Polybius, Histories 1.14: On The Pointlessness of Biased History

 

“I am also compelled to understand this war by something no less important than anything else I have already said—the fact that those who seem most qualified to write about it…have not sufficiently reported the truth. I do not suspect that these men lie willingly (based on their manner of life and their choices), but they do seem to me to have suffered in the way that lovers do….It is certainly right for a good man to be loyal to his friends, to be patriotic, and to commiserate in his friend’s hatreds and take pleasure in his friends; but whenever someone takes up the historian’s post, he must banish all of these biases to the point of often gracing his enemies with the finest praise when their actions deserve it and also often rebuking and blaming those closest to him, whenever they reveal to him errors worthy of it. For, just as closed eyes make the rest of an animal useless, what is left from a history blind to the truth is just a pointless tale.”

 

Οὐχ ἧττον δὲ τῶν προειρημένων παρωξύνθην ἐπιστῆσαι τούτῳ τῷ πολέμῳ καὶ διὰ τὸ τοὺς ἐμπειρότατα δοκοῦντας γράφειν ὑπὲρ αὐτοῦ, Φιλῖνον καὶ Φάβιον, μὴ δεόντως ἡμῖν ἀπηγγελκέναι τὴν ἀλήθειαν. ἑκόντας μὲν οὖν ἐψεῦσθαι τοὺς ἄνδρας οὐχ ὑπολαμβάνω, στοχαζόμενος ἐκ τοῦ βίου καὶ τῆς αἱ-ρέσεως αὐτῶν· δοκοῦσι δέ μοι πεπονθέναι τι παραπλήσιον τοῖς ἐρῶσι… · καὶ γὰρ φιλόφιλον εἶναι δεῖ τὸν ἀγαθὸν ἄνδρα καὶ φιλόπατριν καὶ συμμισεῖν τοῖς φίλοις τοὺς ἐχθροὺς καὶ συναγαπᾶν τοὺς φίλους· ὅταν δὲ τὸ τῆς ἱστορίας ἦθος ἀναλαμ-βάνῃ τις, ἐπιλαθέσθαι χρὴ πάντων τῶν τοιούτων καὶ πολλάκις μὲν εὐλογεῖν καὶ κοσμεῖν τοῖς μεγίστοις ἐπαίνοις τοὺς ἐχθρούς, ὅταν αἱ πράξεις ἀπαιτῶσι τοῦτο, πολλάκις δ’ ἐλέγχειν καὶ ψέγειν ἐπονειδίστως τοὺς ἀναγκαιοτάτους, ὅταν αἱ τῶν ἐπιτηδευμάτων ἁμαρτίαι τοῦθ’ ὑποδεικνύωσιν. ὥσπερ γὰρ ζῴου τῶν ὄψεων ἀφαιρεθεισῶν ἀχρειοῦται τὸ ὅλον, οὕτως ἐξ ἱστορίας ἀναιρεθείσης τῆς ἀληθείαςτὸ καταλειπόμενον αὐτῆς ἀνωφελὲς γίνεται διήγημα.

 

3 thoughts on “Polybius, Histories 1.14: On The Pointlessness of Biased History

  1. Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an incredibly long comment but
    after I clicked submit my comment didn’t appear. Grrrr…
    well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyhow, just wanted to say fantastic
    blog!

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