Need some help (si vis pacem, parabellum)


June 6, 2004, 12:26 PM

I write a periodic commentary to motivate my conservative allies and irritate my liberal antagonists. This next one will be based on a chat I had yesterday with a wonderful lady at a graduation party. She is a fiesty older woman in her 70-80's. While a staunch conservative, she said at one point yesterday, "Sometimes I don't know who to vote for. Things seem to be going so bad".

After a brief pep-talk about what the "peace-dividend" has cost us in human lives, she got quickly back on track. After I left, I thought about the quote
"Si Vis Pacem, Parabellum". I will be making this the cornerstone of my next article.

Can someone help me with the history & origins of this phrase? And although I can think of a few on my own - can you give me some historical examples of where people put peace before freedom?

I look forward to the journey in research based on any pointers you can provide.


ps - mods, move this as you see fit

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June 6, 2004, 12:42 PM
Si Vis Pacem, Parabellum is translated as "To keep the peace, prepare for war."

I am confused how that relates to those who prefer peace over freedom. Please expound on your thesis so we can respond to your request in an appropriate manner.

can you give me some historical examples of where people put peace before freedom?

Regarding the above Neville Chamberlain immediately comes to mind. After giving up Czechoslavakia to Hitler he returned to England proclaiming that he had "... achieved peace in our time".

The Europeans are still living the appeasement thing not having learned ought from history. Guess who'll have to pay for that?

June 6, 2004, 03:45 PM
>>Please expound on your thesis

sure. the older woman i spoke with was frustrated by how bad things
seem. and she is correct - things certainly seem worse now than they
did in say, 1998. i know i never worried about islamic fundamentalists
or other related issues prior to 9/11.

my thesis may be best explained with an analogy. 'you can be happier
eating at mcdonalds everyday, being 100 pounds overweight, oblivious to
your pending fatal heart attack, or you can have a health scare that
gets you on the treadmill, eating better, and being healthier. you may
not be "happier" than you were before, but you are better off'.

that's where the "si vis pacem, parabellum" comes in. i am trying to
explain that we may not be 'happier' now, and people may feel that voting
for kerry could make them so. my point is that a policy of handing over
our decision to defend ourselves to the UN will not make us better off.
so i want to show that way back in history the policy of prepared and
aware is better than being 'happy'. therefore, i want to research this
quote as a reference.

does this make sense? hopefully i'm explaining myself well.

thanks for any help!

June 6, 2004, 07:02 PM
"Igitur qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum."
(Thus, let him who wishes for peace prepare for war.)
-- Flavius Vegetius Renatus. ( fl. c. 375 AD)
De Rei Militari aka Epitoma Rei Militari

The paraphrased
"si vis pacem, para bellum"
(If (you wish to) see peace, (prepare) for war.)
supposedly appears in the prologue of Book III.

'General' Vegetius was not a battle-hardened man. His treatises were a casual scholar's call (or agitprop, if you will) for a declining Rome to return to its ancient militaristic traditions, and drew very heavily on the previous written works of others.

It is thus likely that his much-quoted little maxim on military preparedness,

"si vis pacem, para bellum"

was merely borrowed from an earlier source.
Marcus Tullius Cicero, Scipio Africanus Major and Appius Claudius Caecus are often mentioned, but there is apparently no real record of their presenting the maxim. Howsoeverbeit, the principle embodied in the maxim is so evident that it would have been expressed in various ways over the millennia since early man first made war.

Such a truth is plainly evident ;)


June 6, 2004, 07:37 PM
horge, i am impressed...


June 7, 2004, 04:21 PM
thanks to those who helped. fyi, i have blog'ed my todays commentary
and the text which used the information i requested is at:

if you want to see them all:

would love to hear your critiques!
thanks again,

Henry Bowman
June 7, 2004, 05:15 PM
Good work, Fish!

June 7, 2004, 09:18 PM
I'm familiar with this quote, and I assume the "pacem" means "peace".

However, I always thought "pax" is Latin for "peace". (We have a poster here by that name.)

I guess these are two Latin words with the same meaning.

I'm a tradtional Catholic, and the Priest offers the old Latin Mass. He speaks it fluently. I've been meaning to ask him about this, but haven't had the chance.

Anybody here know?

Dominus vobiscum...

June 7, 2004, 09:57 PM
'peace before freedom' ? There is another phrase which sadly is not understood by many, and perhaps someone can supply the original quote. ' Those who sacrifice freedoms for security usually get neither' .

June 7, 2004, 09:58 PM

Et cum spiritu tuo :)


.....................Singular / plural
Nominative - pax / paces
Genitive - pacis / pacum
Dative - paci / pacibus
Accusative - pacem / paces
Ablative - pace / pacibus
Vocative - pax / paces


Wasn't it your country's Benjamin Franklin?
Not sure though, and the wording seems a little different.
If he said it, it's still possible he was paraphrasing off of someone else.

June 7, 2004, 11:47 PM
Roman general Vegetius in Epitoma Rei Militaris, I think.

oop - Horge got it.

June 8, 2004, 03:24 AM
This phrase has been debated here a few times. There was quite a long thread on it, but it is a bit late for me to do a search.

Chamberlain gave up the freedom of other people so his could have peace. Just about every country in history has done this, even the United States.
Dr. Quisling, a collaborator, could argueably have traded his people's feedom for peace. Really, I think it was about his personal power.
Perhaps Chief Joseph, though his people would have been destroyed otherwise. A terrible position to be in.

I believe it was a phrase invented for marketing a new cartridge. German's were very much the classically educated people at the time, and echoing the words of scholar Vegetius would have played well.

June 8, 2004, 06:24 PM
Those who sacrifice freedoms for security usually get neither'

"Those who would sacrifice liberty in the name of security deserve neither." - Ben Franklin

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