Historical Library/To the Reader

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Historical Library by Diodorus Siculus
To the Reader

TO THE READER.[edit]

SO many are the encomiums of history, both by ancient and mo­dern authors, that little or nothing can be further added to what is already extant upon that subject; and therefore I shall waive troub­ling myself or the reader with discourses of that kind, but leave every judicious person to his own experience, which is the best judge, and will give the surest testimony to the truth of these commendations. He that rests barely on the matter of fact related in history, pleases his fancy for a moment while he is reading, but never improves his judgment to make it useful in conversation, or in the management of public affairs. He gains no more than children by hearing a win­ter tale, and strange stories of this brave hero, and that mighty giant, who did wonders in the land of Utopia. The profitable reader is he that not only seeks to please his fancy, but makes use of his reason in observing chiefly the wonderful providence of God, in ruling and governing the world in all ages to this day; his setting up and pull­ing down of states, kingdoms, and empires, in certain periods of time; his justice in punishing wickedness, and therein the confirmation of his truth and holiness; to see and consider his wisdom, in ordering and disposing of one event for the effecting of his purpose in another. To observe the causes, progress, and end of this or that accident, this war, that revolution, this success, and that miserable disaster, are the ­main and chief ends and designs of reading of history; whereby the understanding and memory are not only furnished with notions of things done, and long since past, but the judgment is improved with that moral prudence (and sometimes religious too) as to be careful to avoid the rocks others have before split upon; and to imitate the virtue and honourable actions of others (at least for the sake of repu­tation that attends upon them in this world). Here may be found examples which may justly put Christians to the blush, who come not up to the moral virtues of poor heathens heretofore famous (upon that account) in the ages wherein they lived; as Themistocles for his faithfulness to his country, Aristides for his justice, Scipio for his chastity, Cato for his sobriety, and several others for eminent and virtuous qualifications. The present author, and his history, is well known among the learned to be a treasury of ancient history. Amongst others, Henry Stephen, in his tract of Diodorus, gives him this honourable encomium: Quantum solis lumen inter stellas, tantum inter omnes, quotquot ad nostra tempora pervenerunt, his­toricos (si utilitas potius, quam voluptatis aurium habenda est ratio) noster hic Diodorus eminere dici potest. And Justin Martyr, and some others, call him the most famous author of all the Greek Historians. Amongst other excellencies of this author, he is pecu­liarly observable to have a regard and respect to the providence of God in the affairs of the world; and is the only ancient author that takes notice in the course of his history of the times wherein the most famous historians, philosophers, and poets flourished. 0ur au­thor himself lived about three-score years before our Saviour's birth, in the time of Julius Cæsar, and the reign of Augustus, and wrote a general history from the beginning of the world to his own time, in forty books, called the Historical Library, of which only fifteen are extant, the rest lost by the injury of time. The five first are pro­perly the mythological part of the history, more uncertain, and full of Egyptian and Grecian fables; but very useful for the understand­ing of ancient authors, and the knowledge of the Assyrian monarchy. They give an account of the affairs of the world from the beginning of time (known to the heathens) to the Trojan war exclusively: the five next in order are perished, which is the reason the eleventh book immediately follows, which begins with the expedition of Xerxes into Greece, and from thence the history is continued in five books to the beginning of the reign of Philip King of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great; and from the reign of Philip, in five more, to the expedition of Seleucus Nicanor into Cappadocia, containing an account of things done for the space of one hundred and seventy-­nine years.

The books are divided into chapters, for the ease of the reader, who may thereby the better pause and breath when he thinks fit; and to supply a chronological table in the ten last books, the distinction of times is observed in the notes, both by the olympiads and the Christian era; for the relations in the first five books were long be­fore the olympiads began, and the history is so ancient, that the cer­tain times of persons and things there related are, for the most part, unknown or very uncertain.

To the present translation is added that of the excerpts or frag­ments of some of those books of Diodorus Siculus that are lost, col­lected by Photius in his Bibliotheca, and by others, annexed at the end of the edition of Diodorus published by Rhodomannus. You have here likewise a further addition of the excerpts of Valesius, pub­lished by him in the year of our Lord 1634.

After the Fragments, there is a Supplement taken out of Quintus Curtius and Arrianus, to fill up a great chasm in Diodorus, (book seventeenth), where that part of his history is lost. As those authors had their materials from him, (as is not doubted among the learned), so it is but a piece of common gratitude to help him over the ditch by a staff made out of his own pile. That the matter contained in this supplement is that which is wanting in Diodorus, is apparent not only from some part of the broken history that is there, but from the index immediately before the seventeenth book in Rhodomannus's edition, where the heads of the subject matter are to be found in their order together, but nothing of them in the body of the his­tory. The said heads are placed over every distinct subject in the said supplement.

But as to the translation of the whole, it may be very well expected some apology should be made, or reason given for translating the five first books, which appeared in the English tongue above forty years ago. To give, therefore, satisfaction in that particular, we can truly and sincerely say, it was not undertaken without some regret, not willing to seem a captious censurer of other men's labours; there­fore, to obviate that suspicion, we are willing to be an advocate to excuse what was before done in this kind, as to those five books; for the errors and defects that appear in the former translation are chiefly occasioned by an old Latin edition of Diodorus, whereunto the translator wholly applied himself, having at that time (without doubt) no better an edition to direct him. At the first it was designed to have spared so much time, because they had been before translated; but, often hearing the former censured, and a new translation desired of those five books, (which, through a mistake, are divided by the old Latin edition into six, by taking the first book to be two, because it is in two parts), we were the more inclined, and at length resolved, to endure the toil; though withal we might, perhaps, fall under cen­sure, in undertaking to reform the errors of another, and yet prove as much, if not more faulty ourselves.

But whatever it be, we here present it to the judgment of the inge­nuous reader, together with the other books, entreating him to accept what he judges worthy his approbation, and, with a favourable cen­sure, to pass by the errors and mistakes he may espy in the perusal.__As for the carping Momus, if the whole were in all respects exact and complete, (which were a vanity to pretend), it were far more likely from such to meet with a cavilling sarcasm, than to be indulged with any favourable acceptance.