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Minucius Felix: War and the birth of empire

December 1, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace


Minucius Felix
From Octavius
Translated by Robert Ernest Wallis

Doubtless the illustrious and noble justice of the Romans had its beginning from the very cradle of the growing empire. Did they not in their origin, when gathered together and fortified by crime, grow by the terror of their own fierceness? For the first people were assembled together as to an asylum. Abandoned people, profligate, incestuous, assassins, traitors, had flocked together; and in order that Romulus himself, their commander and governor, might excel his people in guilt, he committed fratricide. These are the first auspices of the religious state! By and by they carried off, violated, and ruined foreign virgins, already betrothed, already destined for husbands, and even some young women from their marriage vows – a thing unexampled – and then engaged in war with their parents, that is, with their fathers-in-law, and shed the blood of their kindred. What more irreligious, what more audacious, what could be safer than the very confidence of crime? Now, to drive their neighbours from the land, to overthrow the nearest cities, with their temples and altars, to drive them into captivity, to grow up by the losses of others and by their own crimes, is the course of training common to the rest of the kings and the latest leaders with Romulus. Thus, whatever the Romans hold, cultivate, possess, is the spoil of their audacity. All their temples are built from the spoils of violence, that is, from the ruins of cities, from the spoils of the gods, from the murders of priests. This is to insult and scorn, to yield to conquered religions, to adore them when captive, after having vanquished them. For to adore what you have taken by force, is to consecrate sacrilege, not divinities. As often, therefore, as the Romans triumphed, so often they were polluted; and as many trophies as they gained from the nations, so many spoils did they take from the gods. Therefore the Romans were not so great because they were religious, but because they were sacrilegious with impunity. For neither were they able in the wars themselves to have the help of the gods against whom they took up arms; and they began to worship those when they were triumphed over, whom they had previously challenged. But what avail such gods as those on behalf of the Romans, who had had no power on behalf of their own worshippers against the Roman arms?

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Juvenal: The spoils of war and the price thereof

November 30, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Juvenal: Mighty warriors and their tombs are circumscribed by Fate


From Satires
Translated by G. G. Ramsay

[W]ould you like to be courted like Sejanus? To be as rich as he was? To bestow on one man the ivory chairs of office, appoint another to the command of armies, and be counted guardian of a Prince seated on the narrow ledge of Capri with his herd of Chaldaean astrologers? You would like, no doubt, to have Centurions, Cohorts, and Illustrious Knights at your call, and to possess a camp of your own? Why should you not? Even those who don’t want to kill anybody would like to have the power to do it…

What was it that overthrew the Crassi, and the Pompeii, and him who brought the conquered Quirites under his lash? What but lust for the highest place pursued by every kind of means? What but ambitious prayers granted by unkindly Gods? Few indeed are the kings who go down to Ceres’ son-in-law save by sword and slaughter – few the tyrants that perish by a bloodless death!

The spoils of war and trophies fastened upon stumps – a breast-plate, a cheek-strap hanging from a broken helmet, a yoke shorn of its pole, the flagstaff of a captured galley, or a captive sorrowing on a triumphal arch – such things are deemed glories too great for man; these are the prizes for which every General strives, be he Greek, Roman, or barbarian; it is for these that he endures toil and peril: so much greater is the thirst for glory than for virtue! For who would embrace virtue herself if you stripped her of her rewards?

Sooner will you find a false witness against a civilian than one who will tell the truth against the interest and the honour of a soldier.

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Aristotle: How tyrants use war

November 29, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Aristotle: Leader not praiseworthy in training citizens for conquest and dominion

Aristotle: A man would be regarded as a bloodthirsty monster if he were to make war just to produce battles and slaughter

Aristotle: When they had attained empire they fell, for of the arts of peace they knew nothing


From The Politics
Translated by Benjamin Jowett

There are firstly the prescriptions mentioned some distance back, for the preservation of a tyranny, in so far as this is possible; viz., that the tyrant…must prohibit literary assemblies or other meetings for discussion…Another art of the tyrant is to sow quarrels among the citizens; friends should be embroiled with friends, the people with the notables, and the rich with one another. Also he should impoverish his subjects; he thus provides against the maintenance of a guard by the citizen and the people, having to keep hard at work, are prevented from conspiring. The Pyramids of Egypt afford an example of this policy; also the offerings of the family of Cypselus, and the building of the temple of Olympian Zeus by the Peisistratidae, and the great Polycratean monuments at Samos; all these works were alike intended to occupy the people and keep them poor. Another practice of tyrants is to multiply taxes, after the manner of Dionysius at Syracuse, who contrived that within five years his subjects should bring into the treasury their whole property. The tyrant is also fond of making war in order that his subjects may have something to do and be always in want of a leader.


[A] tyrant, when he is absent from home, has more reason to fear the guardians of his treasure than the citizens, for the one accompany him, but the others remain behind. In the second place, he should be seen to collect taxes and to require public services only for state purposes, and that he may form a fund in case of war, and generally he ought to make himself the guardian and treasurer of them, as if they belonged, not to him, but to the public. He should appear, not harsh, but dignified, and when men meet him they should look upon him with reverence, and not with fear. Yet it is hard for him to be respected if he inspires no respect, and therefore whatever virtues he may neglect, at least he should maintain the character of a great soldier, and produce the impression that he is one.


Now in all states there are three elements: one class is very rich, another very poor, and a third in a mean. It is admitted that moderation and the mean are best, and therefore it will clearly be best to possess the gifts of fortune in moderation; for in that condition of life men are most ready to follow rational principle. But he who greatly excels in beauty, strength, birth, or wealth, or on the other hand who is very poor, or very weak, or very much disgraced, finds it difficult to follow rational principle. Of these two the one sort grow into violent and great criminals, the others into rogues and petty rascals. And two sorts of offenses correspond to them, the one committed from violence, the other from roguery….Again, those who have too much of the goods of fortune, strength, wealth, friends, and the like, are neither willing nor able to submit to authority. The evil begins at home; for when they are boys, by reason of the luxury in which they are brought up, they never learn, even at school, the habit of obedience. On the other hand, the very poor, who are in the opposite extreme, are too degraded. So that the one class cannot obey, and can only rule despotically; the other knows not how to command and must be ruled like slaves. Thus arises a city, not of freemen, but of masters and slaves, the one despising, the other envying; and nothing can be more fatal to friendship and good fellowship in states than this: for good fellowship springs from friendship; when men are at enmity with one another, they would rather not even share the same path. But a city ought to be composed, as far as possible, of equals and similars…

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Tertullian: As a last test of empire, make war on heaven

November 28, 2015 Leave a comment



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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace



From Apology
Translated by Gerald H. Rendall

Unless I am mistaken, all kingship or empire is sought in war and extended by victory. War and victory depend on the capture and generally the overthrow of cities. That business is not put through, without injury to the gods. Walls and temples have one destruction; citizens and priests alike are slain; the plunder of wealth is the same whether is is sacred property or that of laymen. Then the sacrileges of the Romans are exactly as many as their trophies; their triumphs over gods as many as over races; their spoils in war as many as the statues still left of captured gods…

Let the Emperor, as a last test, make war on heaven, carry heaven captive in his triumph, set a guard on heaven, lay taxes on heaven. He cannot…

We can count your troops; the Christians of one province will be more in number. For what war should we not have been fit and ready even if unequal in forces – we who are so glad to be butchered – were it not, of course, that in our doctrine we are given ampler liberty to be killed than to kill?

[N]othing is more foreign to us than the State. One state we know, of which all are citizens – the universe.

From De Spectaculis
Translated be Gerald H. Rendall

So it begins and so it goes on, – to madness, anger, discord to everything forbidden to the priests of peace.

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Theophrastus: Warmongering’s rumormongering

November 27, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace


From Characters
Translated by J.M. Edmonds

Newsmaking is the putting together of fictitious sayings and doings at a man’s own caprice; and the Newsmaker is one that no sooner meets a friend than his face softens and he asks him with a smile ‘Where do you come from? How do you? and Have you any news of this?’ and throwing himself, so to speak, upon him ‘Can there be any greater news? nay, and it is good news’; and without suffering him to answer, ‘What?’ cries he, ‘have you heard nothing? methinks I can give you a rare feast.’

And it seems he has some soldier, or a servant of Asteius the flute-player’s, or maybe Lycon the contractor, come straight from the battle-field, who has told him all about it. Thus his authorities are such as no man could lay hands on. Yet he recounts, with them for sponsors, how that Polyperchon and the King have won a battle, and Casander is taken.

And if it be asked him ‘Do you believe this? ‘he will reply that it is so indeed, ’tis common talk, and the report gains ground, and everyone says the same; all agree about the battle, and the butchers’ bill is very long; he can tell it from the faces of the Government, they are all so changed. Moreover, he has been told in secret that they are keeping in close hiding one that came four days ago out of Macedonia who has seen it all. While this long tale is telling, you cannot think how true to life are his cries of woe: ‘Poor Casander! unhappy man! do you see how luck turns? Well, he was a strong man once, and now!’ and he ends with saying, ‘But mind you, this must go no further,’ albeit he has
been running up to all the town to tell them of it.

It is a marvel to me what object such men can have in making their news. They not merely tell lies, but forge tales that bring them no profit. For often-times have they lost their cloaks gathering crowds at the baths, or been cast in their suits-at-law by default a-winning battles by land or sea in the Porch, or it may be have missed their dinner taking cities by assault of word. Their manner of life is hard indeed; for what porch is there, or workshop, or part of the market-place which they do not haunt day in day out, to the utter undoing of their hearers, so do they weary them with their lying tales?

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Plato: A good city has peace, but the evil city is full of wars within and without

November 26, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Plato: Selections on war


From Laws
Translated by Benjamin Jowett

For the common opinion is, that work is for the sake of play, war of peace; whereas in war there is neither amusement nor instruction worth speaking of. The life of peace is that which men should chiefly desire to lengthen out and improve.


A good city has peace, but the evil city is full of wars within and without.


Let us first of all, then, have a class of laws which shall be called the laws of husbandmen. And let the first of them be the law of Zeus, the God of boundaries. Let no one shift the boundary line either of a fellow-citizen who is a neighbour, or, if he dwells at the extremity of the land, of any stranger who is conterminous with him, considering that this is truly ‘to move the immovable,’ and every one should be more willing to move the largest rock which is not a landmark, than the least stone which is the sworn mark of friendship and hatred between neighbours; for Zeus, the god of kindred, is the witness of the citizen, and Zeus, the god of strangers, of the stranger, and when aroused, terrible are the wars which they stir up.

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Varro: War’s etymologies

November 24, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace


From On The Latin Language
Translated by Roland G. Kent

Gladium ‘sword,’ from clades ‘slaughter,’ with change of C to G, because the gladium is made for a slaughter of the enemy; likewise from its omen was said pilum, by which the enemy periret ‘might perish,’ as though perilum.


The third gate is the Janual Gate, named from Janus, and therefore a statue of Janus was set up there, and the binding practice was instituted by Pompilius, as Piso writes in his Annals, that the gate should always be open except when there was no war anywhere. The story that has come down to us is that it was closed when Pompilius was king, and afterwards when Titus Manlius was consul, at the end of the first war with Carthage, and then opened again in the same year.


The enemy are called perduelles ‘foes’; as perfecit ‘accomplished’ is formed from per ‘through, thoroughly’ and fecit ‘did,’ so perduellis is formed from per and duellum ‘war’: this word afterward became belbim. From the same reason, Duellona ‘Goddess of War’ became Bellona.


In The Story of the Helmet-Horn is the verse”:

Who for ten years fought for wages (latrocinatus) for the King Demetrius.

Those were called latrones ‘mercenaries’ from latus ‘side,’ who were at the King’s side and had a sword at their own side (afterwards they called them stipatores ‘body-guards’ from stipatio ‘close attendance’) and were hired for pay: for this pay is in Greek called λάτρον. From this, the old poets sometimes call regular soldiers latrones. But now the name latrones is given to the highwaymen who block the roads, because like regular soldiers they have swords, or else because they latent ‘lie in hiding’ to ambush their victims.

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Simonides: Dirges for the victims of the impetuous War-God

November 23, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace


Translated by J.M. Edmonds

We were slain in a glen of Dirphys, and the mound of our grave is made beside Euripus at our country’s charge, and rightly so; for by abiding the onset of the cruel cloud of war we lost our lovely time of youth.


In these men’s breasts the impetuous War-God washed the long-pointed arrow with crimson drops, and instead of javelineers this dust shrouds the living memorials of corpses without life.


Some one rejoices that I, Theodorus, am dead; another will rejoice over him; we are all debts due to Death.


Since the day the sea parted Europe from Asia and the impetuous War-God first haunted the cities if mankind…This bow and its arrows that lie beneath the roof of Athena’s temple their lamentable warfare done…


Rest so, thy fine long ash, against the tall pillar, abiding ever sacred to Zeus the Diviner; for thy bronze point is grown old and thy thyself art worn out with much wielding in dreadful war.

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Plutarch: Advanced and bettered by wars? Only if riches, luxury, dominion are preferred to security, gentleness, independence accompanied by justice.

November 22, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Plutarch: Entire and universal cessation of war

Plutarch: Lover of peace changed the first month of the year

Plutarch: Numa’s guardians of peace

Plutarch: On war and its opponents


The Comparison of Numa with Lycurgus
Translated by John Dryden

Numa’s muse was a gentle and loving inspiration, fitting him well to turn and soothe his people into peace and justice out of their violent and fiery tempers…Numa did not out of cowardice or fear affect peace, but because he would not be guilty of injustice…

Numa’s whole design and aim, the continuance of peace and goodwill, on his death vanished with him; no sooner did he expire his last breath than the gates of Janus’s temple flew wide open, and, as if war had, indeed, been kept and caged up within those walls, it rushed forth to fill all Italy with blood and slaughter; and thus that best and justest fabric of things was of no long continuance, because it wanted that cement which should have kept all together, education. What, then, some may say, has not Rome been advanced and bettered by her wars? A question that will need a long answer, if it is to be one to satisfy men who take the better to consist in riches, luxury, and dominion, rather than in security, gentleness, and that independence which is accompanied by justice.

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Anacreon: Rather art and love than lamentable war

November 21, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace


Translated by J.M. Edmonds

I like not him who at his drinking beside the full mixing-bowl tells of strife and lamentable war, but rather one that taketh thought for delightsome mirth by mingling the Muses and the splendid gifts of Aphrodite.


The doughty Agathon who died for Abdera, was mourned at his pyre by all this town; for blood-loving Ares never slew in the whirl of hateful battle such a youth as he.


This is the tomb of Timocritus, a stanch man in the wars; for it is the craven, not the brave, that are spared by Ares.

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Clement of Alexandria: Gods of war

November 20, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace


Clement of Alexandria
From Exhortations to the Greeks
Translated by G.W. Butterworth

There is for example Ares, who is honoured, so far as that is possible, in the poets –

Ares, thou plague of men, bloodguilty one, stormer of cities;

this fickle and implacable god…

Come then, let us add this, that your gods are inhuman and man-hating daemons, who not only exult over the insanity of men, but go so far as to enjoy human slaughter. They provide for themselves sources of pleasure, at one time in the armed contests in the of the stadium, at another in the innumerable rivalries of war, in order to secure every possible opportunity of glutting themselves to the full with human blood. Before now, too, they have fallen like plagues on whole cities and nations, and have demanded drink-offerings of a savage character…

[W]arlike Ares is so called from arsis and anairesis, abolition and destruction; which is the chief reason, I think, why many tribes simply fix their sword in the ground and then offer sacrifice to it as if to Ares.

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Lucian: Rejecting war’s seductive appeal

November 19, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Lucian: War propaganda and its hyperbole


From The Judgment of the Goddesses
Translated by A.M. Harmon


I am at your side, and if you judge me beautiful, Paris, you shall never leave the field of battle defeated, but always victorious, for I shall make you a warrior and a conqueror.

I have no use, Athena, for war and battle. As you see, peace reigns at present over Phrygia and Lydia, and my father’s realm is free from war…

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George Santayana: Selections on war

November 18, 2015 Leave a comment
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Stesichorus: Thrust wars away

November 17, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace


Translated by J.M. Edmonds

Come, Muse, thrust wars away, and with me in the honour of a wedding of Gods and a feast of men and eke a merrymaking of the Blest…

When a man dies, all his glory among men dies also.

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Dio Chrystostom: On the fate of states educated only for war

November 16, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Dio Chystostom: Greed leads to internal strife and foreign wars


Dio Chrystostom
From The Thirteenth Discourse:
In Athens, about his Banishment

Translated by J.W. Cohoon

And thus it came about that I too endeavoured to talk to the Romans when they had summoned me and invited me to speak, but I did not take them by twos and threes in wrestling-schools and cloistered walks; for it was not possible to meet them thus in that city; but when a great number had gathered in one place, I would tell them that they needed a better and more carefully planned education, if they were ever to be happy in truth and reality and not merely in the opinion of the majority, as was now the case; that if anyone should win them to this view and take them in charge and teach them that not a single one of those things is a good to which they devoted themselves and which they strove with all their zeal to acquire, in the belief that, the more they acquired, the better and happier their life would be; but that if they wholeheartedly practised temperance, manliness, and justice, and took them into their souls, securing from somewhere teachers who taught these things and all the other things too, not caring whether the men were Greeks or Romans, or, for that matter, if there is among the Scythians or the Indians a man who teaches the things of which I have spoken, – not, as I think, archery and horsemanship, but far better, if there were a physician who, knowing how to treat the infirmities of the body, is in that way competent to heal the maladies of the soul – a teacher, I mean, who would be able to rid of licentiousness and covetousness and all such infirmities those who were dominated by them – of that man, I say, they should take possession and lead him to their homes, inducing him to come either by argument or by friendship – for by money such a man cannot be induced nor by any other gifts – and after establishing him on their acropolis they ought to issue an edict bidding all the young men to resort to him regularly and associate with him, and equally the older men too, until all of them, having become enamoured of righteousness, and having learned to despise gold and silver and ivory, yea, and rich food too and perfume and the lust of the flesh, should thereafter live happy lives, and be masters first and foremost of themselves and afterwards of all other men as well.

“For only then,” I continued, “will your city be great and strong and truly imperial, since at present its greatness arouses distrust and is not very secure. For,” said I, “in proportion as courage, justice, and temperance increase among you, in that degree there will be less silver and gold and furniture of ivory and of amber, less of crystal and citron-wood and ebony and women’s adornments and embroideries and dyes of many hues; in short, all the things which are now considered in your city precious and worth fighting for, you will need in smaller quantities, and when you have reached the summit of virtue, not at all. And the houses in which you live will be smaller and better, and you will not support so great a throng of idle and utterly useless slaves and – the most paradoxical thing of all – the more god-fearing and pious you become, the less frankincense and fragrant offerings and garlands there will be among you, and you will offer fewer sacrifices and at less expense, and the whole multitude that is now being supported in your city will be much smaller; while the entire city, like a ship that has been lightened, will ride higher and be much more buoyant and safer…But as your possessions are now, on account of the great amount of wealth, all of which has been collected from all the world into this one place, luxury and covetousness being prevalent, the situation is similar to that in which Achilles, after heaping high the pyre of Patroclus with many logs of wood, with many coverlets and garments, and also with fat and olive oil in addition, summons the winds, with libations and promise of sacrifices, to come and set it afire and burn it. For such possessions as yours are no less likely to kindle the wanton spirit and licentiousness of human beings.”

I did not, however, maintain that it was difficult for them to become educated, “for,” said I, “although you have hitherto been no whit better than other men, you learned easily enough all the other things that you wished.” I refer to horsemanship, archery, fighting in heavy armour .

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Philo: Casting off the warlike spirit in its completeness

November 15, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Philo: “Ah, my friends, how should you not hate war and love peace?”


From The Migration of Abraham
Translated by F.H. Colson and Rev. G.H. Whitaker

“[F]or the Lord thy God is with thee.” This companionship brings wars to an end, builds up peace, overthrows the host of evil things to which we grow accustomed, rescues the scanty band of those beloved of God, every loyal adherent of which loathes and hates the battalions of the earth-bound.”


The fool’s whole course through every moment of his journey depends on this pair, fierce spirit and desire; since he has got rid of mind, who is the charioteer and monitor. The man of the opposite character has exscinded fierce spirit and desire, and chosen as his patron and controlling guide the Divine Word. Even so Moses, best beloved of God, when offering the burnt sacrifices of the soul, will “wash out the belly,” that is, will cleanse away desire in every shape, but “the breast from the ram of consecration he will take away.” This means, we may be sure, the warlike spirit in its completeness; and the object of taking it away is that the better portion of the soul, the rational part, that is left, may exercise its truly free and noble impulses towards all things beautiful, with nothing pulling against it any longer and dragging it in another direction.

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Lactantius: Sacrificing to the gods of war

November 14, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Lactantius: The pernicious and impious madness of deifying warlike generals who have inundated plains with blood

Lactantius: War, object of execration, and its domestic analogue


From Divine Institutes
Translated by William Fletcher

To think that men were so barbarous, so savage, that they gave the name of sacrifice to the slaughter of their own children, that is, to a deed foul, and to be held in detestation by the human race; since, without any regard to parental affection, they destroyed tender and innocent lives, at an age which is especially pleasing to parents, and surpassed in brutality the savageness of all beasts, which – savage as they are – still love their offspring! O incurable madness! What more could those gods do to them, if they were most angry, than they now do when propitious, when they defile their worshippers with parricide, visit them with bereavements, and deprive them of the sensibilities of men? What can be sacred to these men? Or what will they do in profane places, who commit the greatest crimes amidst the altars of the gods? Pescennius Festus relates in the books of his History by a Satire, that the Carthaginians were accustomed to immolate human victims to Saturn; and when they were conquered by Agathocles, the king of the Sicilians, they imagined that the god was angry with them; and therefore, that they might more diligently offer an expiation, they immolated two hundred sons of their nobles: “So great the ills to which religion could prompt, which has ofttimes produced wicked and impious deeds.” What advantage, then, did the men propose by that sacrifice, when they put to death so large a part of the state, as not even Agathocles had slain when victorious?

From this kind of sacrifices those public rites are to be judged signs of no less madness; some of which are in honour of the mother of the gods, in which men mutilate themselves; others are in honour of Virtus, whom they also call Bellona, in which the priests make offsprings not with the blood of another victim, but with their own. For, cutting their shoulders, and thrusting forth drawn swords in each hand, they run, they are beside themselves, they are frantic. Quintilian therefore says excellently in his Fanatic: “If a god compels this, he does it in anger.” Are even these things sacred? Is it not better to live like cattle, than to worship deities so impious, profane, and sanguinary?


The foolish, therefore, err in a twofold manner: first, in preferring the elements, that is, the works of God, to God Himself; secondly, in worshipping the figures of the elements themselves under human form. For they form the images of the sun and moon after the fashion of men; also those of fire, and earth, and sea, which they call Vulcan, Vesta, and Neptune. Nor do they openly sacrifice to the elements themselves. Men are possessed with so great a fondness for representations, that those things which are true are now esteemed of less value: they are delighted, in fact, with gold, and jewels, and ivory. The beauty and brilliancy of these things dazzle their eyes, and they think that there is no religion where these do not shine. And thus, under pretence of worshipping the gods, avarice and desire are worshipped. For they believe that the gods love whatever they themselves desire, whatever it is, on account of which thefts and robberies and murders daily rage, on account of which wars overthrow nations and cities throughout the whole world. Therefore they consecrate their spoils and plunder to the gods, who must undoubtedly be weak, and destitute of the highest excellence, if they are subject to desires. For why should we think them celestial if they long for anything from the earth, or happy if they are in want of anything, or uncorrupted if they take pleasure in those things in the pursuit of which the desire of men is not unreservedly condemned? They approach the gods, therefore not so much on account of religion, which can have no place in badly acquired and corruptible things, as that they may gaze upon the gold, and view the brilliancy of polished marble or ivory, that they may survey with unwearied contemplation garments adorned with precious stones and colours, or cups studded with glittering jewels. And the more ornamented are the temples, and the more beautiful the images, so much the greater majesty are they believed to have: so entirely is their religion confined to that which the desire of men admires.

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Quintilian: War, the antithesis of justice

November 13, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace


From Institutio Oratoria
Translated by H.E. Butler

The opening of the Thebans’ plea presents no difficulty and is likely to win the approval of the judges, since they are seeking to recover by right what was taken from them by force. But out of this point arises a violent controversy as to the right of war, since the Thessalians urge that kingdoms and peoples and the frontiers of nations and cities depend upon these rights. To meet this argument it is necessary to discover in what respect this case differs from others which are concerned with property that has fallen into the hands of the victor: the difficulty moreover lies not so much in the proof as in the way it should be put forward. We may begin by stating that the rights of war do not hold good in any matter which can be brought before a court of justice, and that what is taken by force of arms can only be retained by force of arms, and consequently, wherever the rights of war hold good, there is no room for the functions of a judge, while on the contrary where the functions of the judge come into play, the rights of war cease to have any force. The reason why it is necessary to discover this principle is to enable us to bring the following argument into play: that prisoners of war are free on returning to their native land just because the gains of war cannot be retained except by the exercise of the same violence by which they were acquired.

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Lycophron: Ares, who banquets in gory battles

November 12, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace


From Alexandra
Translated by A.W. Mair

And now Ares, the dancer, fires the land, with his conch leading the chant of blood. And all the land lies ravaged before my eyes and, as it were fields of corn, bristle the fields of the gleaming spears. And in my ears seems a voice of lamentation from the tower tops reaching to the windless seats of air, with groaning women and rending of robes, awaiting sorrow upon sorrow.

That woe, O my poor heart, that woe shall wound thee as a crowning sorrow, when the dusky, sworded, bright-eyed eagle shall rage, with his wings marking out the land – the track traced by bandied crooked steps – and, crying with his mouth his dissonant and chilly cry, shall carry aloft the dearest nursling of all thy brothers, dearest to thee and to his sire the Lord of Ptoön, and, bloodying his body with talon and beak, shall stain with gore the land, both swamp and plain, a ploughman cleaving a smooth furrow in the earth.


And many woes, on this side and that alternately, shall be taken as an offering by Candaeus or Mamertus – or what name should be given to him [Ares] who banquets in gory battles?

And many contests and slaughters in between shall solve the struggles of men, contending for dread empire, now on land, now on the plough-turned backs of earth…

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George Santayana: Only the dead have seen the end of war

November 11, 2015 Leave a comment


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

American writers on peace and against war

George Santayana: Selections on war


George Santayana
From Soliloquies in England and Later Soliloquies (1922)

Their soldiering is over; they remember, with a strange proud grief, their comrades who died to make this day possible, hardly believing that it ever would come; they are overjoyed, yet half ashamed, to be safe themselves: they forget their wounds; they see a green vista before them, a jolly, busy, sporting, loving life in the old familiar places. Everything will go on, they fancy, as if nothing had happened.

Good honest unguided creatures! They are hardly out of the fog of war when they are lost in the fog of peace. If experience could teach mankind anything, how different our morals and our politics would be, how clear, how tolerant, how steady! If we knew ourselves, our conduct at all times would be absolutely decided and consistent; and a pervasive sense of vanity and humour would disinfect all our passions, if we knew the world. As it is, we live experimentally, moodily, in the dark; each generation breaks its egg-shell with the same haste and assurance as the last, pecks at the same indigestible pebbles, dreams the same dreams, or others just as absurd, and if it hears anything of what former men have learned by experience, it corrects their maxims by its first impressions, and rushes down any untrodden path which it finds alluring, to die in its own way, or become wise too late and to no purpose. These young men are no rustics, they are no fools; and yet they have passed through the most terrible ordeal, they have seen the mad heart of this world riven and unmasked, they have had long vigils before battle, long nights tossing with pain, in which to meditate on the spectacle; and yet they have learned nothing. The young barbarians want to be again at play. If it were to be only cricket or boating, it would be innocent enough; but they are going to gamble away their lives and their country, taking their chances in the lottery of love and of business and of politics, with a sporting chance thrown in, perhaps, of heaven. They are going to shut out from view every thing except their topmost instincts and easy habits, and to trust to luck. Yet the poor fellows think they are safe! They think that the war perhaps the last of all wars is over!

Only the dead are safe; only the dead have seen the end of war. Not that non-existence deserves to be called peace; it is only by an illusion of contrast and a pathetic fallacy that we are tempted to call it so. The church has a poetical and melancholy prayer, that the souls of the faithful departed may rest in peace. If in that sigh there lingers any fear that, when a tomb is disturbed, the unhappy ghost is doomed to walk more often abroad, the fear is mad; and if it merely expresses the hope that dead men’s troubles are over, the wish is superfluous; but perhaps we may gloss the old superstition, and read into it the rational aspiration that all souls in other spheres, or in the world to come upon earth, might learn to live at peace with God and with things. That would be some thing worth praying for, but I am afraid it is asking too much. God, I mean the sum of all possible good, is immutable; to make our peace with him it is we, not he, that must change. We should need to discover, and to pursue singly, the happiness proper to our nature, including the accidents of race and sex and the very real advantages of growing old and of not living for ever; and we should need to respect without envying all other forms of the good…

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Plutarch: Entire and universal cessation of war

November 10, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Plutarch: Lover of peace changed the first month of the year

Plutarch: Numa’s guardians of peace

Plutarch: On war and its opponents


From Numa Pompelius
Translated by John Dryden

To the other months they gave denominations according to their order; so the fifth was called Quintilis, Sextilis the sixth, and the rest, September, October, November, and December. Afterwards Quintilis received the name of Julius, from Caesar, who defeated Pompey; as also Sextilis that of Augustus, from the second Caesar, who had that title. Domitian, also, in imitation, gave the two other following months his own names, of Germanicus and Domitianus; but, on his being slain, they recovered their ancient denominations of September and October. The two last are the only ones that have kept their names throughout without any alteration. Of the months which were added or transposed in their order by Numa, February comes from februa; and is as much a Purification month; in it they make offerings to the dead, and celebrate the Lupercalia, which, in most points, resembles a purification. January was also called from Janus, and precedence given to it by Numa before March, which was dedicated to the god Mars; because, as I conceive, he wished to take every opportunity of intimating that the arts and studies of peace are to be preferred before those of war. For this Janus, whether in remote antiquity he were a demigod or a king, was certainly a great lover of civil and social unity, and one who reclaimed men from brutal and savage living; for which reason they figure him with two faces, to represent the two states and conditions out of the one of which he brought mankind, to lead them into the other. His temple at Rome has two gates, which they call the gates of war, because they stand open in the time of war, and shut in the times of peace; of which latter there was very seldom an example, for, as the Roman empire was enlarged and extended, it was so encompassed with barbarous nations and enemies to be resisted, that it was seldom or never at peace. Only in the time of Augustus Caesar, after he had overcome Antony, this temple was shut; as likewise once before, when Marcus Atilius and Titus Manlius were consuls; but then it was not long before, wars breaking out, the gates were again opened. But, during the reign of Numa, those gates were never seen open a single day, but continued constantly shut for a space of forty-three years together; such an entire and universal cessation of war existed. For not only had the people of Rome itself been softened and charmed into a peaceful temper by the just and mild rule of a pacific prince, but even the neighbouring cities, as if some salubrious and gentle air had blown from Rome upon them, began to experience a change of feeling, and partook in the general longing for the sweets of peace and order, and for life employed in the quiet tillage of soil, bringing up of children, and worship of the gods. Festival days and sports, and the secure and peaceful interchange of friendly visits and hospitalities prevailed all through the whole of Italy. The love of virtue and justice flowed from Numa’s wisdom as from a fountain, and the serenity of his spirit diffused itself, like a calm, on all sides; so that the hyperboles of poets were flat and tame to express what then existed; as that –

Over the iron shield the spiders hang their threads,” or that –

“Rust eats the pointed spear and double-edged sword.
No more is heard the trumpet’s brazen roar,
Sweet sleep is banished from our eyes no more.”

For during the whole reign of Numa, there was neither war, nor sedition, nor innovation in the state, nor any envy or ill-will to his person, nor plot or conspiracy from views of ambition. Either fear of the gods that were thought to watch over him, or reverence for his virtue, or divine felicity of fortune that in his days preserved human innocence, made his reign, by whatever means, a living example and verification of that saying which Plato, long afterwards, ventured to pronounce, that the sole and only hope of respite or remedy for human evils was in some happy conjunction of events which should unite in a single person the power of a king and the wisdom of a philosopher, so as to elevate virtue to control and mastery over vice. The wise man is blessed in himself, and blessed also are the auditors who can bear and receive those words which flow from his mouth; and perhaps, too, there is no need of compulsion or menaces to affect the multitude, for the mere sight itself of a shining and conspicuous example of virtue in the life of their prince will bring them spontaneously to virtue, and to a conformity with that blameless and blessed life of good-will and mutual concord, supported by temperance and justice, which is the highest benefit that human means can confer; and he is the truest ruler who can best introduce it into the hearts and practice of his subjects. It is the praise of Numa that no one seems ever to have discerned this so clearly as he.

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Octave Mirbeau: War, apprenticeship in man-killing

November 9, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Octave Mirbeau: Selections on war


Octave Mirbeau
From Calvary (1886)
Translated by Louis Rich


That evening I did not go out and remained at home to muse in solitude. Stretched on a sofa, with half-closed eyes, and body made torpid by the heat, almost slumbering, I liked to go back to my past, to bring to life things dead and to recall memories which escaped me. Five years had passed since the war – the war in which I began my apprenticeship in life by entering the tormenting profession of a man-killer…Five years already!…

During the war I had killed a man who was kindly, young and strong, and I had killed him just at the moment when, fascinated, with beating heart, he was rapturously watching the rising sun! I had killed him while hidden behind a tree, concealed by the shadow, like a coward! He was a Prussian? What difference does it make! He, too, was a human being, a man like myself, better than myself. Upon his life were depending the feeble lives of women and children; a portion of suffering humanity was praying for him, waiting for him; perhaps in that virile youth, in that robust body that was his, he had the germs of those superior beings for whom humanity had been living in hope? And with one shot from an idiotic, trembling gun I had destroyed all that.

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Horace: Transcending war

November 8, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace


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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Florus: World war, something worse than war

November 7, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Florus: Scattering the flames of war over the whole world


Lucius Annaeus Florus
From Epitome of Roman History
Translated by E. S. Forster

Almost the whole world having been now subjugated, the Roman Empire was too strong to be overcome by any foreign power. Fortune, therefore, envying a people that was sovereign of the world, armed it to its own destruction. The fury of Marius and Cinna had, indeed, formed a prelude, and as it were a preliminary trial, within the city; the thunder of the storm raised by Sulla had rolled over a wider area, but within the confines of Italy. The rage of Caesar and Pompeius, like a flood or a fire, involved the city and Italy, and then tribes and nations, and finally the whole extent of the empire. It cannot, therefore, justly be called merely a civil war, nor a war between allies, nor yet a foreign war, but was rather a war with all these characteristics and something worse than a war. If one looks at the leaders, the whole senate was ranged on one side or the other; if one considers the forces engaged, on one side were eleven legions, on the other eighteen, all the flower and strength of Italy’s manhood; if one looks at the aid given by the allies, one finds on one side the levies of Gaul and Germany, on the other side Deiotarus, Ariobarzanes, Tarcondimotus, Cotys and Rhascypolis, all the strength of Thrace, Cappadocia, Macedonia, Cilicia, Greece and the whole East. If one considers the duration of the war, it lasted for four years, a short period in view of the destruction which it wrought. If one looks at the ground and space which it covered, it began in Italy, it next directed its course into Gaul and Spain, and then, returning from the West, settled in full force upon Epirus and Thessaly; thence it suddenly leaped across into Egypt, whence it cast a backward glance upon Asia, brooded over Africa, and finally wheeled back into Spain, where at last it died out. But the close of the war did not see the end of party hatred, which did not subside until the rancour of those who had been defeated sated itself with the murder of the victor in the city itself, in the midst of the senate.

The cause of this great calamity was the same which caused all our calamities, namely, excessive good fortune. In the consulship of Quintus Metellus and Lucius Afranius, when the majesty of Rome held sway throughout the world and Rome was celebrating in the theatres of Pompeius her recent victories and her triumphs over the peoples of Pontus and Armenia, the excessive power enjoyed by Pompeius excited, as often happens, a feeling of envy among the ease-loving citizens…Crassus happened at this time to be at the height of a reputation due to his birth, wealth and the high offices which he had held, and yet he wished to increase his riches; Gaius Caesar’s fame for eloquence and courage was now enhanced by his tenure of the consulship; but Pompeius occupied a higher position than either of them. Caesar, therefore, being desirous of winning, Crassus of increasing, and Pompeius of retaining his position, and all alike being eager for power, readily came to an agreement to seize the government. So, each striving with the support of the others to win glory for himself, Caesar entered upon the government of Gaul, Crassus upon that of Asia, and Pompeius upon that of Spain. They possessed three great armies, and the rule of the whole world was vested in these by association of the three leaders

Pompeius being routed and in flight, Caesar preferred to set the provinces in order before he pursued him…Marseilles, however, as he was passing through on his way at once attack Pompeius’ armies in Spain, dared to close its gates to him; the luckless city, desirous of peace, became involved in war through its dread of war. But since it was protected by walls, he gave orders that it should be reduced for him in his absence…Brutus, to whom the operations had been entrusted, defeated and overcame them by land and sea. They quickly surrendered and were deprived of everything which they possessed except the most valued of all their possessions, their liberty.


With the death of Pompeius, who could but suppose that the war was over? Yet the embers of the conflagration in Thessaly burst forth again in flames with far greater fury and violence. In Egypt, indeed, a war broke out against Caesar which had no connection with the party faction…In Asia too a fresh disturbance arose from Pontus…[I]n Africa Caesar had a much more bitter struggle against his fellow-countrymen than at Pharsalia. It was on the coast of Africa that the tide of flight had cast ashore the remnants of the shipwrecked faction – remnants, indeed, one can hardly call them, but rather material for a fresh war. Their forces had been scattered rather than defeated, and the fate of their leader had in itself confirmed the obligation of their oath, and they were no degenerate leaders who succeeded him; for the names of Cato and Scipio had a sufficiently imposing sound to take place of that of Pompeius. Juba, king of Mauretania, also joined their forces…Just as though there had been no fighting hitherto, warfare and party spirit broke out afresh, and Spain outdid Africa, just as Africa surpassed Thessaly…How great was the rage and fury of the victors in the slaughter of the enemy can be gathered from the fact that, when the fugitives had retreated to Munda, and Caesar immediately ordered that his conquered foes should be besieged, a rampart was constructed of corpses piled up and held together by the javelins and missiles which were thrust through them…

How powerful is fate! The plot had become widely known; on the very day fixed for its execution, written information of it had been presented to Caesar, and, though he sacrificed a hundred victims, he had been unable to obtain favourable omens. Yet he came into the senate-house thinking of his campaign against Parthia. As he was seated there in his curule chair the senators attacked him, and he was borne to the ground wounded in twenty-three places. Thus he who had filled the whole world with the blood of his fellow-citizens at last filled the senate-house with his own.


In the consulship of Marcus Antonius and Publius Dolabella, while fortune was already transferring the Roman Empire to Caesar, diverse and manifold confusion afflicted the State. Just as, in the annual revolutions of the heavens, the constellations by their movements cause thunder and make known their changes of position by storms, so, in the change which came over the Roman dominion, that is, the whole world, the body of the empire trembled through and through and was disturbed by every kind of peril, by wars, civil, foreign, and against slaves, by land and by sea.

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Aratus: Justice deserts earth with warning of wars and cruel bloodshed

November 6, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace


From Phaenomena
Translated by G.R. Mair

Beneath both feet of Boötes mark the Maiden [Virgo], who in her hands bears the gleaming Ear of Corn [Spica]. Whether she be daughter of Astraeus, who, men say, was of old the father of the stars, or child of other sire, untroubled be her course! But another tale is current among men, how of old she dwelt on earth and met men face to face, nor ever disdained in olden time the tribes of men and women, but mingling with them took her seat, immortal though she was. Her men called Justice; but she assembling the elders, it might be in the market-place or in the wide-wayed streets, uttered her voice, ever urging on them judgements kinder to the people. Not yet in that age had men knowledge of hateful strife, or carping contention, or din of battle, but a simple life they lived. Far from them was the cruel sea and not yet from afar did ships bring their livelihood, but the oxen and the plough and Justice herself, queen of the peoples, giver of things just, abundantly supplied their every need. Even so long as the earth still nurtured the Golden Race, she had her dwelling on earth. But with the Silver Race only a little and no longer with utter readiness did she mingle, for that she yearned for the ways of the men of old. Yet in that Silver Age was she still upon the earth; but from the echoing hills at eventide she came alone, nor spake to any man in gentle words. But when she had filled the great heights with gathering crowds, then would she with threats rebuke their evil ways, and declare that never more at their prayer would she reveal her face to man. “Behold what manner of race the fathers of the Golden Age left behind them! Far meaner than themselves! But ye will breed a viler progeny! Verily wars and cruel bloodshed shall be unto men and grievous woe shall be laid upon them.” Even so she spake and sought the hills and left the people all gazing towards her still. But when they, too, were dead, and when, more ruinous than they which went before, the Race of Bronze was born, who were the first to forge the sword of the highwayman, and the first to eat of the flesh of the ploughing-ox, then verily did Justice loathe that race of men and fly heavenward and took up that abode, where even now in the night time the Maiden is seen of men, established near to far-seen Boötes.

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German writers on peace and war

November 5, 2015 Leave a comment

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

German and other German-language writers on peace and war

Walter Benjamin: Self-alienated mankind experiences its own destruction as aesthetic pleasure

Heinrich Böll: Every death in war is a murder – a murder for which someone is responsible

Heinrich Böll: I’m going to die soon and before the war is over. I shall never know peace again.

Wolfgang Borchert: It was war; stories from a primer

Wolfgang Borchert: Only one thing to do, say No!

Bertolt Brecht: Selections on war

Bertolt Brecht: For its material and moral beneficiaries, war can look forward to a prosperous future

Bertolt Brecht: German Miserere

Bertolt Brecht: I won’t let you spoil my war for me

Bertolt Brecht: In war the attacker always has an alibi

Bertolt Brecht: Maimed soldiers are anti-war demonstrators

Bertolt Brecht: One’s only got to make a war to become a millionaire. It’s amazing!

Bertolt Brecht: Picture-book generals more dangerous, less brave, than serial killers

Bertolt Brecht: To hear the big fellows talk, they wage war from fear of God and for all things bright and beautiful

Bertolt Brecht: The upper classes sacrifice for the soldiers

Bertolt Brecht: War Song

Bertolt Brecht: Wherein a holy war differs from other wars

Alfred Döblin: The law and the police are at the service of the war state and its slavery

Alfred Döblin: The old grim cry for war

Alfred Döblin: War is not ineluctable fate

Alfred Döblin: We march to war, Death folds his cloak singing: Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes.

Lion Feuchtwanger: Selections on war

Lion Feuchtwanger: The demand for perpetual peace must be raised again and again

Lion Feuchtwanger: The future national state: A military power beyond conception

Lion Feuchtwanger: The privilege, the courage of fighting for peace

Lion Feuchtwanger: Service at the front gave him a burning hatred for militarism

Lion Feuchtwanger: There is no greater crime than an unnecessary war

Lion Feuchtwanger: War to make the world safe for democracy

Johann Gottlieb Fichte: The inexorable law of universal peace

Bruno Frank: Mercenaries lay coffinless in their thousands; terribly easy for princes to carry on their wars

Stefan George: Monsters of lead and iron, tubes and rods escape their maker’s hand and rage unruly

Goethe: “O wisdom, thou speakest as a dove!”

Goethe: Withdraw hands from your swords

Gerhart Hauptmann: American politics and warships

Johann Gottfried Herder: Hardly dare name or write the terrible word “war”

Stefan Heym: Sure it’s a vicious circle, it’s war

Stefan Heym: The whole scene was immersed in the silence of absolute death

Stefan Heym: The world market…making new wars

Friedrich Hölderlin: Celebration of Peace

Immanuel Kant: Prescription for perpetual peace

Hans Hellmut Kirst: Goose-Stepping for NATO

Karl Kraus: Selections on war

Karl Kraus: Aphorisms and obloquies on war

Karl Kraus: This is world war. This is my manifesto to mankind.

Karl Kraus: The evolution of humanitarian bombing

Karl Kraus: The Last Days of Mankind

Karl Kraus: The Warmakers

Karl Kraus: War renders unto Caesar that which is God’s

Karl Kraus: In war, business is business

Karl Kraus: Wire dispatches are instruments of war

Karl Kraus: The vampire generation; prayer in wartime

Wilhelm Lamszus: The Human Slaughter-House

Emil Ludwig: Dialogue on “humanitarian war”

Heinrich Mann: Mission of letters in a world in rubble with 10 million corpses underground

Heinrich Mann: Nietzsche, war and the butchery of ten to twenty million souls

Heinrich Mann: Nowadays the real power is peace

Thomas Mann: Selections on war

Thomas Mann: By nature evil and harmful, war is destructive even to the victor

Thomas Mann: Dirge for a homeland wasted by war

Thomas Mann: Parallel, oracle and warning

Thomas Mann: Tolstoy, a force that could have stopped war

Thomas Mann: War is a blood-orgy of egotism, corruption, and vileness

Thomas Mann: William Faulkner’s love for man, protest against militarism and war

Conrad Ferdinand Meyer, Arnold Schoenberg: Peace on Earth

Alfred Neumann: Selections on war

Alfred Neumann: Debunking the glory of twenty murderous years, the greatest mass-murderer in history

Alfred Neumann: Empire destroys peace, converts liberalism into harvest of blood

Alfred Neumann: European hegemony emerges from piled-up corpses, out of recent graves

Alfred Neumann: Four thousand miles of fratricidal murder

Alfred Neumann: Modern war, the murderous happiness of the greatest number

Alfred Neumann: The morals and manners of the War God

Alfred Neumann: Sacred recalcitrance toward the black hatred of war

Alfred Neumann: Scandalous was the idea of winning happiness through war, of making profit out of war

Alfred Neumann: The stench of burning flesh. That happens sometimes.

Alfred Neumann: Ten million lives for one man’s glory; the emperor changes his hat

Alfred Neumann: This is how it happens in history. Soldiers become thieves, thieves become murderers.

Alfred Neumann: Twilight of a conqueror

Alfred Neumann: The ultima ratio of all dictatorships: war

Alfred Neumann: War and the stock market

Alfred Neumann: War, the Great Incendiary, the everlasting prototype of annihilation

Alfred Neumann: War is not ambiguous after all, but a horribly intelligent affair

Alfred Neumann: The War Minister

Alfred Neumann: War nights were never silent

Alfred Neumann: War: Sad, hate-filled, hopeless and God-forsaken

Alfred Neumann: War’s arena, a monstrous distortion, a blasphemous coupling of life and death

Novalis: Celebrating a great banquet of love as a festival of peace

Erich Maria Remarque: Selections on war

Erich Maria Remarque: After the war: The day of great dreams for the future of mankind was past

Erich Maria Remarque: All learning, all culture, all science is nothing but hideous mockery so long as mankind makes war

Erich Maria Remarque: The front begins and we become on the instant human animals

Erich Maria Remarque: It is the moaning of the world, it is the martyred creation

Erich Maria Remarque: Like a dove, a lonely white dove of assurance and peace

Erich Maria Remarque: Now, for the first time, I feel it; I see it; I comprehend it fully: Peace.

Erich Maria Remarque: On every yard there lies a dead man

Erich Maria Remarque: Peace?

Erich Maria Remarque: Their fighting and their dying have been coupled with murder and injustice and lies and might; they have been defrauded

Erich Maria Remarque: War dreams

Erich Maria Remarque: The war has ruined us for everything

Erich Maria Remarque: War, mass production of corpses

Erich Maria Remarque: War turns us into thugs, into murderers, into God only knows what devils

Erich Maria Remarque: A war veteran’s indictment

Erich Maria Remarque: War was everywhere. Everywhere, even in the brain and the heart.

Erich Maria Remarque: War’s conqueror worms

Erich Maria Remarque: We want to be men again, not war machines!

Erich Maria Remarque: We were making war against ourselves without knowing it

Erich Maria Remarque: What do they expect of us if a time ever comes when the war is over?

Erich Maria Remarque: With the melting came the dead

Erich Maria Remarque: Worse than a slaughterhouse

Friedrich Schiller: The citizen is naught, the soldier all; rude hordes, lawless grown in lengthy war

Friedrich Schiller: Oh, blessed peace, may the day of grim War’s ruthless crew never dawn

Arthur Schnitzler: Cannot praise war in general and oppose individual wars

Arthur Schnitzler: Political reaction is the consequence of victorious wars; revolution the consequence of lost ones

Arthur Schnitzler: Remold the structure of government so that war becomes impossible

Arthur Schnitzler: War, making fathers pay wages to their sons whom we sent to their deaths

Albert Schweitzer: On nuclear weapons in NATO’s hands

Anna Seghers: War enthusiasm, brewed from equal parts of age-old memories and total oblivion

Hermann Sudermann: War irrigates the soil with blood, fertilizes it with corpses

Ernst Toller: Corpses In The Woods

Georg Trakl: Night beckons to dying soldiers, the ghosts of the killed are sighing

Kurt Tucholsky: The White Spots

Kurt Tucholsky: The Trench

Kurt Tucholsky: Murder in disguise

Jakob Wassermann: Was there ever since the world began a just cause for war?

Franz Werfel: Selections on war

Franz Werfel: Advent of air war and apocalyptic visions

Franz Werfel: Cities disintegrated within seconds in the Last War

Franz Werfel: Don’t you hear the roar of the bombers, the clatter of heavy machine guns that envelop the globe?

Franz Werfel: How describe in a few words a world war?

Franz Werfel: Leaders’ fear of their people drives them to war

Franz Werfel: To a Lark in War-Time

Franz Werfel: Twenty thousand well-preserved human skulls of the Last War

Franz Werfel: Waging currish, cowardly war to plunder the poor

Franz Werfel: War behind and in front, outside and inside

Franz Werfel: War is the cause and not the result of all conflicts

Arnold Zweig: Selections on war

Arnold Zweig: Conducting the business of murder with embittered reluctance

Arnold Zweig: The costs of war are spiritual and moral desolation, economic catastrophes and political reaction

Arnold Zweig: Education Before Verdun

Arnold Zweig: The final trump in the struggle for world markets: the Gun

Arnold Zweig: From the joy of the slayer to being dimly aware of the man on the other side

Arnold Zweig: In the war you’ve lost all the personality you’ve ever had

Arnold Zweig: Keep the war going to the last drop of – other – people’s blood

Arnold Zweig: The meaning, or rather the meaninglessness, of war

Arnold Zweig: Mere existence of armies imposes upon mankind the mentality of the Stone Age

Arnold Zweig: Military strips nation of all that is worthy of defense

Arnold Zweig: Never again! On reading Barbusse

Arnold Zweig: No joy to be born into world of war

Arnold Zweig: Of course, one had to shoot at crowds of civilians, men, women and children

Arnold Zweig: Only the wrong people are killed in a war

Arnold Zweig: The plague has always played a part in war

Arnold Zweig: Pro-war clerks and clerics are Herod’s mercenaries

Arnold Zweig: Reason is the highest patriotism and militarism is evil its very essence

Arnold Zweig: They won no more ground than they could cover with their corpses

Arnold Zweig: War a deliberate act, not an unavoidable natural catastrophe

Arnold Zweig: War, a gigantic undertaking on the part of the destruction industry

Arnold Zweig: War of all against all, jaded multitudes of death

Arnold Zweig: War transforms rescue parties into murder parties

Arnold Zweig: War was in the world, and war prevailed

Arnold Zweig: War’s brutality, folly and tyranny practiced even on its own

Arnold Zweig: War’s communion, hideous multiplication of human disasters

Arnold Zweig: War’s hecatomb from the air, on land and at sea

Arnold Zweig: Whole generation shed man’s blood, whole generation to be poured forth in vats of blood

Stefan Zweig: The fear of opposing military hysteria

Stefan Zweig: Romain Rolland and the campaign against hatred

Categories: Uncategorized

Callimachus: Nurse peace, that he who sows may also reap

November 4, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace


From The Hymns
Translated by A.W. Mair

And thou thyself didst take up the child from the golden earth and lay him in thy lap and thou spakest saying: “O mighty and of many altars and many cities, bounteous earth! Rich continents and ye islands set around lo! I am as thou see’st – hard of tillage; yet from me shall Apollo be called ‘Of Delos’, and none other among all lands shall be so beloved by any other god…Thus didst thou speak and the child drew the sweet breast.

Wherefore from that day thou art famed as the most holy of islands, nurse of Apollo’s youth. On thee treads not Enyo nor Hades nor the horses of Ares; but every year tithes of first-fruits are sent to thee: to thee all cities lead up choirs, both those cities which have cast their lots toward the East and those toward the West and those in the South, and the peoples which have their homes above the northern shore…


Hail, goddess, and save this people in harmony and in prosperity, and in the fields bring us all pleasant things! Feed our kine, bring us flocks, bring us the corn-ear, bring us harvest! And nurse peace, that he who sows may also reap…

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Ammianus Marcellinus: War’s landscape: discolored with the hue of dark blood

November 3, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Ammianus Marcellinus: Empowering the military…with foreseeable results


Ammianus Marcellinus
From History
Translated by John C. Rolfe

The barbarians, who are always alert and nimble, threw at our men huge clubs, hardened in the fire, and ran their swords through the breasts of those who showed most resistance; thus they broke through the left wing. When this gave way, a strong troop of reserves bravely hastened to their aid from near at hand, and rallied them when death already sat upon their necks. Then the battle grew hot and the slaughter was great; all the more active rushed into the thick of the fray and met their death from the arrows that flew like hail, or from the swords. Those who fled were pursued on this side and on that by troops of cavalry, who with mighty strength slashed at their heads and backs; and likewise on both sides by foot soldiers, hamstringing those who were in the toils of fear and had fallen. And while the whole battlefield was covered with corpses, some were lying among them who were mortally wounded, and cherished a vain hope of life; some were smitten with a bullet from a sling or pierced with arrows tipped with iron; the heads of others were split through mid forehead and crown with swords and hung down on both shoulders, a most horrible sight…Finally, some of the dead, who were men of distinction, were buried in such manner as the present circumstances allowed; the bodies of the rest of the slain were devoured by the foul birds that are wont at such a time to feed upon corpses, as is shown by the plains even now white with bones…

Here one might see a barbarian…his cheeks contracted in a hiss, hamstrung or with right hand severed, or pierced through the side, on the very verge of death threateningly casting about his fierce glance; and by the fall of the combatants on both sides the plains were covered with the bodies of the slain strewn over the ground, while the groans of the dying and of those who had suffered deep wounds caused immense fear when they were heard…The ground covered with streams of blood whirled their slippery foothold from under them, so they could only strain every nerve to sell their lives dearly; and they opposed the onrushing foe with such great resolution that some fell by the weapons of their own comrades. Finally, when the whole scene was discoloured with the hue of dark blood, and wherever men turned their eyes heaps of slain met them, they trod upon the bodies of the dead without mercy…

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French writers on war and peace

November 2, 2015 Leave a comment

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

French and other French-language writers on war and peace

Alain: Why is there war?

Amiel on war

Louis Aragon: Selections on war

Louis Aragon: Caravans of Peace

Louis Aragon: Children scattering flowers will some day scatter deadly flowers, grenades

Louis Aragon: The military: parasite and defender of parasitism

Louis Aragon: The peace that forces murder down to its knees for confession

Louis Aragon: War and its gloomy procession of storm clouds, sacred rites, illusions and lies

Louis Aragon: War, signal for the coming massacre of the sacrificial herd

Marcel Aymé: A child’s view of war

Henri Barbusse: Selections on war

Henri Barbusse: All battles spring from themselves and necessitate each other to infinity

Henri Barbussse: As long as the colors of uniforms cover the flesh of men

Henri Barbusse: The awful power of a dead man

Henri Barbusse: Blood-stained priest of the God of War

Henri Barbusse: Butchery as far as the eye can see

Henri Barbusse: Cold death sits brooding, great and sumptuous bird of prey is in the act of taking wing

Henri Barbusse: Crows eddying round naked flesh with flapping banners and war-cries

Henri Barbusse: The enemy is militarism and no other

Henri Barbusse: Flags and swords, instruments of the cult of human sacrifice

Henri Barbusse: The goddess of slaughter, the world worn out by war

Henri Barbusse: I will wage war, even though I alone may survive

Henri Barbusse: Jesus on the battlefield

Henri Barbusse: Manual laborers of war glutting the cannon’s mouth with their flesh

Henri Barbusse: The mournful hearse of the army razes harshly

Henri Barbusse: Murder enters as invisibly as death itself. Industry multiplies its magic.

Henri Barbusse: The only cause of war is the slavery of those whose flesh wages it

Henri Barbusse: Pay for a glory which is not yours or for ruins that others have made with your hands

Henri Barbusse: “Perhaps it is the last war of all”

Henri Barbusse: Sepulchral sculptor’s great sketch-model, the gate of hell

Henri Barbusse: Soldier’s glory is a lie, like every other fine-looking thing in war

Henri Barbusse: “That’s war. It’s not anything else.”

Henri Barbusse: There will be nothing else on the earth but preparation for war

Henri Barbusse: These murdered souls, covered with black veils; they are you and I

Henri Barbusse: Torture…agony…human sacrifices…

Henri Barbusse: Under Fire

Henri Barbusse: War, as hideous morally as physically

Henri Barbusse: War befouls the country as it does faces and hearts

Henri Barbusse: “War must be killed; war itself”

Henri Barbusse: War which breeds war, whether by victory or defeat

Henri Barbusse: War’s loathsome horror and lunacy

Henri Barbusse: “We must have a new Ministry: a new public opinion: War.”

Henri Barbusse: The world has come to the end of its strength: it is vanquished by wars

Henri Barbusse: “You understand, I’m against all wars”

Julien Benda: Military mysticism

Béranger: When from the miseries of war we wake…

Georges Bernanos: Wars like epidemics, with neither beginning nor end

León Bloy: The Sword

Pierre Boulle: The long reach of war profiteers

Albert Camus: Where war lives. The reign of beasts has begun.

Chateaubriand: Would-be master of the world who knew only how to destroy

Victor Cherbuliez and Erich Fromm: Wars are outbursts of destructiveness and paranoid suspicion

Michel Corday: Selections from The Paris Front

Michel Corday: Blood! Blood! But there is still not enough.

Michel Corday: The everlasting glorification of murder

Michel Corday: War, the most brutal heritage of the past

Michel Corday: In war fathers bury their sons

Michel Corday: War sentiment is general dementia, barbarous and neolithic

Michel Corday: Millions of men killed to cure a single hypochondriac

Michel Corday: War – hell let loose, butchery, a return to barbarism

Michel Corday: War is irreparable loss for the earth and the human race

Michel Corday: The hideous futility of war in itself

Michel Corday: Future description of these horrors ought to make any return of war impossible

Michel Corday: Striking against war

Michel Corday: The Truth is the chief victim of war

Michel Corday: Glorification of slaughter is the beginning of future armaments

Michel Corday: The plague that comes in war’s train

Maurice Druon: A contempt for all things military

Maurice Druon: The dual prerogatives of minting coins and waging wars

Guillaume de Saluste Du Bartas: Breaking oaths of peace, cover the fields with bloody carcasses

Georges Duhamel: Selections on war

Georges Duhamel: The demon of war had imprisoned us under his knee

Georges Duhamel: The Fleshmongers, War’s Winnowing Basket

Georges Duhamel: Mosaic of pain stained with mud and blood, the colours of war

Georges Duhamel: No end to war without moral reeducation

Georges Duhamel: No man desires war…but if there’s money to be made…

Georges Duhamel: The possession of the world is not decided by guns. It is the noble work of peace.

Georges Duhamel: The stupid machine of war throws out, from minute to minute, bleeding men

Georges Duhamel: The Third Symphony, a slender bridge across the abyss

Georges Duhamel: War and civilization

Georges Duhamel: War has achieved the mournful miracle of denaturing nature, rendering it ignoble and criminal

Georges Duhamel: Who has taught children of man that war brings happiness?

Georges Duhamel: World where now there are more graveyards than villages

Maurice Duplay: Colloquy on science and war

Maurice Duplay: Imperative to uproot the passion of war

Marguerite Duras: The civilizing mission

Paul Éluard: True law of men despite the misery and war

Erckmann-Chatrian: In a century the war gods will be recognized as barbarians

Erckmann-Chatrian: In war belligerents conspire against their own citizens

Fénelon: War is the most dreadful of all evils by which heaven has afflicted man

Gustave Flaubert and George Sand: Monstrous conflicts of which we have no idea; warfare suppressed or civilization perishes

Anatole France: Selections on war

Anatole France: Attack the monster that devours our race; make war on war, a war to the death

Anatole France: Barracks are a hideous invention of modern times

Anatole France: Brutal impulse which has led and still leads one half of humanity to destroy the other

Anatole France: Ceaselessly repeating that war is abominable, avoiding all the tortuous intrigues which might provoke it

Anatole France: Country living under shadow of war is easy to govern

Anatole France: Education and War

Anatole France: Emerging painfully from primitive barbarism, war

Anatole France: The ethics of war

Anatole France: Financiers only wanted colonial wars and the people did not want any wars at all

Anatole France: “He left us impoverished and depopulated, but he gave us glory”

Anatole France: How the U.S. Congress deliberates on wars

Anatole France: In civilised nations the glory of massacre is the greatest glory known

Anatole France: Letter to an advocate of “peace with victory”

Anatole France: Military service the most terrible pest of civilised nations

Anatole France: Modern Romans, the Americanization of the world

Anatole France: No one has right to kill, just man will refuse to draw his number for war

Anatole France: Nobel Prize speech

Anatole France: Only two ways out of militarism – war and bankruptcy

Anatole France: Restoring order by means of theft, rape, pillage, murder and incendiarism

Anatole France: To avert the danger of peace breaking out…

Anatole France: The tutelary gods of world war

Anatole France: Wait till the warriors you make gods of swallow you all up

Anatole France: War brings to the victor himself but ruin and misery, is nothing but a horrible and stupid crime

Anatole France: War, burlesque masquerade in which fatuous patriots sing stupid dithyrambs

Anatole France: War debases man beneath the level of ferocious beasts

Anatole France: War is committing all crimes by which an individual dishonours himself: arson, robbery, rape, murder

Anatole France: War is the last redoubt of oligarchy, plutocracy

Anatole France: Wars fought over territorial acquisition, commercial rivalries

Anatole France: “What you call murder and robbery may really be war and conquest, sacred foundations of empires”

Anatole France: Whether civil or foreign, war is execrable

Anatole France: Why should not humanity abolish the law of murder?

Anatole France on Victor Hugo: People to substitute justice and peace for war and bloodshed

Anatole France on Émile Zola, military terrorism and world peace

Anatole France and Michel Corday: The press fans the flames of war’s blast furnace

Anatole France and Michel Corday: Threat of annihilation in gigantic Armageddon

Anatole France and Michel Corday: War is a crime, for which victory brings no atonement

André Gide: Transformation of a war supporter

Jean Giono: Led to the slaughterhouse

Jean Giono: Rats and worms were the only living things

Jean Giono: War, nourishment and dismemberment

Jean Giono: War! Who’s the madman in charge of all this? Who’s the madman who gives the orders?

Remy de Gourmont: Getting drunk at the dirty cask of militarism

José-Maria de Heredia: Drunk with dreams that brutal conquests bring

Victor Hugo: Selections on war

Victor Hugo: The black eagle waits with claws outspread

Victor Hugo: The face of Cain, hunters of men, sublime cutthroats

Victor Hugo: War, made by humanity against humanity, despite humanity

Victor Hugo: Glorious war does not exist; peace, that sublime, universal desire

Victor Hugo: Brute war, dire birth of hellish race

Victor Hugo: International Peace Congress 1851

Joseph Joubert on war: All victors will be defeated

Joseph Kessel: In my family, war is in the blood…the blood of others

Joseph Kessel: The monstrous ululation of an air-raid siren

Joseph Kessel: War’s ultimate fratricide, killed for not killing

La Bruyère on the lust for war

La Fontaine: When shall Peace pack up these bloody darts?

José-André Lacour: War’s sanguinary peacock

Jacques de Lacretelle: War’s atavistic brigands

Lamartine: The republic of peace

Marie Lenéru: War is not human fate

Maurice Maeterlinck: Bloodshed, battle-cry and sword-thrust are the joys of barbarians

Jacques Maritain: What good one can expect from such a war and its pitiless prolongation?

Roger Martin du Gard: Selections on war

Roger Martin du Gard: From Nobel Prize in Literature speech

Roger Martin du Gard: All the pageantry of war cannot redeem its beastliness

Roger Martin du Gard: “Anything rather than the madness, the horrors of a war!”

Roger Martin du Gard: Be loyal to yourselves, reject war

Roger Martin du Gard: Deliberately infecting a country with war neurosis

Roger Martin du Gard: “Drop your rifles. Revolt!”

Roger Martin du Gard: General strike for peace

Roger Martin du Gard: A hundredth part of energy expended in war could have preserved peace

Roger Martin du Gard: How make active war on war?

Roger Martin du Gard: Launch against the war-mongers a concerted movement to force the governments to bow to your desire for peace

Roger Martin du Gard: No more dangerous belief can take root in the mind than the belief that war’s inevitable

Roger Martin du Gard: Nothing worse than war and all it involves

Roger Martin du Gard: Romain Rolland

Roger Martin du Gard: Secret commitments which from one day to another may plunge you, every man of you, into the horrors of war

Roger Martin du Gard: A thousand times more honor in preserving peace than waging war

Roger Martin du Gard: Tragedy of war, like that of Oedipus, occurs because warnings are ignored

Roger Martin du Gard: War breeds atmosphere of lies, officials lies

Roger Martin du Gard: War is at our gates, dooming millions of innocent victims to suffering and death

Roger Martin du Gard: War’s “serviceable lie” costs tens of thousands of lives

Roger Martin du Gard: When you refer to war, none of you thinks of the unprecedented slaughter, the millions of innocent victims it involves

Guy de Maupassant: Selections on war

Guy de Maupassant: The army, murdering those who defend themselves, making prisoners of the rest, pillaging in the name of the Sword

Guy de Maupassant: The Horrible

Guy de Maupassant: How and why wars are plotted

Guy de Maupassant: I do not understand how these murderers are tolerated walking on the public streets

Guy de Maupassant: I only pray that our sons may never see any wars again

Guy de Maupassant: Military hysteria, military presumptuousness

Guy de Maupassant: Why does society not rise up bodily in rebellion at the word “war”?

Albert Memmi: So the war had caught up with us, a celebration in honor of death

Robert Merle: The present war, and all the previous wars, and all the wars to come

Robert Merle: There’s no such thing as a just or sacred war

Octave Mirbeau: All these wan faces, all these bodies already vanquished – toward what useless and bloody slaughters?

Octave Mirbeau: It was not enough that war should glut itself with human flesh, it was necessary that it should also devour beasts, the earth itself, everything that lived in the calm and peace of labor and love

Octave Mirbeau: An orgy of destruction, criminal and foolish. What was this country, in whose name so many crimes were being committed?

Octave Mirbeau: Stupidly, unconsciously, I had killed a man whom I loved, a man with whom my soul had just identified itself

Octave Mirbeau: A sudden vision of Death, red Death standing on a chariot, drawn by rearing horses, which was sweeping down on us, brandishing his scythe

Henry de Montherlant: A constant state of crime against humanity

Paul Morand: The magic disappearance of ten millions of war dead

Paul Morand: Nations never lay down their arms; death which is still combative

Paul Morand: The War for Righteousness ends in the burying of moral sense

Charles Morice: Woe to you enemies of peace

Alfred de Musset: “No, none of these things, but simply peace.”

Paul Nizan: War completely assembled, like a mighty engine

Georges Ohnet: Pillaging in the wake of victorious armies

Zoé Oldenbourg: War provides a feast for the vultures

Pascal on war: An assassin if he kills in his own country, a hero if in another

Charles Péguy: Cursed be war, cursed of God

Benjamin Péret: Little song for the maimed

Vladimir Pozner: Mars and Ceres

Marcel Proust: Every day war is declared anew

Edgar Quinet: The soul of man has vanished, nations and races are doomed to combat and destroy each other

C.F. Ramuz: Little by little the war spreads

Arthur Rimbaud: Evil

Emmanuel Roblès: Respect is first due to the living

Romain Rolland: Selections on war

Romain Rolland: A father’s plea against war

Romain Rolland: The abominable war crimes of intellectuals

Romain Rolland: Above The Battle

Romain Rolland: Against grasping imperialism and inhuman pride, military caste and megalomania of pedants

Romain Rolland: America and the war against war

Romain Rolland: Ara Pacis and Ave, Caesar, Morituri Te Salutant

Romain Rolland: Centuries to recreate what war destroys in a day

Romain Rolland: The collective insanity, the terrible spirit of war

Romain Rolland: Content with having said “No!” to war

Romain Rolland: The enormous iniquity, the ignoble calculations of war

Romain Rolland: Goddess of prey, Anti-Christ, hovering over butcheries with spread wings and hawk’s talons

Romain Rolland: Hatred and holy butchery; the deadly sophistry, carnivorous poetry of war

Romain Rolland on Leo Tolstoy: How is it they are able to retain the lust of destroying their fellows?

Romain Rolland on Henri Barbusse: The isolated bleating of one of the beasts about to die

Romain Rolland: The life that would have been, the life that was not going to be

Romain Rolland: Message to America on the will to conquer the world

Romain Rolland: Not enough that nations are destroyed, they are bidden to glorify Death, to march towards it with songs

Romain Rolland: Our Neighbor the Enemy

Romain Rolland: Pacifism only allowed when it is not effective

Romain Rolland: Peace and war are in the hands of those who hold the purse-strings

Romain Rolland: Real peace demands that the masters of war be eliminated

Romain Rolland: Reawakening of old instincts of national pride, lapping of blood

Romain Rolland: Recurrence of the hell of war

Romain Rolland: To the Murdered Peoples

Romain Rolland: To the undying Antigone; waging war against war

Romain Rolland: Totalizing, to their personal profit, the ruin of all nations

Romain Rolland: War, a divine monster; half-beast, half-god

Romain Rolland: War, a pathological fact, a plague of the soul

Romain Rolland: War and the factories of intellectual munitions and cannon

Romain Rolland: War enriches a few, and ruins the community

Romain Rolland: When we defend war, dare to admit we are defending slavery

Romain Rolland: Where to rebuild the world after war?

Romain Rolland: Youth delivered up to the sword of war

Jules Romains: Selections on war

Jules Romains: Colloquy on God and war

Jules Romains: Communion of saints opposing war’s mutual massacre, human sacrifice

Jules Romains: Condign punishment for war profiteers and professional patriots

Jules Romains: Deadening effects of war on human sensibilities, defeat of civilization by barbarism

Jules Romains: Destruction of war itself, its deletion from the pages of history

Jules Romains: Distinguishing characteristic of modern warfare is that it will never come to an end of itself

Jules Romains: Fraternization versus fratricide, the forbidden subject of peace

Jules Romains: If mankind could put two and two together, there’d be no more war

Jules Romains: Just kill because the more dead there are, the fewer living will remain

Jules Romains: Romantic view of war played a dirty trick on the warriors

Jules Romains: Squalidly degrading everything that the civilization of mankind had created

Jules Romains: Unnatural war will only stop when everybody, on both sides, is killed

Jules Romains: War means a golden age for the munitions makers

Jules Romains: War: symphony of death, vast pudding concocted of corpses

Jules Romains: War turns murder into a public and highly praiseworthy action

Jules Romains: War under modern conditions has need of everything that man produces

Ronsard: Far away from Europe and far from its wars

Rousseau: The State of War

Claude Roy: Great wars and those which kill just as effectively

Gabrielle Roy: This was the hope that was uplifting mankind once again: to do away with war

Jules Roy: Any attempt to escape the universal holocaust would mean being hunted and tortured wherever he went

Saint-Exupéry: Charred flesh of children viewed with indifference

George Sand: Trader in uniformed flesh and the religion of self

Jean-Paul Sartre: They lift their heads and look up at the sky, the poisonous sky

Jean-Paul Sartre: When staging a massacre, all soldiers look alike

Jean-Paul Sartre: When the rich fight the rich, it is the poor who die

Senancour: Lottery of war amid heaps of the dead

Stendhal: Dreaming of the Marshall and his glory…

Stendhal: You’ve got to learn the business before you can become a soldier

Stendhal and Byron: Military leprosy; fronts of brass and feet of clay

Hippolyte Taine on the inhuman travesty of war

Henri Troyat: Selections on war

Henri Troyat: All humanity passing through a crisis of destructive madness

Henri Troyat: Nothing grand, nothing noble, in the universal slaughter

Henri Troyat: Shedding blood for the motherland: War is ugly and absurd

Henri Troyat: So many men killed, so many towns burned…for a telegram

Henri Troyat: Thoughts stop with a shock: War!

Henri Troyat: Tolstoy’s visceral detestation of war

Henri Troyat: War, that greatest of political crimes

Henri Troyat: “Will a day ever come when there’s no more war, no more lies, no more tragedy!”

Paul Vaillant-Couturier: The Song of Craonne

Paul Valéry on global conflicts, Europe governed by American commission

Jules Vallès: I hate war and its sinister glory

Roger Vercel: Boats built for men to live in, ships built to kill

Vercors: Are war crimes only committed by the vanquished?

Émile Verhaeren: I hold war in execration; ashamed to be butchers of their fellows

Paul Verlaine: The joy of sweet peace without victory

Voltaire: Selections on war

Voltaire: Armies composed of well disciplined hirelings who determine the fate of nations

Voltaire: Bellicose father or pacific son?

Voltaire: He did not put a sufficient number of his fellow creatures to death

Voltaire: Million regimented assassins traverse Europe from one end to the other, to get their bread by regular depredation and murder

Voltaire: One country cannot conquer without making misery for another

Voltaire: War

Marguerite Yourcenar: Fruits of war are food for new wars

Émile Zola: Selections on war

Émile Zola on war mania: A blind and deaf beast let loose amid death and destruction, laden with cannon-fodder

Émile Zola: Bloody pages of history, the wars, the conquests, the names of the captains who had butchered their fellow-beings.

Émile Zola: Encomiums on labor and peace

Émile Zola: The forge of peace and the pit of war

Émile Zola: Haunted by military matters

Émile Zola: The military, necessary apprenticeship for devastation and massacre

Émile Zola: One sole city of peace and truth and justice

Émile Zola: Prescription for a happy life in the midst of universal peace

Émile Zola: To what field of disaster would it be taken to kill men? what harvest of human lives would it reap?

Émile Zola: Vulcan in service to Mars

Émile Zola: War’s vast slaughterhouse

Émile Zola: Why armies are maintained

Émile Zola: Yes, war is dead. The world has reached its last stage. Brothers may now give each other the fraternal kiss.

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Aulus Gellius: Thievery as school for war

November 1, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace


Aulus Gellius
From The Attic Nights
Translated by John C. Rolfe

Among the Lacedaemonians…many famous writers, who have composed records of their laws and customs, affirm that thieving was lawful and customary, and that it was practised by their young men, not for base gain or to furnish means for indulging or amassing wealth, but as an exercise and training in the art of war; for dexterity and practice in thieving made the minds of the youth keen and strong for clever ambuscades, and for endurance in watching, and for the swiftness of surprise.

Marcus Cato, however, in the speech which he wrote On Dividing Spoils among the Soldiers, complains in strong and choice language about unpunished thievery and lawlessness. I have quoted his words since they pleased me greatly: “Those who commit private theft pass their lives in confinement and fetters; plunderers of the public, in purple and gold.”

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Octave Mirbeau: Selections on war

October 30, 2015 Leave a comment
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Plutarch: Numa’s guardians of peace

October 29, 2015 1 comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Plutarch: Lover of peace changed the first month of the year

Plutarch: On war and its opponents


From Numa Pompelius
Translated by John Dryden

“…The very points of my character that are most commended mark me as unfit to reign, love of retirement and of studies inconsistent with business, a passion that has become inveterate in me for peace, for unwarlike occupations, and for the society of men whose meetings are but those of worship and of kindly intercourse, whose lives in general are spent upon their farms and their pastures. I should but be, methinks, a laughingstock, while I should go about to inculcate the worship of the gods and give lessons in the love of justice and the abhorrence of violence and war, to a city whose needs are rather for a captain than for a king.”


When Numa had, by such measures, won the favour and affection of the people, he set himself without delay to the task of bringing the hard and iron Roman temper to somewhat more of gentleness and equity. Plato’s expression of a city in high fever was never more applicable than to Rome at that time; in its origin formed by daring and warlike spirits, whom bold and desperate adventure brought thither from every quarter, it had found in perpetual wars and incursions on its neighbours its after sustenance and means of growth, and in conflict with danger the source of new strength; like piles, which the blows of the hammer serve to fix into the ground. Wherefore Numa, judging it no slight undertaking to mollify and bend to peace the presumptuous and stubborn spirits of this people, began to operate upon them with the sanctions of religion. He sacrificed often and used processions and religious dances, in which most commonly he officiated in person; by such combinations of solemnity with refined and humanizing pleasures, seeking to win over and mitigate their fiery and warlike tempers…

It was he, also, that built the temples of Faith and Terminus, and taught the Romans that the name of Faith was the most solemn oath that they could swear. They still use it; and to the god Terminus, or Boundary, they offer to this day both public and private sacrifices, upon the borders and stone-marks of their land; living victims now, though anciently those sacrifices were solemnized without blood; for Numa reasoned that the god of boundaries, who watched over peace, and testified to fair dealing, should have no concern with blood. It is very clear that it was this king who first prescribed bounds to the territory of Rome; for Romulus would but have openly betrayed how much he had encroached on his neighbours’ lands, had he ever set limits to his own; for boundaries are, indeed, a defence to those who choose to observe them, but are only a testimony against the dishonesty of those who break through them. The truth is, the portion of lands which the Romans possessed at the beginning was very narrow, until Romulus enlarged them by war; all those acquisitions Numa now divided amongst the indigent commonalty, wishing to do away with that extreme want which is a compulsion to dishonesty, and, by turning the people to husbandry, to bring them, as well as their lands, into better order. For there is no employment that gives so keen and quick a relish for peace as husbandry and a country life, which leave in men all that kind of courage that makes them ready to fight in defence of their own, while it destroys the licence that breaks out into acts of injustice and rapacity. Numa, therefore, hoping agriculture would be a sort of charm to captivate the affections of his people to peace, and viewing it rather as a means to moral than to economical profit, divided all the lands into several parcels, to which he gave the name of pagus, or parish, and over every one of them he ordained chief overseers; and, taking a delight sometimes to inspect his colonies in person, he formed his judgment of every man’s habits by the results; of which being witness himself, he preferred those to honours and employments who had done well, and by rebukes and reproaches incited the indolent and careless to improvement.

Numa, also, was founder of several other orders of priests, two of which I shall mention, the Salii and the Fecials, which are among the clearest proofs of the devoutness and sanctity of his character. These Fecials, or guardians of peace, seem to have had their name from their office, which was to put a stop to disputes by conference and speech; for it was not allowable to take up arms until they had declared all hopes of accommodation to be at an end, for in Greek, too, we call it peace when disputes are settled by words, and not by force…

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British writers on peace and war

October 28, 2015 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Joseph Addison: Already have our quarrels fill’d the world with widows and with orphans

Joseph Addison and Richard Steele: It is a stupid and barbarous way to extend dominion by arms

Richard Aldington: Selections on war

Richard Aldington: All the decay and dead of battlefields entered his blood and seemed to poison him

Richard Aldington: The Blood of the Young Men

Richard Aldington: The criminal cant and rant of war

Richard Aldington: How can we atone for the lost millions and millions of years of life, how atone for those lakes and seas of blood?

Richard Aldington: How well the premeditated mass murder of war is organized

Richard Aldington: It is so important to know how to kill

Richard Aldington: It was a war of missiles, murderous and soul-shaking explosives, like living in the graveyard of the world

Richard Aldington: Pools and ponds of blood, the huge black dogs of hell

Richard Aldington: Why so sentimental? Why all this fuss over a few million men killed and maimed?

Grant Allen: War and blood money

Edwin Arnold: Heaven’s love descending in that loveliest word, PEACE!

Edwin Arnold: My chariot shall not roll with bloody wheels till earth wears the red record of my name

W.H. Auden: A land laid waste, its towns in terror and all its young men slain

Thomas Lovell Beddoes: War’s harvest

William Black: Better small farms, thriving and prosperous, than splendid ruins that tell of the fierceness of war

William Black: Military glory, the most mean, the most cruel and contemptible thing under the sun!

William Black: When Caesar’s legions turn on him

William Blake: Selections on war and peace

William Blake: Be withdrawn cloudy war, troops of warriors depart, nor around our peaceable city breathe

William Blake: Groaning among the happier dead

William Blake: O for a voice like thunder, and a tongue to drown the throat of war!

William Blake: O go not forth in Martyrdoms & Wars

William Blake: To peaceful arts shall envy bow

George Borrow: Prisoners of war: misery on one side, disgrace on the other

James Boswell: On War

James Boswell: Who profits by war?

Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Exalt the name of Peace and leave those rusty wars that eat the soul

Robert Browning: They sent a million fighters forth South and North

Edward Bulwer Lytton: The heartless and miserable vanity from which arose wars neither useful nor honourable

Edward Bulwer Lytton: The sword, consecrating homicide and massacre with a hollow name

Byron: War cuts up not only branch, but root

Byron: War did glut himself again, all earth was but one thought – and that was death

Byron: War, banquet for wolf and worm

Thomas Campbell: The snow shall be their winding-sheet, every turf a soldier’s sepulchre

Thomas Campion: Then bloody swords and armour should not be

Thomas Carlyle: What blood-filled trenches, and contentious centuries, may still divide us!

G.K. Chesterton: In modern war defeat is complete defeat

Samuel Taylor Coleridge: All our dainty terms for fratricide

Samuel Taylor Coleridge: War and all its dread vicissitudes pleasingly agitate their stagnant hearts

William Collins: Ode to Peace

Joseph Conrad: Selections on war

Joseph Conrad: Firing into a continent, a touch of insanity in the proceeding

Joseph Conrad: In modern war mankind cannot resist the temptation to use any stealthy, murderous contrivance

Joseph Conrad: Men go mad in protest against “peculiar sanity” of war

Joseph Conrad: Moral cannibals feeding on each other’s misfortunes: ‘It’s a damned bad war, but it’s better than no war at all.’

Joseph Conrad: With earth soaked in blood, all men seek some formula of peace

Homo homini lupus: William Cowper on war and man’s inhumanity to man

John Davidson: Blood in torrents pour in vain, for war breeds war again

Daniel Defoe: Mammon and Mars, twin deities

Charles Dickens: Waging war to perpetuate slavery

Austin Dobson: Before Sedan

John Donne: War and misery are one thing

Edward Dyer: So that of war the very name may not be heard again

Havelock Ellis: War, a relapse from civilisation into barbarism, if not savagery

George Farquhar: What induced you to turn soldier?

Henry Fielding: On the condign fate of Great Men and conquerors

E.M. Forster: The Imperialist is not what he thinks or seems. He is a destroyer.

E.M. Forster: Wars spurred on by persistent talk of war, amplified by the gutter press

John Galsworthy: Selections on war

John Galsworthy, 1911: Air war last and worst hideous development of the black arts of warfare

John Galsworthy: Achieving perpetual peace by securing the annihilation of our common enemies

John Galsworthy: Friend becomes foe with war psychosis

John Galsworthy: Grandiloquent phrases are the very munitions of war

John Galsworthy: History, made up of wars and intrigues which have originated in the brains of public men

John Galsworthy: The monstrous injustice of conflating chauvinism with common drunkenness

John Galsworthy: No one who disagrees with me must say anything if we are to save the cause of freedom and humanity

John Galsworthy: On the drawbacks of uttering pro-war cant

John Galsworthy: On the embarrassing consequences of bellicose pontification

John Galsworthy: Only a helpless or wicked God would allow the slaughter of millions

John Galsworthy: The procreative demands of war

John Galsworthy: The pure essence of humanitarian warfare sentiments

John Galsworthy: War moves mankind towards the manly and unforgiving vigour of the tiger and the rat

John Galsworthy: “The war! The cursed war!”

John Galsworthy: War, where Christ is daily crucified a million times over

David Garnett: Criminal to welcome war

David Garnett: War is the worst of the epidemic diseases which afflict mankind

George Gissing: Selections on war

George Gissing: Culpable fatalism: war is assured by perpetual prophecies of statesmen and journalists

George Gissing: The imposition of military servitude

George Gissing: Letter to a son killed in war: War is a horrible thing that ought to be left to savages

George Gissing: Lord of Slaughter commands curse of universal soldiering

George Gissing: War turns science into enemy of man

George Gissing: When the next great war comes, newspapers will be the chief cause of it

William Godwin: Inventions of a barbarous age, deluging provinces with blood

Oliver Goldsmith: Selections on war

Oliver Goldsmith: A thousand hecatombs for mere trumperies. Imperial contest that no honest man can wish either side wins.

Oliver Goldsmith on war: Hundreds of thousands killed without consequence

Oliver Goldsmith: I am an enemy to nothing in this good world but war

Oliver Goldsmith: To make one man happy is more truly great than having ten thousand captives groaning at the wheels of his chariot

Oliver Goldsmith: War and its servile press

Robert Graves: Selections on war

Robert Graves: Accommodations for a million men killed in war

Robert Graves: A certain cure for lust of blood

Robert Graves: Even its opponents don’t survive war

Robert Graves: The grim arithmetic of war

Robert Graves: Men at arms and men of letters, the birth of English pacifism in the First World War

Robert Graves: Military madness degenerating into savagery

Robert Graves: Recalling the last war, preparing for the next

Robert Graves: War follows its victims back home

Robert Graves: War should be a sport for men above forty-five only

Robert Graves: War’s path of death, decay and decomposition

Robert Graves: War’s ultimate victors, the rats

Robert Graves: When even war’s gallows humor fails

Thomas Gray: Clouds of carnage blot the sun; weave the crimson web of war

Graham Greene: He carried the war in his heart, infecting everything

Graham Greene: A hundred English Guernicas

Graham Greene: Letter On NATO Threat To Cuba

Graham Greene: None of us can hate any more – or love. You have to feel something to stop a war.

Thomas Hardy: All-Earth-gladdening Law of Peace, war’s apology wholly stultified

Thomas Hardy: Channel Firing

Frank Harris: Soulless selfishness of war; Anglo-Saxon domineering combativeness greatest danger to Humanity

Frank Harris: Henri Barbusse and the war against war

William Hazlitt: Systematic patrons of eternal war

Robert Herrick: The olive branch, the arch of peace

Maurice Hewlett: In the Trenches

Maurice Hewlett: Who prayeth peace?

Leigh Hunt: Captain Sword and Captain Pen

Leigh Hunt: Some Remarks On War And Military Statesmen

Aldous Huxley: Selections on war

Aldous Huxley: Absurdity of talking about the defence of democracy by war

Aldous Huxley: All devote themselves methodically and scientifically to general massacre and wholesale destruction

Aldous Huxley: The first of the political causes of war is war itself

Aldous Huxley: How are we to get rid of war when we celebrate militarists?

Aldous Huxley: Imposition of permanent military servitude upon the masses

Aldous Huxley: Manufacturing of arms, an intrinsically abominable practice

Aldous Huxley: Nuclear weapons, establishing world domination for one’s gang

Aldous Huxley: One cannot be ruler of militaristic society without being militarist oneself

Aldous Huxley: Peace of the world frequently endangered in order that oil magnates might grow a little richer

Aldous Huxley: Rhetorical devices used to conceal fundamental absurdity and monstrosity of war

Aldous Huxley: Science, technology harnessed to the chariot of war

Aldous Huxley: Scientific workers must take action against war

Aldous Huxley: Shifting people’s attention in world where war-making remains an almost sacred habit

Aldous Huxley: War is mass murder organized in cold blood

Aldous Huxley: War is not a law of nature, nor even of human nature

Aldous Huxley: War is now the affair of every man, woman and child in the community

Aldous Huxley: War shatters precarious crust of civilization, precipitates vast numbers of human beings into abyss of misery and frenzied diabolism

Jean Ingelow: And the dove said, “Give us peace!”

Soame Jenyns: One good-natured act more praises gain than armies overthrown, and thousands slain

Samuel Johnson: War is heaviest of national evils, a calamity in which every species of misery is involved

Samuel Johnson: War is the extremity of evil

Keats: Days innocent of scathing war

Charles Kingsley: Empire, a system of world-wide robbery, and church

Charles Kingsley: Tyrannising it luxuriously over all nations, she had sat upon the mystic beast

D. H. Lawrence: Selections on war

D.H. Lawrence: All modern militarism is foul

D.H. Lawrence: Future War, Murderous Weapons, Refinements of Evil

D.H. Lawrence: In 1915 the world ended with the slaughter-machine of human devilishness

D.H. Lawrence: The price to pay at home for terrible, terrible war

D.H. Lawrence: War adds horror to horror, becomes horrible piratic affair, dirty sort of freebooting

Richard Le Gallienne: The Illusion of War

Charles Lever: The self-serving drunken oblivion of war

Samuel Lover: The demon of war casts his shadows before

Samuel Lover: The trumpet and the sword

Thomas Macaulay: Drive for transatlantic dominion leads to endless wars, empty treasuries

Thomas Macaulay: Loving war for its own sake

Thomas Macaulay: The self-perpetuating role of the army

Hugh MacDiarmid: A war to save civilization, you say?

Bernard Mandeville: How to induce men to kill and die

Christopher Marlowe: Accurs’d be he that first invented war!

Andrew Marvell: When roses only arms might bear

George Meredith: On the Danger of War

Milton: Men levy cruel wars, wasting the earth, each other to destroy

Milton: Without ambition, war, or violence

George Moore: Murder pure and simple, impossible to revive the methods of Tamburlaine

Thomas Moore: Famine comes to glean all that the sword had left unreap’d. A banquet, yet alive, for ravening vultures.

William Morris: Protecting the strong from the weak, selling each other weapons to kill their own countrymen

William Morris: War abroad but no peace at home

Alfred Noyes: Selections on war

Alfred Noyes: And the cost of war, they reckoned it In little disks of gold

Alfred Noyes: The Dawn of Peace

Alfred Noyes: The men he must kill for a little pay. And once he had sickened to watch them slaughter an ox.

Alfred Noyes: Out of the obscene seas of slaughter

Alfred Noyes: Scarecrows that once were men

Alfred Noyes: A shuddering lump of tattered wounds lifted up a mangled head and whined

Alfred Noyes: Slaughter! Slaughter! Slaughter!

Alfred Noyes: They say that war’s a noble thing!

Alfred Noyes: War they tell me is a noble thing

Alfred Noyes: When they talked of war, they thought of sawdust, not of blood

Alfred Noyes: The Wine Press

Sean O’Casey: Battles of war changed for battles of peace

Sean O’Casey: The dead of wars past clasp their colder arms around the newer dead

Sean O’Casey: The Prince of Peace transformed into the god of war

Liam O’Flaherty: The foul horror of war

Liam O’Flaherty: Sounds from a dead world. Nothing but worms and rats feeding on death.

Wildred Owen: Selections on war

Wilfred Owen: Arms and the Boy and Disabled

Wilfred Owen: For torture of lying machinally shelled at the pleasure of this world’s Powers who’d run amok

Wilfred Owen: From gloom’s last dregs these long-strung creatures crept

Wilfred Owen: Multitudinous murders they once witnessed

Wilfred Owen: 1914

Wilfred Owen: The Parable of the Old Man and the Young

Wilfred Owen: Pawing us who dealt them war and madness

Wildred Owen: Rushed in the body to enter hell and there out-fiending all its fiends and flames

Wilfred Owen: Soldier’s Dream

Wilfred Owen: The sons we offered might regret they died if we got nothing lasting in their stead

Wildred Owen: Strange meeting: I am the enemy you killed, my friend

Thomas Parnell: Lovely, lasting peace, appear!

Walter Pater: What are they all now, and the dust of their battles? Deity of Slaughter.

Thomas Love Peacock: We spilt blood enough to swim in, we orphaned many children and widowed many women

Harold Pinter: Art, Truth and Politics

Alexander Pope: Peace o’er the world her olive wand extend

J.B. Priestley: Insane regress of ultimate weapons leads to radioactive cemetery

Herbert Read: Bombing Casualties

Herbert Read: The Happy Warrior

Charles Reade: To God? Rather to war and his sister and to the god of lies

Charles Reade: War is sweet to those who have never experienced it

Isaac Rosenberg: Break of Day in the Trenches

Isaac Rosenberg: Dead Man’s Dump

Isaac Rosenberg: O! ancient crimson curse! On receiving news of the war

Isaac Rosenberg: Soldier: Twentieth Century

John Ruskin: Peace Song

Edgar Saltus: Soldiers and no farmers; imperial sterility…and demise

Siegfried Sassoon: Selections on war

Siegfried Sassoon: Aftermath

Siegfried Sassoon: Arms and the Man

Siegfried Sassoon: At the Cenotaph

Siegfried Sassoon: Atrocities

Siegfried Sassoon: Enemies

Siegfried Sassoon: The foul beast of war that bludgeons life

Siegfried Sassoon: Murdering the livid hours that grope for peace

Siegfried Sassoon: No doubt he loathed the war and longed for peace

Siegfried Sassoon: Our deeds with lies were lauded, our bones with wrongs rewarded

Siegfried Sassoon: Repression of War Experience

Siegfried Sassoon: Their dreams that drip with murder, of glorious war that shatter’d all their pride

Siegfried Sassoon: To Any Dead Officer

Siegfried Sassoon: The Tombstone-Maker

Siegfried Sassoon: The unheroic dead who fed the guns, those doomed, conscripted, unvictorious ones

Siegfried Sassoon: War, remorse and reconciliation

Siegfried Sassoon: We left our holes and looked above the wreckage of the earth

John Scott: I hate that drum’s discordant sound

Walter Scott: War’s cannibal priest, druid red from his human sacrifice

Shakespeare: So inured to war that mothers smile as their children are slain

George Bernard Shaw: Selections on war

George Bernard Shaw: The earth is still bursting with the dead bodies of the victors

George Bernard Shaw: Gadarene swine running violently into a hell of high explosives

George Bernard Shaw: Little Minds and Big Battles

George Bernard Shaw: The Long Arm of War

Militarist myopia: George Bernard Shaw’s Common Sense About the War

George Bernard Shaw: Rabid war maniacs reversed the order of nature

George Bernard Shaw: Religion of ruthless competition inevitably leads to war

George Bernard Shaw: The shallowness of the ideals of men ignorant of history is their destruction

George Bernard Shaw: Soldiering is the coward’s art of attacking mercilessly when you are strong, and keeping out of harm’s way when you are weak

George Bernard Shaw: War and frivolous exultation in death for its own sake

George Bernard Shaw: War and the sufferings of the sane

George Bernard Shaw: War Delirium

George Bernard Shaw: War, governments and munitions manufacturers

George Bernard Shaw: War, the Yahoo and the angry ape

George Bernard Shaw: The way of the soldier is the way of death

Mary Shelley: The fate of the world bound up with the death of a single man

Juvenilia: Percy Bysshe Shelley on war

Percy Bysshe Shelley: Man fabricates the sword which stabs his peace

Percy Bysshe Shelley: Earth cleansed of quivers, spears and gorgon-headed shields

James Shirley: Some men with swords may reap the field and plant fresh laurels where they kill

Edith Sitwell: Dirge for the New Sunrise

Tobias Smollett: War contractors fattened on the blood of the nation

C.P. Snow: Selections on war

C.P. Snow: As final product of scientific civilization, nuclear bomb is its ultimate indictment

C.P. Snow: Even if moral judgments are left out, it’s unthinkable to drop the bomb

C.P. Snow: Hiroshima, the most horrible single act so far performed

C.P. Snow: Hope it’s never possible to develop superbomb

C.P. Snow: Worse than Genghiz Khan. Has there ever been a weapon that someone did not want to let off?

Robert Southey: The Battle of Blenheim

Robert Southey: Preparing the way for peace; militarism versus Christianity

Robert Southey: The Soldier’s Wife

Stephen Spender: Selections on war

Stephen Spender: Automata controlled by the mechanism of war, meaningless struggle between potential ashes to gain a world of ashes

Stephen Spender: Lecture on Hell: battle against totalitarian war

Stephen Spender: Two Armies

Stephen Spender: Ultima Ratio Regum

Stephen Spender: The Woolfs in the 1930s: War the inevitable result of an arms race.

Stendhal and Byron: Military leprosy; fronts of brass and feet of clay

Lytton Strachey: After the battle, who shall say that the corpses were the most unfortunate?

Jonathan Swift: Lemuel Gulliver on War

Frank Swinnerton: Aerial bombardment, the most stupid and futile aspect of war

John Addington Symonds: Nation with nation, land with land unarmed shall live as comrades free

Alfred Tennyson: Ring out the thousand wars of old, ring in the thousand years of peace

Tennyson: Till the war-drum throbb’d no longer, and the battle-flags were furl’d

Dylan Thomas: The Hand That Signed the Paper

James Thomson: Peace is the natural state of man; war his corruption, his disgrace

Henry Vaughan: Let us ‘midst noise and war of peace and mirth discuss

Rex Warner: These guns were sent to save civilisation

H.G. Wells: Selections on war

H.G. Wells: The abolition of war will be a new phase in the history of life

H.G. Wells: Armaments: Vile and dangerous industry in the human blood trade

H.G. Wells: Either man will put an end to air war or air war will put an end to mankind

H.G. Wells: For the predetermined losing side, modern wars an unspeakable business

H.G. Wells: Mars will sit like a giant above all human affairs and his speech is blunt and plain

H.G. Wells: Massacres of boys! That indeed is the essence of modern war.

H.G. Wells: Nearly everybody wants peace but nobody thinks out the arrangements needed

H.G. Wells: No more talk of honour and annexations, hegemonies and trade routes, but only Europe lamenting for her dead

H.G. Wells: None so detestable as the god of war

H.G. Wells: A number of devoted men and women ready to give their whole lives to great task of peace

H.G. Wells: The progressive enslavement of the race to military tyranny

H.G. Wells: A time will come when a politician who has wilfully made war will be as sure of the dock and much surer of the noose than a private homicide

H.G. Wells: Universal collapse logically follows world-wide war

H.G. Wells: War is a triumph of the exhausted and dying over the dead

H.G. Wells: War, road to complete extinction or to degradation beyond our present understanding

H.G. Wells: War will leave the world a world of cripples and old men and children

H.G. Wells: When war comes home

H.G. Wells: Why did humanity gape at the guns and do nothing? War as business

H.G. Wells: The world is weary of this bloodshed, weary of all this weeping

H.G. Wells: The young are the food of war

Rebecca West: The dreams of Englishwomen during war

Oscar Wilde: Antidote to war

Oscar Wilde: Crimson seas of war, Great Game in Central and South Asia

Wordsworth: We felt as men should feel at vast carnage

William Butler Yeats: The Rose of Peace

Edward Young: Draw the murd’ring sword to give mankind a single lord

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Martial: Let the mad be eager for wars and fierce Mars

October 27, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace


From Epigrams
Translated by Walter C.A. Ker

Marcellinus, true offspring of a good father, you who the numbing Bear covers with her Parrhasian car, hear what an old friend, and your father’s, wishes for you, and keep those prayers in a remembering heart. See that your valour be wary; let not rash ardour bear you into the midmost fray of swords and savage spears. Let those who lack sense be eager for wars and fierce Mars…

Marcelline, boni suboles sincera parentis,
horrida Parrhasio quem tegit ursa iugo,
ille uetus pro te patriusque quid optet amicus
accipe et haec memori pectore uota tene:
causa sit ut uirtus nec te temerarius ardor
in medios enses saeuaque tela ferat.
Bella uellint Martemque ferum rationis egentes…

“O manners! O times!” cried Tully once when Catiline was planning his sacrilegious crime, when son-in-law and father-in-law were clashing in dreadful war and the weeping earth was drenched with civil carnage. Why do you now cry “O manners!” why now “O times!” What is it displeases you, Caecilianus? No savagery of captains is here, no frenzy of the sword: we may enjoy unbroken peace and pleasure. ‘Tis not our manners that make your times despicable to you, but your own manners, Caecilianus, make them so.

Dixerat ‘o mores! o tempora!’ Tullius olim,
sacrilegum strueret cum Catalina nefas,
cum gener atque socer diris concurreret armis
niaestaque civili caede maderet humus,
cur nunc ‘o mores!’ cur nunc ‘o tempora!’ dicis?
quod tibi non placeat, Caeciliane, quid est ?
nulla ducum feritas, nulla est insania ferri;
pace frui certa laetitiaque licet,
non nostri faciunt tibi quod tua tempora sordent,
sed faciunt mores, Caeciliane, tui.

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Aeschines: Following a policy of war after war; war, the destroyer of popular government

October 26, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Aeschines: Peace does not feed laziness


From On the Embassy
Translated by Charles Darwin Adams

Though the blessings we were enjoying were so great, we again brought war against the Lacedaemonians, persuaded by the Argives; and at last, in consequence of the eagerness of our public men for war, we sank so low as to see a Spartan garrison in our city, and the Four Hundred, and the Impious Thirty; and it was not the making of peace that caused this, but we were forced by orders laid upon us. But when again a moderate government had been established, and the exiled democracy had come back from Phyle, with Archinus and Thrasybolus as the leaders of the popular party, we took the solemn oath with one another “to forgive and forget” – an act which, in the judgment of all men, won for our state the reputation of the highest wisdom. The democracy then took on new life and vigour. But now men who have been illegally registered as citizens, constantly attaching themselves to whatever element in the city is corrupt, and following a policy of war after war, in peace ever prophesying danger, and so working on ambitions and over-excitable minds, yet when war comes never touching arms themselves, but getting into office as auditors and naval commissioners – men whose mistresses are the mothers of their offspring, and whose slanderous tongues ought to disenfranchise them – these men are bringing the state into extreme peril, fostering the name of democracy, not by their character, but by their flatteries, trying to put an end to the peace, wherein lies the safety of the democracy, and in every way fomenting war, the destroyer of popular government.

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Xenophon: War as obsession, warfare as mistress

October 25, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Xenophon: Socrates’ war sophistry; civil crimes are martial virtues


From Anabasis
Translated by H. G. Dakyns

[H]e was condemned to death by the Spartan authorities for disobedience to orders; and now, finding himself an exile, he came to Cyrus. Working on the feelings of that prince…he received from his entertainer a present of ten thousand darics. Having got this money, he did not sink into a life of ease and indolence, but collected an army with it, carried on war against the Thracians, and conquered them in battle, and from that date onwards harried and plundered them with war incessantly, until Cyrus wanted his army; whereupon he at once went off, in hopes of finding another sphere of warfare in his company.

These, I take it, were the characteristic acts of a man whose affections are set on warfare. When it is open to him to enjoy peace with honour, no shame, no injury attached, still he prefers war; when he may live at home at ease, he insists on toil, if only it may end in fighting; when it is given to him to keep his riches without risk, he would rather lessen his fortune by the pastime of battle. To put it briefly, war was his mistress; just as another man will spend his fortune on a favourite, or to gratify some pleasure, so he chose to squander his substance on soldiering.


After this they marched into the country of the Taochians five stages – thirty parasangs – and provisions failed; for the Taochians lived in strong places, into which they had carried up all their stores. Now when the army arrived before one of these strong places – a mere fortress, without city or houses, into which a motley crowd of men and women and numerous flocks and herds were gathered – Cheirisophus attacked at once…

And here a terrible spectacle displayed itself: the women first cast their infants down the cliff, and then they cast themselves after their fallen little ones, and the men likewise. In such a scene, Aeneas the Stymphalian, an officer, caught sight of a man with a fine dress about to throw himself over, and seized hold of him to stop him; but the other caught him to his arms, and both were gone in an instant headlong down the crags, and were killed. Out of this place the merest handful of human beings were taken prisoners, but cattle and asses in abundance and flocks of sheep.

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Octave Mirbeau: Stupidly, unconsciously, I had killed a man whom I loved, a man with whom my soul had just identified itself

October 24, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Octave Mirbeau: Selections on war


Octave Mirbeau
From Calvary (1886)
Translated by Louis Rich


Hardly had I time enough to squat down behind the oak tree, when on the road, at a distance of twenty paces in front of me, there suddenly appeared a large shadow, surprisingly immobile, like an equestrian statue of bronze, and this enormous shadow which obtruded itself almost entirely upon the brightness of the eastern sky was terrible to behold…The man appeared to me superhuman, inordinately large against the sky!…He wore the flat cap of the Prussians, a long black cloak, under which the chest was bulging out greatly. Was he an officer or a plain soldier? I did not know, for I could not distinguish any insignia of rank on the dark uniform…His features, at first indistinct, became more accentuated. He had clear eyes, very limpid, a broad beard, his bearing bespoke youthful strength; his face breathed power and kindness along with something noble, audacious and sad which struck me. Holding his hand flat on his thigh, he studied the country before him, and his horse scraped the ground with its hoofs and puffed long streams of vapor in the air through its quivering nostrils…Evidently this Prussian was reconnoitering, he came to observe our position, the nature of the ground; undoubtedly a whole army was swarming behind him, waiting for a signal from this man to throw themselves on the plain!…

Well hidden in my woods, with rifle ready, I was watching him…He was handsome indeed, life flowed abundantly in this robust body…What a pity! He kept on studying the country, and it seemed to me as though he were studying it more like a poet than a soldier…I detected a sort of emotion in his eyes…Perhaps he forgot why he had come here and allowed himself to be fascinated by the beauty of this virginal and triumphant dawn. The sky became all red, it blazed up gloriously, the awakened fields unrolled themselves in the distance, emerging one after another from their veil of mist, rose-colored and blue, which floated like long scarves ruffled by invisible hands. The trees were dripping dew, the hovels separated themselves from the pink and blue background, the dove-cot of a large farm whose new tile roofs began to glitter, projected its whitish cone into the purple glare of the east…Yes, this Prussian who started out with the notion to kill, was arrested, dazzled and reverently stirred by the splendor of a new-born day, and his soul for a few minutes was the captive of love.

“Perhaps it’s a poet,” I said to myself, “an artist; he must be kind, since he is capable of tenderness.”

And upon his face I could see all the emotion of a brave man which agitated him, all the tremors, all the delicate and flitting reactions of his heart, moved and fascinated…I feared him no longer. On the contrary, a sort of infatuation drew me towards him, and I had to hold on to the tree to keep myself from going to this man. I would have liked to speak to him, to tell him that it was well that he contemplated the heaven thus, and that I liked him because of his receptiveness to beauty…But his face grew sombre, a sadness stole into his eyes…Ah, the horizon over which they swept was so far, so far away! And beyond that horizon there was another and further on, still another! One had to conquer all that!…When was he to be relieved of his duty ever to spur his horse on through this nostalgic territory, always to cut a way through ruins and through death, always to kill, always to be cursed!…

And then, undoubtedly, he was thinking of the things he had left behind; of his home resounding with the laughter of his children, of his wife, who was waiting for him and praying to God while doing so…Will he ever see her again?…I was sure that at this very moment he was recalling the most fugitive details, the most childish habits of his life at home … a rose plucked one evening, after dinner, with which he adorned the hair of his wife, the dress which she wore when he was leaving, a blue bow on the hat of his little daughter, a wooden horse, a tree, a river view, a paper knife!… All the memories of his joys came back to him, and with that keenness of vision which exiled persons possess, he encompassed in a single mental glance of despondency all those things by means of which he had been happy until now…

The sun rose higher, rendering the plain larger, extending the distant horizon still farther…I felt a compassion for this man and I loved him…yes I swear I loved him!…Well, then, how did that happen?…A detonation was suddenly heard, and at that very moment I caught sight of a boot in the air, of a torn piece of a military cloak, of a mane flying about wildly on the road…and then nothing, I heard the noise of a blow with a sabre, the heavy fall of a body, furious beats of a gallop…then nothing…My rifle was warm, and smoke was coming out of it…I let it fall to the ground…Was I the victim of hallucination?…Clearly not. Of the large shadow which rose skyward at the middle of the road like an equestrian statue of bronze there was left but a small corpse all black, stretched out face downward, with crossed arms…I recalled the poor cat that my father had killed, when with fascinated eyes she had been following the flight of a butterfly…

Stupidly, unconsciously, I had killed a man whom I loved, a man with whom my soul had just identified itself, a man who in the dazzling splendor of the rising sun was retracing the purest dreams of his life!… Perhaps I had killed him at the very moment that that man had said to himself: “And when I shall see her again at home…” Why? For what reason? Since I loved him, since, if soldiers had menaced him, I would have defended him! Why of all men was it he I assassinated? In two bounds I was beside this man; I called him…he did not move. My bullet had pierced his neck under the ear, and blood was gushing from an opened vein with a gurgling sound, collecting into a red pool and sticking to his beard…With trembling hands I raised him slowly, his head swung from side to side, fell back, inert and heavy…I felt his chest where the heart was: it beat no longer…Then I raised him again, supporting his head with my knees, and suddenly I saw his eyes, his two clear eyes which looked at me sadly, without hatred, without reproach, his two eyes which seemed to be alive!…I thought I was going to faint, but gathering all my strength in a supreme effort, I clasped the dead body of the Prussian, placed it right in front of me and pressing my lips against this bleeding face from which long, purple threads of congealed slaver were hanging, I desperately kissed it!…

From this moment on I don’t remember anything…I see again smoky fields covered with snow, and ruins burning incessantly, ever recurring dismal flights, delirious marches during the night, confusion at the crossroads congested with ammunition wagons, where the dragoons with drawn swords were driving their horses right into our midst and trying to cut a way through the wagons; I see again funeral carriages, followed by dead bodies of young men which we buried in the frozen ground, saying to ourselves that tomorrow would be our turn; I see again, near the cannon carriages, large carcasses of horses dismembered by howitzer shells, stiff, cut up, over which we used to quarrel in the evening, from which we used to carry away, into our tents, bleeding portions which we devoured growling, showing our teeth like wolves!…And I see again the surgeon, with sleeves of his white coat rolled up, pipe in mouth, amputating on a table, in a farmhouse, by the smoky light of a tallow candle, the foot of a little soldier still wearing his coarse shoes!…

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Plato: Selections on war

October 23, 2015 Leave a comment
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Seneca the Elder: What is this hideous disease, this appalling evil that drove you to shed each other’s blood?

October 22, 2015 1 comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace


Seneca the Elder
From Controversiae
Translated by M. Winterbottom

Look: often have armies of citizens and relatives taken their stand, drawn up to join battle; the hills on either side are filled with cavalry; and suddenly the whole terrain is strewn with the bodies of the slaughtered. Suppose someone amid that mass of corpses and looters should ask: What was it that compelled man to commit crime against man? Beasts do not war among themselves, and even if beasts did wars would we be unworthy of man, a quiet species, and nearest to the divine. What is this hideous disease, this fury that drove you to shed each other’s blood – though you are of one stock, one blood? What is this appalling evil that fate or chance has inflicted on this species alone?

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Émile Zola: Why armies are maintained

October 21, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Émile Zola: Selections on war


Émile Zola
From Labor (1901)
Translator not identified


The good Mazelle sat, entirely overlooked, between Judge Gaume and Captain Jollivet. Up to this time he had only opened his mouth to put into it large mouthfuls of food, which he masticated slowly for fear of disordering his digestion. Social economics did not interest him, since, thanks to the nature of his income, he was beyond risk from storms. But he was forced to lend an ear to the theories of the captain, who was delighted to impart them to so kindly an auditor. The army was the school for the nation, and France could never be anything, according to her immutable traditions, but the land of a warlike people; she would recover her proper place only on the day when she reconquered Europe and ruled it by the sword. It was foolish to accuse the system which sent young men to perform military service of disorganizing labor. Whose labor? What labor? Was there any such thing? Socialism was an immense humbug! There would always be soldiers, and peoples under them for fatigue duty. The sword was something tangible which could be seen, but who had ever seen an idea, this famous idea, which people pretended was the queen of the world? He laughed at his own wit, and the kind hearted Mazelle, who had a profound respect for the army, laughed with him out of complaisance, while his fiancée, Lucille, regarded him with an expression of enigmatical tenderness…


“Ah, the feudal system had its good points; all the worthless men in those days went to the wars, if they had no property and knew that they would never have any.”


Laughter and jest continued. All present, however, had felt the great wind of to-morrow pass over them; the breath of the future swept across the table, blowing away its iniquitous luxury and its poisonous pleasures. They all, therefore, began to talk about questions of interest, of capital, of bourgeois society and capitalists, all of which are based on the wage system.

“The republic will destroy itself when it interferes with property,” said Gourier, the mayor. “The laws are still in force, but everything will give way when they are no longer administered,” said Judge Gaume.

“What does it matter, in any event?” said Captain Jollivet; “the army is here for our protection, and it will never permit these rascals to triumph.”

Boisgelin and Delaveau assented approvingly to these sentiments, for the present social forces worked in their interest. Luc understood the situation. The government, the ministry, the magistracy, the army, and the Church, all were engaged in sustaining this terrible social system, this monstrous frame-work of iniquity, by means of which labor destroyed the many in order that the few might be maintained in luxury and corruption…

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Aristotle: When they had attained empire they fell, for of the arts of peace they knew nothing

October 20, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Aristotle: How tyrants use war

Aristotle: Leader not praiseworthy in training citizens for conquest and dominion

Aristotle: A man would be regarded as a bloodthirsty monster if he were to make war just to produce battles and slaughter


From The Politics
Translated by Benjamin Jowett

The law of which I speak is a sort of convention, the law by which whatever is taken in war is supposed to belong to the victors. But this right many jurists impeach, as they would an orator who brought forward an unconstitutional measure: they detest the notion that, because one man has the power of doing violence and is superior in brute strength, another shall be his slave and subject….

Others, clinging, as they think, simply to a principle of justice (for law and custom are a sort of justice), assume that slavery in accordance with the custom of war is justified by law, but at the same moment they deny this. For what if the cause of the war be unjust? And again, no one would ever say he is a slave who is unworthy to be a slave. Were this the case, men of the highest rank would be slaves and the children of slaves if they or their parents chance to have been taken captive and sold.


The charge which Plato brings, in the Laws, against the intention of the legislator, is likewise justified; the whole constitution has regard to one part of virtue only – the virtue of the soldier, which gives victory in war. So long as they were at war, therefore, their power was preserved, but when they had attained empire they fell, for of the arts of peace they knew nothing, and had never engaged in any employment higher than war. There is another error, equally great, into which they have fallen. Although they truly think that the goods for which men contend are to be acquired by virtue rather than by vice, they err in supposing that these goods are to be preferred to the virtue which gains them.

Once more: the revenues of the state are ill-managed; there is no money in the treasury, although they are obliged to carry on great wars, and they are unwilling to pay taxes. The greater part of the land being in the hands of the Spartans, they do not look closely into one another’s contributions. The result which the legislator has produced is the reverse of beneficial; for he has made his city poor, and his citizens greedy.


A social instinct is implanted in all men by nature…For man, when perfected, is the best of animals, but, when separated from law and justice, he is the worst of all; since armed injustice is the more dangerous, and he is equipped at birth with arms, meant to be used by intelligence and virtue, which he may use for the worst ends. Wherefore, if he have not virtue, he is the most unholy and the most savage of animals, and the most full of lust and gluttony. But justice is the bond of men in states, for the administration of justice, which is the determination of what is just, is the principle of order in political society.

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Lactantius: The pernicious and impious madness of deifying warlike generals who have inundated plains with blood

October 19, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Lactantius: Sacrificing to the gods of war

Lactantius: War, object of execration, and its domestic analogue


From Divine Institutes
Translated by William Fletcher

And so Hercules, when he perceived that his muscles were disfigured by ulcers, neither wished to be healed nor to grow old, that he might not at any time appear to have less strength or comeliness than he once had. They supposed that he ascended into heaven from the funeral pile on which he had burnt himself alive; and those very qualities which they most foolishly admired, they expressed by statues and images, and consecrated, so that they might for ever remain as memorials of the folly of those who had believed that gods owed their origin to the slaughter of beasts. But this, perchance, may be the fault of the Greeks, who always esteemed most trifling things as of the greatest consequence. What is the case of our own countrymen? Are they more wise? For they despise valour in an athlete, because it produces no injury; but in the case of a king, because it occasions widely-spread disasters, they so admire it as to imagine that brave and warlike generals are admitted to the assembly of the gods, and that there is no other way to immortality than to lead armies, to lay waste the territory of others, to destroy cities, to overthrow towns, to put to death or enslave free peoples. Truly the greater number of men they have cast down, plundered, and slain, so much the more noble and distinguished do they think themselves; and ensnared by the show of empty glory, they give to their crimes the name of virtue. I would rather that they should make to themselves gods from the slaughter of wild beasts, than approve of an immortality so stained with blood. If any one has slain a single man, he is regarded as contaminated and wicked, nor do they think it lawful for him to be admitted to this earthly abode of the gods. But he who has slaughtered countless thousands of men, has inundated plains with blood, and infected rivers, is not only admitted into the temple, but even into heaven. In Ennius Africanus thus speaks: “If it is permitted any one to ascend to the regions of the gods above, the greatest gate of heaven is open to me alone.” Because, in truth, he extinguished and destroyed a great part of the human race. Oh how great the darkness in which you were involved, O Africanus, or rather O poet, in that you imagined the ascent to heaven to be open to men through slaughters and bloodshed! If this is the virtue which renders us immortal, I for my part should prefer to die, rather than to be the cause of destruction to as many as possible. If immortality can be obtained in no other way than by bloodshed, what will be the result if all shall agree to live in harmony? And this may undoubtedly be realized, if men would cast aside their pernicious and impious madness, and live in innocence and justice. Shall no one, then, be worthy of heaven? Shall virtue perish, because it will not be permitted men to rage against their fellow-men? But they who reckon the overthrow of cities and people as the greatest glory will not endure public tranquillity: they will plunder and rage; and by the infliction of outrageous injuries will disturb the compact of human society, that they may have an enemy whom they may destroy with greater wickedness than that with which they attacked.


But if this is agreed upon among themselves, that gods were made from men, why then do they not believe the poets, if at any time they describe their banishments and wounds, their deaths, and wars, and adulteries? From which things it may be understood that they could not possibly become gods, since they were not even good men, and during their life they performed those actions which bring forth everlasting death.


Therefore there is no virtue in any one when vices bear rule; there is no faith when each individual carries off all things for himself; there is no piety when avarice spares neither relatives nor parents, and passion rushes to poison and the sword: no peace, no concord, when wars rage in public, and in private enmities prevail even to bloodshed; no chastity when unbridled lusts contaminate each sex, and the whole body in every part. Nor, however, do they cease to worship those things which they flee from and hate. For they worship with incense and the tips of their fingers those things which they ought to have shrunk from with their inmost feelings; and this error is altogether derived from their ignorance of the principal and chief good.

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Alfred Noyes: They say that war’s a noble thing!

October 18, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Alfred Noyes: Selections on war


Alfred Noyes
From The Wine Press: A Tale of War (1913)


The troop-train couplings clanged like Fate
Above the bugles’ din.
Sweating beneath their haversacks,
With rifles bristling on their backs,
Like heavy-footed oxen
The dusty men trooped in.

It seemed that some gigantic hand
Behind the veils of sky
Was driving, herding all these men
So few of them could understand,
So many of them must die.


“They say that war’s a noble thing!
They say it’s good to die,
For causes none can understand!
They say it’s for the Fatherland!
They say it’s for the Flag, the King,
And none must question why!”

The train shrieked into a tunnel.
“Duty? Yes, that is good.
But when the thing has grown so vast
That no man knows, from first to last,
The reason why he finds himself
Up to his neck in blood;

When you are trapped and carried along
By a Power that runs on rails;
Why, open that door, my friends, and see
The way you are fixed. You think you are free,
But the iron wheels are singing a song
That stuns our fairy-tales;

Like cattle into a cattle-pen,
When you are lifted up like this
Between a finger and thumb,
And dropt you don’t know where or why,
And told to shoot and butcher and die,
And not to question, not to reply,
But go like a sheep to the shearers,
A lamb to the slaughter, dumb;

What? Are the engines, then, our God?
Does one amongst you know
The reason of this bitter work?”

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Isocrates: Addicted to war, lusting after imperial power

October 16, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Isocrates: War zealots plunge state into manifold disasters


From On the Peace
Translated by George Norlin

And those who claim the right to stand at the head of the Hellenes ought to become leaders of such enterprises much rather than of war and of hireling armies, which at the present time are the objects of our ambition.


I could wish that, even as to praise virtue is a facile theme, so it were easy to persuade hearers to practise it. But as things are I am afraid that I may be expressing such sentiments to no purpose. For we have been depraved for a long time by men whose only ability is to cheat and delude – men who have held the people in such contempt that whenever they wish to bring about a state of war with any city, these very men who are paid for what they say have the audacity to tell us…


[A]lthough we seek to rule over all men, we are not willing to take the field ourselves, and although we undertake to wage war upon, one might almost say, the whole world, we do not train ourselves for war but employ instead vagabonds, deserters, and fugitives who have thronged together here in consequence of other misdemeanours, who, whenever others offer them higher pay, will follow their leadership against us.


We are concerned about our polity no less than about the safety of the whole state and we know that our democracy flourishes and endures in times of peace and security while in times of war it has twice already been overthrown, but we are hostile to those who desire peace as if suspecting them of favouring oligarchy while we are friendly to those who advocate war as if assured of their devotion to democracy.


I know, however, that it is difficult for one who attempts to denounce that imperial power which all the world lusts after and has waged many wars to obtain to impress his hearers as saying anything which is not intolerable. Nevertheless, since you have endured the other things which I have said, which, although true, are offensive, I beg you to be patient also with what I shall say upon this subject and not to impute to me the madness of having chosen to discourse to you on matters so contrary to the general opinion without having something true to say about them. Nay, I believe that I shall make it evident to all that we covet an empire which is neither just nor capable of being attained nor advantageous to ourselves.


And they became so addicted to war and the perils of war that, whereas in times past they had been more cautious in this regard than the rest of the world, they did not refrain from attacking even their own allies and their own benefactors…

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Josephus: Admonition against war

October 15, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace


From The Jewish War
Translated by H. St. J. Thackeray

“How absurd it were, because of one man to make war on a whole people…But war once set on foot cannot be lightly either broken off or carried through without risk of disaster…All who embark on war do so in reliance on the support either of God or man; but when, in all probability, no assistance from either quarter is forthcoming, then the aggressor goes with his eyes open to certain ruin. What is there, then, to prevent you from dispatching with your own hands your children and wives and from consigning this surpassingly beautiful home of yours to flames? By such an act of madness you would at least spare yourselves the ignominy of defeat. It were well, my friends, it were well, while the vessel is still in port, to foresee the coming storm, and not to put out into the midst of the hurricane to meet your doom. For the victims of unforeseen disaster there is left at least the meed of pity; but he who rushes to manifest destruction incurs opprobrium to boot.”


Even those who had been reputed the very mildest of men were instigated by avarice to murder their adversaries; for they would then with impunity plunder the property of their victims and transfer to their own homes, as from a battle-field, the spoils of the slain, and he who gained the most covered himself with glory as the most successful murderer. One saw cities choked with unburied corpses, dead bodies of old men and infants exposed side by side, poor women stripped of the last covering of modesty, the whole province full of indescribable horrors; and even worse than the tale of atrocities committed was the suspense caused by the menace of evils in store.

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Ernest Poole: The hatred rising in all men has already butchered millions and will butcher millions more!

October 14, 2015 Leave a comment


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

American writers on peace and against war

Ernest Poole: Apply for death certificates here. War’s house of death.

Ernest Poole: War cuts off the past from the future

Ernest Poole: War was the fashion. War was a pageant, a thing of romance.


Ernest Poole
From Blind (1920)


In the next few years, I have no doubt, there will be Cook’s tours innumerable to European battlefields; and this will be called “Seeing the War.” But the blinding-vast tornado, with the deep changes that it wrought, will really not be seen at all till a generation or two have gone and other turbulent events have taken place upon the earth. God pity the poor devils who have to write its history now.


Aunt Amelia came over for supper that night. She wanted to get the latest news and “talk it over thoroughly.” She was deeply disturbed and indignant about it. “A perfectly awful butchery, without rhyme or reason!” she declared. She spoke of the war she had seen as a girl and recounted some of the horrors – the price. That had at least been worth the price; a great ideal had been at stake. But what this terrible struggle was for she could not for the life of her make out.

“If it does come about,” she said, “there is just one thing for us to do – keep perfectly friendly to both sides and help bring peace as soon as we can. Larry,” she demanded, “what do those socialist friends of yours mean by not putting a stop to this? I should think they would be ashamed to look each other in the face! After all they have said about brotherhood – and the rights of the common people! The common people don’t want this war ”


Together we tried to picture Dorothy living in Berlin – but all Europe to our eyes went suddenly under clouds of smoke from which was heard the roar of guns. She had been such a warm blithe lovable girl, and such an intimate part of this house. It was as though the long arm of the war were suddenly reaching down into the very foundation stones of this peaceable old building, making it quiver with alarm. Gone was Aunt Amelia’s hope of our keeping friendly to both sides – for already this news had fanned into flame the vague instinctive feelings that had been in me from the start against the German side of it. I had never been to Germany – knew very little about it, in fact – but now I began to inveigh against the entire Teuton race, their pig-headed ways, their intolerance. Then noticing the anxiety in Aunt Amelia’s restless eyes, I grew grimly practical.


“The world is a bristling jungle of ‘war-lies’ in every land, and every conceivable prejudice and distortion of the facts…”

He stopped for a moment, and then in a low voice he said,

“Last week I was at Oxford, and out in front of the library on a misty moonlit night I saw a couple of hundred chaps in mufti – undergraduates – standing at ease with their cigarettes, chatting and laughing. Then I heard the order passed back, ‘No lights – no smoking – absolute silence.’ And a few moments later they went off into the mist – so quietly. It was as though they were passing out of existence.”

I never saw this man again, for in the last year of the war he was killed in Flanders.


“Tell me really what you think,” he said, with his ironic smile. “Be frank. I am no chauvinist.”

“I have seen so little,” I began.

‘You are lucky,” he interrupted. “With me it is different – I have seen! For months I have been like a man submerged in a flood of blood and hatred. It is what no man but a paranoiac could have pictured coming over the world. But it has come! The hatred rising in all men has already butchered millions and will butcher millions more! And not only that!” he cried. “It is not even hatred well expressed! I read not only German, but Russian, English, French, Italian – and whenever I had a chance I have searched for one book, one play, one song! I find nothing but cheap drivel – the most frightful patriotic bosh!”

“Yes, I am a patriot! But all this silly nonsense about white papers and red blood – what is it? What does it decide? Shall I tell you? It decides for us all that every little lieutenant is God – not only here but in England and France! And so long as we live, this ignorant fellow will be the god to whom we bow down – excuse me, I should say, salute! Around him will be written plays that make a man sick to think about! Through him and his standards the crowd will be a hundred-fold more ignorant and brutalized even than before the war – they will cultivate prize fighters’ souls! And I who am a patriot – I am against this bloody farce! And,” he ended grimly, “my bitterness does me no good – for I must keep it all inside. I cannot speak. It is an ocean. I am drowned.”


“In England I read in the papers that they have had a hard time to get their working-men to enlist.”

“They are cowards,” said a peasant.

“Yes, but they did not start the war. I tell you it was started by a lot of fat rich people. And we are the fellows who have to get killed. And if we don’t get killed, by God, we will have to pay war taxes! And think of the widows we’ll have to help! All the fellows who are killed are leaving in every village widows and old mothers and little brats who will have to be fed! And the village will have to feed them!”

“Well, we’re in for it,” somebody sighed.

“All the same,” said the lean-faced man, “I’ll be glad when there’s peace. I’ll be glad when we jump out of the trenches and the Frenchmen do the same, and we run across and shake hands with each other.”

“That will be fine,” said the good-natured peasant. We’ll do it as soon as the war is over.”

“Some fellows have done it,” the speaker replied. What?” Instantly all were wide awake.

“Some fellow told me that where he was, our men held up spades and the French did the same – and then they ran out and all shook hands. And they did like this at the trenches.” He thumbed his nose, and at this they laughed. But the laugh soon stopped and there was a silence.

“You can’t do that to your officers,” said one man uneasily.

“It is a lie and it never happened,” said another peasant. “You are making it up.”

“Perhaps it is a lie,” said the speaker. “But that is what the fellow said.” He threw a vigilant glance along the row of faces. “And when you come to think of it,” he continued quietly, “it is not so bad, what those fellows did. You must obey your officers – because this is war. If we didn’t obey, everything would be all mixed up, and the French would charge and kill us all. But if whole regiments everywhere jumped out of the trenches, as he said, and the French and English did the same, and we met in the middle of the field – then there would be war no more – and no need of officers.”

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Plato: Socrates on the eulogizing of war heroes

October 13, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Plato: Selections on war




From Cleitophon
Translated by R.G. Bury

[Socrates] “Whither haste ye, O men? Yea, verily ye know not that ye are doing none of the things ye ought, seeing that you spend your whole energy on wealth and the acquiring of it…Yet it is because of this dissonance and sloth…that brother with brother and city with city clash together without measure or harmony and are at strife, and in their warring perpetrate and suffer the uttermost horrors…

From Menexenus
Translated by R.G. Bury

[Socrates] In truth, Menexenus, to fall in battle seems to be a splendid thing in many ways. For a man obtains a splendid and magnificent funeral even though at his death he be but a poor man; and though he be but a worthless fellow, he wins praise and that by the mouth of accomplished men who do not praise at random, but in speeches prepared long beforehand. And they praise in such splendid fashion, that, what with their ascribing to each one both what he has and what he has not, and the variety and splendour of their diction, they bewitch our souls; and they eulogize the State in every possible fashion, and they praise those who died in the war and all our ancestors of former times and ourselves who are living still; and so that I am myself, Menexenus, when thus praised by them feel mightily ennobled, and every time I listen fascinated I am exalted and imagine myself to have become all at once taller and and nobler and more handsome. And as I am generally accompanied by some strangers, who listen along with me, I become in their eyes also all at once majestic; for they also manifestly share in my feelings with regard to both to me and to the rest of the City, believing it to be more marvellous than before, owing to the persuasive eloquence of the speaker. And this majestic feeling remains with me for over three days: so persistently does the speech and voice of the orator ring in my ears that it is scarcely on the fourth or fifth day that I recover myself and remember that I am really hear on earth, whereas till then I almost imagined myself to be living in the Islands of the Blessed… 

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Bacchylides: Paean on peace

October 12, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace


Paean on peace
Translated by Christopher North

Innumerous are the boons bestow’d on man by gracious Peace!
The Flowers of Poets honey-tongued, and Wealth’s immense increase.
Then to the joyful altars unto the gods arise
The fumes of sheep’s and oxen’s flesh in ruddy sacrifice;
In crowds to the gymnasium the strenuous youth resort,
Or to the pipe the revellers pursue their madd’ening sport;
The spider black doth weave his web on iron-handled shield,
And sharp-set spear and two-edged sword to mouldy canker yield;
No longer anywhere is heard the trumpet’s brazen blare,
From men’s eyes soul-delighting sleep at midnight wont to scare;
Banquets heaped high with food and wine are spread in every street,
And songs from youthful companies are sounding strong and sweet.

Anonymous translation

To mortal men Peace giveth these good things:
Wealth, and the flowers of honey-throated song;
The flame that springs
On craven altars from fat sheep and kine,
Slain to the gods in heaven; and, all day long,
Games for gold youths, and flutes, and wreaths, and circling wine.
Then in the steely shield swart spiders weave
Their web and dusky woof:
Rust to the pointed spear and sword doth cleave;
The brazen trump sounds no alarms;
Nor is sleep harried from our eyes aloof,
But with sweet rest my bosom warms:
The streets are thronged with lovely men and young,
And hymns in praise of boys like flames to heaven are flung.

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Augustine: To make war on your neighbors, what else is this to be called than great robbery?

October 11, 2015 1 comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace


St. Augustine
From City of God
Translated by Marcus Dods

[W]hat reason, what prudence, there is in wishing to glory in the greatness and extent of the empire, when you cannot point out the happiness of men who are always rolling, with dark fear and cruel lust, in warlike slaughters and in blood, which, whether shed in civil or foreign war, is still human blood; so that their joy may be compared to glass in its fragile splendor, of which one is horribly afraid lest it should be suddenly broken in pieces.


Justinus, who wrote Greek or rather foreign history in Latin, and briefly, like Trogus Pompeius whom he followed, begins his work thus: “In the beginning of the affairs of peoples and nations the government was in the hands of kings, who were raised to the height of this majesty not by courting the people, but by the knowledge good men had of their moderation. The people were held bound by no laws; the decisions of the princes were instead of laws. It was the custom to guard rather than to extend the boundaries of the empire; and kingdoms were kept within the bounds of each ruler’s native land. Ninus king of the Assyrians first of all, through new lust of empire, changed the old and, as it were, ancestral custom of nations. He first made war on his neighbors, and wholly subdued as far as to the frontiers of Libya the nations as yet untrained to resist.” And a little after he says: “Ninus established by constant possession the greatness of the authority he had gained. Having mastered his nearest neighbors, he went on to others, strengthened by the accession of forces, and by making each fresh victory the instrument of that which followed, subdued the nations of the whole East.” Now, with whatever fidelity to fact either he or Trogus may in general have written – for that they sometimes told lies is shown by other more trustworthy writers – yet it is agreed among other authors, that the kingdom of the Assyrians was extended far and wide by King Ninus. And it lasted so long, that the Roman empire has not yet attained the same age; for, as those write who have treated of chronological history, this kingdom endured for twelve hundred and forty years from the first year in which Ninus began to reign, until it was transferred to the Medes. But to make war on your neighbors, and thence to proceed to others, and through mere lust of dominion to crush and subdue people who do you no harm, what else is this to be called than great robbery?

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Silius Italicus: Peace is the best thing that man may know; peace alone is better than a thousand triumphs

October 10, 2015 Leave a comment


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace


Silius Italicus
From Punica
Translated by J.D. Duff

“For I propose that we should now sue for peace, should now lay down the arms that are stained by a breach of treaty, and avoid a war that will destroy us. Or rather, do you yourselves weigh well his proposals; there is no other decision for us to come to. He asks for arms, soldiers, and gold, for fleets, provisions, and elephants. Had he been defeated, he could not have asked for more. We have drenched the soil of Italy with Roman blood, and all Latium is laid low on the battle-fields. Then suffer us at last, noble conqueror, to forget our troubles and take our ease at home; suffer us to keep some children in the families so often thinned by the insatiable demands of war…Shall we, forsooth, snatch from their mothers’ laps boys who are not yet fit to carry heavy armour, and make them fight? Shall we, at his demand, build a thousand ships of war and ransack all Libya for elephants, in order that Hannibal may prolong his command and fight on for years and exercise a tyrant’s sway till the day of his death? But I appeal to you – for the trap is set in our sight – rob not your homes of your loved ones, but set a limit to the armies and the power of these potentates. Peace is the best thing that man may know; peace alone is better than a thousand triumphs; peace has power to guard our lives and secure equality among fellow-citizens. Let us then after so long recall peace to the city of Carthage…”

“nunc pacem orandum, nunc improba foedere rupto
arma reponendum et bellum exitiale cavendum
auctor ego. atque adeo vosmet perpendite, quaeso,
quid ferat; haud aliud nobis censere relictum est.
tela, viros, aurum, classes, alimenta precatur
belligeramque feram. victus non plura petisset.
sanguine Dardanio Rutulos saturavimus agros,
et iacet in campis Latium. deponere curas
tandem ergo, bone, da, victor, liceatque sedere
in patria; liceat non exhaurure rapacis
impensis belli vacuatos saepe penates…”

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