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Jacques Callot, Hugo Grotius, and the Miseries of War in the 17th Century

Top:1. Title Page of "The Miseries and Misfortunes of War" (1633)
[See a larger version of this image (1275 px)]

Bottom: 7. Plundering and Burning a Village (1633)
[See a larger version of this image (1368 px)]

In this series we want to explore the problem of war in 17th century Europe by juxtaposing an image from the series of 18 etchings made by Jacques Callot showing the ravages of war in his native Lorraine during the Thirty Years War (1618-48), with passages from Hugo Grotius,The Rights of War and Peace (1625) which is a foundation stone of the modern understanding of the laws of war.
[See other works by Hugo Grotius]

Jacques Callot, Hugo Grotius, and the Miseries of War in the 17th Century

Overview of the Set

01TitlePage300.jpg 02RecruitmentTroops300.jpg 03TheBattle300.jpg
04ScenePillage300.jpg 05PlunderingLgFarmhouse300.jpg 06DestructionConvent300.jpg
07PlunderingVillage300.jpg 08AttackOnCoach300.jpg 09DiscoveryCriminalSoldiers300.jpg
10Strappado300.jpg 11TheHanging300.jpg 12FiringSquad300.jpg
13TheStake300.jpg 14TheWheel300.jpg 15TheHospital300.jpg
16DyingSoldiersByRoad300.jpg 17PeasantsRevenge300.jpg 18DistributionRewards300.jpg

Titles of the 18 images [the images above are listed in order from left to right and then top to bottom]. Links will take you to a description of the image and the relevant quotation from Liberty Fund's edition of Hugo Grotius, The Law of War and Peace (1625) below:

  1. Title Page
  2. The Recruitment of Troops
  3. The Battle
  4. Scene of Pillage
  5. Plundering a Large Farmhouse
  6. Destruction of a Convent
  7. Plundering and Burning a Village
  8. Attack on a Coach
  9. Discovery of the Criminal Soldiers
  10. The Strappado
  11. The Hanging
  12. The Firing Squad
  13. The Stake
  14. The Wheel
  15. The Hospital
  16. Dying Soldiers by the Roadside
  17. The Peasants avenge Themselves
  18. The Distribution of Rewards


The Art Gallery of New South Wales <>

Online Resources

Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) by Michiel Jansz van Mierevelt (1631)
[Source: Rijksmuseum Amsterdam]




Jacques Callot, Hugo Grotius, and the Miseries of War in the 17th Century

7. Plundering and Burning a Village (1633)

7. Plundering and Burning a Village (1633)
[See a larger version of this image (1368 px)]

Description: Armed soldiers pillage and burn a village including a small chapel in the upper centre (there is a cross to its left). The inhabitants and livestock are rounded up to be taken off as prisoners or booty. Livestock can be seen being herded at the lower right. A man can be seen being killed at the lower left under a tree.There is a grieviing wife who sits next to her dead husband in the centre foreground.

Quotation from Hugo Grotius, The Law of War and Peace (1625) on the destruction of cities and crops in war time: Concerning Moderation in regard to the spoiling the Country of our Enemies, and such other Things.

III. 1. This will likewise happen, where the Possession is yet in Dispute, if there be great Hopes of a speedy Victory, of which those Lands and Fruits will be the Reward. Thus Alexander the Great, as Justin relates it, hindered his Soldiers from wasting Asia, declaring to them, that they should spare their own, and not destroy those Things, which they came to possess. Thus Quintius, when Philip overrun Thessaly, wasting it with Fire and Sword, exhorted his Soldiers (as Plutarch informs us) to march thro’ the Country, as if it were now entirely their own. Croesus advising Cyrus not to give up Lydia to be plundered by his Soldiers, tells him, You will not ruin my Cities, nor my Lands, they are no longer mine, they are now become yours, they will destroy what is yours.

2. They who do otherwise, may apply to themselves the Words of Jocasta to Polynices in Seneca’s Thebais.

Patriam petendo perdis: Ut fiat tua,
Vis esse nullam: Quin tuae causae nocet
Ipsum hoc, quod armis uris infestis solum
Segetesque adultas sternis, & totos fugam
Edis per agros: Nemo sic vastat sua.
Quae corripi igne, quae meti gladio jubes,
Aliena credis.

[You ruin your Country whilst you seek it; to make it yours
Its Being you destroy; it defeats your Claim
To level, thus in Arms, the ripen’d Harvest;
Is Fire and Sword, the Vengeance of an Enemy,
Applied to Spoil and Ravage what’s ones own?
No, our deadliest Foes we thus afflict.]

To the same Sense are the Words of Curtius, Whatsoever they did not waste, they owned to be their Enemies. Agreeable hereunto is that which Cicero, in his Letters to Atticus, says against the Design that Pompey had formed of taking his Country by Famine. Upon this Account Alexander the Isian blames Philip (in the 17th Book of Polybius) whose Words Livy has thus rendered: Philip dared not engage in a fair Field-fight, nor come to a pitch’d Battle, but flying away burned and plundered Cities; so that the Conquered rendered useless to the Conquerors what should have been the Recompence of Victory. But the old Kings of Macedon did not use to do so, they used to come to a fair Engagement, to spare Cities as much as possible, that they might have the more wealthy Dominion. For it is not a strange Conduct, to make War in such a Manner, that at the same Time, we dispute the Possession of a Thing, we leave nothing for ourselves but War.

Source: Hugo Grotius, The Rights of War and Peace, edited and with an Introduction by Richard Tuck, from the Edition by Jean Barbeyrac (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005). Vol. 3. CHAPTER XII: Concerning Moderation in regard to the spoiling the Country of our Enemies, and such other Things.

Accessed from /title/1427/121240/2445825 on 2011-04-28.


Last modified April 13, 2016