Home > Uncategorized > Tacitus: When war bursts on us, innocent and guilty alike perish

Tacitus: When war bursts on us, innocent and guilty alike perish

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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Tacitus: The robbery, slaughter and plunder that empire calls peace

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Tacitus
From Annals
Translated by Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb

“In peace,” he [Caecina] said, “the merits of a man’s case are carefully weighed; when war bursts on us, innocent and guilty alike perish.”

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Mankind in the earliest age lived for a time without a single vicious impulse, without shame or guilt, and, consequently, without punishment and restraints. Rewards were not needed when everything right was pursued on its own merits; and as men desired nothing against morality, they were debarred from nothing by fear. When however they began to throw off equality, and ambition and violence usurped the place of self-control and modesty, despotisms grew up and became perpetual among many nations.

…laws were most numerous when the commonwealth was most corrupt.

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With profound meaning was it often affirmed by the greatest teacher of philosophy that, could the minds of tyrants be laid bare, there would be seen gashes and wounds; for, as the body is lacerated by scourging, so is the spirit by brutality, by lust and by evil thoughts.

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