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Cicero: Even war’s victories should be forgotten


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Cicero: All wars, undertaken without a proper motive, are unjust

Cicero: Military commands, phantom of glory and the ruin of one’s own country and personal downfall


From De Inventione
Translated by H. M. Hubbell

For when I ponder the troubles in our commonwealth, and run over in my mind the ancient misfortunes of mighty cities, I see no little part of the disasters was brought about by men of eloquence. When, on the other hand, I begin to search in the records of literature for events which occurred before the period which our generation can remember, I find that many cities have been founded, that the flames of a multitude of wars have been extinguished, and that the strongest alliances and most sacred friendships have been formed not only by the use of reason but also more easily by the help of eloquence.


Certainly only a speech at the same time powerful and entrancing could have induced one who had great physical strength to submit to justice without violence, so that he suffered himself to be put on a par with those among whom he could excel, and abandoned voluntarily a most agreeable custom, especially since this custom had already acquired through lapse of time the force of a natural right.


It was a nearly universal custom among the Greeks when they fought with one another that the victors should set up a trophy in the country to commemorate the victory, but only for the time being, not that the record of the war might remain forever.

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