Polybius, 1.5.2-5: We Need a Good Foundation for This House

“For this reason, we must also explain how the Romans settled affairs in Italy and with what circumstances they expanded into Sicily—for they took possession of that land first outside of Italy. It is also necessary to record the cause of their expansion without explanation, lest, if I should seek a cause for every cause, my whole investigation lack a starting point and focus. A beginning point should be in agreement with and recognizable in the right events, and one that is capable of being seen by many and evident in the events themselves, even if it demands us to go back in time a bit before the start of the affair to summarize the events between. For if there is ignorance, or Zeus forbid, dispute at a work’s inception, it is not possible for it to gain belief or trust in the end. Whenever some belief is secured at a work’s beginning, then the subsequent narrative obtains open-mindedness from its audience.”

διὸ καὶ ῥητέον ἂν εἴη πῶς καὶ πότε συστησάμενοι τὰ κατὰ τὴν ᾿Ιταλίαν καὶ τίσιν ἀφορμαῖς μετὰ ταῦτα χρησάμενοι διαβαίνειν ὥρμησαν εἰς Σικελίαν• ταύτῃ γὰρ τῇ γῇ πρῶτον ἐπέβησαν τῶν ἐκτὸς τόπων τῆς ᾿Ιταλίας. καὶ ῥητέον αὐτὴν τὴν τῆς διαβάσεως αἰτίαν ψιλῶς, ἵνα μὴ τῆς αἰτίας αἰτίαν ἐπιζητούσης ἀνυπόστατος ἡ τῆς ὅλης ὑποθέσεως ἀρχὴ γένηται καὶ θεωρία. ληπτέον δὲ καὶ τοῖς καιροῖς ὁμολογουμένην καὶ γνωριζομένην ἀρχὴν παρ’ ἅπασι καὶ τοῖς πράγμασι δυναμένην αὐτὴν ἐξ αὑτῆς θεωρεῖσθαι, κἂν δέῃ τοῖς χρόνοις βραχὺ προσαναδραμόντας κεφαλαιώδη τῶν μεταξὺ πράξεων ποιήσασθαι τὴν ἀνάμνησιν. τῆς γὰρ ἀρχῆς ἀγνοουμένης ἢ καὶ νὴ Δί’ ἀμφισβητουμένης οὐδὲ τῶν ἑξῆς οὐδὲν οἷόν τε παραδοχῆς ἀξιωθῆναι καὶ πίστεως• ὅταν δ’ ἡ περὶ ταύτης ὁμολογουμένη παρασκευασθῇ δόξα, τότ’ ἤδη καὶ πᾶς ὁ συνεχὴς λόγος ἀποδοχῆς τυγχάνει παρὰ τοῖς ἀκούουσιν.

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