WAR consisteth not in Battle only, or the act of fighting, but in a tract of time, wherein the Will to contend by Battle is sufficiently known: and therefore the notion of time is to be considered in the nature of War, as it is in the nature of Weather. For as the nature of Foul weather lieth not in a shower or two of rain, but in an inclination thereto of many days together: so the nature of War consisteth not in actual fighting, but in the known disposition thereto during all the time there is no assurance to the contrary. All other time is Peace.

–Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan XIII


  1. Interesting. John Keegan starts his ‘A History of Warfare’, once he gets the preface out of the way by stating ‘War is not the continuation of policy by other means’, opposing Clausewitz’s famous dictum.

    I spent about two months last year trying to define ‘battle’.

  2. Greg —

    What did you come up with?

  3. Can you make sense of the Yiddish caption? I’m having trouble with the font, so I can’t even recognize any words.

  4. No, I can’t make it out either. Can anybody out there read Hebrew/Yiddish handwriting well enough? Click on the WAR link and look at the bottom of the picture.

  5. I can make out the Russian signature of the artist K. Savi(ch?). The Yiddish is problematic because most of the consonants are so wiped out I cannot recognize them. I got only “af” (with the final pey misspelled).

  6. I try again. JDM- help?
    Z? – M- E – R(?) AF B?-A-Z-T?-N Ts-????

    can you make any sense of this?

  7. I don’t think it can be defined, though it seems to be in essence a duel writ large, at least in its classical form. The key element in battle, in the strict sense, has been a willingness on both sides to engage, an agreement to fight and continue fighting and not withdraw until a decision has clearly been reached.

    The required elements are glory, structure, and meaning.

    Unfortunately, this means that Little Big Horn, Britain, the Atlantic, the Somme, and countless other military actions or events were not battles at all in a strict sense.

    The alternative is pretty close to Brian Aldiss’s definition of sci-fi. Batttle is whatever you point your finger at and say that’s a battle.

  8. Renee- I don’t think so. I’m not sure what the first letter is supposed to be, but I suspect the second is a double-yud rather than a mem. Leyer? I think that would mean “lender.” The next word, if it is not part of the previous word, is not af “on” (which is normally spelled oyf anyway, but even if it weren’t, it woudl be written with a correct final fe, and a patakh rather than a kamatz) but op “away” (vel sim.) I have no guess about the rest.
    I try again. JDM- help?
    Z? – M- E – R(?) AF B?-A-Z-T?-N Ts-????

    can you make any sense of th

  9. Could the last word be q-r-y-g krig ‘war’?

  10. JDM – I think you are right, the first letter could be lamed, the next looks like a mem to me but two yuds would make sense (or no). I agree about the op.
    Steve, yes, that could be krig with a very strange gimel.

  11. PlasticPaddy says

    Looks to me like “Geyer op reizen tsu krig” = travelers on the way to (during?) war

  12. By George, I’ll bet you’re right.

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