Albatros Fighters in action by John F. Connors


By John F. Connors


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41 War, then, has a legal purpose and function, to resolve conflicts and restore peace; but Bouvet went on to show that it should be kept within certain bounds. These three viewpoints give us a broad, simplified impression of medieval thought on the subject of warfare. It is difficult, however, to judge how widely each viewpoint was held. The belief that ‘all war is evil’ was rarely expressed in the medieval period; and as this attitude became associated with heretical groups from the second half of the twelfth century, it would be dangerous for writers to express such views.

Describing the attributes of the planet Mars, patron of war, the writer states: Mars … is misfortune, damaging, and the author of evil things. And it signifies loss, evil works, houses and cities depopulated, drought and preventing rain from falling, fire, burning, disagreements, blood, every impetuosity … evil and warped judgements, oppressions, anguish, people’s deaths and damage to everything, destruction, quarrels, wars, battles, terrors, discord among people, anxiety and misery, pains, wounds, prisons, misery, flight, contentions, stupidity, treachery and every cursed thing which comes about without sense or moderation …39 The impact of war also includes illegal actions, false oaths, sexual depravity, killing infants in their mother’s womb, ‘and everything remote from truth and legality’.

1 The theory of warfare Medieval warfare was such a supremely practical art that it may seem perverse to begin by considering theory. It is true that theory and practice were often far apart, yet the theory forms a basis from which the practice can be considered. The theory of warfare during the Middle Ages can be considered under two broad categories: first, how to physically wage war and, second, considerations of honour and the moral foundations for war. The first was derived largely from Vegetius, and hence from classical, pagan, Roman writings on warfare, while the second developed from a mixture of classical, Germanic and Christian thinking.

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