St. Augustine once said “The purpose of all wars...is peace.” 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.” Peace in Roman antiquity was such a major and interwoven concept that it would be recognized under the rule of Augustus 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. 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 . 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.
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.
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.” 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.
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