Fortune F**ks Us Up

Polybius, Histories 29.21:

Perseus frequently and very deeply remembered the words of Demetrius of Phaleron. That man, wishing to show clearly in his notes on Fortune just how mutable it was, set for our consideration the times of Alexander, who destroyed the Persian empire. This is what Demetrius wrote:

‘You needn’t think about the whole extent of recorded time, nor even about many generations, but perhaps only the last fifty years before our age. Doing so, you would recognize the brutality of Fortune. Do you think that fifty years ago either the Persians, or the Persian king, or the Macedonians, or the Macedonian king would believe, if some god were to give them a prophecy of what was to happen, that there would be nothing at all left of the name of the Persians who once ruled over all of civilization, but that the Macedonians would hold sway over all, though their name had barely been known before? Yet this Fortune, which never comports with our life and makes everything strange beyond reckoning and displays the same power of paradox even now shows to all people, by setting up the Macedonians in the former happy state of the Persians, that she has granted such goods to them only until she contrives some different plan for them.’

῞Ωστε πολλάκις καὶ λίαν μνημονεύειν τῆς Δημητρίου τοῦ Φαληρέως φωνῆς. ἐκεῖνος γὰρ ἐν τῷ περὶ τῆς τύχης ὑπομνήματι βουλόμενος ἐναργῶς ὑποδεικνύναι τοῖς ἀνθρώποις τὸ ταύτης εὐμετάβολον, ἐπιστὰς ἐπὶ τοὺς κατ’ ᾿Αλέξανδρον καιρούς, ὅτε κατέλυσε τὴν Περσῶν ἀρχήν, λέγει ταῦτα· “εἰ γὰρ λάβοιτ’ ἐν (νῷ) μὴ χρόνον ἄπειρον μηδὲ γενεὰς πολλάς, ἀλλὰ πεντήκοντα μόνον ἔτη ταυτὶ τὰ πρὸ ἡμῶν, γνοίητ’ ἂν ὡς τὸ τῆς τύχης χαλεπὸν ἐνταῦθα. πεντηκοστῷ γὰρ ἔτει (πρότερον) οἴεσθ’ ἂν ἢ Πέρσας ἢ βασιλέα τῶν Περσῶν ἢ Μακεδόνας ἢ βασιλέα τῶν Μακεδόνων, εἴ τις θεῶν αὐτοῖς προύλεγε τὸ μέλλον, πιστεῦσαί ποτ’ ἂν ὡς εἰς τοῦτον τὸν καιρὸν Περσῶν (μὲν) οὐδ’ ὄνομα λειφθήσεται τὸ παράπαν, οἳ πάσης (σχεδὸν) τῆς οἰκουμένης ἐδέσποζον, Μακεδόνες δὲ (καὶ) πάσης κρατήσουσιν, ὧν οὐδ’ ὄνομα πρότερον ἦν (γνώριμον). ἀλλ’ ὅμως ἡ πρὸς τὸν βίον ἡμῶν ἀσύνθετος τύχη καὶ πάντα παρὰ (τὸν) λογισμὸν τὸν ἡμέτερον καινοποιοῦσα καὶ τὴν αὑτῆς δύναμιν ἐν τοῖς παραδόξοις ἐνδεικυμένη καὶ νῦν, ὡς ἐμοὶ δοκεῖ, δείκνυσι πᾶσιν ἀνθρώποις, Μακεδόνας εἰς τὴν Περσῶν εὐδαιμονίαν εἰσοικίσασα, διότι καὶ τούτοις ταῦτα τἀγαθὰ κέχρηκεν, ἕως (ἂν) ἄλλο τι βουλεύσηται περὶ αὐτῶν.”

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