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Of Proportion In History

Other historians [have spoken in exaggerated terms]1 of the Syrian war. And the reason is one which I have often mentioned. Though their subjects are simple and without complications, they seek the name and reputation of historians not from the truth of their facts, but the number of their books; and accordingly they are obliged to give petty affairs an air of importance, and fill out and give rhetorical flourishes to what was originally expressed briefly; dress up actions and achievements which were originally quite secondary; expatiate on struggles; and describe pitched battles, in which sometimes ten or a few more infantry fell, and still fewer cavalry. As for sieges, local descriptions, and the like, one cannot say that their treatment is adequate, because they have no facts to give. But a writer of universal history must pursue a different plan; and therefore I ought not to be condemned for minimising the importance of events, if I sometimes pass over affairs that have met with wide fame and laboured description, or for mentioning them with brevity; but I ought to be trusted to give to each subject the amount of discussion which it deserves. Such historians as I refer to, when they are describing in the course of their work the siege, say of Phanoteia, or Coroneia, or [Haliartus], are forced to display all the contrivances, bold strokes, and other features of a siege; and when they come to the capture of Tarentum, the sieges of Corinth, Sardis, Gaza, Bactra, and, above all, of Carthage, they must draw on their own resources to prolong the agony and heighten the picture, and are not at all satisfied with me for giving a more truthful relation of such events as they really occurred. Let this statement hold good also as to my description of pitched battles and public harangues, as well as other departments of history; in all of which I might fairly claim considerable indulgence, as also in what is now about to be narrated, if I am detected in some inconsistency in the substance of my story, the treatment of my facts, or the style of language; and also if I make some mistakes in the names of mountains or rivers, or the special features of localities: for indeed the magnitude of my work is a sufficient excuse in all these points, unless, indeed, I am ever detected in deliberate or interested misstatements in my writings: for such I ask no indulgence, as I have repeatedly and explicitly remarked in the course of my history. . . .

1 The extract begins in the middle of a sentence at the top of a page. I

A digression on Polybius's method in writing history, and his avoidance of imaginary details.
have supplied these words at a guess, giving what seems the sense.

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