Sunday, October 11, 2009



The idea of a Nobel Peace Prize, awarded to someone who advocates "dialogue and instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts," would probably have baffled the ancient Romans. To the Romans, peace was not achieved by dialogue, negotiations, voluntary disarmament or arms control. Instead, peace came about when the Roman army walloped its enemies. Vergil put the idea into a few memorable words (Aeneid 6.851-853, tr. C.H. Sisson):
But you, Roman, remember, you are to rule
The nations of the world: your arts will be
To bring the ways of peace, be merciful
To the defeated and smash the proud completely.

tu regere imperio populos, Romane, memento
(hae tibi erunt artes), pacisque imponere morem,
parcere subiectis et debellare superbos.
The types of prizes the Romans awarded weren't peace prizes. They were prizes like those awarded to L. Siccius Dentatus (Valerius Maximus 3.2.24, tr. D.R. Shackleton Bailey):
They say he fought in one hundred and twenty battles with such stoutness of heart and body that he always seemed more than half responsible for the victory; that he brought back thirty-six spoils from enemies, with eight of whom he fought on challenge in sight of both armies; that he saved the lives of fourteen compatriots snatched from the jaws of death; that he received five and forty wounds on his chest, but his back was clear of scars; that he followed the triumphal cars of nine generals and turned the eyes of the whole community upon himself by the array of his many awards. For eight gold crowns were borne in front of him, fourteen civic crowns, three mural, one obsidional, eighty-three collars, one hundred and sixty armlets, eighteen spears, twenty-five bosses: decorations enough for a legion, let alone a soldier.

quem centies et vicies in aciem descendisse tradunt, eo robore animi atque corporis utentem ut maiorem semper victoriae partem traxisse videretur: sex et triginta spolia ex hoste retulisse, quorum in numero octo fuisse <eorum> cum quibus, inspectante utroque exercitu, ex provocatione dimicasset, quattuordecim cives ex media morte raptos servasse, quinque et quadraginta vulnera pectore excepisse, tergo cicatricibus vacuo: novem triumphales imperatorum currus secutum, totius civitatis oculos in se numerosa donorum pompa convertentem: praeferebantur enim aureae coronae octo, civicae quattuordecim, murales tres, obsidionalis una, torques octoginta tres, armillae centum sexaginta, hastae octodecim, phalerae quinque et viginti, ornamenta etiam legioni, nedum militi satis multa.

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