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Agathocles Was Not An Important Person

For these reasons I have rejected all idea of making too much of the story of Agathocles. But another and the strongest reason was that all such wonderful and striking catastrophes are only worth listening to once; not only are subsequent exhibitions of them unprofitable to ear and eye, but elaborate harping upon soon becomes simply troublesome. For those who are engaged on representing anything either to eye or ear can have only two objects to aim at,—pleasure and profit; and in history, more than in anything else, excessive prolixity on events of tragic interest fails of both these objects. For, in the first place, who would wish to emulate extraordinary catastrophes? And next, no one likes to be continually seeing and hearing things that are unnatural and beyond the ordinary conceptions of mankind. We are, indeed, eager to see and hear such things once and for the first time, because we want to know that a thing is possible which was supposed to be impossible: but when once convinced on that point no one is pleased at lingering on the Unnatural; but in fact would rather not come across it at all oftener than need be. In fact, the dwelling upon misfortunes which exceed the ordinary limits is more suitable to tragedy than to history. But perhaps we ought to make allowances for men who have studied neither nature nor universal history. They think, I presume, that the most important and astonishing events in all history are those which they happen to have come across themselves or to have heard from others, and they therefore give their attention exclusively to those. They accordingly do not perceive that they are making a mistake in expatiating on events which are neither novel,—for they have been narrated by others before,— nor capable of giving instruction or pleasure. So much on this point. . . .

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