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To state one's preference to end a war, in English one can cry "No to war!" and in Russian "Нет войне!" and similarly in many other languages. But how about Latin?

I can put non together with a dative ("Non bello!"), but this somehow strikes me as odd. It sounds more like "not by means of a war" than "I don't want a war". Is there an idiomatic way to express a pithy disagreement like this? Is there a way to use just a dative and a negation, or does it have to be longer?

I would expect anti-war sentiments like this to be found in graffiti and similar informal, or in more formal speech as slogans of some sort.

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  • llmavirta: Is this "No to war!" or "I don't want a war."? The latter is easy to translate; the former could be "nullum bellum" = "no (not any) war". There is the model (of a warning) from the House of the Tragic Poet" (Pompeii), "CAVE CANEM"; therefore, "cave bellum" = "beware war". Alternatively, there are standard prohibitions: "noli/ ite belligerare!" = "Be unwilling to make war!"; "ne belligeraveritis milites!" = "Don't make war, soldiers!"
    – tony
    Oct 4, 2022 at 10:41
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    @tony The English (and Russian and Finnish and so on) "No to war!" has many possible interpretations, especially about whether it is specific or general. Either one is fine with me; I'm just looking for something concise and idiomatic in this direction and asking if I can do a simple negation with a dative like in other languages. // Your suggestions sound like they are in a slightly different direction, but they might well turn out to be the best thing available. Are they attested and idiomatic? I imagine there might be graffiti attestations of an anti-war sentiment.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Oct 4, 2022 at 10:51
  • llmavirta: There may not be an exact fit for, "No to war!"? We'll see. The examples aren't attested or I'd have put them in an answer. But, if they obey grammatical rules they might well have been said. (The idea of soldiers being told not to make war was just my little joke.)
    – tony
    Oct 4, 2022 at 12:58
  • I'd be very surprised if there were anti-war graffiti in antiquity. I know the sentiment isn't old, but the way it is conveyed feels decidedly modern to me.
    – cmw
    Oct 5, 2022 at 15:38
  • @cmw Perhaps that calls for a follow-up question: How were anti-war sentiments expressed in antiquity? I'm not a good judge on how modern the "no to war" approach is, and I think you're right. I know ancient graffiti can be pithy (e.g. the ones with καλός), but that's only a small part of the puzzle.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Oct 5, 2022 at 17:56

2 Answers 2

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There is certainly a pithy way to express strong disagreement with a thing, and that is the call Perea(n)t. This seems to have been particularly popular among 19th century German revolutionaries/nationalists (for example R. E. Prutz in his poem Pereant die Liberalen, a timeless complaint about armchair heroes that has retained a certain popularity to this day). It was considered the counterpart to the more well-known vivat, and as such also occurs in Gaudeamus igitur: Pereat tristitia, pereant osores …

I would say it roughly corresponds to English “down with” (or French à bas, or German nieder mit). So it is a rather strong phrase and expresses not just personal disagreement, but uncompromising categorical opposition. I would not tend to use it to criticize, e.g., a particular war that I am against without being a pacifist on the whole. (Nor would I say “No to war” in that case, obviously, but I am not so sure about the Russian example, especially under the prevailing circumstances.)

Anyway, I think Pereat bellum probably captures the sentiment of “No to war” quite well, but strikes a particularly fierce tone.

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  • The exhortation, "bellum pereat" = "Let war die, instead of the unwilling participants (by implication)", is a great answer.
    – tony
    Oct 6, 2022 at 10:09
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There seem to be several ways culled from different sources of saying ‘No to war!’ Here are some suggestions:- tolle bellum! abi hinc, bellum! aufer abhinc bellum! But best of all is abesto bellum! There are too many liquids in the first suggestion and abi hinc, bellum! is a bit of a mouthful for a chanted slogan, should that be the intended use of the phrase. aufer abhinc bellum! works well as a crowd chant but, in my opinion, abesto bellum! with its repeated labial and the same vowel in the same position in each word is the best translation, either as a slogan or as a headline. pereat bellum, the first answer, also is good as it is an idiom which means effectively ‘Damn war!

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