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Baltasar Gracián: Who are the true conquerors?

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

Baltasar Gracián
From The Art of Worldly Wisdom
Translated by Joseph Jacobs

Many have claimed the title “Great,” like Caesar and Alexander, but in vain, for without great deeds the title is a mere breath of air. There have been few Senecas, and fame records but one Apelles.

There are persons who make a war out of everything, real banditti of intercourse. All that they undertake must end in victory; they do not know how to get on in peace. Such men are fatal when they rule and govern, for they make government rebellion, and enemies out of those whom they ought to regard as children. They try to effect everything with strategy and treat it as the fruit of their skill. But when others have recognised their perverse humour all revolt against them and learn to overturn their chimerical plans, and they succeed in nothing but only heap up a mass of troubles, since everything serves to increase their disappointment. They have a head turned and a heart spoilt. Nothing can be done with such monsters except to flee from them, even to the Antipodes, where the savagery is easier to bear than their loathsome nature.

Man is born a barbarian, and only raises himself above the beast by culture….Thanks to it, Greece could call the rest of the world barbarians.

The most and best of us depend on others; we have to live either among friends or among enemies.

You may be obliged to wage war, but not to use poisoned arrows. A mean victory brings no glory, but rather disgrace.

To follow the times is to lead them.

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