Timaeus and the Character of a Historian
Timaeus makes many untrue statements; and he appears
to have done so, not from ignorance, but because his view was
distorted by party spirit. When once he has made
up his mind to blame or praise, he forgets everything else and outsteps all bounds of propriety.
So much for the nature of Aristotle's account of Locri, and the
grounds on which it rested. But this naturally leads me to
speak of Timaeus and his work as a whole, and generally of
what is the duty of a man who undertakes to write history.
Now I think that I have made it clear from what I have said,
first, that both of them were writing conjecturally; and,
secondly, that the balance of probability was on the side of
Aristotle. It is in fact impossible in such matters to be
positive and definite. But let us even admit that Timaeus gives
the more probable account. Are the maintainers of the less
probable theory, therefore, to be called by every possible term
of abuse and obloquy, and all but be put on trial for their lives?
Certainly not. Those who make untrue statements in their
books from ignorance ought, I maintain, to be forgiven and
corrected in a kindly spirit: it is only those who do so from
deliberate intention that ought to be attacked without mercy.