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Zeno Acknowledges His Error

These and similar blunders appear to me to reflect very great discredit upon writers. It is necessary, therefore, to endeavour to make one's self master of all departments of history alike. That is the ideal; but if that is impossible, one ought at least to be excessively careful on the most essential and important points in it. I have been induced to say this because I have observed that in history, as in other arts and sciences, there is a tendency to neglect the true and essential, while the ostentatious and the showy secure praise and emulation as something great and admirable. The fact being that in history, as in other departments of literature, these latter qualities require less trouble and gain a cheaper reputation. As to his ignorance of the topography of Laconia, considering that his error was an important one, I did not hesitate to write to Zeno personally.
Polybius wrote to Zeno on his geographical mistakes.
For I thought it a point of honour not to look upon the mistakes of others as personal triumphs, as is the way with some writers; but to do the best I could to secure correctness, not only of my own historical writings, but of those of others also, for the benefit of the world at large. When Zeno received my letter and found that it was impossible to make the correction, because his history was already published, he was much vexed, but could do nothing. He, however, put the most friendly interpretation on my proceeding; and, in regard to this point, I would beg my own readers, whether of my own or future generations, if I am ever detected in making a deliberate misstatement, and disregarding truth in any part of my history, to criticise me unmercifully; but if I do so from lack of information, to make allowances: and I ask it for myself more than others, owing to the size of my history and the extent of ground covered by its transactions. . . .

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