On Each Side Swords, And On Each Side Corpses

The Battle of Zama essentially concluded the Second Punic War, that terrible contest waged by Rome and Carthage for control of the western Mediterranean.  It took place in 202 B.C. near the town of Zama in what is now Tunisia.  The commanding generals were Hannibal on the Carthaginian side, and Publius Cornelius Scipio on the Roman.  The historian Livy (XXX.30) relates a fascinating exchange between these two great commanders that took place on the eve of the battle.

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On Hospitality

In taking the measure of a man’s cultural refinement, we must examine the degree to which he is practiced in the art of hospitality.  And when I say art, I mean this in a literal sense.  Arts are not inborn; they must be studied and honed with constant use.  A culture that teaches its members how to treat guests is a confident one; it is a culture that has, to some degree at least, liberated itself from the oppressions of acquisitiveness and greed, and has embraced some aspects of the communitarian ethic.  It is also a culture that understands the value of reciprocity:  the idea that a good turn done for one today, may mean a good turn done for oneself tomorrow.

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On Making Setbacks Appear To Be Advances

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Conflict surges back and forth.  There will be advances, and there will be reverses.  It is inevitable:  no one who is actively engaged in the games of life will be able to avoid reverses.  But then the question becomes:  how may reverses be characterized as gains?

If you believe that this is not a question worth asking, then I would disagree strongly with you.  There are times when it will be necessary to conceal the magnitude of one’s reverses, so as not to embolden the enemy.

Remember:  you will normally have very few allies.  Most people want to see you fail, so that their inaction and timidity are thereby affirmed.  We must be mindful of human nature, which in these matters resembles the proverbial crab in the bucket, clawing at every other crab, to the detriment of all.

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