“It is in the nature of civilization that it must be in constant conflict
with barbarism. Very few empires have been the result of a deliberate
ambition. They have grown, inevitably, because it has been found necessary
to expand in order to preserve what is already held. The French had to
annex Algiers because it was the only way in which the Mediterranean could
be made safe from pirates. Empire moves in a seties of ‘incidents,’ and
these ‘incidents’ mean that it is impossible for a country to live in
isolation. Barbarism means constant provocation.”
—–From “We Can Applaud Italy” (1935), in The Essays, Articles and
Reviews of Evelyn Waugh.
[Incidentally, later in that same piece Waugh notes that: “For about fifteen
centuries the Italians have never won an important battle.” I can’t be
bothered to check this, but fifteen centuries seems like an awfully long
time. I mean, we all know the jokes about the Italian tank with four
gears–one forward, three reverse, etc. etc. Still, fifteen centuries?
What about the Renaissance city-states–didn’t they fight a few important