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so forcible an impression, or that is so easily and perfectly remembered ?
The Greeks and Romans excelled in historical writing as much as in any department of literature. The reason is obvious-Oratory is nearly allied to history, and no people ever cultivated oratory with more indefatigable attention. The democratical governments of these nations afforded such a scope for the display of eloquence, that it was almost the only road to celebrity and promotion. The general was obliged to study this fascinating art both to obtain advancement and to defend himself if assailed by faction. The statesman had no other means of rising in the estimation of his countrymen. History, therefore, when com-mitted to writing by generals and statesmen thus accomplished, must necessarily be elegantand rhetorical. Such were the works of Thucidydes, Xenophon, Polybius, Sallust, and perhaps Herodotus and Livy. With respect to the attaining of information also, as they had not the advantages of modern writers, where every public transaction is committed to the press, their labour and exertions are almost in
credible. Independant of his own observation, Thucidydes, we are assured, expended large sums of money to obtain correct information. Polybius travelled over most of the countries which were the scenes of the transactions he records, and particularly visited the Alps, that he might form a correct opinion of the celebrated march of Hannibal. Indeed we have the authority of Plautus to satisfy us that in the opinion of the antients no man was capable of writing history who had not travelled. I allude to a speech of Messenio to Menechmus, advising him to return home
"Quin nos hinc domum redimus, nisi historiam scrip"turi sumus."
Of the antient Greek historians I need scarcely tell you that the most celebrated are Herodotus, Thucidydes, and Xenophon. I cannot better introduce the first of these to your notice than in the beautiful language of Mr. Hayley, whose Essay on History deserves to be read by every person of taste, not only for some excellent poetry which it contains, though it is rather unequal, but for sound criticism, and much well-directed reading, particularly in the notes.
"The dome expands! Behold th' historic sire!
“Bold in his air, but graceful in his mien
"For all the muses modulate his prose."
The title of "father of history" was assigned him by no less an authority than Cicero, not, we may reasonably suppose, as the first person who ever engaged in that line of writing, for several had preceded him; but as an expression of excellence, such as he assumed himself in the title of "Pater Patriæ," for having extinguished the conspiracy of Catiline.
The history of Herodotus is in truth a wonderful production. It may properly be classed among general histories, for it comprehends a vast extent of time, and includes the history of all the nations of the civilized world at that period. He was evidently a great traveller,
* Artemisia of Halicarnassus. See Herod, lib. viii.
and had visited most of the countries whose history he details. He was not less a geographer than an historian; but his great excellence lies in detailing the manners and customs of the different nations. As to the nonsense which has been written by those who have followed contemporary authors who were envious of his fame, respecting his credulity, I pay but little attention to it. It was necessary that a history such as that of Herodotus, should include some fables, but no writer can be more guarded than he is. To give an idea of the genius and character of the particular people whom he delineates, it was necessary to mention many facts which he suspected, and some that he knew to be false. He declares, that "though he considers it as his duty to deliver what he has heard as to any point treated of in his history, yet he is far from giving as true and accurate all that he relates. In most cases, where any thing of a doubtful nature occurs, he generally adds, "this is as I have heard the fact related," or he produces his authority. Mr. Hume, whose classical erudition I have on a former occasion presumed to question, asserts that the "first page of Thucidydes is the com
mencement of real bistory;" but if we were without the nine books of Herodotus, we should find ourselves much at a loss respecting the events of the Persian war, and many of the early transactions of the Grecks; and I cannot persuade myself to believe that he would have acquired the vast reputation he obtained among his contemporaries, many of whom must have been witnesses of all the later facts which he details, had he not deserved the character of a faithful and correct historian. All agree that he is a most entertaining and interesting writer; and I think his style a model of sweetness and simplicity. There is a translation in our language by Mr. Beloe, which possesses all the simplicity of the original.
Thucidydes is among those who have confined their history to a particular period and event. It comprehends the space, as I remember of about twenty-seven years, and treats of the Peloponesian war, which happened in his own time, and of many of the facts he was a spectator. His task was of course much easier than that of Herodotus, and he has executed it in a masterly manner. He traces facts and their causes with the keen eye of a consummate po