Friday, December 02, 2005

St. Augustine on Empire

from: The City of God

Book IV, chapter 4:

And so if justice is left out, what are empires except great robber bands?

For what are robber bands except little kingdoms? The band also is a group of men governed by the orders of a leader, bound by a social compact, and its booty is divided according to a law agreed upon.

If by repeatedly adding desperate men, this plague grows to a point where it holds territory and establishes centers of power, seizes cities and subdues peoples, then it more conspicuously assumes the title of kingdom, and this title in now openly granted to it, not because it has given up on greed but because it does all this with impunity.

A certain pirate whom Alexander the Great had captured gave him an elegant and true reply. When the emperor asked him by what right he molested the seas, he answered with definite independence: “The same right as you when you molest the world. Because I do this with a small ship, I am called a pirate. You do it with a large fleet and are called an emperor.”

Book III, chapter 14:

This lust for domination brings many evils down upon the human race and grinds it down.

Book V, chapter 12:

First it was their love for liberty, later their love for domination as well.

Once they had freedom, the greed for riches that followed became so great that freedom seemed too little by itself unless they were also seeking domination over other peoples.