Is History Repeating Itself?: The Origins of War

“There was no corner of the known world where some interest was not alleged to be in danger…When it was utterly impossible to contrive such an interest—why, then it was the national honor that had been insulted….Rome was always being attacked by evil-minded neighbors.” 

Sound familiar?  Find out the shocking reason history keeps repeating itself…

The following is an excerpt from Chapter 8 of Lloyd DeMause’s ” The Origins of War in Child Abuse”

RELIGION, POLITICS AND WARS IN SACRIFICIAL EARLY STATES
The infanticides, tortures and worship of Killer Mothers in early states become repeated, as we have documented in Chapter 1, in the worship of warrior goddesses of antiquity. Mother goddesses all had son-lovers—from Inna and Tammuz to Isis and Osiris and Aphrodite and Adonis—who needed their sons simply for their phallus, castrating them to make herself fruitful.”129 Worshippers of the Magna Mater cult used to castrate themselves for the goddess, “wishing to be like child, the better to serve her…running through the city with severed organs and throwing them into any house.”130 Early civilizations worshipped what Jungians term “Dragon Mothers,” who were acknowledged by worshippers to be cruel and unjust: “her glance brings death, her will is supreme.”131 Even when male gods replaced goddesses in later antiquity, the goddesses were represented by the throne, from which the king derives his power: “the throne makes the king.”132 Early religions often betrayed the group-fantasy that the gods were less powerful than the goddesses,133 and goddesses continued to appear in such literary representations as Amazons who “threaten manhood and need to be subjugated and killed to prevent them from dominating us…In Athens, over 800 portrayals have survived of Greek heroes stabbing and clubbing Amazons to death.”134 The political structures of early states repeated the childhood maternal domination, with an authoritarian monarch ruling a bureaucracy of aristocratic courtiers, governors, priests and jailers and for the first time producing a “government full of rich and poor, oppressors and oppressed, tyrannical politics and a vast priestly organization.”135 These early civilizations went beyond kinship to complex societies, whose loyalty to extremely violent monarchs is well documented by historians. But the degree to which these early societies are actually organized to achieve self-destructive aims is nowhere admitted. Goddesses need wars to “drink the blood of the victims who were formerly her children…Anat is filled with joy as she plunges her knees in the blood of heroes.”136 Individuals in antiquity can be pictured as massively suicidal—Egyptians regularly talked about suicide to their “doubles,” their Ba, their self-destructive alters, making “suicide so common that the crocodiles in the Nile could no longer cope with the corpses”137—but the principle that all early states were organized for suicidal aims has, I believe, nowhere been acknowledged. When Homer depicts Ajax as saying “the thumos in my chest is zealous to fight” and has warriors constantly talking to the voices of their thumos, historians do not conclude that he was actually talking to a violent alternate personality embedded during early child abuse.138 When historians report that “when an Aztec captured an enemy, he called him ‘my beloved son’ and the captive answered, ‘my beloved father,’ then killed him,”139 there is no suspicion that actual early family relationships are being repeated. Nor are historians reminded of real mothers when they report that goddesses are said to “drink the blood of the victims who were formerly her children” and to be “filled with joy as she plunges her knees in the blood of heroes” during wars.140

Besides having enormous homicide and suicide rates, early states were mainly organized to dominate and kill their own people as well as neighbors, and the wars they engaged in were not in fact for more resources they could use to enrich their lives but for “tribute” like gold and other useless metals that would be kept in central cities by their elites “as signs of submission.” Azar Gat’s comprehensive book on War in Human Civilization makes clear that all early states transformed advanced tribes into genocidal warrior societies whose purpose was not to enrich themselves but to wipe out neighbors.141 These civilizations—“all with standing armies, all expansionist, all engaged in chronic interstate warfare”142—began with religious human sacrifice, found in the remains of Egypt, Greece and Rome and in early states like the Aztec. Carrasco’s excellent book on the Aztec empire is entitled “City of Sacrifice,” and convincingly describes how the entire Aztec civilization is run in order to carry out continuous sacrifices of children and adults and of tributes given to the Killer Goddess in the ceremonial center of Mexico City—which he calls “a performance space,” dedicated solely to the meaningless destruction of people and goods.143The conquest of vast areas of nearby states was, he says, accomplished solely to feed the “Queen of the Central City,” who must constantly drink the blood of victims or die, and he concludes all her temples were nothing but “simple religious images of total destruction.”144 No slaves were taken in Aztec wars; all were sacrificed.145 The huge skull racks of victims were called “the mainstay of the city,” and the sacrificial rituals began with acting out the reason for the goddess being so murderous—her children were said to be furious with her for being pregnant, so they decided that “we must kill our mother” by becoming warriors, first killing a young girl who represented the goddess, flaying her skin and then donning it to get her power so as to be able to kill others.146 Every element of the masochistic sacrificial rituals repeated the violence inflicted upon Aztec children, beginning with the piercing their ears, tongues and genitals in cradles and continuing to their brutal torture as young children.147 The tribute captured was not goods that could be used by the people but consisted of items like precious metals, stones and feathers which might adorn the maternal goddess. As Anderson sums up Aztec culture: “The trinity of war, sacrifice and cannibalism made up a combined religious service…the Aztec state existed solely to produce sacrificial victims.”148

Although historians admit that slashing open the throats of infants and beheading young women had little economic value to the conquering nations, they nonetheless are reluctant to admit that the personal violence and all-consuming wars of early nations were clinically paranoid and were self-destructive in motivation. Few historians have concluded that the costs of conquering new territories exceeded the rewards they bothered to gain from them.149 Warriors who kill and are killed in constant battles with neighbors only end up murdering and raping them, for glory, not for profit, with the ubiquitous raping during wars being a repetition of the routine rape they experienced as children. Similarly, when Herodotus tells how during wars soldiers “no sooner got possession of a town than they chose out all the best favored boys and made them eunuchs,” this simply repeated the regular castration and then anal raping of little boys in their own societies.150 Spartans were not the only warriors who carried young boys into battles with them for sexual use. In addition, the widespread practice during antiquity of collecting thousands of penises as trophies during battles was derived from memories of childhood raping and castration.151

Most early wars were fought solely for the grandiosity of the state leader and for provoking further wars. As Maccoby puts it: “Men elect an all-powerful leader in their battle against the power of the women; the more they subordinate themselves to this leader, the more powerful they are in the battle.”152 When Rome fought the Punic Wars with Carthage they lost over a third of their population and gained nothing of value, utterly exterminating the Carthaginians.153 Aztec armies would even fight “Flower Wars” where they would split into smaller groups and kill their own fellow soldiers in order to feed the goddess.154 Mothers of the time regularly admitted they were looking forward to their sons being killed in battle. As Plutarch noted, Spartan mothers had a saying, “I accept gladly the death of my sons. [Admitting as she buried her son] I bore him that he may die for Sparta.”155 Mothers in ancient states often accompanied their sons into battle, publicly deriding those who had not yet killed anyone.156 Soldiers who panicked were often beaten to death by their comrades.157 Even when there was no enemy to fight, leaders would send out raiding expeditions “to keep the men sharp.”158 Sacrifice of life, not victory, ruled in battle—generals would even “offer their lives to the gods of the Underworld by charging the enemy and throwing himself onto their weapons,” a sacrificial ritual called devotio.159 As Schumpeter summarized the paranoia of the Roman Empire: “There was no corner of the known world where some interest was not alleged to be in danger…When it was utterly impossible to contrive such an interest—why, then it was the national honor that had been insulted….Rome was always being attacked by evil-minded neighbors.”160

Leaders often engaged in suicidal wars they admitted they knew they would lose, as when Pericles warned the victorious Athenians “not to make any new conquests” against Sparta, but they attacked anyway, provoking them into an alliance with Persia, defeating Athens.161 Caesar spent all the economic surplus of Rome on endless, useless wars with the millions of citizens of Germania and Gaul, moved solely by schizoid grandiosity. Caesar started the suicidal butchery of the Roman Civil Wars solely to save his “honor.” Warriors sometimes fought bare-chested162 or even fully naked,163 as though they were little children again—a purely suicidal practice. Those who impulsively engaged in duels for personal glory without authorization were often ordered to be killed by their commanders.164 When soldiers returned from battles with trophies (spolia), they displayed them on the walls of their home, adding to their grandiosity but otherwise quite useless to their families.165 Even when enemies were captured and returned to the central city as slaves, they ended up producing far less goods than if the city had traded economically with them. Indeed, the entire slave system of antiquity was economically self-destructive—slave owners spent most of their time seeing to it that their slaves didn’t rape their daughters or steal their goods or run away166—so productive innovations in farming and other professions were few, resulting in very low economic output in antiquity, where “improvement in land use were marginal and methods of tillage remained unchanged” for centuries because land owners didn’t care about reducing the work load of their slaves.167 They couldn’t even invent the stirrup until the 4th century A.D., and improvements in ploughs had to wait until even later. That “growth panic” triumphed over progress and individuation in ancient societies is obvious to anyone admitting their dismal lack of economic innovation, their impoverishing of both enemies and friends, and their grandiose devotion to endless slaughter.168

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We have indeed created man in the best of moulds,

Then we reduced him to the lowest of the low,

Except such as believe and do righteous deeds…

[alQur-aan, Suuratu-tTeen 4-6 (The Recitation, Chapter The Fig (95):  4-6)]

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To read more about childrearing and war, visit  The Institute for Psychohistory.

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129 Lloyd deMause, The Emotional Life of Nations, p. 408.

130 Ibid, p. 408.

131 Ibid., p. 405.

132 Erich Neumann, The Great Mother, p. 99; Anne Baring and Jules Cashford, The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an Image. London: Penguin Books, 1993, p. 251.

133 Ibid., p. 411.

134 Eva C. Keuls, The Reign of the Phallus, p. 4.

135 Eli Sagan, At the Dawn of Tyranny, p. 14.

136 Lloyd deMause, The Emotional Life of Nations, p. 409.

137 Barbara Hannah, Encounters With the Soul. Santa Monica: Sigo Press, 1981, p. 85.

138 A. W. H. Adkins, From the Many to the One, p. 21.

139 Nigel Davies, Human Sacrifice, p. 43.

140 Anne Baring and Jules Cashford, The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of An Image. London: Penguin Books, 1991, p. 169; Cynthia Eller, The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory. Boston: Beacon Press, 2000, p. 104.

141 Azar Gat, War in Human Civilization. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

142 Dyne Dawson, The Origins of Western Warfare: Militarism and Morality in the Ancient World. New York: Westview Press, 1996, p.38.

143 David Carrasco, City of Sacrifice, p. 8.

144 Ibid., p. 25.

145 Burr Cartwright Brundage, The Fifth Sun: Aztec Gods, Aztec World. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1979, p. 195.

146 Ibid., p. 61.

147 Ibid., p. 97, 185.

148 Ibid., pp. 196, 205.

149 Joseph A. Tainter, The Collapse of Complex Societies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988.

150 Peter Tompkins, The Eunuch and the Virgin. New York: Bramhall House, 1962, p. 15.

151 Ibid., p. 14.

152 Hyam Maccoby, The Sacred Executionery, p. 85.

153 Zar Gat, War in Human Civilization. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006, p. 131.

154 Burr Cartwright Brundage, The Fifth Sun, p. 205.

155 V. Spike Peterson, Gendered States: Feminist (Re)visions of International Relations Theory. Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 1992, pp. 7, 8.

156 Burr Cartwright Brundage, The Fifth Sun, p. 201.

157 Ross Cowan, For the Glory of Rome: A History of Warriors and Warfare. London: Greenhill Books, 2007, p. 134.

158 Ibid., p. 38.

159 Ibid., p. 61.

160 Morris Berman, Dark Ages America: The Final Phase of Empire. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2006, p. 110.

161 Hans Delbruck, Warfare in Antiqity. History of the Art of War, Vol. I. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990, p. 137.

162 Ibid., p. 128.

163 Colin Spencer, Homosexuality: A History. New York: Harcourt, 1996, p. 95.

164 Ibid., pp. 16, 151-177.

165 Ibid., p. 129.

166 Lloyd deMause, The Emotional Life of Nations, p. 281.

167 Ibid.

168 Frank Chalk & Kur Jonassohn, The History and Sociology of Genocide: Analyses and Case Studies. New Haven: Yale University Press,1990, pp. 58-156.

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