Beware the fury of the Legions (attributed to Marcus Flavius) (1961 English 1960 French)

Ronald Butters ronbutters at AOL.COM
Sat Mar 3 17:26:21 UTC 2012

On Mar 3, 2012, at 11:30 AM, Garson O'Toole wrote:

> An Op-ed published in the Washington Post in 2010 contained part of a
> letter attributed to a Roman commander named Marcus Flavius.
> Cite: 2010 June 27, Washington Post, The making of four-star arrogance
> by Andrew Bacevich, Page B1, Washington, D.C. (ProQuest) [Online
> title: Endless war, a recipe for four-star arrogance]
> Professor Jonathan Lighter may have encountered this letter which was
> excerpted in some books during the Vietnam War era. Here is the
> version of the text presented in a collection of military quotations.
> Cite: 1966, "Dictionary of Military and Naval Quotations" edited by
> Robert Debs Heinl, Category: Home Front, Page 149, Column 2, United
> States Naval Institute, Annapolis, Maryland. (Verified on paper)
> [Begin excerpt; Paragraph breaks added for readability]
> 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
> civilization. We could verify that all this was true, and, because
> true, we did not hesitate to shed our share of blood, to sacrifice our
> youth and 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 in their uncertainty
> and confusion lend ready ear to the dire temptations of relinquishment
> and vilify our actions .. . 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 the anger of the
> Legions.
> Marcus Flavinius: To his cousin, Tertullus, in Rome. 2d century A. D.
> (Flavinius was a centurion, 2d Cohort, Augusta Legion.)
> [End excerpt]
> Some modern variants use the phrase "fury of the Legions" instead of
> "anger of the Legions".
> The earliest instance I have located of this letter is in a book
> called "The Centurions" by Jean Larteguy. The publication date is 1962
> and the copyright is 1961. This is a Google Books match which I have
> not checked on paper.
> "The Centurions" is an English translation of a French book called
> "Les Centurions", and Google Books shows snippets of the letter
> attributed to Marcus Flavinius in French. Here is a link into the
> French book which has a publication date of 1960.
> Is this letter a piece of fiction? Earlier evidence for this missive
> has so far escaped me. Perhaps some list member can trace this text
> back in time in English, French, Latin or some other language.
> Thanks for any help you can provide
> Garson
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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