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CHARACTER OF POLYBIUS.
The character of Polybius was prefixed to a translation executed by Sir Henry Shere, or Sheers the same gentleman whom Dryden has elsewhere classed among the "finer spirits of the age." Our author had announced this work to the public in the preface to "Cleomenes." It was probably at that time under the press, or at least subjected to Dryden for his correction. The translation itself is of little value. Sir Henry disclaims all extent of erudition, and frankly confesses, he "has no warrant from his depth of learning whereof to make ostentation; wherein, indeed, he who most abounds ever finds least cause of boasting." Accordingly, his preface is employed in an attempt to convince the world, that mere scholars, or booklearned men, have rather traduced than translated Polybius and most authors of his class; such being totally at a loss to discover the sense many passages in history, wherein matters military and naval are handled. He therefore takes up the pen as a man of the world, of business, science, and conversation, long intimate with such matters as are principally treated of by the historian. Finally, he describes his undertaking as an "employment, wherein he who performs best, traffics for small gain, and it would be unfair and unconscionable to
make the loss more than the adventure; and, at the worst, it having been rather a diversion than a task, helping me to while away a few winter hours, which is some recreation to one who has led a life of action and business; and whose humour and fortune suit not with the pleasures of the town. Wherefore I shall have little cause of complaint, if my well-meaning in consenting to its publication be not so well received: I have been worse treated by the world, to which I am as little indebted as most men, who have spent near thirty years in public trusts, wherein I laboured, and wasted my youth and the vigour of my days, more to the service of my country, and the impairment of my health, than the improvement of my fortune; having stood the mark of envy, slander, and hard usage, without gleaning the least of those advantages, which use to be he anchor-hold and refuge of such as wrongfully or otherwise suffer the stroke of censure."
THE worthy author of this translation, who is very much my friend, was pleased to intrust it in my hands for many months together, before he published it, desiring me to review the English, and to correct what I found amiss; which he needed not have done, if his modesty would have given him leave to have relied on his own abilities, who is so great a master of our style and language, as the world will acknowledge him to be, after the reading of this excellent version.
It is true, that Polybius has formerly appear ed in an English dress, but under such a cloud
Our author, who seems to have had an especial regard for Sir Henry Shere, contributed this preliminary discourse.
THE CHARACTER OF POLYBIUS,
The full title is, "The History of Polybius, the Megalopolitan; containing a general Account of the Transactions of the World, and principally of the Roman People during the first and Second Punic wars. Translated by Sir H. S. To which is added a Character of Polybius and his Writings, by Mr. Dryden, 1693.
Where he enumerates the Translators of Lucian in the Supplement to his Life.
"History of Polybius, the five first bookes entire, with all the parcels of subsequent bookes unto the
Mr. Malone has fixed Sir Henry Shere's death to the year 1713, when his library was exposed to sale by advertisement in "The Guardian."
AND HIS WRITINGS.
of errors in his first translation, that his native beauty was not only hidden, but his sense perverted in many places; so that he appeared unlike himself, and unworthy of that esteem which has always been paid him by antiquity, as the most sincere, the clearest, and most instructive, of all historians. He is now not only redeemed from those mistakes, but also restored to the first purity of his conceptions; and the style in which he now speaks is as plain and unaffected as that he wrote. I had only the pleasure of reading him in a fair manuscript, without the toil of alteration; at least it was so very inconsiderable, that it only cost me the dash of a pen in some few places, and those of very small importance. So much had the care, the diligence, and exactness of my friend prevented my trouble, that he
eighteenth, according to the Greeke original. Also. the manner of the Roman encamping. Translated into English, by Edward Grimestone, sergeant at arms." London, 1634. Folio.
left me not the occasion of serving him, in a work which was already finished to my hands. I doubt not but the reader will approve my judg. So happy it is for a good author to fall into the hands of a translator, who is of a genius like his own; who has added experience to his natural abilities; who has been educated in business of several kinds; has travelled, like his author, into many parts of the world, and some of them the same with the present scene of history; has been employed in business of the like nature with Polybius, and, like him, is perfectly acquainted not only with the terms of the mathematics, but has searched into the bottom of that admirable science, and reduced into practice the most useful rules of it, to his own honour, and the benefit of his native country; who, besides these advantages, possesses the knowledge of shipping and navigation; and, in few words, is not ignorant of any thing that concerns the tactics; so that here, from the beginning, we are sure of finding nothing that is not thoroughly understood."* The expression is clear, and the words adequate to the subject. Nothing in the matter will be mistaken; nothing of the terms will be misapplied; all is natural and proper; and he who understands good sense and English, will be profited by the first, and delighted with the latter. This is what may be justly said in commendation of the translator, and with out the note of flattery to a friend.
As for his author, I shall not be ashamed to copy from the learned Casaubon, who has translated him into Latin, many things which I had not from my own small reading, and which I could not, without great difficulty, have drawn, but from his fountain; not omnitting some which came casually in my way, by reading the preface of the Abbot Pichon to the Dauphin's "Tacitus," an admirable and most useful work; which helps I ingenuously profess to have re
ceived from them, both to clear myself from be ing a plagiary of their writings, and to give authority, by their names, to the weakness of my own performance.
The taking of Constantinople, by Mahomet the Great, fell into the latter times of Pope Nicholas the Fifth,* a pope not only studious of good letters, and particularly of history, but also a great encourager of it in others. From the dreadful overthrow of that city, and final subversion of the Greek empire, many learned men escaped, and brought over with them into
From these expressions, one would suppose Sir Henry Shere to have been a seaman, which may also be conjectured from his writing an "Essay on the Certainty and Causes of the Earth's motion on its Axis;" and a "Discourse concerning the Mediterranean Sea and the Straits of Gibraltar;" the one published in 1698, the other in 1705. The naval and military professions were, however, formerly accounted less absolutely distinct branches of service than at present. Many officers distinguished them. selves in both. Mr. Malone may therefore be right in conjecturing Sir Henry Shere to have been a soldier, though his studies would argue him a seaman or engineer.
+ Polybii Lycortæ F. Megalopolites Historiarum Libri, qui supersunt Gr. Lat. Isaacus Casaubonus, ex antiqus libris emendavit, Lat. vertit et commentariis illustravit. Accessit Eneæ vetustissimi, Tactici commentarius de toleranda obsidione. Isaacus Casaubonus primus vulgavit, Latinam interpretationem ac notas adjecit.-Parisiis, 1609, Folio.
"The fame of Nicholas the Fifth, (who sat in the papal chair from 1447 to 1455,) has not," says Mr. Gibbon,-(Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vi. 429, 4to.) "been adequate to his merits. From a plebeian origin, he raised himself, by his virtue and learning. The character of the man prevailed over the interests of the pope; and he sharpened those weapons, which were soon pointed against the Roman church. He had been the friend of the most eminent scholars of the age; he became their pa tron; and such was the humility of his manners,
that the change was scarcely discernible, either to them or to himself. If he pressed the acceptance of a liberal gift, it was not as the measure of desert, but as the proof of benevolence; and when modest merit declined his bounty, Accept it,' would he say, with a consciousness of his own worth; 'you will not always have a Nicholas among ye.' The influence of the holy see pervaded Christendom; and he fices, but of books. From the ruins of the Byzan exerted that influence in the search, not of benetine libraries, from the darkest monasteries of Germany and Britain, he collected the dusty manuscripts of the writers of antiquity; and wherever the original could not be removed, a faithful copy was transcribed, and transmitted for his use. The Vatican, the old repository for bulls and legends, for su perstition and forgery, was daily replenished with more precious furniture; and such was the industry of Nicholas, that, in a reign of eight years, he formnificence, the Latin world was indebted for the ed a library of five thousand volumes To his muversions of Xenophon, Diodorus, Polybius, Thucydides, Herodotus, and Appian; of Strabo's Geogra Plato and Aristotle; of Ptolemy and Theophrastus; phy; of the Iliad; of the most valuable works of
and of the fathers of the Greek church. The example of the Roman pontiff was preceded, or imitated, by a Florentine merchant, who governed the republie without arms, and without a title. Cosmo, of Medicis, was the father of a line of princes, whose name and age are almost synonymous with the restoration of learning. His credit was ennobled into fame; his riches were dedicated to the service of mankind; he corresponded at once with Cairo and London, and a cargo of Indian spices and Greek books was imported in the same vessel. The genius and education of his grandson, Lorenzo, rendered him not only a patron, but a judge and candidate in the literary race. In his palace, distress was enti tled to relief, and merit to reward. His leisure hours were delightfully spent in the Platonic academy; he encouraged the emulation of Demetrius Chalcocondyles and Angelo Politian; and his active missionary, Janus Lascaris, returned from the East with a treasure of two hundred manuscripts, fourscore of which were as yet unknown in the libraries of Europe. The rest of Italy was animated by a similar spirit, and the progress of the nation repaid the liberality of the princes. The Latins held the exclusive property of their own literature; and these disciples of Greece were soon capable of trans
Italy that treasure of ancient authors,* which, by their unhappiness, we now possess; and, amongst the rest, some of these remaining fragments of Polybius. The body of this his tory, as he left it finished, was consisting of forty books, of which the eighth part is only remain ing to us entire. As for his negotiations, when he was sent ambassador either from his own countrymen, the commonwealth of the Achaians, or afterwards was employed by the Romans on their business with other nations, we are obliged to Constantine the Great for their preservation; for that emperor was so much in love with the dexterous management and wis dom of our author, that he caused them all to be faithfully transcribed, and made frequent use of them in his own despatches and affairs with foreign princes, as his best guides in his concernments with them.
mitting and improving the lessons which they had imbibed. After a short succession of foreign teachers, the tide of emigration subsided; but the language of Constantinople was spread beyond the Alps: and the natives of France, Germany, and England, imparted to their country the sacred fire which they had kindled in the schools of Florence and Rome."
Our author recollected the following panegyric on Pope Nicholas, in the Dedication of Casaubon's edition of Polybius, to Henry IV. of France:
"Qum enim a pluribus retro sæculis, in principum animis, toto Occidente, amor politioris literaturæ et Græci sermonis excoluisset; accidit non sine numine profecto, ut circa illa ipsa tempora Bysantinæ cladis, et paullo ante, summi in Europa viri et principes generossissimi hunc veternum seu virgula divina tacti, opportune excuterent, et ad bene merendum de studiis politioribus et de linguis, ardore incredibili accenderentur. Prima terrarum Italia ad hanc palmam occupandam, è diuturno torpore tunc demum expergefacta, sese, concitavit, et nationibus aliis per Europam, exemplum quod imitarentur præbuit. In ipsa verò Italia, ad certamen adeo gloriosum, Nicolaus Quintus Pontifex Maximus, in cujus extrema tempora Byzantini imperii eversio incidit, princeps, quod equidem sciam signum sustulit. Nam et literarum dicitur fuisse intelligentissimus; et, quod res arguit earum amore erat flagrantissimus. Primus hic, illa ætate, libros antiquorum scriptorum sedulo conquirere curæ habuit; magnamque earum copiam in Vaticanam intulit; primus cum assiduis hortatibus, tum ingentibus etiam propositis præmiis, ad meliorem literaturam è tenebris oblivionis in lucem revocandam, homines Italos stimulavit: primus, Græcæ linguæ auctores omnis sincerioris doctrine esse promos condos qui non ignoraret, ut Latino sermone exprimerentur, vehementissime optavit, et efficere contendit."
That is, the first five books.
Polybius, the historian, was born at Megalopolis, in Arcadia, in the fourth year of the 143d Olympiad, about 205 years before the Christian æra. Being carried to Rome as an hostage, he became the com
panion and friend of the younger Scipio Africanus; accompanied him in his campaigns; and is said to have witnessed the destruction of Carthage, in the 158th Olympiad. Having returned to his native country, he died in the 164th Olympiad, 124 years before Christ, in consequence of a fall from his horse.
The history of Polybius embraced the space from the first year of the 140th to the first of the 153d Olympiad, being fifty-three years.
Polybius, as you will find in reading of him, though he principally intended the history of the Romans, and the establishment of their empire over the greatest part of the world which was then known, yet had in his eye the general his tory of the times in which he lived, not forgetting either the wars of his own country with their neighbours of Etolia, or the concurrent affairs of Macedonia and the provinces of Greece, which is properly so called; nor the monar❤ chies of Asia and Egypt; nor the republic of the Carthaginians, with the several traverses of their fortunes, either in relation to the Romans, or independent to the wars which they waged with them; besides what happened in Spain and Sicily, and other European countries. The time, which is taken up in this history, consists of three-and-fifty years; and the greatest part of it is employed in the description of those events, of which the author was an eye-witness, or bore a considerable part in the conduct of them. But in what particular time or age it was, when mankind received that irrecoverable loss of this noble history, is not certainly delivered to us. It appears to have been perfect in the reign of Constantine, by what I have already noted; and neither Casaubon, nor any other, can give us any farther account concerning it.
The first attempt towards a translation of him, was by command of the same Pope Nicholas the Fifth, already mentioned, who esteemed him the prince of Greek historians; would have him continually in his hands; and used to make this judgment of him,-that, if he yielded to one or two, in the praise of eloquence, yet, in wisdom, and all other accomplishments belonging to a perfect historian, he was at least equal to any other writer, Greek or Roman, and perhaps excelled them all. This is the author, who is now offered to us in our mother-tongue, recommended by the nobility of his birth, by his institution in art and sciences, by his knowledge in natural and moral philosophy, and particularly the politics; by his being conversant both in the arts of peace and war; by his education under his father Lycortas, who voluntarily deposed himself from his sovereignty of Megalopolis to become a principal member of the Achaian commonwealth, which then flourished under the management of Aratus; by his friendship with Scipio Africanus, who subdued Carthage, to whom he was both a companion and a counsellor; and by the good-will, esteem, and intimacy, which he had with several princes of Asia, Greece, and Egypt, during his life; and after his decease, by deserving the applause and approbation of all succeeding ages.
This author, so long neglected in the barbarous times of Christianity, and so little known in Europe, (according to the fate which commonly follows the best of writers,) was pulled from under the rubbish which covered him, by the learned bishop, Nicholas the Fifth; and some parts of his history (for with all his diligence he was not able to recover the whole) were by him recommended to a person knowing both in the Greek and Roman tongues, and learned for the times in which he lived, to be translated into Latin; and, to the honour of our Polybius, he was amongst the first of the Greek writers, who deserved to have this care betowed on him; which notwithstanding, so many hindrances occurred in this attempt, that the work was not perfected in his popedom, neither was any more than a third part of what is now recovered in his hands; neither did that learned Italian, who had undertaken him, succeed very happily in that endeavour; for the perfect knowledge of the Greek language was not yet restored, and that translator was but as a onc-eyed man amongst the nation of the blind; only suffered till a better could be found to do right to an author, whose excellence required a more just interpreter than the ignorance of that age afforded. And this gives me occasion to admire, (says Casaubon,) that in following times, when eloquence was redeemed, and the knowledge of the Greek language flourished, yet no man thought of pursuing that design, which was so worthily begun in those first rudiments of learning. Some, indeed, of almost every nation in Europe, have been instrumental in the recovery of several lost parts of our Polybius, and commented on them with good success; but no man, before Casaubon, had reviewed the first translation, corrected its errors, and put the last hand to its accomplishment. The world is therefore beholden to him for this great work; for he has collected into one their scattered fragments, has pieced them together according to the natural order in which they were written, made them intelligible to scholars, and rendered the French translator's task more easy to his hands.
Our author is particularly mentioned with great honour by Cicero, Strabo, Josephus, and Plutarch; and in what rank of writers they are placed, none of the learned need to be informed. He is copied in whole books together, by Livy, commonly esteemed the prince of the Roman
history, and translated word for word, though the Latin historian is not to be excused, for not mentioning the man to whom he had been so much obliged, nor for taking, as his own, the worthy labours of another. Marcus Brutus, who preferred the freedom of his country to the obligations which he had to Julius Cæsar, so prized Polybius, that he made a compendium of his works; and read him not only for his instruction, but for the diversion of his grief, when his noble enterprize for the restoration of the commonwealth had not found the success which it deserved.. And this is not the least commendation of our author, that he who was not wholly satisfied with the eloquence of Tully, should epitomise Polybius with his own hand.* It was on the consideration of Brutus, and the veneration which he paid him, that Constantine the Great took so great a pleasure in reading our author, and collecting the several treaties of his embassies; of which, though many are now lost, yet those which remain are a sufficient testimony of his abilities; and I congratulate my country, that a prince of our extraction (as was Constantine) has the honour of obliging the Christian world by these remainders of our great historian.
It is now time to enter into the particular praises of Polybius, which I have given you before in gross; and the first of them, (following the method of Casaubon,) is his wonderful skill in political affairs. I had read him, in English, with the pleasure of a boy, before I was ten years of age; and yet, even then, had some dark notions of the prudence with which he conducted his design, particularly in making me know, and almost see, the places where such and such actions were performed. This was the first distinction which I was then capable of making betwixt him and other historians which I read early. But when, being of a riper age, I took him again into my hands, I must needs say that I have profited more by reading him than by Thucydides, Appian, Dion Cassius, and all the rest of the Greek historians together; and amongst all the Romans, none have reached him in this particular, but Tacitus, who is equal with him. It is wonderful to consider with how much
Nicolo Paretti published a Latin version of the first five books of Polybius, at Rome, in 1473, folio. The first Greek edition appeared in 1530; the second at Basle, in 1549. The last is most esteemed.
"Plutarch tells us, that Brutus was thus employed the day before the battle of Pharsalia. 'It was the middle of summer; the heats were intense, the marshy situation of the camp disagreeable, and his tent-bearers were long in coming. Nevertheless, though extremely harassed and fatigued, he did not anoint himself till noon; and then taking a morsel of bread, while others were at rest, or musing on the event of the ensuing day, he employed himself till the evening in writing an epitome of Polybius."-Malone.
care and application he instructs, counsels, warns, admonishes, and advises, whensoever he can find a fit occasion. He performs all these sometimes in the nature of a common parent of mankind; and sometimes also limits his instructions to particular nations, by a friendly reproach of those failings and errors to which they were most obnoxious. In this last manner, he gives instructions to the Mantineans, the Elæans, and several other provinces of Greece, by informing them of such things as were conducing to their welfare. Thus he likewise warns the Romans of their obstinacy and wilfulness, vices which have often brought them to the brink of ruin. And thus he frequently exhorts the Greeks, in general, not to depart from their dependence on the Romans; nor to take false measures, by embroiling themselves in wars with that victorious people, in whose fate it was to be masters of the universe. But as his peculiar concernment was for the safety of his own countrymen, the Achaians, he more than once insinuates to them the care of their preservation, which consisted in submitting to the yoke of the Roman people, which they could not possibly avoid; and to make it easy to them, by a cheerful compliance with their commands, rather than unprofitably to oppose them with the hazard of those remaining privileges which the clemency of the conquerors had left them. For this reason, in the whole course of his history he makes it his chiefest business to persuade the Grecians in general, that the growing greatness and fortune of the Roman empire was not owing to mere chance, but to the conduct and invincible courage of that people, to whom their own virtue gave the dominion of the world. And yet this counsellor of patience and submission, as long as there was any probability of hope remaining to withstand the progress of the Roman fortune, was not wanting to the utmost of his power to resist them, at least to defer the bondage of his country, which he had long foreseen. But the fates inevitably drawing all things into subjection to Rome, this well-deserving citizen was commanded to appear in that city, where he suffered the imprisonment of many years; yet even then his virtue was beneficial to him, the knowledge of his learning and his wisdom procuring him the friendship of the most potent in the senate; so that it may be said with Casaubon, that the same virtue which had brought him into distress, was the very means of his relief, and of his exaltation to greater dignities than those which
* With a thousand of his countrymen, whom the Romans ordered thither as hostages, after the conquest of Macedonia.
he lost; for by the intercession of Cato the Censor, Scipio Emilianus, who afterwards destroyed Carthage, and some other principal noblemen, our Polybius was restored to liberty. After which, having set it down as a maxim, that the welfare of the Achaians consisted, as I have said, in breaking their own stubborn inclinations, and yielding up that freedom which they no longer could maintain, he made it the utmost aim of his endeavours to bring over his countrymen to that persuasion; in which, though, to their misfortunes, his counsels were not prevalent, yet thereby he not only proved himself a good patriot, but also made his fortunes with the Romans. For his countrymen, by their own unpardonable fault, not long afterwards drew on themselves their own destruction; for when Mummius, in the Achaian war, made a final conquest of that country, he dissolved the great council of their commonwealth.* But, in the mean time, Polybius enjoyed that tranquillity of fortune which he had purchased by his wisdom, in that private state, being particularly dear to Scipio and Lælius, and some of the rest, who were then in the administration of the Roman government. And that favour which he had gained amongst them, he employed not in heaping riches to himself, but as a means of performing many considerable actions; as particularly when Scipio was sent to demolish Carthage,† he went along with him in the nature of a counsellor and companion of his enterprize. At which time, receiving the command of a fleet from him, he made discoveries in many parts of the Atlantic Ocean, and especially on the shores of Africa; and doing many good offices to all sorts of people whom he had power to oblige, especially to the Grecians, who, in honour of their benefactor, caused many statues of him to be erected, as Pausanias has written. The particular gratitude of the Locrians in Italy is also an undeniable witness of this truth; who, by his mediation, being discharged from the burden of taxes which oppressed them, through the hardship of those conditions which the Romans had imposed on them in the treaty of peace, professed themselves to be owing for their lives and fortunes, to the interest only and good nature of Polybius, which they took care to express by all manner of acknowledgment.
Yet, as beneficent as he was, the greatest obligement which he could lay on human kind, was the writing of this present history; wherein he has left a perpetual monument of his
A. U. C. 608. + A. U. C. 607. The word and renders this passage ungram matical.- Malone.