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Meaning of “The Dogs of War” phrase of Idiom, definition and synonyms use in sentence.

The Dogs of War

The origin of this phrase is found in Shakespeare’s Julius Cesar, III, i, where Mark Antony mourns over the corpse of his friend, and cries: “And Cesar’s spirit, ranging for revenge, with Ate by his side come hot from Hell, shall in these confines, with a monarch’s voice, cry ‘Havoc l’ and let slip the dogs of war.”

What are these dogs of war? What is this Ate—which seems so important to Cesar’s spirit in its desire for revenge? In Homer’s Iliad, ate is the eldest daughter of Zeus (Jupiter), who flung her out of the high Olympian heaven by her hair because she had introduced discord there. Spenser (Faerie Queene) calls her “the mother of debate and all dissension.” Ate is the mythical embodiment of foul hatred: the personification of criminal folly: the precursor of all civil sttife. Her name, indeed, may be the root of our own word “hate,” for its etymology is obscure, though the Scandinavian words “hete,” “heate,” “ate,” etc., are closely akin. Her companion before the threshold of Hell is Cerberus, the multi-headed hound which guards the entrance to Pluto’s infernal regions—”curled with a thousand adders venomous (and which) lulled forth his bloody flaming tong.” This was the monster Ate would “let slip” or unleash.

Probably Shakespeare borrowed his picturesque language from the Faerie Queene, as also Milton; for the Puritan poet makes the Creator say:

See with what heat these dogs of Hell Advance

to waste and havoc yonder world.

Which I so fair and good created; . . .

—Paradise Lost, X. 630.

Possibly, Shakespeare had in mind the very recent event of the use of bloodhounds by the Spaniards as an instrument of their war of extermination against the American Indian natives. Lord Chatham alluded to this episode in his impassioned oration in the House of Lords on November 18, 1777, when, in denouncing the use of the Indian and his scalping-knife in the American War of Independence, he spoke of “these horrible hell-hounds of savage war.”


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