I was reading an entry from Victor Reppert's blog (Reppert being a noted apologist), where he mentioned that just war theory, specifically prohibitions on what you could do during a war and afterwards, was a Christian invention.
I thought that was interesting, albeit a little implausible, so I looked up just war theory on Wikipedia, and sure enough, it says that while the concept of justification dated as early as Cicero (so, c. 75-50 BCE), the idea as it stands now (and to which Reppert refers) does come from Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Acquinas.
My knowledge of history is limited to the Roman Republic/Empire, and to Greece via Thucydides and the classical philosophers, so I couldn't think of a specific instance where the losing side was afforded any inalienable rights: any concessions given were at the pleasure of the winning side. But I could have just as easily missed some event or philosopher at the time proposing such a thing.
The general definition of a "just war" from the Roman Catholic Church is mentioned in paragraph 2309 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. the gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time:
- the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
- all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
- there must be serious prospects of success;
- the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. the power of modem means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.
Is this definition a novel formulation of what constitutes a just war? Were there similar definitions held before Augustine?