Dulce Et Decorum Est

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“It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.” – Horace

Horace, Quintas Horatius Flaccus;
65-8 B.C. Roman poet
From his poem “Dulce Et Decorum Est,” in Odes, Bk. III, No. 2 (35 B.C.)

The Latin word decorum has been variously translated as fitting, honorable, glorious and becoming. In the poem, Horace muses on patriotism and cowardice, saying:

”It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country. Yet death chases after the soldier who runs, and it won’t spare the cowardly back or the limbs, of peace-loving young men.”

Before becoming a poet, Horace briefly served as a soldier in the army of Brutus, one of the assassins of Julius Caesar.

Marc Antony and Octavian (later Augustus Caesar) defeated Brutus at the Battle of Philippi in 42 B.C. It seems a bit ironic, given Horace’s brave words in “Dulce Et Decorum Est,” that he threw down his shield and fled the battlefield during the Battle of Philippi to save himself from death.

After Augustus declared amnesty for Romans who served in armies used against him, Horace became a clerk in the government treasury and a poet in his spare time.

His Odes, published in four volumes between 23 B.C. and 13 B.C., are considered to be among the greatest works of classic Latin literature.

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