War. Humankind at its’ best and its’ worst. Wars have been fought over everything from a waterhole to an Empire. They have been fought for and over women, religion, land, wealth, real and imagined insults, and just plain for the hell of it. They have lasted from 38 min. ( Anglo-Zanzibar, the shortest) to 100 years (Anglo-French). The first recorded war occurred in 2700 B.C.E.. There were wars fought before that but since writing hadn’t been invented they were not recorded. The fact is there have been more years of conflict than there have of peace. We have been warring for so long you could say we are the greatest known experts in the Universe. War has been condemned and vilified, yet it is still with us and will be for a long time to come. There is no way of denying it we are a warring species and in the past, perhaps even still, we revel in it.
War is a dichotomy, it is savage, brutal and destructive, yet it advances science, engineering, medicine, literature and even art. One of the greatest literary works , The Iliad, is about a war that took place 3200 years ago. There are magnificent sculptors and painting of heroes and battles. In science war has taken us from advances in metallurgy with the discovery of alloys to the atomic age. From the copper knife to gun powder to the laser. In medicine from the majority of battle wounded dying to the majority surviving. In engineering from chariots to space craft. All these great advances rooted in the most brutal endeavour man has wrought.
War has made great Empires and destroyed the same, enslaved or annihilated whole peoples. When unleashed its’ children gleefully ride forth, Death, Destruction, Disease, Famine, Pestilence, and Rapine. It is sated only by blood and its’ appetite is ravenous. In some societies war was venerated, it is the reason for their existence. Their God was the God of War under his many guises. To the western world the most famous of these were the Spartans of ancient Greece. Raised from childhood, age 7, Spartan males became the epitome of the Greek Hoplite, the ultimate in heavy infantry of their day. Those who fought them usually went down to defeat and on the few instances when the Spartans were defeated it was at a great cost to the victor. Their most famous Victory/Defeat was against the Persians at Thermopylae. The Greeks understood and agreed that War was the most important thing we do, it was a natural part of life, evil but necessary. To them it was War that best revealed virtue, cowardice, civilization or barbarism. Under Alexander Greek warfare moved from city-state conflict to Empire building. With his Macedonian Heavy Infantry and Calvary he conquered the known world from Greece to the Indus River in a span of 11 years.
Then came Rome. For almost a thousand years they turned war from tribal conflict into a science. From its’ beginning as a professional force in 107 B.C.E. until the fall of the Empire in 476 C.E. it was, a highly trained killing machine. Even now over 1500 years later it still influences the armies and warfare of to-day. From the fall of Rome through the Dark Ages, Medieval times, The Renaissances, The Industrial Revolution, war has been the driving force of advancement. It has been studied, refined, and analysed all with the purpose of make it more efficient and deadly. Weapons have evolved from man powered, to gunpowder, to atomics, with chemicals and biologics tossed in and even the power of light and sound has been harnessed to cause death and destruction. When it comes to killing the human race is very ingenious and inventive. We are born to War and until the thin veneer that covers our savagery is substantially thickened will be for quite some time to come.