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The Errors of Timaeus

The idea, however, of all the animals in the island
the reason of his mistake.
being wild, has arisen in the following way: The caretakers cannot keep up with their animals, owing to the thick woods and rocky broken nature of the country; but, whenever they wish to collect them, they stand on some convenient spots and call the beasts together by the sound of a trumpet; and all of them flock without fail to their own trumpets. Now, when ships arrive at the coast. and the sailors see goats or cattle grazing without any one with them, and thereupon try to catch them, the animals will not let them come near them, because they are not used to them, but will scamper off. But as soon as the keeper sees the men disembarking and sounds his trumpet, they all set off running at full speed and collect round the trumpet. This gives the appearance of wildness; and Timaeus, who made only careless and perfunctory inquiries, committed himself to a random statement.

Now this obedience to the sound of a trumpet is

Swine-keeping in Italy.
nothing astonishing. For in Italy the swineherds manage the feeding of their pigs in the same way. They do not follow close behind the beasts, as in Greece, but keep some distance in front of them, sounding their horn every now and then; and the animals follow behind and run together at the sound. Indeed, the complete familiarity which the animals show with the particular horn to which they belong seems at first astonishing and almost incredible. For owing to the populousness and wealth of the country, the droves of swine in Italy are exceedingly large, especially along the sea coast of the Tuscans and Gauls: for one sow will bring up a thousand pigs, or sometimes even more. They therefore drive them out from their night styes to feed, according to their litters and ages. Whence, if several droves are taken to the same place, they cannot preserve these distinction of litters; but they of course get mixed up with each other, both as they are being driven out, and as they feed, and as they are being brought home. Accordingly the device of the horn-blowing has been invented to separate them, when they have got mixed up together, without labour or trouble. For as they feed, one swineherd goes in one direction sounding his horn, and another in another: and thus the animals sort themselves of their own accord, and follow their own horns with such eagerness that it is impossible by any means to stop or hinder them. But in Greece, when the swine get mixed up in the oak forests in their search for the mast, the swineherd who has most assistants and the best help at his disposal, when collecting his own animals, drives off his neighbour's also. Sometimes too a thief lies in wait, and drives them off without the swineherd knowing how he lost them; because the beasts straggle a long way from their drivers, in their eagerness to find acorns, when they are just beginning to fall. . . .

It is difficult to pardon such errors in Timaeus,
False criticisms of Timaeus on Theopompus and Ephorus.
considering how severe he is in criticising the slips of others. For instance he finds fault with Theopompus for stating that Dionysius sailed from Sicily to Corinth in a merchant vessel, whereas he really arrived in a ship of war. And again he falsely charges Ephorus with contradicting himself, on the ground that he asserts that Dionysius the Elder ascended the throne at the age of twenty-three, reigned forty-two years, and died at sixty-three. Now no one would say, I think, that this was a blunder of the historian, but clearly one of the transcriber. For either Ephorus must be more foolish than Coroebus and Margites, if he were unable to calculate that forty-two added to twenty-three make sixty-five; or, if that is incredible in the case of a man like Ephorus, it must be a mere mistake of the transcriber, and the carping and malevolent criticism of Timaeus must be rejected.

Again, in his history of Pyrrhus, he says that the Romans
His false account of the October horse.
still keep up the memory of the fall of Troy by shooting to death with javelins a war-horse on a certain fixed day, because the capture of Troy was accomplished by means of the "Wooden Horse." This is quite childish. On this principle, all non-Hellenic nations must be put down as descendants of the Trojans; for nearly all of them, or at any rate the majority, when about to commence a war or a serious battle with an enemy, first kill and sacrifice a horse. In making this sort of ill-founded deduction, Timaeus seems to me to show not only want of knowledge, but, what is worse, a trick of misapplying knowledge. For, because the Romans sacrifice a horse, he immediately concludes that they do it because Troy was taken by means of a horse.

These instances clearly show how worthless his account of Libya, Sardinia, and, above all, of Italy is; and that, speaking generally, he has entirely neglected the most important element in historical investigation, namely, the making personal inquiries.
The reason of his mistakes a want of care in making inquiries.
For as historical events take place in many different localities, and as it is impossible for the same man to be in several places at the same time, and also impossible for him to see with his own eyes all places in the world and observe their peculiarities, the only resource left is to ask questions of as many people as possible; and to believe those who are worthy of credit; and to show critical sagacity in judging of their reports.

And though Timaeus makes great professions on this
Nor is he to be trusted even in matters that fell under his own observation.
head, he appears to me to be very far from arriving at the truth. Indeed, so far from making accurate investigations of the truth through other people, he does not tell us anything trustworthy even of events of which he has been an eye-witness, or of places he has personally visited. This will be made evident, if we can convict him of being ignorant, even in his account of Sicily, of the facts which he brings forward. For it will require very little further proof of his inaccuracy, if he can be shown to be ill-informed and misled about the localities in which he was born and bred, and that too the most famous of them. Now he asserts that the fountain Arethusa at Syracuse has its source in the Peloponnese, from the river Alpheus, which flows through Arcadia and Olympia.
For that this river sinks into the earth, and, after being carried for four thousand stades under the Sicilian Sea, comes to the surface again in Syracuse; and that this was proved from the fact that on a certain occasion a storm of rain having come on during the Olympic festival, and the river having flooded the sacred enclosure, a quantity of dung from the animals used for sacrifice at the festival was thrown up by the fountain Arethusa; as well as a certain gold cup, which was picked up and recognised as being one of the ornaments used at the festival. . . .

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