Woe to the Vanquished

I wrote this one up a few months ago. I will probably end up getting this tattooed on my right chest, opposite my crossed torches.

“Vae Victis” is Latin for “woe to the vanquished.” The phrase comes from early Roman Republican history, when the Gauls sacked Rome in 390 BC. The Gaulish general, Brennus, demanded 1,000 pounds of gold to ransom the city. When the Romans complained about the scales being unequal in the Gauls’ favor, Brennus threw his sword on the scale and said “Vae Victis!” Meaning, the conquered had to suffer whatever penalty the conqueror wanted to impose.

While I certainly don’t think that’s an ethical way to conduct world relations (not to mention personal relations), I like to remember this phrase in my day to day life. It helps me remember not to let myself become “the vanquished,” whatever form that takes in a particular situation.

(Note: This is going to sound quite a bit like works-based living. I fully acknowledge that I am a sinner, and all my best efforts will fail.)

For example, if I’m running, and thinking about giving up (because running is one of the worst things in the world), I’ll think about “Vae Victis”, and that hopefully helps me push on past that point, because I know I’ll regret it afterwards. Or if I’m feeling tempted to lash out in anger, or submit to a bad attitude, “Vae Victis” reminds me to pray that God, through the Holy Spirit, would help me resist, and not become vanquished.

I heard about “Vae Victis” from the Hardcore History episode 60: “The Celtic Holocaust.” Hardcore History is my favorite podcast ever, and I highly recommend listening to the current episodes, as well as many of the former episodes. They are well worth the few bucks they cost.

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