history of war

History of WAR #

Throughout history, according to James Hillman in A Terrible Love of War, during the past 5600 years of written history, there have been 14,600 wars.

We need to compare and contrast Classical Warfare with modern day fighting to account for why modern day war is no longer romantic or glamourised.

How do the Armed Services attract young people to join?

In 1914, the 1 st world war was called “The Great War” and welcomed as a major sporting contest. It was only the devastation of Gallipoli and later The Somme where 20,000 men were lost in a day, that a more sobering assessment took some of the glory of war away.

Some Major Wars: #


  1. What was the cause? Was it a just war?
  2. Where did the war take place?
  3. What were the major weapons?
  4. What was the outcome?
  5. Were there heroes? who and why?
  6. Can you find any literature inspired by this war?

a) Trojan War
b) Battle of Thermopylae
c) Punic Wars
d) Antony versus Caesar
e) Charlemagne and the Moors - The Crusades
f) 1066 - The Norman Invasion
g) 1588 The Spanish Armada
h) The Seven Years War - 1756 - 1763
i) Napoleonic Wars 1795 - 1815
j) Crimean War 1854 - 1856
k) American Civil War
l) World War I & II
m) Arab Israeli Conflicts
n) Vietnam
o) Gulf War Iraq and Afghanistan
p) Serbian Croatian War
q) Russia attacks Ukraine

The Bible #

The first dispute between Cain and Abel arises because Cain and Abel both submitted offerings before God. Abel’s was the gift of fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. On the other hand, Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground. God preferred Abel’s gift. Making Cain angry, and in his rage he killed his brother.

God noticed and said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. 11 Now you are under a curse and . . . When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you."

Numerous accounts of wars and battles that involved ancient Israel, Judah, Egypt, Assyria, Babylon and other powers in the region are recorded in the Bible and other ancient sources. Some of these conflicts may never have taken place, while others occurred but didn’t have the results that the Bible claims. There are at least 12 “biblical” ancient wars and battles.

War is a common feature in the story of the God’s chosen people, especially after they return from Egypt facing tribes occupying the land of milk and honey.

The Battle of Jericho and of Ai were the most significant. Jericho is a major city that was taken after the Israelis crossed the Jordan River. The story says that the Israeli army marched around the city for seven days, blowing trumpets and carrying the Ark of the Covenant in front of the main body of the army. On the seventh day, the leader of the army, Joshua, commanded the entire army to shout and, miraculously, the walls of the city of Jericho collapsed, allowing the Israeli army to take the city. Perhaps a bit fanciful.

God helps them conquer their enemies, however later urges them to live peaceably with their neighbors. Modern excavations by archeologists cast doubt on Biblical narratives.

Christ’s message was one of non-violence and promised a thousand year reign of peace.

Greeks #

According to Robert Fagles, the 50 some Greek city states were continually at war with one another, sometimes as allies, other times as enemies. The permanence of war is echoed by Homer and Plato.

Young men, from an early age, were trained in a warrior culture.

War, as Homer, Hitler and Heller show, simply turns men into corpses - carrion for scavengers, vultures and rats.

Athens, during the fifth century was at war on land and sea for more years than they were at peace. They fought Persia, allied with Sparta from 480 BCE, but in 460 fought with Sparta.

After defeating Persia decisively, after 15 years of peace, in 431 began the Peloponnesian war against Sparta for 27 years, surrendering with the loss of her naval supremacy and ending democracy.

Roman Wars #

The Roman Empire succeeded because it was ethnically heterogeneous – not homogeneous. The Romans knew how to win the peace.

Virgil: “To impose the way of peace you must spare the conquered and subdue the proud.”

Even people at the periphery of the empire felt they were at the heart of the empire. Most young men from conquered territories were conscripted into the army to serve 25 years after which they became full Roman citizens with lifelong pensions. Spain took 200 years to subdue, but eventually produced Seneca, born in Cordoba, a Stoic writer and advisor to the Emperor Nero. It also produced two emperors, Trajan and Hadrian. Constantine was born in Serbia.

The Emperor Caracella in 212 made all free men citizens, simply so he could broaden the tax base. The Roman Empire succeeded because it was ethnically heterogeneous – not homogeneous. In-breeding was always the privilege of royalty - and look what happened to them. Some of the most interesting people are miscegenous. Much of what we know of ancient civilisations is very recent. Most records were wantonly vandalised and destroyed by misguided religious vandals. Byzantine and the Moorish cultures managed to preserve and transmit some to future generations. More and more we rely on archaeological excavations for reliable artefacts to base our assumptions.

The Roman Empire lasted some 500+ years giving us some salutary lessons on enduring cohesion and good governance. It gave us the model of integrating diverse people through tolerance and co-opting talent from across the empire. While the Romans certainly attempted to crush their conquered subjects when they failed to submit to their authority, they also attempted to integrate and assimilate the “barbarians”.

The Crusades #

See: https://nebo-lit.com/religion/crusades.html#third-crusade-1190---1192

Thirty Years War #

Thirty Years’ War, (1618–48), was a series of wars fought by various nations for various reasons, including religious, dynastic, territorial, and commercial rivalries.

Also known as the religious wars spawned by Martin Luther, they tore nations apart due to intolerance. In Spain, the Inquisition devastated the nation. France experienced conflict due to the rise and fall of the the Huguenots who suffered severe persecution at the hands of the Catholic majority. England had to contend with Henry VIII' cruel and barbaric imposition of his break from Rome.

Germany’s began in 1618, when Ferdinand II, attempted to impose Roman Catholic absolutism on his domains, and the Protestant nobles of both Bohemia and Austria rose up in rebellion. Ferdinand won after a five-year struggle. In 1625 King Christian IV of Denmark and Sweden’s Gustav II Adolf, got involved, invaded Germany and won many German princes to his anti-Roman Catholic, anti-imperial cause.

The conflict widened, when Poland, attacked Russia. Three denominations vied for dominance: Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism, and Calvinism, a struggle between the Holy Roman Empire, and a network of Protestant towns and principalities that relied on the chief anti-Catholic powers of Sweden and the United Netherlands, which had at last thrown off the yoke of Spain after a struggle lasting 80 years. A parallel struggle involved the rivalry of France with the Habsburgs of the empire and with the Habsburgs of Spain.

The principal battlefields were the towns and principalities of Germany, which suffered severely. Many of the contending armies were mercenaries, unable to collect their pay. They began the “wolf-strategy”. The armies of both sides plundered as they marched, leaving cities, towns, villages, and farms ravaged. Ordinary citizens suffered the most. Its destructive campaigns and battles occurred over most of Europe. Real wolves actually inhabited most towns.

The balance of power in Europe had been radically changed. Spain had lost not only the Netherlands but its dominant position in western Europe. France was now the chief Western power. Sweden had control of the Baltic. The United Netherlands was recognized as an independent republic. The member states of the Holy Roman Empire were granted full sovereignty. Ending the power of the pope The essential structure of modern Europe as a community of sovereign states was established and nationalism emerged.

The Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, the map of Europe had been irrevocably changed. It was the first feeble attempt to solve religious disputes by negotiation, rather than blood.

The Napoleonic Wars (1798 - 1815) ravaged all of Europe killing countless youths for no real gain to anyone. The Congress of Vienna was another failed attempt to resolve disputes by diplomacy rather than killing each other.

British Colonial Wars #

British expeditionary forces were deployed to various parts of it expanding empire to subdue the natives in India, China, Africa…. This was done brutally and ruthlessly with colonial resentment mounting.

The disastrous Afghan wars of 1839 – 1842 and 1878 - 1880 were described as:

‘wars begun for no wise purpose’ and concluded with no obvious success.

Despite this resentment, colonial outposts supported Britain in both the First and Second World Wars.

The Crimean War #

The Crimean War, (1854 - 56) was perhaps the most unnecessary war ever fought, mainly due to lack of understanding. It was a disaster for all sides, especially the winners - Britain, France and Turkey.

“While the Allies won the war, the costs for both sides were immense, with the British and French losing up to 25,000 and 100,000 men respectively, and the Russians losing many multiples of this. The majority of deaths were from diseases such as typhus, cholera and dysentery, despite the best efforts of Florence Nightingale and her fellow nurses to look after the wounded and dying soldiers.” A Short History of the World Christopher Lascelle

World Wars #

The First World War, often called the Great War or the war to end all wars was undoubtedly the lowest point of human idiocy.

It was totally needless, run abominably by both sides and ended with the dumbest treaty imaginable. It inevitably led to the Second War War that became the deadliest on record but with clear goodies and baddies. Will we ever learn?