“No Half-measures”: A Roman Tale, and a Christian Addendum

(Below is a modified version of my sci-fi post, with the fictional elements removed or reshaped.)

From Romans vs Samnites, the “Caudine Forks”

[Snipped: quite a slick military maneuver, used by the Samnites to defeat the Roman Army]

Gaius Pontius, head of the Samnites, who was marveled at the ingenuity of the Romans in the fall into the trap, sent messengers to elderly father Erennio for ask about what to do. Erennio Pontius advised him to make an honorable peace with the Romans, but Gaius did not accept the advice, and urged again the father, he told him to kill all the Roman soldiers, the two options put forward by Erennio were both wise; the first to put into account the gratitude of the Romans for not humiliation and therefore the possibility of a lasting peace, the second, with the destruction of the army, would have prevented the Romans any reaction of revenge for many years to come.

Meanwhile the Roman consuls sent messengers to negotiate the surrender, that would allow their army to return to Rome unscathed. Gaius Pontius did not accept either the father’s advices and he chose the worst solution; he made peace with the Romans who re-instated the treaty of 341 BC, providing in the same treaty the humiliation of the vanquished with the disarming of the legionaries, 600 young Roman hostages to guarantee peace and the passage of all the legionaries under a yoke of spears, the so-called “Caudine Forks” (Forche Caudine).

The Roman historians, also Tito Livio, were quite reluctant in reporting the episode of Caudine Forks. All the Romn soldiers, the commanders at the head, were forced to go under the yoke of spears between two enormous wings of Samnite soldiers. Tito Livio describes the humiliation in his “Ab urbe condita libri”:

“They were made go out of the embankment, dressed of only tunic: the hostages were delivered in the first place and led away under custody. Then they commanded the lictors to get away from the consuls; the consuls were stripped of the command shell …
Before the consuls were passed half-naked under the yoke; then all those who held a degree suffered the same ignominious fate; finally the all legionaries were passed under the yoke. The enemies, armed, surrounded them; they covered the Romans with insults and taunts, and they even stuck up the swords against many Romans; some Romans were injured and killed, if their attitude was too embittered by those outrages and it seemed offensive to the winners. »

Livio does not tell that all the Roman soldiers were sodomized, and who rebelled he was killed mercilessly.

The two legions were released and retreated to Capua, but they did not dare to enter the city, such a shame for what they had suffered. The people of Capua went to meet them, dressed and refreshed them, the weapons and even consular flags were provided. The legions encamped outside the city walls even in Rome. The city dressed in mourning, the shops were closed, the Senate suspended the work, everyone took off jewelry and amulets. Consuls and centurions closed in their house refusing to leave. Two new consuls were appointed by the Senate: Quintus Publilius Philo and Lucius Papirius Cursor, who had to rebuild from scratch the army.

It was then that a motto spread among the Romans, still widely used, that relates the luck of someone with the measurement of his backside: those soldiers who had a large backside had been more fortunate in comparison to others.

The clashes continued between the Romans and Samnites with mixed fortunes and they lasted until the 305 BC when, in the battle of Bovianum, the Roman legions, led by Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus, defeated hard the Samnites that the following year entered into an onerous peace by ending the second Samnite war.

For more on the Samnite Wars, see Military.com

Two Roads

The main point I want to stress is that you either treat the defeated enemy with magnanimity, or you raise him to the ground. Merely humiliating him and then letting him go is lunacy.


If you want a unified monocultural homogeneous state, then you go [the extermination route.] Such a state, once the conquest is completed, is quite difficult to overthrow or break apart (see: China & Japan.) But it’s expensive to set up, in both time and money.

Vast multicultural empires don’t last: but in the short term, they are quite profitable precisely because you need not devote a large chunk of your budget to the suppression/oppression/extermination of minority cultures & races.

The Imperial Application


Meanwhile, in the World of the Real

Note that even small-scale extermination campaigns are expensive, and requires determination to see them through. The Israelite’s never did exterminate the Canaanites and numerous other conquered peoples, preferring to enslave them or demand tribute instead. And thus, they failed to unify under a single God and a single Law, eventually leading to their fragmentation, assorted delusions and fantasies, and crushing defeat.

Fortunately, the Kingdom of Christ is about the expansion of a particular law code & ethic, rather than a particular nation or race. Humans of the wrong genetic inheritance, language, or culture are not the focus of the drive to exterminate: other gods, other lords, and other legal codes are. There is no need to destroy the human servants of other gods and other laws, when they can be simply bypassed and the fight taken directly to the enemy deity.

Increasingly, it’s about the transmission of true information, not swords and guns, and not state security officers or even mainstream media outlets.

(Waves to the Secularists, Marxists, and Muslims.)

You don’t even need to think hard, to know why the Gospel — ‘good news’ — is the weapon of choice for Christians, rather than the large fists that the pagans adore. Winning long-term is the point, not short-term emotional satisfaction!

So long as obedience to God brings greater profit and success than obedience to any and all substitutes, it will continue to grow nicely…

……until you start exalting the gifts, rather than the giver.

After gaining wealth and power and honour and comfort, the temptation to slack off and/or credit your genes, your intelligence, good luck, etc rather than obedience to God will grow quite a lot.

And then, after you break faith, you get to rediscover the wonders of poverty, the marvels of both lawless anarchy and lawless tyranny, and the joys of abject failure and public disgrace.


It happened to the Hebrews, and the Puritans. To the Roman Christians, and the American Christians, and the European Christians.

And once again, blessings are replaced by curses, unearned mercy with well-earned justice.

For there are no half-measures with God.

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