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Horace: Transcending war

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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

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Horace
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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