“The purpose of all wars...is peace.” The Pāx Romana—The War on Terror

Word Count = 482

St. Augustine once said “The purpose of all wars...is peace[1].” As wars, military campaigns and devastating genocide has existed throughout mankind, these words have a special significance. This excavation will seek to unravel the concept of “peace” and interpret how peace influenced Roman society and its use in contemporary rhetorical framework.

Peace in the Latin translation is pāx, and pronounced “paːks.” It is defined as “freedom from civil disorder or the absence of war[2].” Peace in Roman antiquity was such a major and interwoven concept that it would be recognized under the rule of Augustus[3] as the Roman pagan goddess known as Pax. Her opposite was Polemos (War).

Despite today’s definition of peace, the Romans regarded peace not as an absence of war, but the rare situation that existed when all opponents had been defeated beyond control[4]. However, this concept would develop into a lasting 200 year empire, formally known as the Pāx Romana (The Peace of Rome). Many emperors would issue Pāx coins, as if this would proclaim prosperity and could effectively overcome the realities of Roman hardship [5]. Amid this political propaganda, Jesus would be executed as Pilate would uphold the Pāx Romana at any cost, even sentencing a man to death with no justification[6].

Peace and its rhetorical influences would soon leak into the cornerstone of the Christian religion by the “Father of Western theology,” St. Augustine. St. Augustine created the—what may have been shaped by the present contextual climate—Just War theory. The criteria of a Just war was 1) war must occur for a good and just purpose rather than for self-gain or an exercise of power. 2) Just war must be waged by a properly instituted authority such as the state. 3) Peace must be a central motive even in the midst of violence. St. Augustine would form himself as the first major person to promote this cause; however, he would not be the last[7].

Amid St. Augustine’s reasoning of a Just war, in the early months after Sept. 11, 2001, President Bush fought terrorism with guns blazing, starting with the Taliban in Afghanistan. However, what began as a sound motive for war soon became the two longest wars in American history. The basis of these wars—amid attacks—peace. In President Bush’s farewell speech, he reiterated that the wars were to bring democracy, freedom, and peace to those citizens in the Middle East when he said “…is based on the conviction that freedom is the universal gift of Almighty God and that liberty and justice light the path to peace[8].” In concern to St. Augustine’s criteria for a Just war, much debate has and will continue whether the wars were in fact Just. But there is no mistaking that our former Commander in Chief felt peace was a central element. In the end, again war does not lead to peace; especially in the Middle East.

[1] Lewis, Jone Johnson. For Wisdom Quotes: Quotations to inspire and challenge . January 2009. 23 November 2009 .

[2] Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com. January 2009. 24 November 2009 .

[3] UNRV: Roman History. UNRV:Roman History; List of the Roman Gods. 2003-2009. 24 November 2009 .

[4] Momigliano ("The Peace of the Ara Pacis," _Warburg and Courtlund Inst._ (1942), 228-32.)

[5] Stern, Gaius, Women, Children and Senators on the Ara Pacis Augustae, UC Berkeley diss. 2006

[6] Edwin Lint. “Who Killed Jesus Christ”. Lumber River Quartet, M.S.Productions. 2004

[7] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. "War." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2008)

[8] President George W. Bush. “Farewell address”. January 15th, 2009.

9 D.W. Robertson, Jr. Saint Augustine. “On Christian doctrine”. Macmillan/Library of Liberal Arts. 1958

10 Online Etymology. “Pax”. Logo Designl Dan McCormack. November 2001


eotis said...

I like how you addressed the political dimension of peace. Unfortunately, human history is rife with tragic examples of exactly the type of unjust war abhorred by St. Augustine and like-minded theologians. (The Crusades, anyone?)

The conception of a just war as a means to the end, peace, also appears diluted in the case of inconclusive or ill-prepared wars. The French Algerian War of 1954-1962 is an illustrative example. Algeria was a French colony for more than a century. Social unrest peaked in the mid 20th century as Algerians made the first serious attempt to gain independence. Algeria is oil-rich and the French, unwilling to relinquish a valuable colonial asset, engaged with Algerians in eight years of guerrilla warfare. French statesman Soustelle wrote that, "It is here in this desert region that the destiny of the French Republic will be settled." Interior Minister Francois Mitterrand echoed the sentiment: “The only negotiation is war.”

The eventual peace treaty did little to mitigate the reality of mass casualties, displaced citizens, and the destruction of France's Fourth Republic and the weakening of its Fifth. As a 1962 article of Time states, a ceasefire was achieved only after France and Algeria had become "exhausted" and forced to enter a "sad peace." Thus the French Algerian War and others serve as a grim actualization of unjust wars met with a troubled peace unlike its Augustinian connotation.

jrfoust said...

To continue along Ester's line of thought . . . I think it is interesting that the French and Algerian War actually stemmed from the French attempting to stop Algerian terrorists that were committing acts of violence against the populace. The terrorists would kill innocent people and subsequently they disrupted the established peace. The Terrorists eventually won the PR campaign and the Algerian populace then rose in mass against "the foreign aggressor".

This article itself seems to be intimating and specifically stating in its last sentence that war does not lead to peace and especially in Iraq (Middle East). I would like to disagree. I was part of the US forces that invaded Iraq and I served in Iraq in 2005. Consequently, I have personally spoken and seen peace come to that country. Peace is not just the absence of war as you yourself pointed out in your article. Because of our actions families are not worried that the government will kill entire villages/towns or come in the middle of the night and take a daughter to be gang raped at a Government sponsored event. If you look at the numbers of people suffering violence in Iraq before the war and after the war you will find statistically that peace can be achieved through war.

Also, one point of fact . . . Vietnam is the longest war in American history. Afghanistan just this semester climbed in the number two spot after the Revolutionary War.

andrewg4us said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

In 2009, I thought the same thing about bush. Now I see he’s a dirty communist. Probably with more blood on his hands than anyone in American history, save for Lincoln.