Si vis pacem, para bellum

saalik

Banned
Urdu - Pakistan
I am a beginner in Latin and had a question. The word "parare" means "to make ready". Why do people translate "Si vis pacem, para bellum" as "If you want peace, prepare for war"?
It should have been "If you want peace, make war ready." (or "make ready war")
 
  • saalik

    Banned
    Urdu - Pakistan
    So I guess the reflexive pronoun "suum" was omitted.
    It was originally "Si vis pacem, para suum bellum."
    But in that case "bellum" should have been in the dative case, since the meaning is, as you put it, "Make oneself ready for war."
     

    Copperknickers

    Senior Member
    Scotland - Scots and English
    I am a beginner in Latin and had a question. The word "parare" means "to make ready". Why do people translate "Si vis pacem, para bellum" as "If you want peace, prepare for war"?
    It should have been "If you want peace, make war ready." (or "make ready war")
    'parare bellum' is simply the Latin way of saying 'prepare for war'. It does literally say 'prepare war' but that is not proper English. We have to add the word 'for' to translate it accurately, but this is perfectly well conveyed in Latin by the accusative case on its own. Sometimes you see sentences like '“ad proelium vos parate,” - "prepare yourself for battle" (Curtius Rufus) or “parantibus utrisque se ad proelium,” - "both sides were preparing themselves for battle" (Livy). But 'si vis pacem, para bellum', being an aphorism, dispenses with all unnecessary words. The word 'vis' implies 'you' so 'para te bellum' is unnecessary, as is 'ad bellum', since 'ad' is very often optional outside certain specific contexts. You could write it out as 'si tu vis pacem, para te ad bellum'* if you need help imagining all the different elements implied in the grammar, but in idiomatic Latin 'si vis pacem, para bellum' sounds a lot better.

    Incidentally, this phrase is likely derived from a sentence in Vegetius' De Re Militari which actually says 'igitur qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum' - 'therefore, whoever desires peace, let them prepare for war', which would look less neat if one added the 'ad' before 'bellum'. For some reason in English we say 'desires peace' but 'prepares for war', when it would in theory make perfect sense to say 'desires for peace'. But this just sounds wrong. It's easy to see how this is a rather arbitrary distinction and would not necessarily be the case in distantly related languages.


    *This sentence would sound oddly prolonged to a Latin speaker, like saying 'if it is the case that you yourself want peace, then you must prepare yourself with regard to making war'. Grammatically correct, but not something anyone would actually say unless they were trying to emphasise about three separate ideas within the one sentence.
     

    Copperknickers

    Senior Member
    Scotland - Scots and English
    "Para bellum" shouldn't meant simple "Prepare war" ?
    'Prepare war' is gibberish, no English speaker would ever say it or know what it means. So we can't translate 'para bellum' that way. But that is the literal meaning of the Latin words.

    And remember that this is being addressed not just to anyone, but to the head of a country, so 'para bellum' doesn't mean 'prepare yourself for war', it means 'prepare your country for war', i.e. make sure your country has a strong and well-trained army.
     

    Pugnator

    Senior Member
    Neapoilitan (Naples) / Italian (Italy)
    'Prepare war' is gibberish, no English speaker would ever say it or know what it means. So we can't translate 'para bellum' that way. But that is the literal meaning of the Latin words.

    And remember that this is being addressed not just to anyone, but to the head of a country, so 'para bellum' doesn't mean 'prepare yourself for war', it means 'prepare your country for war', i.e. make sure your country has a strong and well-trained army.
    I think you get the meaning wrong, the "thing" that should be prepared is "War", not yourself or the country. His meaning isn't that if you want peace the people will attack you, the meaning is that according to him if you want peace you should wage wars against other countries.
     

    Copperknickers

    Senior Member
    Scotland - Scots and English
    I think you get the meaning wrong, the "thing" that should be prepared is "War", not yourself or the country.
    That is not how we use the word 'prepare' in English, and so I'm afraid the above sentence is gibberish. You have to say 'prepare for war'. And in order to prepare for war, you have to have an army.

    His meaning isn't that if you want peace the people will attack you, the meaning is that according to him if you want peace you should wage wars against other countries.
    ... well, no, his meaning is that you should prepare to wage war against other countries, but otherwise that is exactly what I said. Obviously if you are preparing for war then you will eventually go to war, but that's a ramification of the sentence in question, not its literal meaning. Vegetius was writing a book about how to prepare an army for waging war, that is the context for the original sentence.
     

    Glenfarclas

    Senior Member
    English (American)
    That is not how we use the word 'prepare' in English, and so I'm afraid the above sentence is gibberish. You have to say 'prepare for war'.
    :thumbsup::thumbsup:

    ... well, no, his meaning is that you should prepare to wage war against other countries, but otherwise that is exactly what I said.
    The meaning is that if you want peace then you should be prepared for war -- a defensive war. Being unprepared invites people to attack you. (Maybe that's what you're saying, but I wasn't quite sure.)

    the meaning is that according to him if you want peace you should wage wars against other countries.
    No, that's completely wrong. It doesn't make sense logically, and it would be expressed in Latin as "Si vis pacem, gere bellum" anyway.
     

    Copperknickers

    Senior Member
    Scotland - Scots and English
    :thumbsup::thumbsup:

    The meaning is that if you want peace then you should be prepared for war -- a defensive war. Being unprepared invites people to attack you. (Maybe that's what you're saying, but I wasn't quite sure.)
    Well if we take the original Vegetius quote, then he goes on shortly afterwards to explain: "nemo provocare, nemo audet offendere quem intellegit superiorem esse, si pugnet." - "No one would dare provoke or attack an enemy he knows to be militarily superior."

    I think 'defensive' vs 'offensive' wars is a dangerous distinction to make in a pre-Westphalian world, the Romans waged whatever wars they felt would keep the peace, even if that meant a foray deep into enemy territory. But going back to the point I made above, the point here is that a leader must, before he attends to any civilian matters, cultivate his army until it is sufficient to deter from attacking and - if necessary - defeat, one's enemies. What military actions are and are not justified in order to keep the peace are not at issue: the important thing is that you must have a well-trained army and know how to use it effectively in order for there being any point in talking about peace.

    In short, an army is like a nuclear deterrant. It may be a paradox, but without weapons of mass destruction we'd all be dead or inhabiting a featureless post-nuclear wasteland (or so Vegetius would tell us if he were here today).
     

    Pugnator

    Senior Member
    Neapoilitan (Naples) / Italian (Italy)
    No, that's completely wrong. It doesn't make sense logically, and it would be expressed in Latin as "Si vis pacem, gere bellum" anyway.
    Seem that the for the translation I'm right but it is used mostly on your meaning. Anyway the thing that must be prepared, is the war. Because if you prepare the war you are ready both to defend yourself or attack in case of aggressive opponents. Here what Treccani, one of the most prestigious (and big) Encyclopedia in Italy say about it: (Source: si vis pacem, para bellum in Vocabolario - Treccani )
    si vis pacem, para bellum(lat. «se vuoi la pace, prepara la guerra»). – Sentenza latina anonima in questa forma, ma presente, in modo poco diverso nella formulazione o nella sostanza, in varî autori; si cita soprattutto per affermare che uno dei mezzi più efficaci per assicurare la pace è quello di essere armati e in grado di difendersi, in modo da scoraggiare eventuali propositi aggressivi degli avversarî.
    si vis pacem, para bellum(lat. «if you want the peace, prepare the war»). – Anonymous latin sentence in this formulation, but contained,in a little different way in the formulation or in the essence,in various authors; it is quoted mostly to affirm that one of the most efficient means to ensure peace is the one to be armed and able to defend yourself, in order to discourage potential aggressive aims of the opponents .
     

    Copperknickers

    Senior Member
    Scotland - Scots and English
    Seem that the for the translation I'm right but it is used mostly on your meaning. Anyway the thing that must be prepared, is the war. Because if you prepare the war you are ready both to defend yourself or attack in case of aggressive opponents. Here what Treccani, one of the most prestigious (and big) Encyclopedia in Italy say about it: (Source: si vis pacem, para bellum in Vocabolario - Treccani )
    si vis pacem, para bellum
    (lat. «if you want the peace, prepare the war»). – Anonymous latin sentence in this formulation, but contained,in a little different way in the formulation or in the essence,in various authors; it is quoted mostly to affirm that one of the most efficient means to ensure peace is the one to be armed and able to defend yourself, in order to discourage potential aggressive aims of the opponents.
    Is this an official translation, or your own translation? I'm sorry but it is nearly unreadable, it doesn't make sense. Forunately I read Italian however. I see the root of the problem: in Italian, it is possible to say 'prepara la guerra'. The correct English translation of this phrase is not 'prepare (the!) war' which is not an English sentence. It is 'prepare for war'. 'Prepare' is a transitive verb which must always be applied to an object, but 'war' is not an object in the real world, it's an abstract noun. 'Prepara la guerra' in Italian is quite simply an alien sentiment that does not exist in English if taken literally. You can say 'prepare for war' but that implies that an object in the real world is being prepared: yourself, your army, your country, etc. Indeed I'd go so far as to say that 'prepara la guerra' makes the same assumption, it can't make sense literally.
     

    Pugnator

    Senior Member
    Neapoilitan (Naples) / Italian (Italy)
    Is this an official translation, or your own translation? I'm sorry but it is nearly unreadable, it doesn't make sense. Forunately I read Italian however. I see the root of the problem: in Italian, it is possible to say 'prepara la guerra'. The correct English translation of this phrase is not 'prepare (the!) war' which is not an English sentence. It is 'prepare for war'. 'Prepare' is a transitive verb which must always be applied to an object, but 'war' is not an object in the real world, it's an abstract noun. 'Prepara la guerra' in Italian is quite simply an alien sentiment that does not exist in English if taken literally. You can say 'prepare for war' but that implies that an object in the real world is being prepared: yourself, your army, your country, etc. Indeed I'd go so far as to say that 'prepara la guerra' makes the same assumption, it can't make sense literally.
    The translation is done by myself. "Prepare for war" has totally another meaning, (anyway transitive verbs can work even with abstract thing). If we want to do a less literal translation that maintain mostly original sense you could say "Organize the war" but "Prepare for war" is simple a wrong translation (In Italian it would be "Preparati per la guerra, not "Prepara la guerra)
     
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    Scholiast

    Senior Member
    salvete!

    "Prepare for war" is simple a wrong translation
    I would not presume to correct a native Italian on his translation from Latin into his mother-tongue, but I can assure Pugnator that Glenfarclas and Coppernickers, who are both native English speakers as well as excellent Latinists, are quite correct about this - which is a matter of English idiom, rather than about the meaning of the Latin proverb, which is perfectly clear.

    Σ
     

    Pugnator

    Senior Member
    Neapoilitan (Naples) / Italian (Italy)
    I would not presume to correct a native Italian on his translation from Latin into his mother-tongue, but I can assure Pugnator that Glenfarclas and Coppernickers, who are both native English speakers as well as excellent Latinists, are quite correct about this - which is a matter of English idiom, rather than about the meaning of the Latin proverb, which is perfectly clear.
    I was talking about the translation of italian "Prepara la guerra" into English. Anyway, the literally meaning of "Para Bellum" is "Organize the war" (I used organize but a most accurate long translation would be "Iniziate the preparation of the war "/"Do the preparation of the war" ) ) (As it was translated into Treccani as "Prepara la guerra") . I don't think that the Encyclopedia Treccani, awarded with a golden medal by Italian state, so big that is needed an entire bookshelf to contain it (
    a
    , that was written by the most important intellectual of the time, is wrong on such a simple translation.
     

    Scholiast

    Senior Member
    salvete ancora

    a most accurate long translation would be "Iniziate the preparation of the war "/"Do the preparation of the war"
    [My emphasis]
    No, it would not be "a most accurate...translation". I think Pugnator's problem here is that in Italian, definite articles are often used even when their nouns are semantically generic (cf. e.g. French, la gloire, la liberté &c.). English tends not to do so, and "the war" implies to us a specific state of hostilities already in progress or imminent, rather than a hypothetical and indefinite future possibility, which in the Latin aphorism we are discussing is what bellum refers to.

    Σ
     
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    ain'ttranslationfun?

    Senior Member
    US English
    I don't speak Latin, but I understand this well-known saying (which is usually given in English as in the OP: "If you want peace, prepare for war.") as meaning "...be prepared to go to war." Just my opinion. I think "... be prepared for war." has become a fixed expression in EN, though. In sports in the US, this is "The best defense is a good offense.", i.e. "Make sure any nation that thinks about attacking you knows that you're nobody to mess with - don't even think about it."
     
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    Glenfarclas

    Senior Member
    English (American)
    Anyway, the literally meaning of "Para Bellum" is "Organize the war" (I used organize but a most accurate long translation would be "Iniziate the preparation of the war "/"Do the preparation of the war" ) )
    No, the point of the maxim is that if you prepare, there will be no war. There is simply no war to prepare or organize.
     

    Copperknickers

    Senior Member
    Scotland - Scots and English
    I think the main point of the maxim is that if you are a lover of peace, you should nevertheless attend yourself to military matters above all else rather than shying away from them, because it is through studying and putting to practice military science that peace is maintained. Whether the aim is to deter enemies from ever attacking you, to successfully defend yourself when they do attack you, or to preemptively strike enemies so that they can't attack you, are all possible implications of the apophthegm, but not its primary message. The message is that you can't do any of these things if you don't apply yourself to creating a superior army.
     

    vaughanwj

    New Member
    English
    Everyone has adequately addressed the correct translation, I just wanted to elaborate on what it really means. Preparing for war does not necessarily mean you go to war. It is often used in brinkmanship. Like in Chess, threatening another with war may result in the desired outcome, without war ever taking place. It is always easier to negotiate from a position of strength...
     

    Snodv

    Senior Member
    English - Mid-Southern US
    I was surprised to see this saying ascribed to Vegetius, a general of the 4th century, when I thought it was Cicero's of the 1st century B.C. But it turns out neither one said those exact words. We've heard that Vegetius's aphorism started with "Qui desiderat pacem..." Cicero's version was "Si pace frui volumus, bellum gerendum est," i.e., "If we want peace, we must wage war." So in his version, it was indeed the fighting itself, not the readiness, which would lead to victory and the imposition of peace.
     
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