Si vis pacem, para bellum

Si vis pacem, para bellum

"Si vis pacem, para bellum" is a Latin adage translated as, "If you want peace, prepare for war". The source of this adage remains unknown; [For example, Duff (1899) notes that the source is unknown, lists classical authors with "phrases very like it" and makes the selection "Vegetius perhaps comes nearest...."] however, it is universally believed, rightly or wrongly, to be based on a quotation from Roman military writer Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus: "Igitur qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum." [Book III, prologue, end.] The saying is one of many from or based on his work, "Epitoma rei militaris", possibly written around the year 390 AD. It is embedded in a passage that stresses the importance of skillful preparation of military actions (an 'Art of War', so to say) as opposed to mere reliance on coincidence or superiority of numbers::"Therefore, he who wishes peace, should prepare war; he who desires victory, should carefully train his soldiers; he who wants favorable results, should fight relying on skill, not on chance." ["Igitur qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum; qui uictoriam cupit, milites inbuat diligenter; qui secundos optat euentus, dimicet arte, non casu." [ The Latin Library] ]

Modern uses and modifications

Whatever the source, the adage has become a living vocabulary item itself, used in the production of different ideas in a number of languages. The actual words of Vegetius are not even recognized by a large number of writers, who attribute the saying directly to him.

i vis bellum para pacem

For example, with reference to the foreign policy of Napoleon Bonaparte, the historian, de Bourrienne, said [De Bourrienne, p.418.] :"Everyone knows the adage .... Had Bonaparte been a Latin scholar he would probably have reversed it and said, "Si vis bellum para pacem"."meaning that if you are planning a war you should put other nations off guard by cultivating peace. Conversely, another interpretation could be that preparing for peace may lead another party to wage war on you.

i vis pacem para pactum

The idea of insuring peace by deterring war-like powers through armaments took an ominous turn in the 20th century AD. Perhaps merely being prepared is not enough. Perhaps it is necessary to wage war to deter war. The National Arbitration and Peace Congress of 1907, presided over by Andrew Carnegie, addressed this issue::"These vast armaments on land and water are being defended as a means, not to wage war, but to prevent war.... there is a safer way ... it requires only the consent and the good-will of the governments. Today they say .... If you want peace, prepare for war. This Congress says in behalf of the people:"Si vis pacem, para pactum", if you want peace, agree to keep the peace. [Bertholdt,p.333]

i vis pacem fac bellum

The solution does not cover the case of the nation that does not desire peace. Imperial Germany went to war in 1914 and was castigated by Richard Grelling, a German-Jewish pacifist, in "J'Accuse" (1915). In 1918 Grelling wrote again, this time as an ex-patriate in Switzerland. Citing the "The world must be safe for democracy." speech of Woodrow Wilson before congress on April 2, 1917, Grelling says: [Grelling, p.208.] :"... when all other means fail, ... the liberation of the world from military domination can in the extreme case only take place by battle. ... in place of the reprehensible si vis pacem para bellum a similarly sounding principle ... may become a necessity: "Si vis pacem, fac bellum."

i vis pacem para pacem

The great wars of the 19th and 20th centuries were opposed by the philosophy of pacifism, which in the 19th century was associated with early socialism, even though the socialism of the 20th often lacked pacific tendencies, preaching violent revolution instead. The pacifism that opposed the world wars traced a lineage to Barthélemy Prosper Enfantin, an early French socialist and one of the founders of Saint-Simonianism. As early as April 2, 1841, he had said in a letter to General Saint-Cyr Nugues: [de Saint-Simon, Enfantin, p.34.] :"Le fameux dicton ... me semble beaucoup moins vrai, pour le XIXɵ síècle, que "Si vis pacem, para pacem."with reference to Algeria. By way of elucidation Enfantin goes on to say that war could have been avoided if a proper study of Algeria had been made.

The parabellum

The main clause of the adage has been used as a motto by German arms maker Deutsche Waffen und Munitionsfabriken (DWM), and is the source of the term Parabellum as applied to firearms and ammunition. [Arnold.] The term is a parallel to the English use of "peacemaker" to mean the Colt Single Action Army handgun and other weapons.

The Phrase in Popular Culture

The Finnish metal band, Children of Bodom, made a song with the english translated line. "If you want peace... Prepare for war", which appears on their album Are You Dead Yet?

American death metal band, Hate Eternal, have made a song, named after the phrase. It is featured on their 2008 release, 'Fury and Flames'.

Polish Death Metal band Vader named the introduction song from their EP, The Art of War, "Para Bellum"

Also, the American heavy metal band, Metallica, uses the phrase "To secure peace is to prepare for war" in their song "Don't Tread on Me"

There was a Basque punk band called Parabellum, playing from 1985 to 1999, and one of their songs went "Si vis pacem para bellum" in Latin.

In the 2004 film The Punisher, Frank Castle states that he learned the phrase in boot camp.

The phrase is the motto of the European Federation Enforcer Corps in the computer game Tom Clancy's EndWar.



*. Downloadable Google Books.
* cite book | first=Mountstuart Elphinstone Grant | last=Duff | authorlink= Mountstuart Elphinstone Grant Duff
title=Notes from a Diary, Kept Chiefly in Southern India, 1881-1886: Vol. II | url= | publisher=J. Murray | place=London | Date=1899 | pages=page 28


ee also

* List of Latin phrases

External links


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  • Si vis pacem, para bellum — Devise sur le cartouche du Centre Culturel des Armées à Madrid. Si vis pacem, para bellum (« Si tu veux la paix, prépare la guerre » en français) est une locution latine. Elle semble être une base du concept de paix armée …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Si vis pacem, para bellum — Este artículo o sección necesita referencias que aparezcan en una publicación acreditada, como revistas especializadas, monografías, prensa diaria o páginas de Internet fidedignas. Puedes añadirlas así o avisar …   Wikipedia Español

  • Si vis pacem, para bellum. — („Wenn du Frieden willst, so rüste zum Krieg“) ist ein lateinisches Sprichwort. Der Urheber des Sprichworts ist unbekannt. Die Grundidee findet sich schon bei Platon (Gesetze VIII) und Cornelius Nepos (Epaminondas 5, 4). Am nächsten kommt der… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Si vis pacem para bellum — Si vis pacem, para bellum („Wenn du Frieden willst, bereite Dich zum Krieg vor“) ist ein lateinisches Sprichwort. Der Urheber des Sprichworts ist unbekannt. Die Grundidee findet sich schon bei Platon (Gesetze VIII) und Cornelius Nepos… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Si vis pacem, para bellum — (рус. «хочешь мира  готовься к войне»)  латинская фраза, авторство которой приписывается римскому историку Корнелию Непоту (94 24 года до н. э.) (жизнеописание фиванского полководца IV века до н. э. Эпаминонда).… …   Википедия

  • Si vis pacem, para bellum. — См. Если хочешь мира, готовься к войне. Si vis pacem, para bellum. См. Хочешь покою, готовься к бою …   Большой толково-фразеологический словарь Михельсона (оригинальная орфография)

  • Si vis pacem, Para bellum — (лат. «хочешь мира  готовься к войне»)  латинская фраза, чьё авторство приписывается римскому историку Корнелию Непоту (94 24 года до н. э.) (жизнеописание фиванского полководца IV века до н. э. Эпаминонда). По другим данным, фраза принадлежит… …   Википедия

  • si vis pacem, para bellum — лат. (си вис пацэм, пара бэллум) если хочешь мира, готовься к войне. Толковый словарь иностранных слов Л. П. Крысина. М: Русский язык, 1998 …   Словарь иностранных слов русского языка

  • Si vis pacem, para bellum — (lat.), »wenn du den Frieden willst, bereite den Krieg vor!« …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Si vis pacem, para bellum — (lat.), wenn du Frieden willst, rüste dich zum Krieg …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

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