ABSTRACT

Among the many very human episodes to be read in the story of David, there is one that comes to mind upon ending this study. Prince Absalom

had rebelled against his father, King David. The fight had been hard, but in

the end David’s mercenary troops – his Foreign Legion, the anachronism

here being valid – overcame the people’s army of Absalom, which he had

mobilized from among all the men of Israel. David’s soldiers had heard him

order, with great emotion, that his son was not to be hurt. Prevented by his

age from going into battle himself, David waited anxiously in the city for a

messenger to bring him news of the outcome. When at last they ran up to tell him that his soldiers had conquered but that Absalom had been killed,

he howled with grief and wept loudly for his dead son, who had raised the

rebellion: ‘And the victory that day was turned into mourning unto all the

people; for the people heard say that day how the king was grieved for his

son. And the people gat them by stealth that day into the city, as people

being ashamed steal away when they flee in battle.’1 Classical wisdom,

moreover, held that in a Civil War there can be no victors; all are defeated.

Valerius Maximus* wrote that however glorious and advantageous to the Republic had been the heroic feats of a general or consul, he would never be

awarded with the title of Imperator (Generalı´simo), or with the honours of a

Triumph, or even with those public and official prayers called supplicationes,

if he had achieved them during a Civil War, ‘for, no matter how necessary

they may have been, they were always regarded as lamentable (lugubres),

since they were victories bought at the cost not of foreign but of native