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. . . .