Fighting for the Luxury and Wealth of Others

 “‘Those savage beasts,’ said he, ‘in Italy, have their particular dens, they have their places of repose and refuge; but the men who bear arms, and expose their lives for the safety of their country, enjoy in the meantime nothing more in it but the air and light; and, having no houses or settlements of their own, are constrained to wander from  place to place with their wives and children.’  He told them that the commanders were guilty of a ridiculous error, when, at the head of their armies, they exhorted the common soldiers to fight for their sepulchres and altars; when not any amongst so many Romans is possessed of either altar or monument, neither have they any houses of their own, or hearths of their ancestors to defend.  They fought indeed and were slain, but it was to maintain the luxury and wealth of other men.” Plutarch, The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans, trans. John Dryden, revised by Arthur H. Clough. reprint of 1864 edition (New York: Modern Library), 999.  [Emphasis added]

Here we read Plutarch’s description of Tiberius Gracchus’ speech concerning the suffering of the common Roman soldier for the interests of the Roman nobles.  Tiberius Gracchus represented the populist politician (populares) of the late 2nd century BC.  He recognized how the wars of the Repubic had led to corruption and great oppression of the average Roman citizen.  It seems that it’s always been a Rich Man’s War and a Poor Man’s Fight.

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