Analytica Camillus

Morality in Ruthlessness


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James Griffin

“The Falerians, relying on the great strength of their city at all points, made so light of the siege that, with the exception of the defenders of the walls, the rest went up and down the city in their garb of peace. The boys went to school as usual, and were brought by their teacher along the walls outside to walk about and get their exercise. For the Falerians, like the Greeks, employed one teacher in common, wishing their boys, from the very start, to herd with one another and grow up together. This teacher, then, wishing to betray Falerii by means of its boys, led them out every day beyond the city walls, at first only a little way, and then brought them back inside when they had taken their exercise. Presently he led them, little by little, farther and farther out, accustomed them to feel confident that there was no danger at all, and finally pushed in among the Roman outposts with his whole company, handed them over to the enemy, and demanded to be led to Camillus. So led, and in that presence, he said he was a boys’ school-teacher, but chose rather to win the general’s favour than to fulfil the duties of his office, and so had come bringing to him the city in the persons of its boys. It seemed to Camillus, on hearing him, that the man had done a monstrous deed, and turning to the bystanders he said: “War is indeed a grievous thing, and is waged with much injustice and violence; but even war has certain laws which good and brave men will respect, and we must not so hotly pursue victory as not to flee the favours of base and impious doers. The great general will wage war relying on his own native valour, not on the baseness of other men.” Then he ordered his attendants to tear the man’s clothing from him, tie his arms behind his back, and put rods and scourges in the hands of the boys, that they might chastise the traitor and drive him back into the city.”

Excerpt from the Loeb Classical Library’s 1914 translation of the ‘The Life of Camillus’, by Plutarch , digitized here

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