previous next

Depopulation of Greece

As I blame those who assign fortune and destiny as the
Limits to the belief of the direct interference of Providence in human affairs.
moving causes in common events and catastrophes, I wish now to enter as minutely on the discussion of this subject as the nature of an historical work will admit. Those things of which it is impossible or difficult for a mere man to ascertain the causes, such as a continuous fall of rains and unseasonable wet, or, on the contrary, droughts and frosts, one may reasonably impute to God and Fortune, in default of any other explanation; and from them come destruction of fruits, as well as long-continued epidemics, and other similar things, of which it is not easy to find the cause. On such matters then, we, in default of a better, follow the prevailing opinions of the multitude, attempting by supplications and sacrifices to appease the wrath of heaven, and sending to ask the gods by what words or actions on our part a change for the better may be brought about, and a respite be obtained for the evils which are afflicting us. But those things, of which it is possible to find the origin and cause of their occurrence, I do not think we should refer to the gods. I mean such a thing as the following. In our time all Greece was visited by a dearth of children and generally a decay of population, owing to which the cities were denuded of inhabitants, and a failure of productiveness resulted, though there were no long-continued wars or serious pestilences among us. If, then, any one had advised our sending to ask the gods in regard to this, what we were to do or say in order to become more numerous and better fill our cities,—would he not have seemed a futile person, when the cause was manifest and the cure in our own hands? For this evil grew upon us rapidly, and without attracting attention, by our men becoming perverted to a passion for show and money and the pleasures of an idle life, and accordingly either not marrying at all, or, if they did marry, refusing to rear the children that were born, or at most one or two out of a great number, for the sake of leaving them well off or bringing them up in extravagant luxury. For when there are only one or two sons, it is evident that, if war or pestilence carries off one, the houses must be left heirless: and, like swarms of bees, little by little the cities become sparsely inhabited and weak. On this subject there is no need to ask the gods how we are to be relieved from such a curse: for any one in the world will tell you that it is by the men themselves if possible changing their objects of ambition; or, if that cannot be done, by passing laws for the preservation of infants. On this subject there is no need of seers or prodigies. And the same holds good of all similar things. But in regard to events of which the causes are impossible or difficult to discover, it is reasonable to feel a difficulty. And in this class may be reckoned the course of Macedonian history. For the Macedonians had enjoyed many important favours at the hands of the Romans, having been as a nation liberated from arbitrary government and imports, and having obtained undisputed freedom in the place of slavery; and having been individually relieved to a great extent from intestine factions and civil bloodshed.1 . . .
The inexplicable conduct of the Macedonians.
They had been worsted by the Romans formerly when fighting on the side of Demetrius2 and again on that of Perseus; yet when engaged on the side of a man of odious character,3 and in support of his claims to the throne, they displayed great courage and conquered a Roman army. These facts may well seem a puzzle to us, for it is difficult to discover their cause. And accordingly one would be inclined to say in such matters that what had happened was a heaven-sent infatuation, and that the wrath of God had fallen upon the Macedonians. And this will be rendered evident from what remains to be told. . . .

1 A considerable passage is here lost, with the exception of a few words, insufficient to ground a conjectural translation upon.

2 Demetrius II., son of Antigonus Gonatas.

3 Pseudophilippus, after cutting to pieces a Roman legion under the praetor Juventius, was conquered and captured by Q. Caecilius Metellus in B. C. 148 (Livy, Ep. 50; Eutrop. 4, 6).

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
148 BC (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: