History Is Essential: Livy

Livy, Praefatio 10-12

“This is what is especially constructive and profitable in the contemplation of history: that you behold evidence of every kind of situation set out as a clear monument to the past. From these examples, you can choose some for you and for your state to imitate; from these you can identify what you should avoid as shameful in design or shameful in outcome. For what remains, either the love of the work I have assumed seduces me or it is true that no state was ever greater; no state was ever more righteous or abundant in good examples; there was no state where luxury and greed arrived on the scene so late; nor any state where respect for restraint and humble property lasted so long. The less there was to have, the less desire there was to have it. Recent riches have induced greed; endless pleasures have increased our need to pursue indulgence and desire approaching all-encompassing destruction.”

Hoc illud est praecipue in cognitione rerum salubre ac frugiferum, omnis te exempli documenta in inlustri posita monmento intueri; inde tibi tuaeque rei publicae quod imitere capias, inde foedum inceptu foedum exitu quod vites. Ceterum aut me amor negotii suscepti fallit, aut nulla unquam res publica nec maior nec sanctior nec bonis exemplis ditior fuit, nec in quam [civitatem] tam serae avaritia luxuriaque immigraverint, nec ubi tantus ac tam diu paupertati ac parsimoniae honos fuerit. Adeo quanto rerum minus, tanto minus cupiditatis erat: nuper divitiae avaritiam et abundantes voluptates desiderium per luxum atque libidinem pereundi perdendique omnia invexere.

 

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