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Some of Zeno's Mistakes Due to Ignorance

Besides these mistakes, he says that Nabis started on his return from Messenia by the gate on the road to Tegea. This is another absurdity; for Megalopolis is between Tegea and Messene, so that it is impossible that a gate at Messene should be called the "Gate to Tegea." The fact is that there is a gate there called the "Tegean Gate," by which Nabis commenced his return; and this led Zeno into the mistake of supposing that Tegea was near Messene, which is not the fact: for the Laconian territory, as well as that of Megalopolis, lies between that of Messene and Tegea. Lastly, he says that the Alpheus flows underground from its source for a considerable distance, and comes up near Lycoa, in Arcadia. The truth is that this river does go down underground not far from its source, and, after remaining hidden for about ten stades, comes up again, and then flows through the territory of Megalopolis, at first with a gentle stream, and then gaining volume, and watering that whole district in a splendid manner for two hundred stades, at length reaches Lycoa, swollen by the tributary stream of the Lusius, and become unfordable and deep. . . .

However, I think that the points I have mentioned, though all of them blunders, admit of some palliation and excuse; for the latter arose from mere ignorance, those connected with the sea-fight from patriotic affection. But is it not then a fault in Zeno, that he does not bestow as much pains on investigating the truth and thoroughly mastering his subject, as upon the ornaments of style; and shows on many occasions that he particularly plumes himself on this, as many other famous writers do? To my mind it is quite right to take great care and pay great attention to the presentation of one's facts in correct and adequate language, for this contributes in no small degree to the effectiveness of history; still I do not think that serious writers should regard it as their primary and most important object. Far from it. Quite other are the parts of his history on which a practical politician should rather pride himself.

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