No matter how technologically advanced we become as a species, one thing remains certain: as long as humanity exists, there will be battles- and there will always be a man on the ground, slogging through the elements to the next objective.
Such is the case of a highly disputed “letter” believed to be written thousands of years ago by a Roman Legionnaire, named Marcus Flavinius.
Added in James Stockdale’s Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot but also published earlier in the 1976 French book The Face of War: Reflections on Men and Combat, the purported letter appears to be written by Flavinius, who is presumed to have been a foot soldier in the Roman Legion addressing his cousin.
The letter reads:
We had been told, on leaving our native soil, that we were going to defend the sacred rights conferred on us by so many of our citizens settled overseas, so many years of our presence, so many benefits brought by us to populations in need of our assistance and our civilization.
We were able to verify that all this was true, and, because it was true, we did not hesitate to shed our quota of blood, to sacrifice our youth and our hopes. We regretted nothing, but whereas we over here are inspired by this frame of mind, I am told that in Rome factions and conspiracies are rife, that treachery flourishes, and that many people in their uncertainty and confusion lend a ready ear to the dire temptations of relinquishment and vilify our action.
I cannot believe that all this is true and yet recent wars have shown how pernicious such a state of mind could be and to where it could lead.
Make haste to reassure me, I beg you, and tell me that our fellow-citizens understand us, support us and protect us as we ourselves are protecting the glory of the Empire.
If it should be otherwise, if we should have to leave our bleached bones on these desert sands in vain, then beware of the anger of the Legions!
In short, the infantryman of yesteryear was just as concerned over the state of world affairs as they are today, particularly in regard to how they were supported back home.
While the quote is rumored to be fabricated (as it was lifted from the 1962 book The Centurions and reprinted without a source citation from the vaguely titled Dictionary of Military and Naval Quotations), there is really no way of telling for sure.
Despite this, history has given us many letters of a similar nature, dating back nearly as long. With this in mind, it isn’t totally inconceivable that it was written -or at the very least, paraphrased- in a similar manner even if it was created by someone else.
We’d like to believe that, anyway.
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