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Posted by Pedantic on March 24, 2004 at 12:14:05:
In Reply to: decimated posted by Pete on March 24, 2004 at 09:38:54:
I think it came from the Roman military disciplinary method of walking along a line of soldiers and picking out every tenth man. The soldiers not selected for "decimation" then had to bludgeon their unlucky colleagues to death.
The total destruction therefore refers to the fate of those selected for decimation.