Just as geographers, O Socius Senecio,1
crowd on to the outer edges of their maps the parts of the earth which elude their knowledge, with explanatory notes that
‘What lies beyond is sandy desert without water and full of wild beasts,’ or
‘blind marsh,’ or
‘Scythian cold,’ or
‘frozen sea,’ so in the writing of my Parallel Lives, now that I have traversed those periods of time which are accessible to probable reasoning and which afford basis for a history dealing with facts, I might well say of the earlier periods
‘What lies beyond is full of marvels and unreality, a land of poets and fabulists, of doubt and obscurity.’
But after publishing my account of Lycurgus the lawgiver and Numa the king, I thought I might not unreasonably go back still farther to Romulus, now that my history had brought me near his times. And as I asked myself,
‘With such a warrior’ (as Aeschylus says)
‘who will dare to fight?’
Whom shall I set against him? Who is competent?
it seemed to me that I must make the founder of lovely and famous Athens the counterpart and parallel to the father of invincible and glorious Rome.
May I therefore succeed in purifying Fable, making her submit to reason and take on the semblance of History. But where she obstinately disdains to make herself credible, and refuses to admit any element of probability, I shall pray for kindly readers, and such as receive with indulgence the tales of antiquity.