I think that Nicias is a suitable parallel to Crassus, and the Sicilian to the Parthian disaster. I must therefore at once, and in all modesty, entreat my readers not to imagine for an instant that in my narration of what Thucydides has inimitably set forth, surpassing even himself in pathos, vividness, and variety, I am so disposed as was Timaeus.
He, confidently hoping to excel Thucydides in skill, and to make Philistus seem altogether tedious and clumsy, pushes his history along through the conflicts and sea-fights and harangues which those writers had already handled with the greatest success, showing himself, in rivalry with them, not even so much as
By Lydian car a footman slowly plodding,
to use Pindar's comparison,1
nay rather a perfect example of senile learning and youthful conceit, and, in the words of Diphilus,
Obese, stuffed to the full with Sicilian grease.
Indeed, he often lapses unawares into the manner of Xenarchus, as, for instance, when he says he thinks it was a bad omen for the Athenians that Nicias, whose name was derived from victory, declined at first to head their expedition; also that, by the mutilation of the
Heaven indicated to them in advance that by the hands of Hermocrates the son of Hermon they were to suffer most of their reverses during the war; and, further, that it was fitting that Heracles should aid the Syracusans, for the sake of their goddess Cora who delivered Cerberus into his hands, but should be angry with the Athenians because they were trying to succour the Egestaeans although they were descendants of the Trojans, whose city he had once destroyed because of the wrong done him by Laomedon their king.
As for Timaeus, he may possibly have been moved to write thus in the exercise of the same critical taste which led him to correct the language of Philistus and abuse Plato and Aristotle; but as for me, I feel that jealous rivalry with other writers in matters of diction is altogether undignified and pedantic, and if it be practised toward what is beyond all imitation, utterly silly.
At all events, those deeds which Thucydides and Philistus have set forth,—since I cannot entirely pass them by, indicating as they do the nature of my hero and the disposition which lay hidden beneath his many great sufferings,—I have run over briefly, and with no unnecessary detail, in order to escape the reputation of utter carelessness and sloth; but those details which have escaped most writers, and which others have mentioned casually, or which are found on ancient votive offerings or in public decrees, these I have tried to collect, not massing together useless material of research, but handing on such as furthers the appreciation of character and temperament.