T hey make a desert and call it peace.” So the Roman historian Tacitus, writing at the end of the first century A.D., describes the devastating result of Roman imperial conquest. Tacitus assigns these words to the Briton chieftain Calgacus, who faced the inexorable advance of Roman legions in Britain. When he wrote these words, Tacitus was likely thinking of the devastation inflicted on Gaul 130 years* earlier by Julius Caesar. By any measure, the carnage Caesar’s troops inflicted on Gaul was vast. During the eight-year campaign, Caesar’s armies are estimated to have killed over one million Gauls, the entire population of the city of Rome at its height. Yet this bloodshed, like many mass outpourings of organized violence in human history, laid a foundation for future prosperity and...


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