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Necessity of Refuting Past Errors

There can be no clearer proof, than is afforded by these particular instances, that this department of historical writing stands above all others in need of study and correction. For as all, or at least the greater number of writers, have endeavoured to describe the peculiar features and positions of the countries on the confines of the known world, and in doing so have, in most cases, made egregious mistakes, it is impossible to pass over their errors without some attempt at refutation; and that not in scattered observations or casual remarks, but deliberately and formally. But such confutation should not take the form of accusation or invective. While correcting their mistakes we should praise the writers, feeling sure that, had they lived to the present age, they would have altered and corrected many of their statements. The fact is that, in past ages, we know of very few Greeks who undertook to investigate these remote regions, owing to the insuperable difficulties of the attempt. The dangers at sea were then more than can easily be calculated, and those on land more numerous still. And even if one did reach these countries on the confines of the world, whether compulsorily or voluntarily, the difficulties in the way of a personal inspection were only begun: for some of the regions were utterly barbarous, others uninhabited; and a still greater obstacle in way of gaining information as to what he saw was his ignorance of the language of the country. And even if he learnt this, a still greater difficulty was to preserve a strict moderation in his account of what he had seen, and despising all attempts to glorify himself by traveller's tales of wonder, to report for our benefit the truth and nothing but the truth.

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