Lucian, How to Write History

LCL 430: 4-5

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The Works Of Lucian

τῆς Ἀνδρομέδας τῇ μνήμῃ αὐτῶν καὶ τοῦ Περσέως ἔτι σὺν τῇ Μεδούσῃ τὴν ἑκάστου γνώμην περιπετομένου.

2Ὡς οὖν ἕν, φασίν, ἑνὶ παραβαλεῖν, τὸ Ἀβδηριτικὸν ἐκεῖνο πάθος καὶ νῦν τοὺς πολλοὺς τῶν πεπαιδευμένων περιελήλυθεν, οὐχ ὥστε τραγῳδεῖν—ἔλαττον γὰρ ἂν τοῦτο παρέπαιον ἀλλοτρίοις ἰαμβείοις, οὐ φαύλοις κατεσχημένοι. ἀλλ᾿ ἀφ᾿ οὗ δὴ τὰ ἐν ποσὶ ταῦτα κεκίνηται—ὁ πόλεμος ὁ πρὸς τοὺς βαρβάρους καὶ τὸ ἐν Ἀρμενίᾳ τραῦμα καὶ αἱ συνεχεῖς νῖκαι—οὐδεὶς ὅστις οὐχ ἱστορίαν συγγράφει· μᾶλλον δὲ Θουκυδίδαι καὶ Ἡρόδοτοι καὶ Ξενοφῶντες ἡμῖν ἅπαντες, καί, ὡς ἔοικεν, ἀληθὲς ἄρ᾿ ἦν ἐκεῖνο τό “Πόλεμος ἁπάντων πατήρ”, εἴ γε καὶ συγγραφέας τοσούτους ἀνέφυσεν ὑπὸ μιᾷ τῇ ὁρμῇ.

3Ταῦτα τοίνυν, ὦ φιλότης, ὁρῶντα καὶ ἀκούοντά με τὸ τοῦ Σινωπέως ἐκεῖνο εἰσῆλθεν· ὁπότε γὰρ ὁ Φίλιππος ἐλέγετο ἤδη ἐπελαύνειν, οἱ Κορίνθιοι πάντες ἐταράττοντο καὶ ἐν ἔργῳ ἦσαν, ὁ μὲν ὅπλα ἐπισκευάζων, ὁ δὲ λίθους παραφέρων, ὁ δὲ ὑποικοδομῶν τοῦ τείχους, ὁ δὲ ἔπαλξιν ὑποστηρίζων, ὁ δὲ ἄλλος ἄλλο τι τῶν χρησίμων ὑπουργῶν. ὁ δὴ Διογένης ὁρῶν ταῦτα, ἐπεὶ μηδὲν εἶχεν ὅ τι καὶ πράττοι—οὐδεὶς γὰρ αὐτῷ ἐς οὐδὲν ἐχρῆτο—διαζωσάμενος τὸ τριβώνιον σπουδῇ μάλα καὶ αὐτὸς ἐκύλιε τὸν πίθον, ἐν ᾧ ἐτύγχανεν οἰκῶν, ἄνω καὶ κάτω τοῦ Κρανείου. καί τινος τῶν συνήθων ἐρομένου, Τί ταῦτα ποιεῖς, ὦ Διόγενες; Κυλίω, ἔφη, κἀγὼ τὸν πίθον, ὡς μὴ μόνος ἀργεῖν δοκοίην ἐν τοσούτοις ἐργαζομένοις.

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How to Write History

the “Andromeda” kept haunting their memory, and his Perseus with Medusa’s head still flitted round everyone’s brain.

To make as they say a comparison, that Abderite complaint has now taken hold of most of the literary world. They don’t act tragedy—they would be less out of their wits if they were in the grip of other men’s verses, not shoddy ones at that. No, ever since the present situation arose—the war against the barbarians, the disaster in Armenia and the run of victories—every single person is writing history; nay more, they are all Thucydideses, Herodotuses and Xenophons to us, and very true, it seems, is the saying that “War is the father of all things”1 since at one stroke it has begotten so many historians.

As I saw and heard all this, friend, I was reminded of the story of the man of Sinope. When Philip was said to be already on the march, all the Corinthians were astir and busy, preparing weapons, bringing up stones, underpinning the wall, shoring up a battlement and doing various other useful jobs. Diogenes saw this, and as he had nothing to do—nobody made any use of him—he belted up his philosopher’s cloak and very busily by himself rolled the crock in which, as it happens, he was living up and down Cornel Hill. When one of his friends asked: “Why are you doing that, Diogenes?” he replied: “I’m rolling the crock so as not to be thought the one idle man in the midst of all these workers.”

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DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.lucian-how_write_history.1959