No doubt this Montaigne essay could have fit easily onto the end of his previous piece — and it doesn’t seem to add an extra dimension to his thought that warfare requires certain rules to remain honorable and for the outcome to be accepted by all.
Quaint as the topic may appear, it’s an endlessly-repeating theme of war.
Underdogs cling to guerrilla tactics or at the greatest extreme use acts of terror to advance their cause. But military powers have faced their own charges of wartime atrocities, including the internment of civilians or even their annihilation through firebombing and nuclear weaponry.
Montaigne quotes Chrysippus to drive home his view:
Those who contest a race must certainly make every effort to run fast, but it is in no ways allowable for them to lay their hand on a rival to stop him nor to thrust out a leg to trip him up.
In the postmodern age, all contests now include an element of public relations, where contestants sew seeds of litigation that they hope will sprout at an opportune time to deprive their opponent of victory. Fans complain about the refs, voters complain about fraud, nationalists charge enemies of atrocity. If you can’t beat ‘em, belittle their victory.