XVIII[18arg] In what respect, and how far, history differs from annals; and a quotation on that subject from the first book of the Histories of Sempronius Asellio.
SOME think that history differs from annals in this particular, that while each is a narrative of events, yet history is properly an account of events in which the narrator took part; and that this is the opinion of some men is stated by Verrius Flaccus in the fourth book of his treatise On the Meaning of Words. 1 He adds that he for his part has doubts about the matter, but he thinks that the view may have some appearance of reason, since ἱστορία in Greek means a [p. 435] knowledge of current events. But we often hear it said that annals are exactly the same as histories, but that histories are not exactly the same as annals; just as a man is necessarily an animal, but an animal is not necessarily a man. Thus they say that history is the setting forth of events or their description, or whatever term may be used; but that annals set down the events of many years successively, with observance of the chronological order. When, however, events are recorded, not year by year, but day by day, such a history is called in Greek ἐφημερίς, or “a diary,” a term of which the Latin interpretation is found in the first book of Sempronius Asellio. I have quoted a passage of some length from that book, in order at the same time to show what his opinion is of the difference between history and chronicle. “But between those,” he says, 2 “who have desired to leave us annals, and those who have tried to write the history of the Roman people, there was this essential difference. The books of annals merely made known what happened and in what year it happened, which is like writing a diary, which the Greeks call ἐφημερίς. For my part, I realize that it is not enough to make known what has been done, but that one should also show with what purpose and for what reason things were done.” A little later in the same book Asellio writes: 3 “For annals cannot in any way make men more eager to defend their country, or more reluctant to do wrong. Further-more, to write over and over again in whose consulship a war was begun and ended, and who in consequence entered the city in a triumph, and in that [p. 437] book not to state what happened in the course of the war, what decrees the senate made during that time, or what law or bill was passed, and with what motives these things were done—that is to tell stories to children, not to write history.”