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New Kindle Book: “Values and the Future (Revaluation of Values)”

Values and the Future (Revaluation of Values) is now available at the Kindle Store

Nietzsche said revaluation of values is the supreme task of the philosopher. Nietzsche called philosophers lawgivers. And yet the world continues to operate as though values were not something we are called to revise, develop, enunciate. The position of these recent reflections is allied with Nietzsche. The values suggested are vastly different from the usual, traditional pantheon.

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Conclusion of LYSISTRATA by ARISTOPHANES C. 411 BC

Conclusion of LYSISTRATA by ARISTOPHANES C. 411 BC

CINESIAS

What time we’ve wasted
We might have drenched with Paphian laughter, flung
On Aphrodite’s Mysteries. O come here.

MYRRHINE

Not till a treaty finishes the war.

CINESIAS

If you must have it, then we’ll get it done.

MYRRHINE

Do it and I’ll come home. Till then I am bound.

CINESIAS

Well, can’t your oath perhaps be got around?

MYRRHINE

No … no … still I’ll not say that I don’t love you.

CINESIAS

You love me! Then dear girl, let me also love you.

MYRRHINE

You must be joking. The boy’s looking on.

CINESIAS

Here, Manes, take the child home!… There, he’s gone.
There’s nothing in the way now. Come to the point.

MYRRHINE

Here in the open! In plain sight?

CINESIAS

In Pan’s cave.
A splendid place.

MYRRHINE

Where shall I dress my hair again
Before returning to the citadel?

CINESIAS

You can easily primp yourself in the Clepsydra.

MYRRHINE

But how can I break my oath?

CINESIAS

Leave that to me,
I’ll take all risk.

MYRRHINE

Well, I’ll make you comfortable.

CINESIAS

Don’t worry. I’d as soon lie on the grass.

MYRRHINE

No, by Apollo, in spite of all your faults
I won’t have you lying on the nasty earth.
(_From here MYRRHINE keeps on going off to fetch things._)

CINESIAS

Ah, how she loves me.

MYRRHINE

Rest there on the bench,
While I arrange my clothes. O what a nuisance,
I must find some cushions first.

CINESIAS

Why some cushions?
Please don’t get them!

MYRRHINE

What? The plain, hard wood?
Never, by Artemis! That would be too vulgar.

CINESIAS

Open your arms!

MYRRHINE

No. Wait a second.

CINESIAS

O….
Then hurry back again.

MYRRHINE

Here the cushions are.
Lie down while I–O dear! But what a shame,
You need more pillows.

CINESIAS

I don’t want them, dear.

MYRRHINE

But I do.

CINESIAS

Thwarted affection mine,
They treat you just like Heracles at a feast
With cheats of dainties, O disappointing arms!

MYRRHINE

Raise up your head.

CINESIAS

There, that’s everything at last.

MYRRHINE

Yes, all.

CINESIAS

Then run to my arms, you golden girl.

MYRRHINE

I’m loosening my girdle now. But you’ve not forgotten?
You’re not deceiving me about the Treaty?

CINESIAS

No, by my life, I’m not.

MYRRHINE

Why, you’ve no blanket.

CINESIAS

It’s not the silly blanket’s warmth but yours I want.

MYRRHINE

Never mind. You’ll soon have both. I’ll come straight back.

CINESIAS

The woman will choke me with her coverlets.

MYRRHINE

Get up a moment.

CINESIAS

I’m up high enough.

MYRRHINE

Would you like me to perfume you?

CINESIAS

By Apollo, no!

MYRRHINE

By Aphrodite, I’ll do it anyway.

CINESIAS

Lord Zeus, may she soon use up all the myrrh.

MYRRHINE

Stretch out your hand. Take it and rub it in.

CINESIAS

Hmm, it’s not as fragrant as might be; that is,
Not before it’s smeared. It doesn’t smell of kisses.

MYRRHINE

How silly I am: I’ve brought you Rhodian scents.

CINESIAS

It’s good enough, leave it, love.

MYRRHINE

You must be jesting.

CINESIAS

Plague rack the man who first compounded scent!

MYRRHINE

Here, take this flask.

CINESIAS

I’ve a far better one.
Don’t tease me, come here, and get nothing more.

MYRRHINE

I’m coming…. I’m just drawing off my shoes….
You’re sure you will vote for Peace?

CINESIAS

I’ll think about it.
_She runs off._
I’m dead: the woman’s worn me all away.
She’s gone and left me with an anguished pulse.

MEN

Baulked in your amorous delight
How melancholy is your plight.
With sympathy your case I view;
For I am sure it’s hard on you.
What human being could sustain
This unforeseen domestic strain,
And not a single trace
Of willing women in the place!

CINESIAS

O Zeus, what throbbing suffering!

MEN

She did it all, the harlot, she
With her atrocious harlotry.

WOMEN

Nay, rather call her darling-sweet.

MEN

What, sweet? She’s a rude, wicked thing.

CINESIAS

A wicked thing, as I repeat.
O Zeus, O Zeus,
Canst Thou not suddenly let loose
Some twirling hurricane to tear
Her flapping up along the air
And drop her, when she’s whirled around,
Here to the ground
Neatly impaled upon the stake
That’s ready upright for her sake.
_He goes out._

_Enter_ SPARTAN HERALD.

_The_ MAGISTRATE _comes forward_.

HERALD

What here gabs the Senate an’ the Prytanes?
I’ve fetcht despatches for them.

MAGISTRATE

Are you a man
Or a monstrosity?

HERALD

My scrimp-brained lad,
I’m a herald, as ye see, who hae come frae Sparta
Anent a Peace.

MAGISTRATE

Then why do you hide that lance
That sticks out under your arms?

HERALD.

I’ve brought no lance.

MAGISTRATE

Then why do you turn aside and hold your cloak
So far out from your body? Is your groin swollen
With stress of travelling?

HERALD

By Castor, I’ll swear
The man is wud.

MAGISTRATE

Indeed, your cloak is wide,
My rascal fellow.

HERALD

But I tell ye No!
Enow o’ fleering!

MAGISTRATE

Well, what is it then?

HERALD

It’s my despatch cane.

MAGISTRATE

Of course–a Spartan cane!
But speak right out. I know all this too well.
Are new privations springing up in Sparta?

HERALD

Och, hard as could be: in lofty lusty columns
Our allies stand united. We maun get Pellene.

MAGISTRATE

Whence has this evil come? Is it from Pan?

HERALD

No. Lampito first ran asklent, then the others
Sprinted after her example, and blocked, the hizzies,
Their wames unskaithed against our every fleech.

MAGISTRATE

What did you do?

HERALD

We are broken, and bent double,
Limp like men carrying lanthorns in great winds
About the city. They winna let us even
Wi’ lightest neif skim their primsie pretties
Till we’ve concluded Peace-terms wi’ a’ Hellas.

MAGISTRATE

So the conspiracy is universal;
This proves it. Then return to Sparta. Bid them
Send envoys with full powers to treat of Peace;
And I will urge the Senate here to choose
Plenipotentiary ambassadors,
As argument adducing this connection.

HERALD

I’m off. Your wisdom none could contravert.
_They retire._

MEN

There is no beast, no rush of fire, like woman so untamed.
She calmly goes her way where even panthers would be shamed.

WOMEN

And yet you are fool enough, it seems, to dare to war with me,
When for your faithful ally you might win me easily.

MEN

Never could the hate I feel for womankind grow less.

WOMEN

Then have your will. But I’ll take pity on your nakedness.
For I can see just how ridiculous you look, and so
Will help you with your tunic if close up I now may go.

MEN

Well, that, by Zeus, is no scoundrel-deed, I frankly will admit.
I only took them off myself in a scoundrel raging-fit.

WOMEN

Now you look sensible, and that you’re men no one could doubt.
If you were but good friends again, I’d take the insect out
That hurts your eye.

MEN

Is that what’s wrong? That nasty bitie thing.
Please squeeze it out, and show me what it is that makes this sting.
It’s been paining me a long while now.

WOMEN

Well I’ll agree to that,
Although you’re most unmannerly. O what a giant gnat.
Here, look! It comes from marshy Tricorysus, I can tell.

MEN

O thank you. It was digging out a veritable well.
Now that it’s gone, I can’t hold back my tears. See how they fall.

WOMEN

I’ll wipe them off, bad as you are, and kiss you after all.

MEN

I won’t be kissed.

WOMEN

O yes, you will. Your wishes do not matter.

MEN

O botheration take you all! How you cajole and flatter.
A hell it is to live with you; to live without, a hell:
How truly was that said. But come, these enmities let’s quell.
You stop from giving orders and I’ll stop from doing wrong.
So let’s join ranks and seal our bargain with a choric song.

CHORUS.

Athenians, it’s not our intention
To sow political dissension
By giving any scandal mention;
But on the contrary to promote good feeling in the state
By word and deed. We’ve had enough calamities of late.
So let a man or woman but divulge
They need a trifle, say,
Two minas, three or four,
I’ve purses here that bulge.
There’s only one condition made
(Indulge my whim in this I pray)–
When Peace is signed once more,
On no account am I to be repaid.

And I’m making preparation
For a gay select collation
With some youths of reputation.
I’ve managed to produce some soup and they’re slaughtering for me
A sucking-pig: its flesh should taste as tender as could be.
I shall expect you at my house today.
To the baths make an early visit,
And bring your children along;
Don’t dawdle on the way.
Ask no one; enter as if the place
Was all your own–yours henceforth is it.
If nothing chances wrong,
The door will then be shut bang in your face.

_The_ SPARTAN AMBASSADORS _approach_.

CHORUS

Here come the Spartan envoys with long, worried beards.
Hail, Spartans how do you fare?
Did anything new arise?

SPARTANS

No need for a clutter o’ words. Do ye see our condition?

CHORUS

The situation swells to greater tension.
Something will explode soon.

SPARTANS

It’s awfu’ truly.
But come, let us wi’ the best speed we may
Scribble a Peace.

CHORUS

I notice that our men
Like wrestlers poised for contest, hold their clothes
Out from their bellies. An athlete’s malady!
Since exercise alone can bring relief.

ATHENIANS

Can anyone tell us where Lysistrata is?
There is no need to describe our men’s condition,
It shows up plainly enough.

CHORUS

It’s the same disease.
Do you feel a jerking throbbing in the morning?

ATHENIANS

By Zeus, yes! In these straits, I’m racked all through.
Unless Peace is soon declared, we shall be driven
In the void of women to try Cleisthenes.

CHORUS

Be wise and cover those things with your tunics.
Who knows what kind of person may perceive you?

ATHENIANS

By Zeus, you’re right.

SPARTANS

By the Twa Goddesses,
Indeed ye are. Let’s put our tunics on.

ATHENIANS

Hail O my fellow-sufferers, hail Spartans.

SPARTANS

O hinnie darling, what a waefu’ thing!
If they had seen us wi’ our lunging waddies!

ATHENIANS

Tell us then, Spartans, what has brought you here?

SPARTANS

We come to treat o’ Peace.

ATHENIANS

Well spoken there!
And we the same. Let us callout Lysistrata
Since she alone can settle the Peace-terms.

SPARTANS

Callout Lysistratus too if ye don’t mind.

CHORUS

No indeed. She hears your voices and she comes.

_Enter LYSISTRATA_

Hail, Wonder of all women! Now you must be in turn
Hard, shifting, clear, deceitful, noble, crafty, sweet, and stern.
The foremost men of Hellas, smitten by your fascination,
Have brought their tangled quarrels here for your sole arbitration.

LYSISTRATA

An easy task if the love’s raging home-sickness
Doesn’t start trying out how well each other
Will serve instead of us. But I’ll know at once
If they do. O where’s that girl, Reconciliation?
Bring first before me the Spartan delegates,
And see you lift no rude or violent hands–
None of the churlish ways our husbands used.
But lead them courteously, as women should.
And if they grudge fingers, guide them by other methods,
And introduce them with ready tact. The Athenians
Draw by whatever offers you a grip.
Now, Spartans, stay here facing me. Here you,
Athenians. Both hearken to my words.
I am a woman, but I’m not a fool.
And what of natural intelligence I own
Has been filled out with the remembered precepts
My father and the city-elders taught me.
First I reproach you both sides equally
That when at Pylae and Olympia,
At Pytho and the many other shrines
That I could name, you sprinkle from one cup
The altars common to all Hellenes, yet
You wrack Hellenic cities, bloody Hellas
With deaths of her own sons, while yonder clangs
The gathering menace of barbarians.

ATHENIANS

We cannot hold it in much longer now.

LYSISTRATA

Now unto you, O Spartans, do I speak.
Do you forget how your own countryman,
Pericleidas, once came hither suppliant
Before our altars, pale in his purple robes,
Praying for an army when in Messenia
Danger growled, and the Sea-god made earth quaver.
Then with four thousand hoplites Cimon marched
And saved all Sparta. Yet base ingrates now,
You are ravaging the soil of your preservers.

ATHENIANS

By Zeus, they do great wrong, Lysistrata.

SPARTANS

Great wrong, indeed. O! What a luscious wench!

LYSISTRATA

And now I turn to the Athenians.
Have you forgotten too how once the Spartans
In days when you wore slavish tunics, came
And with their spears broke a Thessalian host
And all the partisans of Hippias?
They alone stood by your shoulder on that day.
They freed you, so that for the slave’s short skirt
You should wear the trailing cloak of liberty.

SPARTANS

I’ve never seen a nobler woman anywhere.

ATHENIANS

Nor I one with such prettily jointing hips.

LYSISTRATA

Now, brethren twined with mutual benefactions,
Can you still war, can you suffer such disgrace?
Why not be friends? What is there to prevent you?

SPARTANS

We’re agreed, gin that we get this tempting Mole.

LYSISTRATA

Which one?

SPARTANS

That ane we’ve wanted to get into,
O for sae lang…. Pylos, of course.

ATHENIANS

By Poseidon,
Never!

LYSISTRATA

Give it up.

ATHENIANS

Then what will we do?
We need that ticklish place united to us–

LYSISTRATA

Ask for some other lurking-hole in return.

ATHENIANS

Then, ah, we’ll choose this snug thing here, Echinus,
Shall we call the nestling spot? And this backside haven,
These desirable twin promontories, the Maliac,
And then of course these Megarean Legs.

SPARTANS

Not that, O surely not that, never that.

LYSISTRATA

Agree! Now what are two legs more or less?

ATHENIANS

I want to strip at once and plough my land.

SPARTANS

And mine I want to fertilize at once.

LYSISTRATA

And so you can, when Peace is once declared.
If you mean it, get your allies’ heads together
And come to some decision.

ATHENIANS

What allies?
There’s no distinction in our politics:
We’ve risen as one man to this conclusion;
Every ally is jumping-mad to drive it home.

SPARTANS

And ours the same, for sure.

ATHENIANS

The Carystians first!
I’ll bet on that.

LYSISTRATA

I agree with all of you.
Now off, and cleanse yourselves for the Acropolis,
For we invite you all in to a supper
From our commissariat baskets. There at table
You will pledge good behaviour and uprightness;
Then each man’s wife is his to hustle home.

ATHENIANS

Come, as quickly as possible.

SPARTANS

As quick as ye like.
Lead on.

ATHENIANS

O Zeus, quick, quick, lead quickly on.
_They hurry off._

CHORUS.

Broidered stuffs on high I’m heaping,
Fashionable cloaks and sweeping
Trains, not even gold gawds keeping.
Take them all, I pray you, take them all (I do not care)
And deck your children–your daughter, if the Basket she’s to bear.
Come, everyone of you, come in and take
Of this rich hoard a share.
Nought’s tied so skilfully
But you its seal can break
And plunder all you spy inside.
I’ve laid out all that I can spare,
And therefore you will see
Nothing unless than I you’re sharper-eyed.
If lacking corn a man should be
While his slaves clamour hungrily
And his excessive progeny,
Then I’ve a handfull of grain at home which is always to be had,
And to which in fact a more-than-life-size loaf I’d gladly add.
Then let the poor bring with them bag or sack
And take this store of food.
Manes, my man, I’ll tell
To help them all to pack
Their wallets full. But O take care.
I had forgotten; don’t intrude,
Or terrified you’ll yell.
My dog is hungry too, and bites–beware!

Some _LOUNGERS_ from the Market with torches approach
the Banqueting hall. The _PORTER_ bars their entrance.

1ST MARKET-LOUNGER

Open the door.

PORTER

Here move along.

1ST MARKET-LOUNGER

What’s this?
You’re sitting down. Shall I singe you with my torch?
That’s vulgar! O I couldn’t do it … yet
If it would gratify the audience,
I’ll mortify myself.

2ND MARKET-LOUNGER

And I will too.
We’ll both be crude and vulgar, yes we will.

PORTER

Be off at once now or you’ll be wailing
Dirges for your hair. Get off at once,
And see you don’t disturb the Spartan envoys
Just coming out from the splendid feast they’ve had.

_The banqueters begin to come out._

1ST ATHENIAN

I’ve never known such a pleasant banquet before,
And what delightful fellows the Spartans are.
When we are warm with wine, how wise we grow.

2ND ATHENIAN

That’s only fair, since sober we’re such fools:
This is the advice I’d give the Athenians–
See our ambassadors are always drunk.
For when we visit Sparta sober, then
We’re on the alert for trickery all the while
So that we miss half of the things they say,
And misinterpret things that were never said,
And then report the muddle back to Athens.
But now we’re charmed with each other. They might cap
With the Telamon-catch instead of the Cleitagora,
And we’d applaud and praise them just the same;
We’re not too scrupulous in weighing words.

PORTER

Why, here the rascals come again to plague me.
Won’t you move on, you sorry loafers there!

MARKET-LOUNGER

Yes, by Zeus, they’re already coming out.

SPARTANS

Now hinnie dearest, please tak’ up your pipe
That I may try a spring an’ sing my best
In honour o’ the Athenians an’ oursels.

ATHENIANS

Aye, take your pipe. By all the gods, there’s nothing
Could glad my heart more than to watch you dance.

SPARTANS.

Mnemosyne,
Let thy fire storm these younkers,
O tongue wi’ stormy ecstasy
My Muse that knows
Our deeds and theirs, how when at sea
Their navies swooped upon
The Medes at Artemision–
Gods for their courage, did they strike
Wrenching a triumph frae their foes;
While at Thermopylae
Leonidas’ army stood: wild-boars they were like
Wild-boars that wi’ fierce threat
Their terrible tusks whet;
The sweat ran streaming down each twisted face,
Faen blossoming i’ strange petals o’ death
Panted frae mortal breath,
The sweat drenched a’ their bodies i’ that place,
For the hurly-burly o’ Persians glittered more
Than the sands on the shore.

Come, Hunting Girl, an’ hear my prayer–
You whose arrows whizz in woodlands, come an’ bless
This Peace we swear.
Let us be fenced wi’ age long amity,
O let this bond stick ever firm through thee
In friendly happiness.
Henceforth no guilefu’ perjury be seen!
O hither, hither O
Thou wildwood queen.

LYSISTRATA

Earth is delighted now, peace is the voice of earth.
Spartans, sort out your wives: Athenians, yours.
Let each catch hands with his wife and dance his joy,
Dance out his thanks, be grateful in music,
And promise reformation with his heels.

ATHENIANS.

O Dancers, forward. Lead out the Graces,
Call Artemis out;
Then her brother, the Dancer of Skies,
That gracious Apollo.
Invoke with a shout
Dionysus out of whose eyes
Breaks fire on the maenads that follow;
And Zeus with his flares of quick lightning, and call,
Happy Hera, Queen of all,
And all the Daimons summon hither to be
Witnesses of our revelry
And of the noble Peace we have made,
Aphrodite our aid.
Io Paieon, Io, cry–
For victory, leap!
Attained by me, leap!
Euoi Euoi Euai Euai.

SPARTANS

Piper, give us the music for a new sang.

SPARTANS.

Leaving again lovely lofty Taygetus
Hither O Spartan Muse, hither to greet us,
And wi’ our choric voice to raise
To Amyclean Apollo praise,
And Tyndareus’ gallant sons whose days
Alang Eurotas’ banks merrily pass,
An’ Athene o’ the House o’ Brass.

Now the dance begin;
Dance, making swirl your fringe o’ woolly skin,
While we join voices
To hymn dear Sparta that rejoices
I’ a beautifu’ sang,
An’ loves to see
Dancers tangled beautifully;
For the girls i’ tumbled ranks
Alang Eurotas’ banks
Like wanton fillies thrang,
Frolicking there
An’ like Bacchantes shaking the wild air
To comb a giddy laughter through the hair,
Bacchantes that clench thyrsi as they sweep
To the ecstatic leap.

An’ Helen, Child o’ Leda, come
Thou holy, nimble, gracefu’ Queen,
Lead thou the dance, gather thy joyous tresses up i’ bands
An’ play like a fawn. To madden them, clap thy hands,
And sing praise to the warrior goddess templed i’ our lands,
Her o’ the House o’ Brass.

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Lysistrata involves women who withhold sex until soldiers agree to end a war.
Aristophanes was prolific but most of his writings are lost.
Aristophanes was aggressive and seemingly able to level insults without suffering the consequences.
He wrote his first plays, among the lost, as a teenager.

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politics

HANNIBAL CROSSES THE ALPS By Jacob Abbot

HANNIBAL CROSSES THE ALPS By Jacob Abbot

B.C. 217

It is difficult for any one who has not actually seen such mountain scenery as is presented by the Alps, to form any clear conception of its magnificence and grandeur. Hannibal had never seen the Alps, but the world was filled then, as now, with their fame.

Some of the leading features of sublimity and grandeur which these mountains exhibit, result mainly from the perpetual cold which reigns upon their summits. This is owing simply to their elevation. In every part of the earth, as we ascend from the surface of the ground into the atmosphere, it becomes, for some mysterious reason or other, more and more cold as we rise, so that over our heads, wherever we are, there reigns, at a distance of two or three miles above us, an intense and perpetual cold. This is true not only in cool and temperate latitudes, but also in the most torrid regions of the globe. If we were to ascend in a balloon at Borneo at midday, when the burning sun of the tropics was directly over our heads, to an elevation of five or six miles, we should find that although we had been moving nearer to the sun all the time, its rays would have lost, gradually, all their power. They would fall upon us as brightly as ever, but their heat would be gone. They would feel like moonbeams, and we should be surrounded with an atmosphere as frosty as that of the icebergs of the frigid zone.

It is from this region of perpetual cold that hail-stones descend upon us in the midst of summer, and snow is continually forming and falling there; but the light and fleecy flakes melt before they reach the earth, so that, while the hail has such solidity and momentum that it forces its way through, the snow dissolves, and falls upon us as a cool and refreshing rain. Rain cools the air around us and the ground, because it comes from cooler regions of the air above.

Now it happens that not only the summits, but extensive portions of the upper declivities of the Alps, rise into the region of perpetual winter. Of course, ice congeals continually there, and the snow which forms falls to the ground as snow, and accumulates in vast and permanent stores. The summit of Mount Blanc is covered with a bed of snow of enormous thickness, which is almost as much a permanent geological stratum of the mountain as the granite which lies beneath it.

Of course, during the winter months, the whole country of the Alps, valley as well as hill, is covered with snow. In the spring the snow melts in the valleys and plains, and higher up it becomes damp and heavy with partial melting, and slides down the declivities in vast avalanches, which sometimes are of such enormous magnitude, and descend with such resistless force, as to bring down earth, rocks, and even the trees of the forest in their train. On the higher declivities, however, and over all the rounded summits, the snow still clings to its place, yielding but very little to the feeble beams of the sun, even in July.

There are vast ravines and valleys among the higher Alps where the snow accumulates, being driven into them by winds and storms in the winter, and sliding into them, in great avalanches, in the spring. These vast depositories of snow become changed into ice below the surface; for at the surface there is a continual melting, and the water, flowing down through the mass, freezes below. Thus there are valleys, or rather ravines, some of them two or three miles wide and ten or fifteen miles long, filled with ice, transparent, solid, and blue, hundreds of feet in depth. They are called _glaciers_. And what is most astonishing in respect to these icy accumulations is that, though the ice is perfectly compact and solid, the whole mass is found to be continually in a state of slow motion down the valley in which it lies, at the rate of about a foot in twenty-four hours. By standing upon the surface and listening attentively, we hear, from time to time, a grinding sound. The rocks which lie along the sides are pulverized, and are continually moving against each other and falling; and then, besides, which is a more direct and positive proof still of the motion of the mass, a mark may be set up upon the ice, as has been often done, and marks corresponding to it made upon the solid rocks on each side of the valley, and by this means the fact of the motion, and the exact rate of it, may be fully ascertained.

Thus these valleys are really and literally rivers of ice, rising among the summits of the mountains, and flowing, slowly it is true, but with a continuous and certain current, to a sort of mouth in some great and open valley below. Here the streams which have flowed over the surface above, and descended into the mass through countless crevices and chasms, into which the traveler looks down with terror, concentrate and issue from under the ice in a turbid torrent, which comes out from a vast archway made by the falling in of masses which the water has undermined. This lower end of the glacier sometimes presents a perpendicular wall hundreds of feet in height; sometimes it crowds down into the fertile valley, advancing in some unusually cold summer into the cultivated country, where, as it slowly moves on, it plows up the ground, carries away the orchards and fields, and even drives the inhabitants from the villages which it threatens. If the next summer proves warm, the terrible monster slowly draws back its frigid head, and the inhabitants return to the ground it reluctantly evacuates, and attempt to repair the damage it has done.

The Alps lie between France and Italy, and the great valleys and the ranges of mountain land lie in such a direction that they must be _crossed_ in order to pass from one country to the other. These ranges are, however, not regular. They are traversed by innumerable chasms, fissures, and ravines; in some places they rise in vast rounded summits and swells, covered with fields of spotless snow; in others they tower in lofty, needle-like peaks, which even the chamois can not scale, and where scarcely a flake of snow can find a place of rest. Around and among these peaks and summits, and through these frightful defiles and chasms, the roads twist and turn, in a zigzag and constantly ascending course, creeping along the most frightful precipices, sometimes beneath them and sometimes on the brink, penetrating the darkest and gloomiest defiles, skirting the most impetuous and foaming torrents, and at last, perhaps, emerging upon the surface of a glacier, to be lost in interminable fields of ice and snow, where countless brooks run in glassy channels, and crevasses yawn, ready to take advantage of any slip which may enable them to take down the traveler into their bottomless abysses.

And yet, notwithstanding the awful desolation which reigns in the upper regions of the Alps, the lower valleys, through which the streams finally meander out into the open plains, and by which the traveler gains access to the sublimer scenes of the upper mountains, are inexpressibly verdant and beautiful. They are fertilized by the deposits of continual inundations in the early spring, and the sun beats down into them with a genial warmth in summer, which brings out millions of flowers, of the most beautiful forms and colors, and ripens rapidly the broadest and richest fields of grain. Cottages, of every picturesque and beautiful form, tenanted by the cultivators, the shepherds and the herdsmen, crown every little swell in the bottom of the valley, and cling to the declivities of the mountains which rise on either hand. Above them eternal forests of firs and pines wave, feathering over the steepest and most rocky slopes with their somber foliage. Still higher, gray precipices rise and spires and pinnacles, far grander and more picturesque, if not so symmetrically formed, than those constructed by man. Between these there is seen, here and there, in the background, vast towering masses of white and dazzling snow, which crown the summits of the loftier mountains beyond.

Hannibal’s determination to carry an army into Italy by way of the Alps, instead of transporting them by galleys over the sea, has always been regarded as one of the greatest undertakings of ancient times. He hesitated for some time whether he should go down the Rhone, and meet and give battle to Scipio, or whether he should leave the Roman army to its course, and proceed himself directly toward the Alps and Italy. The officers and soldiers of the army, who had now learned something of their destination and of their leader’s plans, wanted to go and meet the Romans. They dreaded the Alps. They were willing to encounter a military foe, however formidable, for this was a danger that they were accustomed to and could understand; but their imaginations were appalled at the novel and awful images they formed of falling down precipices of ragged rocks, or of gradually freezing, and being buried half alive, during the process, in eternal snows.

Hannibal, when he found that his soldiers were afraid to proceed, called the leading portions of his army together, and made them an address. He remonstrated with them for yielding now to unworthy fears, after having successfully met and triumphed over such dangers as they had already incurred. “You have surmounted the Pyrenees,” said he, “you have crossed the Rhone. You are now actually in sight of the Alps, which are the very gates of access to the country of the enemy. What do you conceive the Alps to be? They are nothing but high mountains, after all. Suppose they are higher than the Pyrenees, they do not reach to the skies; and, since they do not, they can not be insurmountable. They _are_ surmounted, in fact, every day; they are even inhabited and cultivated, and travelers continually pass over them to and fro. And what a single man can do, an army can do, for an army is only a large number of single men. In fact, to a soldier, who has nothing to carry with him but the implements of war, no way can be too difficult to be surmounted by courage and energy.”

After finishing his speech, Hannibal, finding his men reanimated and encouraged by what he had said, ordered them to go to their tents and refresh themselves, and prepare to march on the following day. They made no further opposition to going on. Hannibal did not, however, proceed at once directly toward the Alps. He did not know what the plans of Scipio might be, who, it will be recollected, was below him, on the Rhone, with the Roman army. He did not wish to waste his time and his strength in a contest with Scipio in Gaul, but to press on and get across the Alps into Italy as soon as possible. And so, fearing lest Scipio should strike across the country, and intercept him if he should attempt to go by the most direct route, he determined to move northwardly, up the River Rhone, till he should get well into the interior, with a view of reaching the Alps ultimately by a more circuitous journey.

It was, in fact, the plan of Scipio to come up with Hannibal and attack him as soon as possible; and, accordingly, as soon as his horsemen, or, rather, those who were left alive after the battle had returned and informed him that Hannibal and his army were near, he put his camp in motion and moved rapidly up the river. He arrived at the place where the Carthaginians had crossed a few days after they had gone. The spot was in a terrible state of ruin and confusion. The grass and herbage were trampled down for the circuit of a mile, and all over the space were spots of black and smouldering remains, where the camp-fires had been kindled. The tops and branches of trees lay every where around, their leaves withering in the sun, and the groves and forests were encumbered with limbs, and rejected trunks, and trees felled and left where they lay. The shore was lined far down the stream with ruins of boats and rafts, with weapons which had been lost or abandoned, and with the bodies of those who had been drowned in the passage, or killed in the contest on the shore. These and numerous other vestiges remained but the army was gone.

There were, however, upon the ground groups of natives and other visitors, who had come to look at the spot now destined to become so memorable in history. From these men Scipio learned when and where Hannibal had gone. He decided that it was useless to attempt to pursue him. He was greatly perplexed to know what to do. In the casting of lots, Spain had fallen to him, but now that the great enemy whom he had come forth to meet had left Spain altogether, his only hope of intercepting his progress was to sail back into Italy, and meet him as he came down from the Alps into the great valley of the Po. Still, as Spain had been assigned to him as his province, he could not well entirely abandon it. He accordingly sent forward the largest part of his army into Spain, to attack the forces that Hannibal had left there, while he himself, with a smaller force, went down to the sea-shore and sailed back to Italy again. He expected to find Roman forces in the valley of the Po, with which he hoped to be strong enough to meet Hannibal as he descended from the mountains, if he should succeed in effecting a passage over them.

In the mean time Hannibal went on, drawing nearer and nearer to the ranges of snowy summits which his soldiers had seen for many days in their eastern horizon. These ranges were very resplendent and grand when the sun went down in the west, for then it shone directly upon them. As the army approached nearer and nearer to them, they gradually withdrew from sight and disappeared, being concealed by intervening summits less lofty, but nearer. As the soldiers went on, however, and began to penetrate the valleys, and draw near to the awful chasms and precipices among the mountains, and saw the turbid torrents descending from them, their fears revived. It was, however, now too late to retreat. They pressed forward, ascending continually, till their road grew extremely precipitous and insecure, threading its way through almost impassable defiles, with rugged cliffs overhanging them, and snowy summits towering all around.

At last they came to a narrow defile through which they must necessarily pass, but which was guarded by large bodies of armed men assembled on the rocks and precipices above, ready to hurl stones and weapons of every kind upon them if they should attempt to pass through. The army halted. Hannibal ordered them to encamp where they were, until he could consider what to do. In the course of the day he learned that the mountaineers did not remain at their elevated posts during the night, on account of the intense cold and exposure, knowing, too, that it would be impossible for an army to traverse such a pass as they were attempting to guard without daylight to guide them, for the road, or rather pathway, which passes through these defiles, follows generally the course of a mountain torrent, which flows through a succession of frightful ravines and chasms, and often passes along on a shelf or projection of the rock, hundreds and sometimes thousands of feet from the bed of the stream, which foams and roars far below. There could, of course, be no hope of passing safely by such a route without the light of day.

The mountaineers, therefore, knowing that it was not necessary to guard the pass at night–its own terrible danger being then a sufficient protection–were accustomed to disperse in the evening, and descend to regions where they could find shelter and repose, and to return and renew their watch in the morning. When Hannibal learned this, he determined to anticipate them in getting up upon the rocks the next day, and, in order to prevent their entertaining any suspicion of his design, he pretended to be making all the arrangements for encamping for the night on the ground he had taken. He accordingly pitched more tents, and built, toward evening, a great many fires, and he began some preparations indicating that it was his intention the next day to force his way through the pass. He moved forward a strong detachment up to a point near the entrance to the pass, and put them in a fortified position there, as if to have them all ready to advance when the proper time should arrive on the following day.

The mountaineers, seeing all these preparations going on, looked forward to a conflict on the morrow, and, during the night, left their positions as usual, to descend to places of shelter. The next morning, however, when they began, at an early hour, to ascend to them again, they were astonished to find all the lofty rocks, and cliffs, and shelving projections which overhung the pass, covered with Carthaginians. Hannibal had aroused a strong body of his men at the earliest dawn, and led them up, by steep climbing, to the places which the mountaineers had left, so as to be there before them. The mountaineers paused, astonished, at this spectacle, and their disappointment and rage were much increased on looking down into the valley below, and seeing there the remainder of the Carthaginian army quietly moving through the pass in a long train, safe apparently from any molestation, since friends, and not enemies, were now in possession of the cliffs above.

The mountaineers could not restrain their feelings of vexation and anger, but immediately rushed down the declivities which they had in part ascended, and attacked the army in the defile. An awful scene of struggle and confusion ensued. Some were killed by weapons or by rocks rolled down upon them. Others, contending together, and struggling desperately in places of very narrow foothold, tumbled headlong down the rugged rocks into the torrent below; and horses, laden with baggage and stores, became frightened and unmanageable, and crowded each other over the most frightful precipices. Hannibal, who was above, on the higher rocks, looked down upon this scene for a time with the greatest anxiety and terror. He did not dare to descend himself and mingle in the affray, for fear of increasing the confusion. He soon found, however, that it was absolutely necessary for him to interpose, and he came down as rapidly as possible, his detachment with him. They descended by oblique and zigzag paths, wherever they could get footing among the rocks, and attacked the mountaineers with great fury. The result was, as he had feared, a great increase at first of the confusion and the slaughter. The horses were more and more terrified by the fresh energy of the combat, and by the resounding of louder shouts and cries, which were made doubly terrific by the echoes and reverberations of the mountains. They crowded against each other, and fell, horses and men together, in masses, over the cliffs to the rugged rocks below, where they lay in confusion, some dead, and others dying, writhing helplessly in agony, or vainly endeavoring to crawl away.

The mountaineers were, however, conquered and driven away at last, and the pass was left clear. The Carthaginian column was restored to order. The horses that had not fallen were calmed and quieted. The baggage which had been thrown down was gathered up, and the wounded men were placed on litters, rudely constructed on the spot, that they might be borne on to a place of safety. In a short time all were ready to move on, and the march was accordingly recommenced. There was no further difficulty. The column advanced in a quiet and orderly manner until they had passed the defile. At the extremity of it they came to a spacious fort belonging to the natives. Hannibal took possession of this fort, and paused for a little time there to rest and refresh his men.

One of the greatest difficulties encountered by a general in conducting an army through difficult and dangerous roads, is that of providing food for them. An army can transport its own food only a very little way. Men traveling over smooth roads can only carry provisions for a few days, and where the roads are as difficult and dangerous as the passes of the Alps, they can scarcely carry any. The commander must, accordingly, find subsistence in the country through which he is marching. Hannibal had, therefore, now not only to look out for the safety of his men, but their food was exhausted, and he must take immediate measures to secure a supply.

The lower slopes of lofty mountains afford usually abundant sustenance for flocks and herds. The showers which are continually falling there, and the moisture which comes down the sides of the mountains through the ground keep the turf perpetually green, and sheep and cattle love to pasture upon it; they climb to great heights, finding the herbage finer and sweeter the higher they go. Thus the inhabitants of mountain ranges are almost always shepherds and herdsmen. Grain can be raised in the valleys below, but the slopes of the mountains, though they produce grass to perfection, are too steep to be tilled.

As soon as Hannibal had got established in the fort, he sent around small bodies of men to seize and drive in all the cattle and sheep that they could find. These men were, of course, armed, in order that they might be prepared to meet any resistance which they might encounter. The mountaineers, however, did not attempt to resist them. They felt that they were conquered, and they were accordingly disheartened and discouraged. The only mode of saving their cattle which was left to them, was to drive them as fast as they could into concealed and inaccessible places. They attempted to do this, and while Hannibal’s parties were ranging up the valleys all around them, examining every field, and barn, and sheepfold that they could find, the wretched and despairing inhabitants were flying in all directions, driving the cows and sheep, on which their whole hope of subsistence depended, into the fastnesses of the mountains. They urged them into wild thickets, and dark ravines and chasms, and over dangerous glaciers, and up the steepest ascents, wherever there was the readiest prospect of getting them out of the plunderer’s way.

These attempts, however, to save their little property were but very partially successful. Hannibal’s marauding parties kept coming home, one after another, with droves of sheep and cattle before them, some larger and some smaller, but making up a vast amount in all. Hannibal subsisted his men three days on the food thus procured for them. It requires an enormous store to feed ninety or a hundred thousand men, even for three days; besides, in all such cases as this, an army always waste and destroy far more than they really consume.

During these three days the army was not stationary, but was moving slowly on. The way, though still difficult and dangerous, was at least open before them, as there was now no enemy to dispute their passage. So they went on, rioting upon the abundant supplies they had obtained, and rejoicing in the double victory they were gaining, over the hostility of the people and the physical dangers and difficulties of the way. The poor mountaineers returned to their cabins ruined and desolate, for mountaineers who have lost their cows and their sheep have lost their all.

The Alps are not all in Switzerland. Some of the most celebrated peaks and ranges are in a neighboring state called Savoy. The whole country is, in fact, divided into small states, called _cantons_ at the present day, and similar political divisions seem to have existed in the time of the Romans. In his march onward from the pass which has been already described, Hannibal, accordingly, soon approached the confines of another canton. As he was advancing slowly into it, with the long train of his army winding up with him through the valleys, he was met at the borders of this new state by an embassage sent from the government of it. They brought with them fresh stores of provisions, and a number of guides. They said that they had heard of the terrible destruction which had come upon the other canton in consequence of their effort to oppose his progress, and that they had no intention of renewing so vain an attempt. They came, therefore, they said, to offer Hannibal their friendship and their aid. They had brought guides to show the army the best way over the mountains, and a present of provisions; and to prove the sincerity of their professions they offered Hannibal hostages. These hostages were young men and boys, the sons of the principal inhabitants, whom they offered to deliver into Hannibal’s power, to be kept by him until he should see that they were faithful and true in doing what they offered.

Hannibal was so accustomed to stratagem and treachery himself, that he was at first very much at a loss to decide whether these offers and professions were honest and sincere, or whether they were only made to put him off his guard. He thought it possible that it was their design to induce him to place himself under their direction, so that they might lead him into some dangerous defile or labyrinth of rocks, from which he could not extricate himself, and where they could attack and destroy him. He, however, decided to return them a favorable answer, but to watch them very carefully, and to proceed under their guidance with the utmost caution and care. He accepted of the provisions they offered, and took the hostages. These last he delivered into the custody of a body of his soldiers and they marched on with the rest of the army. Then, directing the new guides to lead the way, the army moved on after them. The elephants went first, with a moderate force for their protection preceding and accompanying them. Then came long trains of horses and mules, loaded with military stores and baggage, and finally the foot soldiers followed, marching irregularly in a long column. The whole train must have extended many miles, and must have appeared from any of the eminences around like an enormous serpent, winding its way tortuously through the wild and desolate valleys.

Hannibal was right in his suspicions. The embassage was a stratagem. The men who sent it had laid an ambuscade in a very narrow pass, concealing their forces in thickets and in chasms, and in nooks and corners among the rugged rocks, and when the guides had led the army well into the danger, a sudden signal was given, and these concealed enemies rushed down upon them in great numbers, breaking into their ranks, and renewing the scene of terrible uproar, tumult, and destruction which had been witnessed in the other defile. One would have thought that the elephants, being so unwieldy and so helpless in such a scene, would have been the first objects of attack. But it was not so. The mountaineers were afraid of them. They had never seen such animals before, and they felt for them a mysterious awe, not knowing what terrible powers such enormous beasts might be expected to wield. They kept away from them, therefore, and from the horsemen, and poured down upon the head of the column of foot soldiers which followed in the rear.

They were quite successful at the first onset. They broke through the head of the column, and drove the rest back. The horses and elephants, in the mean time, moved forward, bearing the baggage with them, so that the two portions of the army were soon entirely separated. Hannibal was behind, with the soldiers. The mountaineers made good their position, and, as night came on, the contest ceased, for in such wilds as these no one can move at all, except with the light of day. The mountaineers, however, remained in their place, dividing the army, and Hannibal continued, during the night, in a state of great suspense and anxiety, with the elephants and the baggage separated from him and apparently at the mercy of the enemy.

During the night he made vigorous preparations for attacking the mountaineers the next day. As soon as the morning light appeared, he made the attack, and he succeeded in driving the enemy away, so far, at least, as to allow him to get his army together again. He then began once more to move on. The mountaineers, however, hovered about his way, and did all they could to molest and embarrass his march. They concealed themselves in ambuscades, and attacked the Carthaginians as they passed. They rolled stones down upon them, or discharged spears and arrows from eminences above; and if any of Hannibal’s army became, from any reason, detached from the rest, they would cut off their retreat, and then take them prisoners or destroy them. Thus they gave Hannibal a great deal of trouble. They harassed his march continually, without presenting at any point a force which he could meet and encounter in battle. Of course, Hannibal could no longer trust to his guides, and he was obliged to make his way as he best could, sometimes right, but often wrong, and exposed to a thousand difficulties and dangers, which those acquainted with the country might have easily avoided. All this time the mountaineers were continually attacking him, in bands like those of robbers, sometimes in the van, and sometimes in the rear, wherever the nature of the ground or the circumstances of the marching army afforded them an opportunity.

Hannibal persevered, however, through all these discouragements, protecting his men as far as it was in his power, but pressing earnestly on, until in nine days he reached the summit. By the summit, however, is not meant the summit of the mountains, but the summit of the _pass_, that is, the highest point which it was necessary for him to attain in going over. In all mountain ranges there are depressions, which are in Switzerland called _necks_,[A] and the pathways and roads over the ranges lie always in these. In America, such a depression in a ridge of land, if well marked and decided, is called a _notch_. Hannibal attained the highest point of the _col_, by which he was to pass over, in nine days after the great battle. There were, however, of course, lofty peaks and summits towering still far above him.

[Footnote A: The French word is _col_. Thus, there is the Col de Balme, the Col de Geant, &c.]

He encamped here two days to rest and refresh his men. The enemy no longer molested him. In fact, parties were continually coming into the camp, of men and horses, that had got lost, or had been left in the valleys below. They came in slowly, some wounded, others exhausted and spent by fatigue and exposure. In some cases horses came in alone. They were horses that had slipped or stumbled, and fallen among the rocks, or had sunk down exhausted by their toil, and had thus been left behind, and afterward, recovering their strength, had followed on, led by a strange instinct to keep to the tracks which their companions had made, and thus they rejoined the camp at last in safety.

In fact, one great reason for Hannibal’s delay at his encampment on or near the summit of the pass, was to afford time for all the missing men to join the army again, that had the power to do so. Had it not been for this necessity, he would doubtless have descended some distance, at least, to a more warm and sheltered position before seeking repose. A more gloomy and desolate resting-place than the summit of an Alpine pass can scarcely be found. The bare and barren rocks are entirely destitute of vegetation, and they have lost, besides, the sublime and picturesque forms which they assume further below. They spread in vast, naked fields in every direction around the spectator, rising in gentle ascents, bleak and dreary, the surface whitened as if bleached by the perpetual rains. Storms are, in fact, almost perpetual in these elevated regions. The vast cloud which, to the eye of the shepherd in the valley below, seems only a fleecy cap, resting serenely upon the summit, or slowly floating along the sides, is really a driving mist, or cold and stormy rain, howling dismally over interminable fields of broken rocks, as if angry that it can make nothing grow upon them, with all its watering. Thus there are seldom distant views to be obtained, and every thing near presents a scene of simple dreariness and desolation.

Hannibal’s soldiers thus found themselves in the midst of a dismal scene in their lofty encampment. There is one special source of danger, too, in such places as this, which the lower portions of the mountains are less exposed to, and that is the entire obliteration of the pathway by falls of snow. It seems almost absurd to speak of pathway in such regions, where there is no turf to be worn, and the boundless fields of rocks, ragged and hard, will take no trace of footsteps. There are, however, generally some faint traces of way, and where these fail entirely the track is sometimes indicated by small piles of stones, placed at intervals along the line of route. An unpracticed eye would scarcely distinguish these little landmarks, in many cases, from accidental heaps of stones which lie every where around. They, however, render a very essential service to the guides and to the mountaineers, who have been accustomed to conduct their steps by similar aids in other portions of the mountains.

But when snow begins to fall, all these and every other possible means of distinguishing the way are soon entirely obliterated. The whole surface of the ground, or, rather, of the rocks, is covered, and all landmarks disappear. The little monuments become nothing but slight inequalities in the surface of the snow, undistinguishable from a thousand others. The air is thick and murky, and shuts off alike all distant prospects, and the shape and conformation of the land that is near; the bewildered traveler has not even the stars to guide him, as there is nothing but dark, falling flakes, descending from an impenetrable canopy of stormy clouds, to be seen in the sky.

Hannibal encountered a snow storm while on the summit of the pass, and his army were very much terrified by it. It was now November. The army had met with so many detentions and delays that their journey had been protracted to a late period. It would be unsafe to attempt to wait till this snow should melt again. As soon, therefore, as the storm ended, and the clouds cleared away, so as to allow the men to see the general features of the country around, the camp was broken up and the army put in motion. The soldiers marched through the snow with great anxiety and fear. Men went before to explore the way, and to guide the rest by flags and banners which they bore. Those who went first made paths, of course, for those who followed behind, as the snow was trampled down by their footsteps. Notwithstanding these aids, however, the army moved on very laboriously and with much fear.

At length, however, after descending a short distance, Hannibal, perceiving that they must soon come in sight of the Italian valleys and plains which lay beyond the Alps, went forward among the pioneers, who had charge of the banners by which the movements of the army were directed, and, as soon as the open country began to come into view, he selected a spot where the widest prospect was presented, and halted his army there to let them take a view of the beautiful country which now lay before them. The Alps are very precipitous on the Italian side. The descent is very sudden, from the cold and icy summits, to a broad expanse of the most luxuriant and sunny plains. Upon these plains, which were spread out in a most enchanting landscape at their feet, Hannibal and his soldiers now looked down with exultation and delight. Beautiful lakes, studded with still more beautiful islands, reflected the beams of the sun. An endless succession of fields, in sober autumnal colors, with the cottages of the laborers and stacks of grain scattered here and there upon them, and rivers meandering through verdant meadows, gave variety and enchantment to the view.

Hannibal made an address to his officers and men, congratulating them on having arrived, at last, so near to a successful termination of their toils. “The difficulties of the way,” he said, “are at last surmounted, and these mighty barriers that we have scaled are the walls, not only of Italy, but of Rome itself. Since we have passed the Alps, the Romans will have no protection against us remaining. It is only one battle, when we get down upon the plains, or at most two, and the great city itself will be entirely at our disposal.”

The whole army were much animated and encouraged, both by the prospect which presented itself to their view, and by the words of Hannibal. They prepared for the descent, anticipating little difficulty; but they found, on recommencing their march, that their troubles were by no means over. The mountains are far steeper on the Italian side than on the other, and it was extremely difficult to find paths by which the elephants and the horses, and even the men, could safely descend. They moved on for some time with great labor and fatigue, until, at length, Hannibal, looking on before, found that the head of the column had stopped, and the whole train behind was soon jammed together, the ranks halting along the way in succession, as they found their path blocked up by the halting of those before them.

Hannibal sent forward to ascertain the cause of the difficulty, and found that the van of the army had reached a precipice down which it was impossible to descend. It was necessary to make a circuit in hopes of finding some practicable way of getting down. The guides and pioneers went on, leading the army after them, and soon got upon a glacier which lay in their way. There was fresh snow upon the surface, covering the ice and concealing the _crevasses_, as they are termed–that is, the great cracks and fissures which extend in the glaciers down through the body of the ice. The army moved on, trampling down the new snow, and making at first a good roadway by their footsteps; but very soon the old ice and snow began to be trampled _up_ by the hoofs of the horses and the heavy tread of such vast multitudes of armed men. It softened to a great depth, and made the work of toiling through it an enormous labor. Besides, the surface of the ice and snow sloped steeply, and the men and beasts were continually falling or sliding down, and getting swallowed up in avalanches which their own weight set in motion, or in concealed crevasses where they sank to rise no more.

They, however, made some progress, though slowly, and with great danger. They at last got below the region of the snow, but here they encountered new difficulties in the abruptness and ruggedness of the rocks, and in the zigzag and tortuous direction of the way. At last they came to a spot where their further progress appeared to be entirely cut off by a large mass of rock, which it seemed necessary to remove in order to widen the passage sufficiently to allow them to go on. The Roman historian says that Hannibal removed these rocks by building great fires upon them, and then pouring on vinegar, which opened seams and fissures in them, by means of which the rocks could be split and pried to pieces with wedges and crowbars. On reading this account, the mind naturally pauses to consider the probability of its being true. As they had no gunpowder in those days, they were compelled to resort to some such method as the one above described for removing rocks. There are some species of rock which are easily cracked and broken by the action of fire. Others resist it. There seems, however, to be no reason obvious why vinegar should materially assist in the operation. Besides, we can not suppose that Hannibal could have had, at such a time and place, any very large supply of vinegar on hand. On the whole, it is probable that, if any such operation was performed at all, it was on a very small scale, and the results must have been very insignificant at the time, though the fact has since been greatly celebrated in history.

In coming over the snow, and in descending the rocks immediately below, the army, and especially the animals connected with it, suffered a great deal from hunger. It was difficult to procure forage for them of any kind. At length, however, as they continued their descent, they came first into the region of forests, and soon after to slopes of grassy fields descending into warm and fertile valleys. Here the animals were allowed to stop and rest, and renew their strength by abundance of food. The men rejoiced that their toils and dangers were over, and, descending easily the remainder of the way, they encamped at last safely on the plains of Italy.

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Hannibal was a Carthaginian. Think Tunisia.
He was said to be a great general. He agreed.
His consistent opponent was the Roman Empire. Overall he lost.

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politics

President Obama’s War With The United States

This probably sounds like a candidate for wingnut headline of the day. A story about how the President plans to do everyone in because he is the ultimate subverter of our traditions and way of life.

But my purpose is to suggest that the current Afpak business does not really pit the President against the world’s terrorists as much as it pits him against our sorry past. I am talking about the past that was decreed the minute we institutionalized our WW2-justified impunity and morphed it into the clandestine reality of the Cold War.

I believe it is time to demythologize this venture and call it what it was — an exaggerated sense of global danger that traded an uneasy security for a vicious and demeaning military-industrial venture into global violence and the prodigal sacrifice of American lives and resources.

When I was a child, the violence of media tended to have a humorous distance built in. As in the adventures of Superman and such. Now the cultural expressions of violence are so pervasive that they are an exercise in special effects that reflect our own passivity in the face of shock and awe.

The President cannot act in Afghanistan without engaging in a real war with the hold that Cold War mythology continues to exert. The myth persists. Even though it was never as stated, save in the way both sides played necessary parts and wasted time and treasure creating the mutually assured destruction that gave it its substance.

I am not saying that realpolitik is not real. I am saying that when it shades into a world where impunity, the power that corrupts absolutely, is permitted, then we have this world, the world of a culture filled with everything needed to defeat reasonable action and measured response. There is tangible power behind institutions which are the instruments of the jaws of hell. It is the power and fascination with unbridled improvements on the weapons of destruction, the means of murder, the modes of reification and the mentality of permanent war.

I firmly believe that the President was given his opportunity precisely because there is an ever so slight chance that the balance can tip toward reason. But it cannot do so without a willingness to work through a battle plan for lifting from the vision of the United States the blinders put there by the Dulles Brothers and others who gave birth to the present era.

Obama is appointed, I believe, to show how true toughness lies in respecting ourselves enough to have the courage to deny impunity to all who would seize it. I know that in the human rights world impunity is a term so widely used that it begins to lack meaning.

Very simply impunity is whatever enables a person possessing power to exert his/her will physically’spiritually over another. Whether in a household, a town, a nation. Wherever. Impunity compromises the right of every human being to have his or her No respected and honored. Impunity makes power the measure of all things. Because it is always unbridled, it is the absolute corruption.

The President has intelligently bought some time in Afghanistan. But the time will be ill-used if he does not work with Joe Biden and others to confront the real fault, the fault not in our stars but in ourselves. When this is done. whatever we do in Afghanistan will have a purpose that would never be served if this underlying battle went begging to be understood.

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politics, theology

1:1 Proportionality: If You Want War Why Not Try Fairness?

On grounds of 1:1 proportionality — that would be killing no more than have been killed by the enemy — the U.S has spilled more blood in the so called War on Terror than has been spilled by the terrorists. We have taken multiple eyes for eyes. Multiple teeth for teeth.

I see no reason why in any war there should not be 1:1 proportionality in justifying what is certain to result in the loss of life. If I am President Obama, or indeed any ethically minded and thoughtful person, I at least weigh the losses we will inflict against the losses we are likely to suffer.

But this has not been our doctrine of the ethics of war. Under the last Bush, this ethic was not even considered. Iraq has been a cauldron of slaughter where the deaths of the enemy have far exceeded the deaths caused by terrorists. Enemy is a misnomer as our victims have mainly been civilians, innocents, non-combatants.

I know that 9/11 was a slaughter of civilians and that I am writing mainly about the so-called War on Terror. 1:1 proportionality would surely have been achieved had the U.S. confined its efforts to rooting out Al Qaeda period. But that was never the objective.

Here from About.com is a digest of casualties of the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts as of a year ago.

4,683 American combatants in the two countries. That exceeds the casualties in 9/11 and we have not even gotten to the Afghan and Iraqi casualties.

Iraqi civilian casualties exceed 20,000 and may be much more. An outside estimate of all Iraq War casualties exceeds 600,000.

In Afghanistan coalition deaths exceed 1000 and are bound to rise if the Obama plan is ratified and expanded. The same link wlll indicate civilian casualties vastly exceed casualties inflicted by Al Qaeda.

It is self evident that we care more for our losses than the enemy’s. But judicious attention to the matter would at least give some weight to civilian casualties in the equation. We have been prodigal in our slaughter of innocents. The moral laws of karma and justice are not on our side.

Our understanding of war has become the reduction of OUR casualties and the maximization of enemy deaths.

Bill Clinton endorsed this. Save our soldiers and kill as many of theirs as possible. I assume this is also the stance of NATO.

Well, here is the gospel truth:

Blessing goes to the peace makers. Failing peace. the blessing goes to the negotiators. These are the two gospel options. They were long ago rejected by Christian nations in favor of “just” wars. 1:1 proportionality has never been seriously considered or practiced.

The Bush approach to 9/11 was, and remains, a travesty. When this is all added up in heaven, if it ever is, culpability will fall at the feet of those who put reason aside and chose shock and awe.

So what will our President do?

If he became the first President to make 1:1 proportionality a doctrine of war, he would be so far to a solution in Afghanistan that I would eat my earliest words — well before the recent chorus — about Obama’s Vietnam. These were buried by HuffPo at the time. For example. And here as well.

Eisenhower would sit up in his grave and applaud.

And the Military-Insustrial complex would be calling up the organizers of the Town Hall protests and asking them in code for some serious help.

Sorry, but this is the way things are.

The issue is not whether more troops will bring victory. It is guaranteed not to when you have to ask the question. The issue is whether we will move to 1:1 proportionality and tell terrorists what that means, should they attack again.

Then we wait to see if the world changes. Yes, it’s a gamble. But it is the right gamble to take. The other one leads to everything we have believed in that is wrong, destructive and ultimately self-defeating

FURTHER READING

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politics

Moment of Truth In Afghanistan, Iran, Israel-Palestine, SE Asia, Africa, FSU

http://ow.ly/npFP Afghan War Needs New Strategy: US Commander McChrystal

I include many areas where the world faces huge challenges, including the former Soviet Union (FSU).

We make a mistake when we segment challenges. One boat rocks others. We may not be gaia but there is some truth to our interdependence.

In all these situations, violence is active or incipient. In all of them, there is no solution being proposed that promises an end to the prospect of more of the same.

To cite examples:

There is every possibility that Iran will remain firm in refusing to stop enriching uranium and this will activate Israel eventually. If that happens the US may not be far behind.

There is every chance that the civil violence (if that is not an oxymoron) in many areas of the FSU will continue and that worsening economic conditions there will exacerbate conflict. Again involving other nations including the US.

In Africa there are at least five situations in which any notion of rights and decent behavior is a pipe dream without international action that would involve the US.

In Asia, Burma and Sri Lanka are merely the most conspicuous examples of continuing repression. I have not even mentioned North Korea.

And in Afghanistan we have the head US military man suggesting that with more resolve and manpower we can succeed — a truth that is no more likely to hold than the belief that Iraq will be a stable and unified democracy over time.

No serious thinker following Nietzsche and living through the Holocaust believes that the world can permanently weather a continuation of the dynamics which gave rise to the cataclysmic wars of the 20th Century.

We cannot weather full economic breakdown and a global nuclear winter.

How then are we to proceed?

I see no way other than for our President to declare a global emergency and address the underlying issue of a global military-industrial complex and a reliance on force that is fueled by governments still operating with 20th century notions that the sword is the instrument of peace and justice.

President Obama needs to declare a restructuring of the moral apparatus of the world. Realpolitik must be seen as the politics of negotiation and peace. Religion must be seen as the proximate capacity to dream, not as a license to kill. Economies must be made to create sustainable communities, not fortress societies.

Only the leadership of courageous persons can accomplish the movement needed today. Specifically, in Afghanistan we need to understand that there cannot be a military victory, period. In the future the only real victories will be those of aroused peoples who insist that the ways of war be permanently shelved. This will mean more movements like those in Iran following the most recent elections.

The President needs to stand at the helm of a global civil rights movement. He needs to show that realism is not inconsistent with this. He needs to hark back to Eisenhower and identify the military-industrial complex as the true enemy of civilization.

This is a moment of truth. This is not one person’s belief. It is the stance of all who have lived under the lash of the global war machine. We must reject the leadership of those for whom belief in force has overcome belief in themselves.

The moment of truth is a reappropriation of who we are and of our inherent possibilities.

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War As Ridicule — The Futility of Military Means

War was always ridiculous. And naturally ridicule has always been a part of war. To ridicule is to make fun of, to taunt or deride — to make look foolish.

Ultimately one could argue that at least some wars are won or lost according to the relative ridiculousness of the opponents.

For example, the Romans are said to have made quick work of the Druids in the dawn of the present era. The Romans were somewhat less ridiculous than their enemy. The Druids had a penchant for human sacrifice and some even say cannibalism.

Hitler was inherently ridiculous as Walt Disney, among others, understood.

I suppose our own Revolution was close to even. It may not be possible to conduct a civil war with ridicule alone.

But there is a reasonable argument today that the war on terror — so called — is better be conducted by ridicule than by throwing young men and women into harms way.

In the war on terror, the very worst features of religion, tribalism and ethnic prejudice are at work. There is no compunction about killing someone merely because he or she may be Jewish. On the streets of New York I defy anyone to pick a Jew out of a crowd. Save for those in orthodox garb, there is no way of knowing.

But say someone is a Jew and terror will have no conscience at all about killing that someone as a heretic and an infidel, regardless whether that person is a dove or a hawk, a humanitarian or a disciple of Ayn Rand. Substitute Arab for Jew and the same logic holds.

In a situation where the very basis of war is a hatred of infidels and and heretics, the most salient weapon is ridicule.

At bottom one needs to say that the system of values that sees the world in terms of true believers and infidels is flat out ridiculous. Unworthy or respect. Laughable. Idiotic. Diss-able.

I believe the war on teror is unwinnable by military means. There is too much baggage around assault and presence and occupation, not to mention the logic of infidel-skewering, to make a military presence palatable to a local population. Every military “success” is a slap in the face. Every failure a disaster for someone. Military efforts to defeat terrorism are ultimately counter-productive.

Better President Obama lecture the world — as he has done — on the ridiculousness of the hate that gives rise to suicide bombing, roadside bombing, ambushing and all other appurtenances of terrorist effort.

We have the capacity to respond to the physical reality of a terror attack. Bush could have done so after 9/11 by simply blanketing the area that held Al Qaeda with tear gas and waiting at the mouths of the caves. Instead the scion of a wealthy Saudi family was left to thumb his nose year after year. It cannot be said that Osama does not know the virtues of ridicule. He has used it to win the sympathies of millions.

We are entering a very tough situation now because all of the wingnut enemies of Obama will seize on difficult economic news to hurt his domestic agenda and encourage his misguided military ventures abroad. At some time, the bank may break for real and all those who have been aching for a showdown will force the nation to act in ways that will not be pretty.

The choice for the President lies in gently folding up our military tent and seeing that Fortress America does not mean isolationism, but cogent engagement with the world as it is.

Our enemies are the proponents of a ridiculous idea which needs to be demolished to the point that it becomes difficult for any child to sit in a fundamentalist school imbibing the logic of terror. Whether across the world or right here in the good old US of A.

We need to get out own house in order. We have ridiculous ideas all around us. Many of them are based on superstition, hatred, rumor and innuendo.

I see the President as a stalwart defender of law and reason and enlightened religion, if it is possible to speak of any religion as enlightened. I see him using his bully pulpit to talk us down from a war we do not want (and he does not need) and talk us up to an effort to put silly ideas to bed with the simple and devastating weapon of ridicule.

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