all the flower and strength of Italy’s manhood; if one looks at the aid given by the allies, one finds on one side the levies of Gaul and Germany, on the other side Deiotarus, Ariobarzanes, Tarcondimotus, Cotys and Rhascypolis, all the strength of Thrace, Cappadocia, Macedonia, Cilicia, Greece and the whole East. If one considers the duration of the war, it lasted for four years, a short period in view of the destruction which it wrought. If one looks at the ground and space which it covered, it began in Italy, it next directed its course into Gaul and Spain, and then, returning from the West, settled in full force upon Epirus and Thessaly; thence it suddenly leaped across into Egypt, whence it cast a backward glance upon Asia, brooded over Africa, and finally wheeled back into Spain, where at last it died out. But the close of the war did not see the end of party hatred, which did not subside until the rancour of those who had been defeated sated itself with the murder of the victor in the city itself, in the midst of the senate.

The cause of this great calamity was the same which caused all our calamities, namely, excessive good fortune. In the consulship of Quintus Metellus and Lucius Afranius, when the majesty of Rome held sway throughout the world and Rome was celebrating in the theatres of Pompeius her recent victories and her triumphs over the peoples of Pontus and Armenia, the excessive power enjoyed by Pompeius excited, as often happens, a feeling of envy among the ease-loving citizens…Crassus happened at this time to be at the height of a reputation due to his birth, wealth and the high offices which he had held, and yet he wished to increase his riches; Gaius Caesar’s fame for eloquence and courage was now enhanced by his tenure of the consulship; but Pompeius occupied a higher position than either of them. Caesar, therefore, being desirous of winning, Crassus of increasing, and Pompeius of retaining his position, and all alike being eager for power, readily came to an agreement to seize the government. So, each striving with the support of the others to win glory for himself, Caesar entered upon the government of Gaul, Crassus upon that of Asia, and Pompeius upon that of Spain. They possessed three great armies, and the rule of the whole world was vested in these by association of the three leaders

Pompeius being routed and in flight, Caesar preferred to set the provinces in order before he pursued him…Marseilles, however, as he was passing through on his way at once attack Pompeius’ armies in Spain, dared to close its gates to him; the luckless city, desirous of peace, became involved in war through its dread of war. But since it was protected by walls, he gave orders that it should be reduced for him in his absence…Brutus, to whom the operations had been entrusted, defeated and overcame them by land and sea. They quickly surrendered and were deprived of everything which they possessed except the most valued of all their possessions, their liberty.


With the death of Pompeius, who could but suppose that the war was over? Yet the embers of the conflagration in Thessaly burst forth again in flames with far greater fury and violence. In Egypt, indeed, a war broke out against Caesar which had no connection with the party faction…In Asia too a fresh disturbance arose from Pontus…[I]n Africa Caesar had a much more bitter struggle against his fellow-countrymen than at Pharsalia. It was on the coast of Africa that the tide of flight had cast ashore the remnants of the shipwrecked faction – remnants, indeed, one can hardly call them, but rather material for a fresh war. Their forces had been scattered rather than defeated, and the fate of their leader had in itself confirmed the obligation of their oath, and they were no degenerate leaders who succeeded him; for the names of Cato and Scipio had a sufficiently imposing sound to take place of that of Pompeius. Juba, king of Mauretania, also joined their forces…Just as though there had been no fighting hitherto, warfare and party spirit broke out afresh, and Spain outdid Africa, just as Africa surpassed Thessaly…How great was the rage and fury of the victors in the slaughter of the enemy can be gathered from the fact that, when the fugitives had retreated to Munda, and Caesar immediately ordered that his conquered foes should be besieged, a rampart was constructed of corpses piled up and held together by the javelins and missiles which were thrust through them…

How powerful is fate! The plot had become widely known; on the very day fixed for its execution, written information of it had been presented to Caesar, and, though he sacrificed a hundred victims, he had been unable to obtain favourable omens. Yet he came into the senate-house thinking of his campaign against Parthia. As he was seated there in his curule chair the senators attacked him, and he was borne to the ground wounded in twenty-three places. Thus he who had filled the whole world with the blood of his fellow-citizens at last filled the senate-house with his own.


In the consulship of Marcus Antonius and Publius Dolabella, while fortune was already transferring the Roman Empire to Caesar, diverse and manifold confusion afflicted the State. Just as, in the annual revolutions of the heavens, the constellations by their movements cause thunder and make known their changes of position by storms, so, in the change which came over the Roman dominion, that is, the whole world, the body of the empire trembled through and through and was disturbed by every kind of peril, by wars, civil, foreign, and against slaves, by land and by sea.

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

November 6, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace


From Phaenomena
Translated by G.R. Mair

Beneath both feet of Boötes mark the Maiden [Virgo], who in her hands bears the gleaming Ear of Corn [Spica]. Whether she be daughter of Astraeus, who, men say, was of old the father of the stars, or child of other sire, untroubled be her course! But another tale is current among men, how of old she dwelt on earth and met men face to face, nor ever disdained in olden time the tribes of men and women, but mingling with them took her seat, immortal though she was. Her men called Justice; but she assembling the elders, it might be in the market-place or in the wide-wayed streets, uttered her voice, ever urging on them judgements kinder to the people. Not yet in that age had men knowledge of hateful strife, or carping contention, or din of battle, but a simple life they lived. Far from them was the cruel sea and not yet from afar did ships bring their livelihood, but the oxen and the plough and Justice herself, queen of the peoples, giver of things just, abundantly supplied their every need. Even so long as the earth still nurtured the Golden Race, she had her dwelling on earth. But with the Silver Race only a little and no longer with utter readiness did she mingle, for that she yearned for the ways of the men of old. Yet in that Silver Age was she still upon the earth; but from the echoing hills at eventide she came alone, nor spake to any man in gentle words. But when she had filled the great heights with gathering crowds, then would she with threats rebuke their evil ways, and declare that never more at their prayer would she reveal her face to man. “Behold what manner of race the fathers of the Golden Age left behind them! Far meaner than themselves! But ye will breed a viler progeny! Verily wars and cruel bloodshed shall be unto men and grievous woe shall be laid upon them.” Even so she spake and sought the hills and left the people all gazing towards her still. But when they, too, were dead, and when, more ruinous than they which went before, the Race of Bronze was born, who were the first to forge the sword of the highwayman, and the first to eat of the flesh of the ploughing-ox, then verily did Justice loathe that race of men and fly heavenward and took up that abode, where even now in the night time the Maiden is seen of men, established near to far-seen Boötes.

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German writers on peace and war

November 5, 2015 Leave a comment

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

German and other German-language writers on peace and war

Walter Benjamin: Self-alienated mankind experiences its own destruction as aesthetic pleasure

Heinrich Böll: Every death in war is a murder – a murder for which someone is responsible

Heinrich Böll: I’m going to die soon and before the war is over. I shall never know peace again.

Wolfgang Borchert: It was war; stories from a primer

Wolfgang Borchert: Only one thing to do, say No!

Bertolt Brecht: Selections on war

Bertolt Brecht: For its material and moral beneficiaries, war can look forward to a prosperous future

Bertolt Brecht: German Miserere

Bertolt Brecht: I won’t let you spoil my war for me

Bertolt Brecht: In war the attacker always has an alibi

Bertolt Brecht: Maimed soldiers are anti-war demonstrators

Bertolt Brecht: One’s only got to make a war to become a millionaire. It’s amazing!

Bertolt Brecht: Picture-book generals more dangerous, less brave, than serial killers

Bertolt Brecht: To hear the big fellows talk, they wage war from fear of God and for all things bright and beautiful

Bertolt Brecht: The upper classes sacrifice for the soldiers

Bertolt Brecht: War Song

Bertolt Brecht: Wherein a holy war differs from other wars

Alfred Döblin: The law and the police are at the service of the war state and its slavery

Alfred Döblin: The old grim cry for war

Alfred Döblin: War is not ineluctable fate

Alfred Döblin: We march to war, Death folds his cloak singing: Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes.

Lion Feuchtwanger: Selections on war

Lion Feuchtwanger: The demand for perpetual peace must be raised again and again

Lion Feuchtwanger: The future national state: A military power beyond conception

Lion Feuchtwanger: The privilege, the courage of fighting for peace

Lion Feuchtwanger: Service at the front gave him a burning hatred for militarism

Lion Feuchtwanger: There is no greater crime than an unnecessary war

Lion Feuchtwanger: War to make the world safe for democracy

Johann Gottlieb Fichte: The inexorable law of universal peace

Bruno Frank: Mercenaries lay coffinless in their thousands; terribly easy for princes to carry on their wars

Stefan George: Monsters of lead and iron, tubes and rods escape their maker’s hand and rage unruly

Goethe: “O wisdom, thou speakest as a dove!”

Goethe: Withdraw hands from your swords

Gerhart Hauptmann: American politics and warships

Johann Gottfried Herder: Hardly dare name or write the terrible word “war”

Stefan Heym: Sure it’s a vicious circle, it’s war

Stefan Heym: The whole scene was immersed in the silence of absolute death

Stefan Heym: The world market…making new wars

Friedrich Hölderlin: Celebration of Peace

Immanuel Kant: Prescription for perpetual peace

Hans Hellmut Kirst: Goose-Stepping for NATO

Karl Kraus: Selections on war

Karl Kraus: Aphorisms and obloquies on war

Karl Kraus: This is world war. This is my manifesto to mankind.

Karl Kraus: The evolution of humanitarian bombing

Karl Kraus: The Last Days of Mankind

Karl Kraus: The Warmakers

Karl Kraus: War renders unto Caesar that which is God’s

Karl Kraus: In war, business is business

Karl Kraus: Wire dispatches are instruments of war

Karl Kraus: The vampire generation; prayer in wartime

Wilhelm Lamszus: The Human Slaughter-House

Emil Ludwig: Dialogue on “humanitarian war”

Heinrich Mann: Mission of letters in a world in rubble with 10 million corpses underground

Heinrich Mann: Nietzsche, war and the butchery of ten to twenty million souls

Heinrich Mann: Nowadays the real power is peace

Thomas Mann: Selections on war

Thomas Mann: By nature evil and harmful, war is destructive even to the victor

Thomas Mann: Dirge for a homeland wasted by war

Thomas Mann: Parallel, oracle and warning

Thomas Mann: Tolstoy, a force that could have stopped war

Thomas Mann: War is a blood-orgy of egotism, corruption, and vileness

Thomas Mann: William Faulkner’s love for man, protest against militarism and war

Conrad Ferdinand Meyer, Arnold Schoenberg: Peace on Earth

Alfred Neumann: Selections on war

Alfred Neumann: Debunking the glory of twenty murderous years, the greatest mass-murderer in history

Alfred Neumann: Empire destroys peace, converts liberalism into harvest of blood

Alfred Neumann: European hegemony emerges from piled-up corpses, out of recent graves

Alfred Neumann: Four thousand miles of fratricidal murder

Alfred Neumann: Modern war, the murderous happiness of the greatest number

Alfred Neumann: The morals and manners of the War God

Alfred Neumann: Sacred recalcitrance toward the black hatred of war

Alfred Neumann: Scandalous was the idea of winning happiness through war, of making profit out of war

Alfred Neumann: The stench of burning flesh. That happens sometimes.

Alfred Neumann: Ten million lives for one man’s glory; the emperor changes his hat

Alfred Neumann: This is how it happens in history. Soldiers become thieves, thieves become murderers.

Alfred Neumann: Twilight of a conqueror

Alfred Neumann: The ultima ratio of all dictatorships: war

Alfred Neumann: War and the stock market

Alfred Neumann: War, the Great Incendiary, the everlasting prototype of annihilation

Alfred Neumann: War is not ambiguous after all, but a horribly intelligent affair

Alfred Neumann: The War Minister

Alfred Neumann: War nights were never silent

Alfred Neumann: War: Sad, hate-filled, hopeless and God-forsaken

Alfred Neumann: War’s arena, a monstrous distortion, a blasphemous coupling of life and death

Novalis: Celebrating a great banquet of love as a festival of peace

Erich Maria Remarque: Selections on war

Erich Maria Remarque: After the war: The day of great dreams for the future of mankind was past

Erich Maria Remarque: All learning, all culture, all science is nothing but hideous mockery so long as mankind makes war

Erich Maria Remarque: The front begins and we become on the instant human animals

Erich Maria Remarque: It is the moaning of the world, it is the martyred creation

Erich Maria Remarque: Like a dove, a lonely white dove of assurance and peace

Erich Maria Remarque: Now, for the first time, I feel it; I see it; I comprehend it fully: Peace.

Erich Maria Remarque: On every yard there lies a dead man

Erich Maria Remarque: Peace?

Erich Maria Remarque: Their fighting and their dying have been coupled with murder and injustice and lies and might; they have been defrauded

Erich Maria Remarque: War dreams

Erich Maria Remarque: The war has ruined us for everything

Erich Maria Remarque: War, mass production of corpses

Erich Maria Remarque: War turns us into thugs, into murderers, into God only knows what devils

Erich Maria Remarque: A war veteran’s indictment

Erich Maria Remarque: War was everywhere. Everywhere, even in the brain and the heart.

Erich Maria Remarque: War’s conqueror worms

Erich Maria Remarque: We want to be men again, not war machines!

Erich Maria Remarque: We were making war against ourselves without knowing it

Erich Maria Remarque: What do they expect of us if a time ever comes when the war is over?

Erich Maria Remarque: With the melting came the dead

Erich Maria Remarque: Worse than a slaughterhouse

Jean Paul Richter: The Goddess of Peace

Friedrich Schiller: Beauty, peace and reconciliation

Friedrich Schiller: The citizen is naught, the soldier all; rude hordes, lawless grown in lengthy war

Friedrich Schiller: Oh, blessed peace, may the day of grim War’s ruthless crew never dawn

Arthur Schnitzler: Cannot praise war in general and oppose individual wars

Arthur Schnitzler: Political reaction is the consequence of victorious wars; revolution the consequence of lost ones

Arthur Schnitzler: Remold the structure of government so that war becomes impossible

Arthur Schnitzler: War, making fathers pay wages to their sons whom we sent to their deaths

Albert Schweitzer: On nuclear weapons in NATO’s hands

Anna Seghers: War enthusiasm, brewed from equal parts of age-old memories and total oblivion

Hermann Sudermann: Militarism and its terminus

Hermann Sudermann: War irrigates the soil with blood, fertilizes it with corpses

Ernst Toller: Corpses In The Woods

Georg Trakl: Night beckons to dying soldiers, the ghosts of the killed are sighing

Kurt Tucholsky: The White Spots

Kurt Tucholsky: The Trench

Kurt Tucholsky: Murder in disguise

Jakob Wassermann: Was there ever since the world began a just cause for war?

Franz Werfel: Selections on war

Franz Werfel: Advent of air war and apocalyptic visions

Franz Werfel: Cities disintegrated within seconds in the Last War

Franz Werfel: Don’t you hear the roar of the bombers, the clatter of heavy machine guns that envelop the globe?

Franz Werfel: How describe in a few words a world war?

Franz Werfel: Leaders’ fear of their people drives them to war

Franz Werfel: To a Lark in War-Time

Franz Werfel: Twenty thousand well-preserved human skulls of the Last War

Franz Werfel: Waging currish, cowardly war to plunder the poor

Franz Werfel: War behind and in front, outside and inside

Franz Werfel: War is the cause and not the result of all conflicts

Arnold Zweig: Selections on war

Arnold Zweig: Conducting the business of murder with embittered reluctance

Arnold Zweig: The costs of war are spiritual and moral desolation, economic catastrophes and political reaction

Arnold Zweig: Education Before Verdun

Arnold Zweig: The final trump in the struggle for world markets: the Gun

Arnold Zweig: From the joy of the slayer to being dimly aware of the man on the other side

Arnold Zweig: In the war you’ve lost all the personality you’ve ever had

Arnold Zweig: Keep the war going to the last drop of – other – people’s blood

Arnold Zweig: The meaning, or rather the meaninglessness, of war

Arnold Zweig: Mere existence of armies imposes upon mankind the mentality of the Stone Age

Arnold Zweig: Military strips nation of all that is worthy of defense

Arnold Zweig: Never again! On reading Barbusse

Arnold Zweig: No joy to be born into world of war

Arnold Zweig: Of course, one had to shoot at crowds of civilians, men, women and children

Arnold Zweig: Only the wrong people are killed in a war

Arnold Zweig: The plague has always played a part in war

Arnold Zweig: Pro-war clerks and clerics are Herod’s mercenaries

Arnold Zweig: Reason is the highest patriotism and militarism is evil its very essence

Arnold Zweig: They won no more ground than they could cover with their corpses

Arnold Zweig: War a deliberate act, not an unavoidable natural catastrophe

Arnold Zweig: War, a gigantic undertaking on the part of the destruction industry

Arnold Zweig: War of all against all, jaded multitudes of death

Arnold Zweig: War transforms rescue parties into murder parties

Arnold Zweig: War was in the world, and war prevailed

Arnold Zweig: War’s brutality, folly and tyranny practiced even on its own

Arnold Zweig: War’s communion, hideous multiplication of human disasters

Arnold Zweig: War’s hecatomb from the air, on land and at sea

Arnold Zweig: Whole generation shed man’s blood, whole generation to be poured forth in vats of blood

Stefan Zweig: The fear of opposing military hysteria

Stefan Zweig: Romain Rolland and the campaign against hatred

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

November 4, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace


From The Hymns
Translated by A.W. Mair

And thou thyself didst take up the child from the golden earth and lay him in thy lap and thou spakest saying: “O mighty and of many altars and many cities, bounteous earth! Rich continents and ye islands set around lo! I am as thou see’st – hard of tillage; yet from me shall Apollo be called ‘Of Delos’, and none other among all lands shall be so beloved by any other god…Thus didst thou speak and the child drew the sweet breast.

Wherefore from that day thou art famed as the most holy of islands, nurse of Apollo’s youth. On thee treads not Enyo nor Hades nor the horses of Ares; but every year tithes of first-fruits are sent to thee: to thee all cities lead up choirs, both those cities which have cast their lots toward the East and those toward the West and those in the South, and the peoples which have their homes above the northern shore…


Hail, goddess, and save this people in harmony and in prosperity, and in the fields bring us all pleasant things! Feed our kine, bring us flocks, bring us the corn-ear, bring us harvest! And nurse peace, that he who sows may also reap…

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

November 3, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Ammianus Marcellinus: Empowering the military…with foreseeable results


Ammianus Marcellinus
From History
Translated by John C. Rolfe

The barbarians, who are always alert and nimble, threw at our men huge clubs, hardened in the fire, and ran their swords through the breasts of those who showed most resistance; thus they broke through the left wing. When this gave way, a strong troop of reserves bravely hastened to their aid from near at hand, and rallied them when death already sat upon their necks. Then the battle grew hot and the slaughter was great; all the more active rushed into the thick of the fray and met their death from the arrows that flew like hail, or from the swords. Those who fled were pursued on this side and on that by troops of cavalry, who with mighty strength slashed at their heads and backs; and likewise on both sides by foot soldiers, hamstringing those who were in the toils of fear and had fallen. And while the whole battlefield was covered with corpses, some were lying among them who were mortally wounded, and cherished a vain hope of life; some were smitten with a bullet from a sling or pierced with arrows tipped with iron; the heads of others were split through mid forehead and crown with swords and hung down on both shoulders, a most horrible sight…Finally, some of the dead, who were men of distinction, were buried in such manner as the present circumstances allowed; the bodies of the rest of the slain were devoured by the foul birds that are wont at such a time to feed upon corpses, as is shown by the plains even now white with bones…

Here one might see a barbarian…his cheeks contracted in a hiss, hamstrung or with right hand severed, or pierced through the side, on the very verge of death threateningly casting about his fierce glance; and by the fall of the combatants on both sides the plains were covered with the bodies of the slain strewn over the ground, while the groans of the dying and of those who had suffered deep wounds caused immense fear when they were heard…The ground covered with streams of blood whirled their slippery foothold from under them, so they could only strain every nerve to sell their lives dearly; and they opposed the onrushing foe with such great resolution that some fell by the weapons of their own comrades. Finally, when the whole scene was discoloured with the hue of dark blood, and wherever men turned their eyes heaps of slain met them, they trod upon the bodies of the dead without mercy…

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French writers on war and peace

November 2, 2015 Leave a comment

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

French and other French-language writers on war and peace

Alain: Why is there war?

Amiel on war

Louis Aragon: Selections on war

Louis Aragon: Caravans of Peace

Louis Aragon: Children scattering flowers will some day scatter deadly flowers, grenades

Louis Aragon: The military: parasite and defender of parasitism

Louis Aragon: The peace that forces murder down to its knees for confession

Louis Aragon: War and its gloomy procession of storm clouds, sacred rites, illusions and lies

Louis Aragon: War, signal for the coming massacre of the sacrificial herd

Marcel Aymé: A child’s view of war

Balzac: Mass executions: Has Europe ever ceased from wars?

Jules Barbey D’Aurevilly: The jackals of war

Henri Barbusse: Selections on war

Henri Barbusse: All battles spring from themselves and necessitate each other to infinity

Henri Barbussse: As long as the colors of uniforms cover the flesh of men

Henri Barbusse: The awful power of a dead man

Henri Barbusse: Blood-stained priest of the God of War

Henri Barbusse: Butchery as far as the eye can see

Henri Barbusse: Cold death sits brooding, great and sumptuous bird of prey is in the act of taking wing

Henri Barbusse: Crows eddying round naked flesh with flapping banners and war-cries

Henri Barbusse: The enemy is militarism and no other

Henri Barbusse: Flags and swords, instruments of the cult of human sacrifice

Henri Barbusse: The goddess of slaughter, the world worn out by war

Henri Barbusse: I will wage war, even though I alone may survive

Henri Barbusse: Jesus on the battlefield

Henri Barbusse: Manual laborers of war glutting the cannon’s mouth with their flesh

Henri Barbusse: The mournful hearse of the army razes harshly

Henri Barbusse: Murder enters as invisibly as death itself. Industry multiplies its magic.

Henri Barbusse: The only cause of war is the slavery of those whose flesh wages it

Henri Barbusse: Pay for a glory which is not yours or for ruins that others have made with your hands

Henri Barbusse: “Perhaps it is the last war of all”

Henri Barbusse: Sepulchral sculptor’s great sketch-model, the gate of hell

Henri Barbusse: Soldier’s glory is a lie, like every other fine-looking thing in war

Henri Barbusse: “That’s war. It’s not anything else.”

Henri Barbusse: There will be nothing else on the earth but preparation for war

Henri Barbusse: These murdered souls, covered with black veils; they are you and I

Henri Barbusse: Torture…agony…human sacrifices…

Henri Barbusse: Under Fire

Henri Barbusse: War, as hideous morally as physically

Henri Barbusse: War befouls the country as it does faces and hearts

Henri Barbusse: “War must be killed; war itself”

Henri Barbusse: War which breeds war, whether by victory or defeat

Henri Barbusse: War’s loathsome horror and lunacy

Henri Barbusse: “We must have a new Ministry: a new public opinion: War.”

Henri Barbusse: The world has come to the end of its strength: it is vanquished by wars

Henri Barbusse: “You understand, I’m against all wars”

Julien Benda: Military mysticism

Béranger: When from the miseries of war we wake…

Georges Bernanos: Wars like epidemics, with neither beginning nor end

León Bloy: The Sword

Pierre Boulle: The long reach of war profiteers

Albert Camus: Where war lives. The reign of beasts has begun.

Chateaubriand: Would-be master of the world who knew only how to destroy

Victor Cherbuliez and Erich Fromm: Wars are outbursts of destructiveness and paranoid suspicion

Jules Claretie: A sensible man can but have one opinion on the question of war and peace

François Coppée: God preserve us from scientific war, the worst of any

Michel Corday: Selections from The Paris Front

Michel Corday: Blood! Blood! But there is still not enough.

Michel Corday: The everlasting glorification of murder

Michel Corday: War, the most brutal heritage of the past

Michel Corday: In war fathers bury their sons

Michel Corday: War sentiment is general dementia, barbarous and neolithic

Michel Corday: Millions of men killed to cure a single hypochondriac

Michel Corday: War – hell let loose, butchery, a return to barbarism

Michel Corday: War is irreparable loss for the earth and the human race

Michel Corday: The hideous futility of war in itself

Michel Corday: Future description of these horrors ought to make any return of war impossible

Michel Corday: Striking against war

Michel Corday: The Truth is the chief victim of war

Michel Corday: Glorification of slaughter is the beginning of future armaments

Michel Corday: The plague that comes in war’s train

Alphonse Daudet: Revenge and war

Maurice Druon: A contempt for all things military

Maurice Druon: The dual prerogatives of minting coins and waging wars

Guillaume de Saluste Du Bartas: Breaking oaths of peace, cover the fields with bloody carcasses

Georges Duhamel: Selections on war

Georges Duhamel: The demon of war had imprisoned us under his knee

Georges Duhamel: The Fleshmongers, War’s Winnowing Basket

Georges Duhamel: Mosaic of pain stained with mud and blood, the colours of war

Georges Duhamel: No end to war without moral reeducation

Georges Duhamel: No man desires war…but if there’s money to be made…

Georges Duhamel: The possession of the world is not decided by guns. It is the noble work of peace.

Georges Duhamel: The stupid machine of war throws out, from minute to minute, bleeding men

Georges Duhamel: The Third Symphony, a slender bridge across the abyss

Georges Duhamel: War and civilization

Georges Duhamel: War has achieved the mournful miracle of denaturing nature, rendering it ignoble and criminal

Georges Duhamel: Who has taught children of man that war brings happiness?

Georges Duhamel: World where now there are more graveyards than villages

Alexandre Dumas: The dove

Maurice Duplay: Colloquy on science and war

Maurice Duplay: Imperative to uproot the passion of war

Marguerite Duras: The civilizing mission

Jean Dutourd: The horrors of war

Paul Éluard: True law of men despite the misery and war

Erckmann-Chatrian: In a century the war gods will be recognized as barbarians

Erckmann-Chatrian: In war belligerents conspire against their own citizens

Fénelon: War is the most dreadful of all evils by which heaven has afflicted man

Gustave Flaubert and George Sand: Monstrous conflicts of which we have no idea; warfare suppressed or civilization perishes

Anatole France: Selections on war

Anatole France: Attack the monster that devours our race; make war on war, a war to the death

Anatole France: Barracks are a hideous invention of modern times

Anatole France: Brutal impulse which has led and still leads one half of humanity to destroy the other

Anatole France: Ceaselessly repeating that war is abominable, avoiding all the tortuous intrigues which might provoke it

Anatole France: Country living under shadow of war is easy to govern

Anatole France: Education and War

Anatole France: Emerging painfully from primitive barbarism, war

Anatole France: The ethics of war

Anatole France: Financiers only wanted colonial wars and the people did not want any wars at all

Anatole France: “He left us impoverished and depopulated, but he gave us glory”

Anatole France: How the U.S. Congress deliberates on wars

Anatole France: In civilised nations the glory of massacre is the greatest glory known

Anatole France: Letter to an advocate of “peace with victory”

Anatole France: Military service the most terrible pest of civilised nations

Anatole France: Modern Romans, the Americanization of the world

Anatole France: No one has right to kill, just man will refuse to draw his number for war

Anatole France: Nobel Prize speech

Anatole France: Only two ways out of militarism – war and bankruptcy

Anatole France: Restoring order by means of theft, rape, pillage, murder and incendiarism

Anatole France: To avert the danger of peace breaking out…

Anatole France: The tutelary gods of world war

Anatole France: Wait till the warriors you make gods of swallow you all up

Anatole France: War brings to the victor himself but ruin and misery, is nothing but a horrible and stupid crime

Anatole France: War, burlesque masquerade in which fatuous patriots sing stupid dithyrambs

Anatole France: War debases man beneath the level of ferocious beasts

Anatole France: War is committing all crimes by which an individual dishonours himself: arson, robbery, rape, murder

Anatole France: War is the last redoubt of oligarchy, plutocracy

Anatole France: Wars fought over territorial acquisition, commercial rivalries

Anatole France: “What you call murder and robbery may really be war and conquest, sacred foundations of empires”

Anatole France: Whether civil or foreign, war is execrable

Anatole France: Why should not humanity abolish the law of murder?

Anatole France on Victor Hugo: People to substitute justice and peace for war and bloodshed

Anatole France on Émile Zola, military terrorism and world peace

Anatole France and Michel Corday: The press fans the flames of war’s blast furnace

Anatole France and Michel Corday: Threat of annihilation in gigantic Armageddon

Anatole France and Michel Corday: War is a crime, for which victory brings no atonement

Théophile Gautier: One could imagine oneself in the Golden Age of Peace

André Gide: Transformation of a war supporter

Jean Giono: Led to the slaughterhouse

Jean Giono: Rats and worms were the only living things

Jean Giono: War, nourishment and dismemberment

Jean Giono: War! Who’s the madman in charge of all this? Who’s the madman who gives the orders?

Remy de Gourmont: Getting drunk at the dirty cask of militarism

Remy de Gourmont: If they wage war, in what state must the world be?

Albert-Paul Granier: The deadweight cortege of death grinds past

José-Maria de Heredia: Drunk with dreams that brutal conquests bring

Victor Hugo: Selections on war

Victor Hugo: The black eagle waits with claws outspread

Victor Hugo: The face of Cain, hunters of men, sublime cutthroats

Victor Hugo: War, made by humanity against humanity, despite humanity

Victor Hugo: Glorious war does not exist; peace, that sublime, universal desire

Victor Hugo: Brute war, dire birth of hellish race

Victor Hugo: International Peace Congress 1851

Joseph Joubert on war: All victors will be defeated

Joseph Kessel: In my family, war is in the blood…the blood of others

Joseph Kessel: The monstrous ululation of an air-raid siren

Joseph Kessel: War’s ultimate fratricide, killed for not killing

La Bruyère on the lust for war

La Fontaine: When shall Peace pack up these bloody darts?

José-André Lacour: War’s sanguinary peacock

Jacques de Lacretelle: War’s atavistic brigands

Lamartine: The republic of peace

Marie Lenéru: War is not human fate

Maurice Maeterlinck: Bloodshed, battle-cry and sword-thrust are the joys of barbarians

Jacques Maritain: What good one can expect from such a war and its pitiless prolongation?

Roger Martin du Gard: Selections on war

Roger Martin du Gard: From Nobel Prize in Literature speech

Roger Martin du Gard: All the pageantry of war cannot redeem its beastliness

Roger Martin du Gard: “Anything rather than the madness, the horrors of a war!”

Roger Martin du Gard: Be loyal to yourselves, reject war

Roger Martin du Gard: Deliberately infecting a country with war neurosis

Roger Martin du Gard: “Drop your rifles. Revolt!”

Roger Martin du Gard: General strike for peace

Roger Martin du Gard: A hundredth part of energy expended in war could have preserved peace

Roger Martin du Gard: How make active war on war?

Roger Martin du Gard: Launch against the war-mongers a concerted movement to force the governments to bow to your desire for peace

Roger Martin du Gard: No more dangerous belief can take root in the mind than the belief that war’s inevitable

Roger Martin du Gard: Nothing worse than war and all it involves

Roger Martin du Gard: Romain Rolland

Roger Martin du Gard: Secret commitments which from one day to another may plunge you, every man of you, into the horrors of war

Roger Martin du Gard: A thousand times more honor in preserving peace than waging war

Roger Martin du Gard: Tragedy of war, like that of Oedipus, occurs because warnings are ignored

Roger Martin du Gard: War breeds atmosphere of lies, officials lies

Roger Martin du Gard: War is at our gates, dooming millions of innocent victims to suffering and death

Roger Martin du Gard: War’s “serviceable lie” costs tens of thousands of lives

Roger Martin du Gard: When you refer to war, none of you thinks of the unprecedented slaughter, the millions of innocent victims it involves

Guy de Maupassant: Selections on war

Guy de Maupassant: The army, murdering those who defend themselves, making prisoners of the rest, pillaging in the name of the Sword

Guy de Maupassant: The Horrible

Guy de Maupassant: How and why wars are plotted

Guy de Maupassant: I do not understand how these murderers are tolerated walking on the public streets

Guy de Maupassant: I only pray that our sons may never see any wars again

Guy de Maupassant: Military hysteria, military presumptuousness

Guy de Maupassant: Why does society not rise up bodily in rebellion at the word “war”?

André Maurois: The killing machine started up with pitiless smoothness

Albert Memmi: So the war had caught up with us, a celebration in honor of death

Prosper Mérimée: To the shame of humanity, horrors of war have their charm

Robert Merle: The present war, and all the previous wars, and all the wars to come

Robert Merle: There’s no such thing as a just or sacred war

Octave Mirbeau: Selections on war

Octave Mirbeau: All these wan faces, all these bodies already vanquished – toward what useless and bloody slaughters?

Octave Mirbeau: It was not enough that war should glut itself with human flesh, it was necessary that it should also devour beasts, the earth itself, everything that lived in the calm and peace of labor and love

Octave Mirbeau: An orgy of destruction, criminal and foolish. What was this country, in whose name so many crimes were being committed?

Octave Mirbeau: Stupidly, unconsciously, I had killed a man whom I loved, a man with whom my soul had just identified itself

Octave Mirbeau: A sudden vision of Death, red Death standing on a chariot, drawn by rearing horses, which was sweeping down on us, brandishing his scythe

Montaigne: Selections on war

Montaigne: Blood on the sword: From slaughter of animals to slaughter of men

Montaigne: God would not favor so unjust an enterprise as insulting and quarreling with another nation for profit

Montaigne: The ignominy of lopsided military conquest

Montaigne: Invasion concerns all men; not so defense: that concerns only the rich

Montaigne: It is enough to dip our pens in ink without dipping them in blood

Montaigne: Monstrous war waged for frivolous reasons

Montaigne: This furious monster war

Montaigne: War, that malady of mankind

Montaigne: War’s fury

Montesquieu: Distemper of militarism brings nothing but public ruin

Montesquieu: Military glory leads to torrents of blood overspreading the earth

Montesquieu: Wars abroad aggravate conflicts at home

Henry de Montherlant: A constant state of crime against humanity

Paul Morand: The magic disappearance of ten millions of war dead

Paul Morand: Nations never lay down their arms; death which is still combative

Paul Morand: The War for Righteousness ends in the burying of moral sense

Charles Morice: Woe to you enemies of peace

Alfred de Musset: “No, none of these things, but simply peace.”

Paul Nizan: War completely assembled, like a mighty engine

Charles Nodier: Fruitless is the glory of battles

Charles Nodier: Painful to the eyes and the heart of he who cherishes liberty

Georges Ohnet: Pillaging in the wake of victorious armies

Zoé Oldenbourg: War provides a feast for the vultures

Pascal on war: An assassin if he kills in his own country, a hero if in another

Charles Péguy: Cursed be war, cursed of God

Benjamin Péret: Little song for the maimed

Vladimir Pozner: Mars and Ceres

Marcel Proust: Every day war is declared anew

Edgar Quinet: The soul of man has vanished, nations and races are doomed to combat and destroy each other

C.F. Ramuz: Little by little the war spreads

Arthur Rimbaud: Evil

Emmanuel Roblès: Respect is first due to the living

Romain Rolland: Selections on war

Romain Rolland: A father’s plea against war

Romain Rolland: The abominable war crimes of intellectuals

Romain Rolland: Above The Battle

Romain Rolland: Against grasping imperialism and inhuman pride, military caste and megalomania of pedants

Romain Rolland: America and the war against war

Romain Rolland: Ara Pacis and Ave, Caesar, Morituri Te Salutant

Romain Rolland: Centuries to recreate what war destroys in a day

Romain Rolland: The collective insanity, the terrible spirit of war

Romain Rolland: Content with having said “No!” to war

Romain Rolland: The enormous iniquity, the ignoble calculations of war

Romain Rolland: Goddess of prey, Anti-Christ, hovering over butcheries with spread wings and hawk’s talons

Romain Rolland: Hatred and holy butchery; the deadly sophistry, carnivorous poetry of war

Romain Rolland on Leo Tolstoy: How is it they are able to retain the lust of destroying their fellows?

Romain Rolland on Henri Barbusse: The isolated bleating of one of the beasts about to die

Romain Rolland: The life that would have been, the life that was not going to be

Romain Rolland: Message to America on the will to conquer the world

Romain Rolland: Not enough that nations are destroyed, they are bidden to glorify Death, to march towards it with songs

Romain Rolland: Our Neighbor the Enemy

Romain Rolland: Pacifism only allowed when it is not effective

Romain Rolland: Peace and war are in the hands of those who hold the purse-strings

Romain Rolland: Real peace demands that the masters of war be eliminated

Romain Rolland: Reawakening of old instincts of national pride, lapping of blood

Romain Rolland: Recurrence of the hell of war

Romain Rolland: To the Murdered Peoples

Romain Rolland: To the undying Antigone; waging war against war

Romain Rolland: Totalizing, to their personal profit, the ruin of all nations

Romain Rolland: War, a divine monster; half-beast, half-god

Romain Rolland: War, a pathological fact, a plague of the soul

Romain Rolland: War and the factories of intellectual munitions and cannon

Romain Rolland: War enriches a few, and ruins the community

Romain Rolland: When we defend war, dare to admit we are defending slavery

Romain Rolland: Where to rebuild the world after war?

Romain Rolland: Youth delivered up to the sword of war

Jules Romains: Selections on war

Jules Romains: Colloquy on God and war

Jules Romains: Communion of saints opposing war’s mutual massacre, human sacrifice

Jules Romains: Condign punishment for war profiteers and professional patriots

Jules Romains: Deadening effects of war on human sensibilities, defeat of civilization by barbarism

Jules Romains: Destruction of war itself, its deletion from the pages of history

Jules Romains: Distinguishing characteristic of modern warfare is that it will never come to an end of itself

Jules Romains: Fraternization versus fratricide, the forbidden subject of peace

Jules Romains: If mankind could put two and two together, there’d be no more war

Jules Romains: Just kill because the more dead there are, the fewer living will remain

Jules Romains: Romantic view of war played a dirty trick on the warriors

Jules Romains: Squalidly degrading everything that the civilization of mankind had created

Jules Romains: Unnatural war will only stop when everybody, on both sides, is killed

Jules Romains: War means a golden age for the munitions makers

Jules Romains: War: symphony of death, vast pudding concocted of corpses

Jules Romains: War turns murder into a public and highly praiseworthy action

Jules Romains: War under modern conditions has need of everything that man produces

Ronsard: Far away from Europe and far from its wars

Rousseau: The State of War

Claude Roy: Great wars and those which kill just as effectively

Gabrielle Roy: This was the hope that was uplifting mankind once again: to do away with war

Jules Roy: Any attempt to escape the universal holocaust would mean being hunted and tortured wherever he went

Saint-Exupéry: Charred flesh of children viewed with indifference

George Sand: Trader in uniformed flesh and the religion of self

Jean-Paul Sartre: They lift their heads and look up at the sky, the poisonous sky

Jean-Paul Sartre: When staging a massacre, all soldiers look alike

Jean-Paul Sartre: When the rich fight the rich, it is the poor who die

Senancour: Lottery of war amid heaps of the dead

Stendhal: Dreaming of the Marshall and his glory…

Stendhal: You’ve got to learn the business before you can become a soldier

Stendhal and Byron: Military leprosy; fronts of brass and feet of clay

Eugène Sue: War, murder by proxy

Hippolyte Taine on the inhuman travesty of war

Henri Troyat: Selections on war

Henri Troyat: All humanity passing through a crisis of destructive madness

Henri Troyat: Nothing grand, nothing noble, in the universal slaughter

Henri Troyat: Shedding blood for the motherland: War is ugly and absurd

Henri Troyat: So many men killed, so many towns burned…for a telegram

Henri Troyat: Thoughts stop with a shock: War!

Henri Troyat: Tolstoy’s visceral detestation of war

Henri Troyat: War, that greatest of political crimes

Henri Troyat: “Will a day ever come when there’s no more war, no more lies, no more tragedy!”

Paul Vaillant-Couturier: The Song of Craonne

Paul Valéry on global conflicts, Europe governed by American commission

Jules Vallès: I hate war and its sinister glory

Roger Vercel: Boats built for men to live in, ships built to kill

Vercors: Are war crimes only committed by the vanquished?

Émile Verhaeren: I hold war in execration; ashamed to be butchers of their fellows

Paul Verlaine: The joy of sweet peace without victory

Alfred de Vigny: Selections on war

Alfred de Vigny: Admiration for military commander turns us into slaves and madmen

Alfred de Vigny: The army is a machine wound up to kill

Alfred de Vigny: It is war that is wrong, not we

Alfred de Vigny: War is condemned of God and even of man who holds it in secret horror

Alfred de Vigny: When armies and war exist no more

Voltaire: Selections on war

Voltaire: Armies composed of well disciplined hirelings who determine the fate of nations

Voltaire: Bellicose father or pacific son?

Voltaire: He did not put a sufficient number of his fellow creatures to death

Voltaire: Million regimented assassins traverse Europe from one end to the other, to get their bread by regular depredation and murder

Voltaire: One country cannot conquer without making misery for another

Voltaire: War

Marguerite Yourcenar: Fruits of war are food for new wars

Émile Zola: Selections on war

Émile Zola on war mania: A blind and deaf beast let loose amid death and destruction, laden with cannon-fodder

Émile Zola: Bloody pages of history, the wars, the conquests, the names of the captains who had butchered their fellow-beings.

Émile Zola: Encomiums on labor and peace

Émile Zola: The forge of peace and the pit of war

Émile Zola: Haunted by military matters

Émile Zola: The military, necessary apprenticeship for devastation and massacre

Émile Zola: One sole city of peace and truth and justice

Émile Zola: Prescription for a happy life in the midst of universal peace

Émile Zola: To what field of disaster would it be taken to kill men? what harvest of human lives would it reap?

Émile Zola: Vulcan in service to Mars

Émile Zola: War’s vast slaughterhouse

Émile Zola: Why armies are maintained

Émile Zola: Yes, war is dead. The world has reached its last stage. Brothers may now give each other the fraternal kiss.

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Aulus Gellius: Thievery as school for war

November 1, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace


Aulus Gellius
From The Attic Nights
Translated by John C. Rolfe

Among the Lacedaemonians…many famous writers, who have composed records of their laws and customs, affirm that thieving was lawful and customary, and that it was practised by their young men, not for base gain or to furnish means for indulging or amassing wealth, but as an exercise and training in the art of war; for dexterity and practice in thieving made the minds of the youth keen and strong for clever ambuscades, and for endurance in watching, and for the swiftness of surprise.

Marcus Cato, however, in the speech which he wrote On Dividing Spoils among the Soldiers, complains in strong and choice language about unpunished thievery and lawlessness. I have quoted his words since they pleased me greatly: “Those who commit private theft pass their lives in confinement and fetters; plunderers of the public, in purple and gold.”

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