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Uncertainties of Fortune

One is often reminded of the words of Demetrius of
Demetrius of Phalerum on mutability.
Phalerum. In his treatise on Fortune, wishing to give the world a distinct view of her mutability, he fixed upon the period of Alexander, when that monarch destroyed the Persian dynasty, and thus expresses himself: "If you will take, I don't say unlimited time or many generations, but only these last fifty years immediately preceding our generation, you will be able to understand the cruelty of Fortune. For can you suppose, if some god had warned the Persians or their king, or the Macedonians or their king, that in fifty years the very name of the Persians, who once were masters of the world, would have been lost, and that the Macedonians, whose name was before scarcely known, would become masters of it all, that they would have believed it? Nevertheless it is true that Fortune, whose influence on our life is incalculable, who displays her power by surprises, is even now I think, showing all mankind, by her elevation of the Macedonians into the high prosperity once enjoyed by the Persians, that she has merely lent them these advantages until she may otherwise determine concerning them." And this has now come to pass in the person of Perseus; and indeed Demetrius has spoken prophetically of the future as though he were inspired. And as the course of my history brought me to the period which witnessed the ruin of the Macedonian kingdom, I judged it to be right not to pass it over without proper remark, especially as I was an eye-witness of the transaction. It was a case I thought both for enlarging on the theme myself, and for recalling the words of Demetrius, who appeared to me to have shown something more than mere human sagacity in his remarks; for he made a true forecast of the future almost a hundred and fifty years before the event. . . .

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