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This History is Not Difficult to Understand

Another mistake is to look upon my history as difficult to obtain or master, because of the number and size of the books. Compare it in these particulars with the various writings of the episodical historians. Is it not much easier to purchase and read my forty books, which are as it were all in one piece, and so to follow with a comprehensive glance the events in Italy, Sicily, and Libya from the time of Pyrrhus to the fall of Carthage, and those in the rest of the world from the flight of Cleomenes of Sparta, continuously, to the battle between the Achaeans and Romans at the Isthmus? To say nothing of the fact that the compositions of these historians are many times as numerous as mine, it is impossible for their readers to get any certain information from them: first, because most of them differ in their account of the same transactions; and secondly, because they omit contemporary history,—the comparative review of which would put a very different complexion upon events to that derived from isolated treatment,—and are unable to touch upon the most decisive events at all. For, indeed, the most important parts of history are those which treat the events which follow or accompany a certain course of conduct, and pre-eminently so those which treat of causes. For instance, we see that the war with Antiochus took its rise from that with Philip; that with Philip from the Hannibalian; and the Hannibalian from the Sicilian war: and though between these wars there were numerous events of various character, they all converged upon the same consummation. Such a comprehensive view may be obtained from universal history, but not from the histories of particular wars, such as those with Perseus or Philip; unless we fondly imagine that, by reading the accounts contained in them of the pitched battles, we gain a knowledge of the conduct and plan of the whole war. This of course is not the case; and in the present instance I hope that there will be as wide a difference between my history and such episodical compositions, as between real learning and mere listening.

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