What reason, what prudence, is there in wishing to glory in the greatness and extent of the empire, when you cannot point out the happiness of men who are always rolling, with dark fear and cruel lust, in warlike slaughters and in blood, which, whether shed in civil or foreign war, is still human blood; so that their joy may be compared to glass in its fragile splendor, of which one is horribly afraid lest it should be suddenly broken in pieces.

[Quae sit ratio, quae prudentia, cum hominum felicitatem non possis ostendere, semper in bellicis cladibus et in sanguine ciuili uel hostili, tamen humano cum tenebroso timore et cruenta cupiditate uersantium, ut uitrea laetitia comparetur fragiliter splendida, cui timeatur horribilius ne repente frangatur.]

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Christian church father, philosopher, saint [b. Aurelius Augustinus]
City of God [De Civitate Dei], Book 4, ch. 3 (4.3) (AD 412-416) [tr. Dods (1871)]

(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

You cannot show such estates to be anyway happy, as are in continual wars, and constantly in terror, trouble, and guilt of shedding human blood, though it be their foes’; with what reason or wisdom any man doth wish to glory in the largeness of empire, since all their joy is but as a glass, bright and brittle, and evermore in fear and danger of breaking.
[tr. Healey (1610)]

Is it reasonable and wise to glory in the extent and greatness of the Empire when you can in no way prove that there is any real happiness in men perpetually living amid the horrors of war, perpetually wading in blood? Does it matter whether it is the blood of their fellow citizens or the blood of their enemies? It is still human blood, in men perpetually haunted by the gloomy spectre of fear and driven by murderous passions. The happiness arising from such conditions is a thing of glass, of mere glittering brittleness. One can never shake off the horrible dread that it may suddenly shiver into fragments.
[tr. Zema/Walsh (1950)]

You cannot show that men are happy who live always amid the disasters of war. It matters not whether the blood shed is that of fellow-citizens or of enemies; in any case it is the blood of men. The dark shadow of fear and the lust for blood are always with them. Any joy that they know is like the glitter of brittle glass, which inspires the frightful thought that it may suddenly be shattered.
[tr. Green (Loeb) (1963)]

Is it reasonable, is it sensible, to boast of the extent and grandeur of empire, when you cannot show that men lived in happiness, as they passed their lives amid the horrors of war, amid the shedding of men's blood -- whether the blood of enemies or fellow-citizens -- under the shadow of fear and amid the terror of ruthless ambition? The only joy to be attained had the fragile brilliance of glass, a joy outweighed by the fear that it may be shattered in a moment.
[tr. Bettenson (1972)]

Is it wise or prudent to wish to glory in the breadth and magnitude of an empire when you cannot show that the men whose empire it is are happy? For the Romans always lived in dark fear and cruel lust, surrounded by the disasters of war and the shedding of blood which, whether that of fellow citizens or enemies, was human nonetheless. The joy of such men may be compared to the fragile splendour of glass: they are horribly afraid lest it be suddenly shattered.
[tr. Dyson (1998)]

What reason or sense is there in wanting to boast of the size and expanse of an empire when you cannot show that its people are happy? Or why boast of an empire if its people always dwell in the midst of the disasters of war and the spilling of blood -- the blood of fellow-citizens or the blood of foreign enemies, but, in either case, human blood -- and always live under the dark shadow of fear and in the lust for blood? Any joy they have may be compared to the fragile brilliance of glass: there is always the terrible fear that it will suddenly be shattered.
[tr. Babcock (2012)]

Added on 16-Oct-23 | Last updated 29-Jan-24
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