Live by the sword, die by the sword

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"Live by the sword, die by the sword" is a proverb in the form of a parallel phrase, which can be traced back to Aeschylus's Agamemnon, line 1558, "By the sword you did your work, and by the sword you die."[1] Agamemnon was part of the Oresteia, a trilogy of tragic dramas by the ancient Greek dramatist and was first performed in 458 BCE.

The saying appears in the Latin Bible in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 26, verse 52,[2] an unnamed follower of Jesus draws his sword and cuts off the ear of a servant of the high priest. Jesus then says to him: Converte gladium tuum in locum suum. Omnes enim, qui acceperint gladium, gladio peribunt. ("Return your sword to its place, for all who will take up the sword, will die by the sword.") The phrase in the Greek original version of the Gospel is πάντες γὰρ οἱ λαβόντες μάχαιραν ἐν μαχαίρῃ ἀπολοῦνται.[3]

Note that the Latin version refers to the weapon as a gladius, while the Greek version refers to it as a makhaira.


While a common modern interpretation[4] means "those who live by violence will die by violence", suggesting nonviolence or pacifism as an alternative, it is also used for a variety of situations which contain an element of poetic justice and karma.[5]

The Biblical quotation has been interpreted as an instruction for Christian pacifism.[6]

References in popular culture[edit]

"Live by the bomb die by the bomb" at the White House Peace Vigil, started by Thomas in 1981.
  • The Saxon song To Live By the Sword appears on the album Lionheart (2004).

"Here we live by the sword and die by the sword, Heard police was lookin' for me, I’mma hide by a broad"

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Aeschylus – Agamamnon (Lines 1509-1558)". 2014-08-01. Retrieved 2017-01-15. 
  2. ^ "Latin Vulgate Bible with Douay-Rheims and King James Version Side-by-Side+Complete Sayings of Jesus Christ". Retrieved 2017-01-15. 
  3. ^ WikiSource:Κατά_Ματθαίον
  4. ^ "Those who live by the sword die by the sword - Idiom Definition". Retrieved 2017-01-15. 
  5. ^ Marion Weinstein. Positive Magic: Ancient Metaphysical Techniques for Modern Lives. p. 106. Retrieved 2017-01-15. 
  6. ^ John David Geib (2007). Gail M. Presbey, ed. Philosophical Perspectives on the 'War on Terrorism'. p. 401. War and Peace in Christian Tradition: Why I am an engaged Christian pacifist 
  7. ^ LilWayneVEVO (2013-07-16), Lil Wayne - God Bless Amerika, retrieved 2017-02-13