Home > Uncategorized > Pietro Aretino: Proper task, the giving of a beginning to peace and an end to wars

Pietro Aretino: Proper task, the giving of a beginning to peace and an end to wars


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

Italian writers on war and militarism

Pietro Aretino: Overjoyed at statue of Peace and her flames burning up arms of war


Pietro Aretino
From his letters
Translated by Samuel Putnam

Pen versus the sword

I am a captain myself, and my malice does not steal soldiers’ pay, cause peoples to revolt or betray forts; but with my inky cohorts, and with the truth painted on my banners, I acquire more glory for a prince I serve than armed men do.


I, who have made kings tremble and who have assured them of prosperity, give myself to you, the fathers of your people, the brothers of your servants, the little sons of truth, the friends of virtue, the companions of strangers, the supports of religion, the observers of the faith, the executors of justice, the heirs of charity and the subjects of clemency. For the same reason, illustrious prince, receive my affection into a hem of your piety, so that I may go on praising the nurse of cities [Venice] and the mother elect of God. Make her the most famous of any in the world, by moderating her customs, by giving humanity to me, by humiliating the proud and by pardoning the erring. Such an exercise is, indeed, your proper task, as is the giving of a beginning to peace and an end to wars…


In Which He Dissuades His Friend from Going to War

I counseled you not to be stubborn in the matter, endeavoring to make you feel that killing or crippling others would not be to your credit, since you are not armorum; follow my advice, and you will not have to give an account to the mourners; for if Your Lordship is killed, every one will say: “Served him right!”

But alas! madness and the devil tempt you and drag you away; go, then, but take it easy behind the baggage trains, for in a “Salvum me fac” lies the safety of nos otros, and not in getting into the rout, receiving half a dozen wounds and, in addition, being looked upon as a beast.

If worst comes to worst, lose no time in getting out, take to your legs, fly away, for it is better for your hide that they should say: “What coward is fleeing there?” than “What corpse is lying here?” Glory is good enough in its place; but when we are dead, old lady Fame can sound the bagpipes and play the Pavan all she chooses, but we will not be there to hear them; we shall be crowned with laurel and mingling with the dust of Cyprus. And if you do not take my word for it, take the assurance of Messer Lionardo Bartolino, that war is something more than talk…

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