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Saturday, April 10, 2021

RAW cites Tacitus


A status of Tacitus outside of the building housing the Austrian Parliament. (Public domain photo).

I recently finished re-reading Cosmic Trigger 2: Down to Earth, one of my favorite RAW books. 

As many of you who have read the book must have noticed, it has a strong antiwar theme, not just in the text itself, but in the quotations RAW selects for the chapter headings. The "Intercept & Pavane" chapter, about the first of the two U.S. Gulf wars, has this quote, attributed only to "Calgacus," "To plunder, to slaughter, to steal, these they misname Empire, and where they make a desert, they call it peace."

Robert Anton Wilson sometimes demonstrates that he was quite familiar with the classics of the ancient world, and this is another demonstration of that,  as he is citing a famous quote from one of the more prominent historians of ancient Rome, Cornelius Tacitus, The passage is from Agricola, a book about Tacitus' father-in-law, the Roman general Gnaeus Julius Agricola which focuses on Agricola's time as governor of Britain and commander of the Roman armies in Britain.

The quotation comes from a section of the book about the clash between the Roman army and the Caledonians, a tribe in what would now be called Scotland; Calgacus, a leader of the Caledonians, is giving his army a pep talk shortly before a battle. Here is a bit of it, from the Edward Brooks translation available at Project Gutenberg: 

"We, at the furthest limits both of land and liberty, have been defended to this day by the remoteness of our situation and of our fame. The extremity of Britain is now disclosed; and whatever is unknown becomes an object of magnitude. But there is no nation beyond us; nothing but waves and rocks, and the still more hostile Romans, whose arrogance we cannot escape by obsequiousness and submission. These plunderers of the world, after exhausting the land by their devastations, are rifling the ocean: stimulated by avarice, if their enemy be rich; by ambition, if poor; unsatiated by the East and by the West: the only people who behold wealth and indigence with equal avidity. To ravage, to slaughter, to usurp under false titles, they call empire; and where they make a desert, they call it peace."

The quotation also is referenced in a new science fiction novel, A Desolation Called Peace, by Arkady Martine, a sequel to her Hugo-winning A Memory of Empire. 

The Caledonians, by the way, were defeated in the Battle of Mons Graupius. 


Hugh said...

Enjoyed this one!

It’s always heartening to see people re-reading the RAW canon yearly. I got so excited when I read that MJ reads RAW daily (I do too and just thought I was crazy).

tony smyth said...

Tom: conspiracy theories article.