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But, assuredly, Fortune rules in all things. She makes every thing famous or obscure rather from caprice than in conformity with truth. The exploits of the Athenians, as far as I can judge, were very great and glorious,1 something inferior to what fame has represented them. But because writers of great talent flourished there, the actions of the Athenians are celebrated over the world as the most splendid achievements. Thus, the merit of those who have acted is estimated at the highest point to which illustrious intellects could exalt it in their writings.

But among the Romans there was never any such abundance of writers;2 for, with them, the most able men were the most actively employed. No one exercised the mind independently of the body: every man of ability chose to act rather than narrate,3 and was more desirous that his own merits should be celebrated by others, than that he himself should record theirs.

1 VIII. Very great and glorious] “Satis amplæ magnificæque.” In speaking of this amplification of the Athenian exploits, he alludes, as Colerus observes, to the histories of Thucydides, Xenophon, and perhaps Herodotus; not, as Wasse seems to imagine, to the representations of the poets.

2 There was never any such abundance of writers] “Nunquam ea copia fuit.” I follow Kuhnhardt, who thinks copia equivalent to multitudo. Others render it advantage, or something similar; which seems less applicable to the passage. Compare c. 28: Latrones--quorum--magna copia erat.

3 Chose to act rather than narrate] "For," as Cicero says, " neither among those who are engaged in establishing a state, nor among those carrying on wars, nor among those who are curbed and restrained under the rule of kings, is the desire of distinction in eloquence wont to arise." Graswinckelius.

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