— Seneca the Younger
Letter XCV: On the usefulness of basic principles, lines 30-32.
Epistulae Morales ad Lucilium (Moral Letters to Lucilius)
Original: (la) Non privatim solum sed publice furimus. Homicidia conpescimus et singulas caedes: quid bella et occisarum gentium gloriosum scelus? Non avaritia, non crudelitas modum novit. Et ista quamdiu furtim et a singulis fiunt minus noxia minusque monstrosa sunt: ex senatus consultis plebisque scitis saeva exercentur et publice iubentur vetata privatim. Quae clam commissa capite luerent, tum quia paludati fecere laudamus. Non pudet homines, mitissimum genus, gaudere sanguine alterno et bella gerere gerendaque liberis tradere, cum inter se etiam mutis ac feris pax sit. Adversus tam potentem explicitumque late furorem operosior philosophia facta est et tantum sibi virium sumpsit quantum iis adversus quae parabatur acceserat.
Context: We are mad, not only individually, but nationally. We check manslaughter and isolated murders; but what of war and the much-vaunted crime of slaughtering whole peoples? There are no limits to our greed, none to our cruelty. And as long as such crimes are committed by stealth and by individuals, they are less harmful and less portentous; but cruelties are practised in accordance with acts of senate and popular assembly, and the public is bidden to do that which is forbidden to the individual. Deeds that would be punished by loss of life when committed in secret, are praised by us because uniformed generals have carried them out. Man, naturally the gentlest class of being, is not ashamed to revel in the blood of others, to wage war, and to entrust the waging of war to his sons, when even dumb beasts and wild beasts keep the peace with one another. Against this overmastering and widespread madness philosophy has become a matter of greater effort, and has taken on strength in proportion to the strength which is gained by the opposition forces.