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any government, but can never be given up to it. The best way to distinguish betwixt a pretended necessity and a true, is to observe if the remedy be rarely applied, or frequently; in times of peace, or times of war and public distractions, which are the most usual causes of sudden necessities. From hence Casaubon infers, that this our author, who preaches virtue, and probity, and plain-dealing, ought to be studied principally by kings and ministers of state; and those youth, who are bred up to succeed in the management of business, should read him carefully, and imbibe him thoroughly, detesting the maxims that are given by Machiavel and others, which are only the instruments of tyranny. Furthermore, (continues he,) the study of truth is perpetually joined with the love of virtue; for there is no virtue which derives not its original from truth; as, on the contrary, there is no vice which has not its beginning from a lie. Truth is the foundation of all knowledge, and the cement of all societies; and this is one of the most shining qualities in our author.
I was so strongly persuaded of this myself, in the perusal of the present history, that I confess, amongst all the ancients I never found any who had the air of it so much; and amongst the moderns, none but Philip de Commines.* They had this common to them, that they both changed their masters. But Polybius changed not his side, as Philip did: he was not bought off to another party, but pursued the true interest of his country, even when he served the Romans. Yet since truth, as one of the philosophers has told me, lies in the bottom of a well, so it is hard to draw it up; much pains, much diligence, much judgment is necessary to hand it us; even cost is oftentimes required; and Polybius was wanting in none of these.
We find but few historians of all ages, who have been diligent enough in their search for truth it is their common method to take on trust what they distribute to the public; by which means a falsehood once received from a famed writer becomes traditional to posterity. But Polybius weighed the authors from whom he was forced to borrow the history of the times immediately preceding his, and often
public love to all the world in every succeeding age of it, by giving us such precepts as are most conducing to our common safety and our benefit. This philanthropy (which we have not a proper word in English to express) is everywhere manifest in our author; and from hence proceeded that divine rule which he ave to Scipio, that whensoever he went abroad, he should take care not to return to his own house, before he had acquired a friend by some new obligement. To this excellency of nature we owe the treasure which is contained in this most useful work: this is the standard by which all good and prudent princes ought to regulate their actions. None have more need of friends than monarchs; and though ingratitude is too frequent in the most of those who are obliged, yet encouragement will work on generous minds; and if the experiment be lost on thousands, yet it never fails on all: and one virtuous man in a whole nation is worth the buying, as one diamond is worth the search in a heap of rubbish. But a narrow-hearted prince, who thinks that mankind is made for him alone, puts his subjects in a way of deserting him on the first occasion; and teaches them to be as sparing of their duty, as he is of his bounty. He is sure of making enemies, who will not be at the cost of rewarding his friends and servants; and, by letting his people see he loves them not, instructs them to live upon the square with him, and to make him sensible in his turn, that prerogatives are given, but privileges are inherent. As for tricking, cunning, and that which in sovereigns they call king-craft, and reason of state in commonwealths, to them and their proceedings Polybius is an open enemy. verely reproves all faithless practices, and that Kакопρауμоσνvη, or vicious policy, which is too frequent in the management of the public. He commends nothing but plainness, sincerity, and the common good, undisguised, and set in a true light before the people. Not but that there may be a necessity of saving a nation, by going beyond the letter of the law, or even sometimes by superseding it; but then that necessity must not be artificial,-it must be visible, it must be strong enough to make the remedy not only pardoned, but desired, to the major part of the people; not for the interest only of some few men, but for the public safety; ders, and was for several years a distinguished or for otherwise, one infringement of a law draws after it the practice of subverting all the liberties of a nation, which are only intrusted with
Philip de Commines, author of the excellent Memoirs of his own time. He was horn in Flan
nament of the court of Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, his native sovereign; but was tempted to desert his service for that of Louis XI., by whom he was employed in several negotiations. After the death of that monarch, Comraines fell into disgrace with his successor, and was long detained in prison he died in 1509. It was of this historian Catherine de Medicis was wont to say, "that he made as many heretics in the state, as Luther in the church."
Mr. Malone justly conjectures, that Dryden here thought of his old master James II., whose economy bordered on penury, and whose claims of prerogative approached to tyranny.
times corrected them, either by comparing them each with other, or by the lights which he had received from ancient men of known integrity amongst the Romans, who had been conversant in those affairs which were then managed, and were yet living to instruct him. He also learned the Roman tongue; and attained to that knowledge of their laws, their rites, their customs, and antiquities, that few of their own citizens understood them better: having gained permission from the senate to search the Capitol, he made himself familiar with their records, and afterwards translated them into his mother tongue. So that he taught the noblemen of Rome their own municipal laws, and was accounted more skilful in them than Fabius Picror, a man of the senatorian order, who wrote the transactions of the Punic wars. He who neglected none of the laws of history, was so careful of truth, (which is the principal,) that he made it his whole business to deliver nothing to posterity which might deceive them; and by that diligence and exactness, may easily be known to be studious of truth, and a lover of it. What therefore Brutus thought worthy to transcribe with his own hand out of him, I need not be ashamed to copy after him :-"I believe," says Polybius, "that Nature herself has constituted truth as the supreme deity, which is to be adored by mankind, and that she has given it greater force than any of the rest; for being opposed, as she is on all sides, and appearances of truth so often passing for the thing itself, in behalf of plausible falsehoods, yet by her wonderful operation she insinuates herself into the minds of men; sometimes exerting her strength immediately, and sometimes lying hid in darkness for length of time; but at last she struggles through it, and appears triumphant over falsehood." This sincerity Polybius preferred to all his friends, and even to his father: "in all other offices of life," says he, "praise a lover of his friends, and of his native country; but in writing history, I am obliged to divest myself of all other obligations, and sacrifice them all to truth."
Aratus, the Sicyonian, in the childhood of our author, was the chief of the Achaian commonwealth; a man in principal esteem, both in his own country and all the provinces of Greece; admired universally for his probity, his wisdom, his just administration, and his conduct: in remembrance of all which, his grateful countrymen, after his decease, ordained him those honours which are only due to heroes. Him our Polybius had in veneration, and formed himself by imitation of his virtues; and is never wanting in his commendations through the course of
his history. Yet even this man, when the cause of truth required it, is many times reproved by him for his slowness in counsel, his tardiness in the beginning of his enterprizes, his tedious and more than Spanish deliberations; and his heavy and cowardly proceedings are as freely blamed by our Polybius, as they were afterwards by Plutarch, who questionless drew his character from this history. In plain terms. that wise general scarce ever performed any great action but by night; the glittering of a sword before his face was offensive to his eyes; our author therefore boldly accuses him of his faint-heartedness; attributes the defeat at Caphiæ wholly to him; and is not sparing to affirm, that all Peloponnesus was filled with trophies, which were set up as the monuments of his losses. He sometimes praises, and at other times condemns, the proceedings of Philip, King of Macedon, the son of Demetrius, according to the occasions which he gave him by the variety and inequality of his conduct; and this most exquisite on either side. He more than once arraigns him for the inconstancy of his judgment, and chaptors even his own Aratus on the same head; showing, by many examples, produced from their actions, how many miseries they had both occasioned to the Grecians; and attributing it to the weakness of human nature, which can make nothing perfect. But some men are brave in battle, who are weak in counsel, which daily experience sets before our eyes; others deliberate wisely, but are weak in the performing part; and even no man is the same to-day, which he was yesterday, or may be to-morrow. On this account, says our author, "a good man is sometimes liable to blame, and a bad man, though not often, may possibly deserve to be commended." And for this very reason he severely taxes Timæus, a malicious historian, who will allow no kind of virtue to Agathocles, the tyrant of Sicily, but detracts from all his actions, even the most glorious, because in general he was a vicious man. "Is it to be thought," says Casaubon, "that Polybius loved the memory of Agathocles, the tyrant, or hated that of the virtuous Aratus?" But it is one thing to commend a tyrant, and another thing to overpass in silence those laudable actions which are performed by him; because it argues an author of the same falsehood, to pretermit what has actually been done, as to feign those actions which have never been.
It will not be unprofitable, in this place, to give another famous instance of the candour and integrity of our historian. There had been an ancient league betwixt the republic of Achaia and the kings of Egypt, which was entertained
by both parties sometimes on the same conditions, and sometimes also the confederacy was renewed on other terms. It happened, in the 148th Olympiad,* that Ptolomy Epiphanes, on this occasion, sent one Demetrius, his ambassador, to the commonwealth of Achaia. That republic was then ruinously divided into two factions; whereof the heads on one side were Philopomen, and Lycortas, the father of our author of the adverse party, the chief was Aristanus, with some other principal Achaians. The faction of Philopomen was prevalent in the council, for renewing the confederacy with the king of Egypt; in order to which, Lycortas received a commission to go to that court, and treat the articles of alliance. Accordingly, he goes, and afterwards returns, and gives account to his superiors, that the treaty was concluded. Aristanus, hearing nothing but a bare relation of a league that was made, without any thing belonging to the conditions of it, and well knowing that several forms of those alliances had been used in the former negotiations, asked Lycortas, in the council, according to which of them this present confederacy was made? To this question of his enemy, Lycortas had not a word to answer; for it had so happened by the wonderful neglect of Philopomen, and his own, and also that of Ptolomy's counsellors, (or, as I rather believe, by their craft contrived,) that the whole transaction had been loosely and confusedly managed, which, in a matter of so great importance, redounded to the scandal and ignominy of Philopomen and Lycortas, in the face of that grave assembly. Now these proceedings our author so relates, as if he had been speaking of persons to whom he had no manner of relation, though one of them was his own father, and the other always esteemed by him in the place of a better father. But being mindful of the law which himself had instituted, concerning the indispensable duty of an historian, (which is truth,) he chose rather to be thought a lover of it, than of either of his parents. It is true, Lycortas, in all probability, was dead when Polybius wrote this history; but, had he been then living, we may safely think, that his son would have assumed the same liberty, and not feared to have offended him in behalf of truth.
Another part of this veracity is also deserving the notice of the reader, though at the same time we must conclude, that it was also an ef fect of a sound judgment, that he perpetually explodes the legends of prodigies and miracles, and, instead of them, most accurately searches
• In the year of Rome, 568.
into the natural causes of those actions which he describes; for, from the first of these, the latter follows of direct consequence. And for this reason he professes an immortal enmity to those tricks and jugglings, which the common people believe as real miracles; because they are ignorant of the causes which produced them. But he had made a diligent search into them, and found out, that they proceeded either from the fond credulity of the people, or were imposed on them by the craft of those whose interest it was that they should be believed. You hear not in Polybius, that it rained blood or stones; that a bull had spoken; or a thousand such impossibilities, with which Livy perpetually crowds the calends of almost every consulship.* His new years could no more begin without them, during his description of the Punic wars, than our prognosticating almanacks without the effects of the present oppositions betwixt Saturn and Jupiter, the foretelling of comets and coruscations in the air, which seldom happen at the times assigned by our astrologers, and almost always fail in their events. If you will give credit to some other authors, some god was always present with Hannibal or Scipio, to direct their actions; that a visible deity wrought journey-work under Hannibal, to conduct him through the difficult passages of the Alps; and another did the same office of drudgery for Scipio when he besieged New Carthage, by draining the water, which otherwise would have drowned his army in their rash approaches; which Polybius observing, says wittily and truly, that the authors of such fabulous kind of stuff write tragedies, not histories; for, as the poets, when they are at a loss for the solution of a plot, bungle up their catastrophe with a god descending in a machine, so these inconsiderate historians, when they have brought their heroes into a plunge by some rash and headlong undertaking, having no human way remaining to disengage them with honour, are forced to have recourse to miracle, and, introduce a god for their deliverance. It is a common frenzy of the ignorant multitude, says Casaubon, to be always engaging heaven on their side; and indeed it is a successful stratagem of any general to gain authority among his soldiers, if he can persuade them, that he is the man by fate appointed for such or such an action, though most impracticable. To be favoured of God, and command (if it may be
I believe the most enthusiastic admirers of Livy must tire of these unrivalled prodigies. Et bos locutus occurs as often, and is mentioned with as much indifference, as a nomination of sheriffs in Hall, Stowe, or Specd.
permitted so to say.) the extraordinary concourse of Providence, sets off a hero, and makes more specious the cause for which he fights, without any consideration of morality, which ought to be the beginning and end of all our actions; for, where that is violated, God is only present in permission; and suffers a wrong to be done, but not commands it. Light historians, and such as are superstitious in their natures, by the artifice of feigned miracles captivate the gross understandings of their readers, and please their fancies by relations of things which are rather wonderful than true; but such as are of a more profound and solid judgment, (which is the character of our Polybius,) have recourse only to their own natural lights, and by them pursue the methods at least of probability, if they cannot arrive to a settled certainty. He was satisfied that Hannibal was not the first who had made a passage through the Alps, but that the Gauls had been before him in their descent on Italy; and also knew, that this most prudent general, when he laid his design of invading that country, had made an alliance with the Gauls, and prepossessed them in his favour; and before he stirred a foot from Spain, had provided against all those difficulties which he foresaw in his attempt, and compassed his undertaking, which indeed was void of miracles, but full of conduct, and military experience. In the same manner, Scipio, before he departed from Rome, to take his voyage into Spain, had carefully considered every particular circumstance which might cross his purpose, and made his enterprise as easy to him as human prudence could provide; so that he was victorious over that nation, not by virtue of any miracle, but by his admirable forecast, and wise conduct in the execution of his design. Of which, though Polybius was not an eye-witness, he yet had it from the best testimony, which was that of Lælius, the friend of Scipio, who accompanied him in that expedition; of whom our author, with great diligence, inquired concerning every thing of moment which happened in that war, and whom he commends for his sincerity in that relation.
Whensoever he gives us the account of any considerable action, he never fails to tell us why it succeeded, or for what reason it miscarried; together with all the antecedent causes of its undertaking, and the manner of its performance; all which he accurately explains; of which I will select but some few instances, because I want leisure to expatiate on many. In the fragments of the seventeenth book he makes a learned dissertation concerning the Macedonian phalanx, or gross body of foot, which was
formerly believed to be invincible, till experience taught the contrary by the success of the battle which Philip lost to the commonwealth of Rome; and the manifest and most certain causes are therein related, which prove it to be inferior to the Roman legions. When also he had told us in his former books, of the three great battles wherein Hannibal had overthrown the Romans, and the last at Cannæ, wherein he had in a manner conquered that republic, he gives the reasons of every defeat, either from the choice of ground, or the strength of the foreign horse in Hannibal's army, or the ill-timing of the fight on the vanquished side. After this, when he describes the turn of fortune on the part of the Romans, you are visibly conducted upwards to the causes of that change, and the reasonableness of the method which was afterwards pursued by that commonwealth, which raised it to the empire of the world. In these and many other examples, which for brevity are omitted, there is nothing more plain than that Polybius denies all power to fortune, and places the sum of success in Providence; συμβαίνον των τύχην αιτιᾶσθι φαῦλον indeed, are his words. It is a madness to make fortune the mistress of events; because in herself she is nothing, can rule nothing, but is ruled by prudence. So that whenever our author seems to attribute any thing to chance, he speaks only with the vulgar, and desires so to be understood.
But here I must make bold to part company with Casaubon for a moment. He is a vehement friend to any author with whom he has taken any pains; and his partiality to Persius, in opposition to Juvenal, is too fresh in my memory to be forgotten. Because Polybius will allow nothing to the power of chance, he takes an occasion to infer, that he believed a providence ; sharply inveighing against those who have accused him of atheism. He makes Suidas his second in this quarrel; and produces his single evidence, and that but a bare assertion, without proof, that Polybius believed, with us Christians, God administered all human actions and affairs. But our author will not be defended in this case; his whole history reclaims to that opinion. When he speaks of Providence, or of any divine admonition, he is as much in jest, as when he speaks of fortune; it is all to the capacity of the vulgar. Prudence was the only divinity which he worshipped, and the possession of virtue the only end which he proposed. If I would have disguised this to the reader, it was not in my power. The passages which manifestly prove his irreligion are so obvious, that I need not quote them. Neither do I know any reason why Casaubon should enlarge
so much in his justification; since to believe false gods, and to beljeve none, are errors of the same importance. He who knew not our God, saw now through the ridiculous opinions of the heathens concerning theirs; and not being able without revelation to go farther, stopped at home in his own breast, and made prudence his goddess, truth his search, and virtue his reward. If Casaubon, like him, had followed truth, he would have saved me the ungrateful pains of contradicting him; but even the reputation of Polybius, if there were occasion, is to be sacrificed to truth, according to his own maxim.
As for the wisdom of our author, whereby he wonderfully foresaw the decay of the Roman empire, and those civil wars which turned it down from a commonwealth to an absolute monarchy, he who will take the pains to review this history will easily perceive, that Polybius was of the best sort of prophets, who predict from natural causes those events which must naturally proceed from them. And these things were not to succeed even in the compass of the next century to that wherein he lived, but the person was then living who was the first mover towards them; and that was that great Scipio Africanus, who, by cajoling the people to break the fundamental constitutions of the government in his favour, by bringing him too early to the consulship, and afterwards by making their discipline of war precarious, first taught them to devolve the power and authority of the senate into the hands of one, and then to make that one to be at the disposition of the soldiery; which though he practised at a time when it was necessary for the safety of the commonwealth, yet it drew after it those fatal consequences, which not only ruined the republic, but also, in process of time, the monarchy itself. But the author was too much in the interests of that family, to name Scipio; and therefore he gives other reasons, to which I refer the reader, that I may avoid prolixity.
By what degrees Polybius arrived to this height of knowledge, and consummate judgment in affairs, it will not be hard to make the reader comprehend; for, presupposing in him all that birth or nature could give a man, who was formed for the management of great affairs, and capable of recording them, he was likewise entered from his youth into those employments which add experience to natural endowments; being joined in commission with his father Lycortas, and the younger Aratus, before the age of twenty, in an embassy to Egypt: after which he was perpetually in the business of his own
In his thirty-eighth year, forty-three being the legal age.
commonwealth, or that of Rome. So that it seems to be one part of the Roman felicity, that he was born in an age when their commonwealth was growing to the height; that he might be the historian of those great actions, which were performed not only in his lifetime, but the chief of them even in his sight. I must confess, that the preparations to his history, or the Prologomena, as they are called, are very large, and the digressions in it are exceeding frequent. But as to his preparatives, they were but necessary to make the reader comprehend the drift and design of his undertaking: and the digressions are also so instructive, that we may truly say, they transcend the profit which we receive from the matter of fact. Upon the whole, we may conclude him to be a great talker; but we must grant him to be a prudent man. We can spare nothing of all he says, it is so much to our improvement; and if the rest of his history had remained to us, in all probability it would have been more close: for we can scarce conceive what was left in nature for him to add, he has so emptied almost all the common-places of digressions already; or if he could have added any thing, those observations might have been as useful and as necessary as the rest which he has given us, and that are descended to our hands.
I will say nothing farther of the "Excerpta," which (as Casaubon thinks) are part of that epitome which was begun to be made by Marcus Brutus, but never finished; nor of those embassies which are collected and compiled by the command of Constantine the Great; because neither of them are translated in this work. And whether or no they will be added in another impression, I am not certain; the translator of these five books having carried his work no farther than it was perfect. He, I suppose will acquaint you with his own purpose, in the preface which I hear he intends to prefix before Polybius.
Let us now hear Polybius himself describing an accomplished historian, wherein we shall see his own picture, as in a glass, reflected to him, and given us afterwards to behold in the writing of this history.
Plato said of old, that it would be happy for mankind, if either philosophers administered the government, or that governors applied themselves to the study of philosophy. I may also say, that it would be happy for history, if those who undertake to write it, were men conversant in political affairs, who applied themselves seriously to their undertaking, not negligently, but as such who were fully persuaded that they undertook a work of the greatest moment, of the greatest excellency, and the most necessary for