No Comment, Quotation — November 26, 2007, 12:00 am

Tacitus on the Costs of War

gleyre

Quotiens causas belli et necessitatem nostram intueor, magnus mihi
animus est hodiernum diem consensumque vestrum initium libertatis totius Britanniæ fore. Nam et universi servitutis expertes, et nullæ ultra terræ, ac ne mare quidem securum, imminente nobis classe Romana: ita prœlium atque arma, quæ fortibus honesta, eadem etiam ignavis tutissima sunt. Priores pugnæ, quibus adversus Romanos varia fortuna certatum est, spem ac subsidium in nostris manibus habebant: quia nobilissimi totius Britanniæ eoque in ipsis penetralibus siti, nec servientium littoral aspicientes, oculos quoque a contactu dominationis inviolatos habebamus. Nos terrarum ac libertatis extremos, recessus ipse ac sinus famæ in hunc diem defendit: nunc terminus Britanniæ patet; atque omne ignotum pro magnifico est. Sed nulla jam ultra gens, nihil nisi fluctus et saxa, et infestiores Romani: quorum superbiam frustra per obsequium et modestiam effugeris. Raptores orbis, postquam cuncta vastantibus defuere terræ, et mare scrutantur: si locuples hostis est, avari; si pauper, ambitiosi: quos non Oriens, non Occidens, satiaverit. Soli omnium opes atque inopiam pari affectu concupiscunt. Auferre, trucidare, rapere, falsis nominibus imperium; atque, ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant.

When I come to reflect upon what leads to war, as well as the circumstances of our present plight, I am convinced that our combined efforts will introduce liberty to all of Britain. For we are all without the plague of slavery; and there is no land behind us, nor does
even the sea afford a refuge, whilst the Roman fleet hovers around. Thus the resort to arms, which is at all times honorable to the brave, now offers even to cowards the only form of safety. In all the battles which have been fought to this point, with their varied outcomes, against the Romans, our countrymen have placed their confidence, their hopes, their treasure in us: for we, the best sons of Britain, and her last best hope, far from the view of captive shores, have kept our vision and thoughts pure from the corrupting influence of subjugation. Seated at the extremities of land and of freedom, we have so far been defended to this day by our very remoteness and by our notoriety. The extremity of Britain is now known; and whatever is unknown becomes an object of curiosity. But there is no nation beyond us; nothing but waves and rocks, and the still more hostile Romans, whose arrogance we cannot hope to avoid, not even by submission and servitude. They have plundered the world, stripping naked the land in their hunger, they loot even the ocean: they are driven by greed, if their enemy be rich; by ambition, if poor; neither the wealth of the east nor the west can satisfy them: they are the only people who behold wealth and indigence with equal passion to dominate. They ravage, they slaughter, they seize by false pretenses, and all of this they hail as the construction of empire. And when in their wake nothing remains but a desert, they call that peace.

Cornelius Tacitus, De Vita Gnæi Julii Agricolæ cap. xxx (98 CE) in the Loeb Library ed., vol. 35, p. 80 (S.H. transl.)

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Conversation August 5, 2016, 12:08 pm

Lincoln’s Party

Sidney Blumenthal on the origins of the Republican Party, the fallout from Clinton’s emails, and his new biography of Abraham Lincoln

Conversation March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm

Burn Pits

Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.

Context, No Comment August 28, 2015, 12:16 pm

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

December 2016

With Child

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Standing Rock Speaks

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Prose by Any Other Name

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The New Red Scare

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Separated at Birth

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Priest in the Trees

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
With Child·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. 'Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.'"
Photograph (detail) by Lara Shipley
Article
Swat Team·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"As we shall see, for the sort of people who write and edit the opinion pages of the Post, there was something deeply threatening about Sanders and his political views."
Illustration (detail) by John Ritter
Article
Escape from The Caliphate·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"When Matti invited me on a tour of the neighborhood, I asked about security. 'The message has already been passed to ISIS that you’re here,' he said. 'But don’t worry. I guarantee I could bring even you in and out of the Islamic State.'"
Photograph (detail) by Alice Martins
Article
In This One·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. 'Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.'"
Illustration (detail) by Shonagh Rae
Article
“Don’t Touch My Medicare!”·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Medicare’s popularity, however, comes with almost no understanding of what the program is and how it works."
Illustration (detail) by Nate Kitch

Estimated number of people who watched a live Webcast of a hair transplant last fall:

8,000

A rancher in Texas was developing a system that will permit hunters to kill animals by remote control via a website.

A man in Japan was arrested for stealing a prospective employer’s wallet during a job interview, and a court in Germany ruled that it is safe for a woman with breast implants to be a police officer.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Who Goes Nazi?

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

By

"It is an interesting and somewhat macabre parlor game to play at a large gathering of one’s acquaintances: to speculate who in a showdown would go Nazi. By now, I think I know. I have gone through the experience many times—in Germany, in Austria, and in France. I have come to know the types: the born Nazis, the Nazis whom democracy itself has created, the certain-to-be fellow-travelers. And I also know those who never, under any conceivable circumstances, would become Nazis."

Subscribe Today