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Though this translation have already past the censure of some, whose judgments I very much esteem: yet because there is something, I know not what, in the censure of a multitude, more terrible than any single judgment, how severe or exact soever, I have thought it discretion in all men, that have to do with so many, and to me, in my want of perfection, necessary, to bespeak your candour. Which that I may upon the better reason hope for, I am willing to acquaint you briefly, upon what grounds I undertook this work at first; and have since, by publishing it, put myself upon the hazard of your censure, with so small hope of glory as from a thing of this nature can be expected. For I know, that mere translations have in them this property: that they may much disgrace, if not well done; but if well, not much commend the doer.

It hath been noted by divers, that Homer in poesy, Aristotle in philosophy, Demosthenes in eloquence, and others of the ancients in other knowledge, do still maintain their primacy: none of them exceeded, some not approached, by any in these later ages. And in the number of these is justly ranked also our Thucydides; a workman no less perfect in his work, than any of the former; and in whom (I believe with many others) the faculty of writing history is at the highest. For the principal and proper work of history being to instruct and enable men, by the knowledge of actions past, to bear themselves prudently in the present and providently towards the future: there is not extant any other (merely human) that doth more naturally and fully perform it, than this of my author. It is true, that there be many excellent and profitable histories written since: and in some of them there be inserted very wise discourses, both of manners and policy. But being discourses inserted, and not of the contexture of the narration, they indeed commend the knowledge of the writer, but not the history itself: the nature whereof is merely narrative. In others, there be subtle conjectures at the secret aims and inward cogitations of such as fall under their pen; which is also none of the least virtues in a history, where conjecture is thoroughly grounded, not forced to serve the purpose of the writer in adorning his style, or manifesting his subtlety in conjecturing. But these conjectures cannot often be certain, unless withal so evident, that the narration itself may be sufficient to suggest the same also to the reader. But Thucydides is one, who, though he never digress to read a lecture, moral or political, upon his own text, nor enter into men's hearts further than the acts themselves evidently guide him: is yet accounted the most politic historiographer that ever writ. The reason whereof I take to be this. He filleth his narrations with that choice of matter, and ordereth them with that judgment, and with such perspicuity and efficacy expresseth himself, that, as Plutarch saith, he maketh his auditor a spectator. For he setteth his reader in the assemblies of the people and in the senate, at their debating; in the streets, at their seditions; and in the field, at their battles. So that look how much a man of understanding might have added to his experience, if he had then lived a beholder of their proceedings, and familiar with the men and business of the time: so much almost may he profit now, by attentive reading of the same here written. He may from the narrations draw out lessons to himself, and of himself be able to trace the drifts and counsels of the actors to their seat.

These virtues of my author did so take my affection, that they begat in me a desire to communicate him further: which was the first occasion that moved me to translate him. For it is an error we easily fall into, to believe that whatsoever pleaseth us, will be in like manner and degree acceptable to all: and to esteem of one another's judgment, as we agree in the liking or dislike of the same things. And in this error peradventure was I, when I thought, that as many of the more judicious as I should communicate him to, would affect him as much as I myself did. I considered also, that he was exceedingly esteemed of the Italians and French in their own tongues: notwithstanding that he be not very much beholden for it to his interpreters. Of whom (to speak no more than becomes a candidate of your good opinion in the same kind) I may say this: that whereas the author himself so carrieth with him his own light throughout, that the reader may continually see his way before him, and by that which goeth before expect what is to follow; I found it not so in them. The cause whereof, and their excuse, may be this: they followed the Latin of Laurentius Valla, which was not without some errors; and he a Greek copy not so correct as now is extant. Out of French he was done into English (for I need not dissemble to have seen him in English) in the time of King Edward the Sixth: but so, as by multiplication of error he became at length traduced, rather than translated into our language. Hereupon I resolved to take him immediately from the Greek, according to the edition of Æmilius Porta: not refusing or neglecting any version, comment, or other help I could come by. Knowing that when with diligence and leisure I should have done it, though some error might remain, yet they would be errors but of one descent; of which nevertheless I can discover none, and hope they be not many. After I had finished it, it lay long by me: and other reasons taking place, my desire to communicate it ceased.

For I saw that, for the greatest part, men came to the reading of history with an affection much like that of the people in Rome: who came to the spectacle of the gladiators with more delight to behold their blood, than their skill in fencing. For they be far more in number, that love to read of great armies, bloody battles, and many thousands slain at once, than that mind the art by which the affairs both of armies and cities be conducted to their ends. I observed likewise, that there were not many whose ears were well accustomed to the names of the places they shall meet with in this history; without the knowledge whereof it can neither patiently be read over, perfectly understood, nor easily remembered: especially being many, as here it falleth out. Because in that age almost every city both in Greece and Sicily, the two main scenes of this war, was a distinct commonwealth by itself, and a party in the quarrel.

Nevertheless I have thought since, that the former of these considerations ought not to be of any weight at all, to him that can content himself with the few and better sort of readers: who, as they only judge, so is their approbation only considerable. And for the difficulty arising from the ignorance of places, I thought it not so insuperable, but that with convenient pictures of the countries it might be removed. To which purpose, I saw there would be necessary especially two: a general map of Greece, and a general map of Sicily. The latter of these I found already extant, exactly done by Philip Cluverius; which I have caused to be cut, and you have it at the beginning of the sixth book. But for maps of Greece, sufficient for this purpose, I could light on none. For neither are the tables of Ptolomy, and descriptions of those that follow him, accommodate to the time of Thucydides; and therefore few of the places by him mentioned, therein described: nor are those that be, agreeing always with the truth of history. Wherefore I was constrained to draw one as well as I could myself. Which to do, I was to rely for the main figure of the country on the modern description now in reputation: and in that, to set down those places especially (as many as the volume was capable of) which occur in the reading of this author, and to assign them that situation, which, by travel in Strabo, Pausanias, Herodotus, and some other good authors, I saw belonged unto them. And to shew you that I have not played the mountebank in it, putting down exactly some few of the principal, and the rest at adventure, without care and without reason, I have joined with the map an index, that pointeth to the authors which will justify me where I differ from others. With these maps, and those few brief notes in the margin upon such passages as I thought most required them, I supposed the history might be read with very much benefit by all men of good judgment and education, (for whom also it was intended from the beginning by Thucydides), and have therefore at length made my labour public, not without hope to have it accepted. Which if I obtain, though no otherwise than in virtue of the author's excellent matter, it is sufficient.

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