“Who could possibly tell how many hardships these idiots of soldiers put up with in their camps? And they deserve worse just for being willing to put up with them.” ~ Erasmus
In the first of my articles on Erasmus (“Erasmus on the Evils of War”), I wrote a brief introduction to Erasmus and his works on war and peace that should be read to better understand what Erasmus has to say here about the wickedness of soldiers.
No matter what subject he is writing about, Erasmus has absolutely nothing good to say about soldiers. Indeed, as the translator and annotator of one of Erasmus’ Colloquies wrote: “Erasmus seldom missed an opportunity to satirize soldiers or to attack their wickedness.”
In a 1514 letter to Antoon van Bergen asks us to consider the instruments of war: “I pray you: murderers, profligates devoted to gambling and rape, and the vilest sort of mercenary soldiery to whom pay is dearer that life. These are splendid material in war; for then they earn rewards and glory for doing what they were doing at their own peril before. These are the dregs of mankind whom you must welcome into your countryside and towns alike if you have a mind to make war. In brief, if we seek to take vengeance upon another, to such as these must we enslave ourselves.”