praef.Urbis Romae exterarumque gentium facta simul ac dicta memoratu digna, quae apud alios latius diffusa sunt quam ut breviter cognosci possint, ab illustribus electa auctoribus digerere1 constitui, ut documenta sumere volentibus longae inquisitionis labor absit. nec mihi cuncta complectendi cupido incessit: quis enim omnis aevi gesta modico voluminum numero comprehenderit, aut quis compos mentis domesticae peregrinaeque historiae seriem felici superiorum stilo conditam vel attentiore cura vel praestantiore facundia traditurum se speraverit?
Te igitur huic coepto, penes quem hominum deorumque consensus maris ac terrae regimen esse voluit, certissima salus patriae, Caesar, invoco, cuius caelesti providentia virtutes, de quibus dicturus sum, benignissime foventur, vitia severissime vindicantur: nam si prisci oratores ab Iove Optimo Maximo bene orsi sunt, si excellentissimi vates a numine aliquo principia traxerunt, mea parvitas eo iustius ad favorem tuum decucurrerit, quo cetera divinitas opinione
I have determined to select from famous authors and arrange the deeds and sayings worthy of memorial of the Roman City and external nations, too widely scattered in other sources to be briefly discovered, to the end that those wishing to take examples may be spared the labour of lengthy search. Nor am I seized with ambition to be all-embracing. Who should comprise the transactions of all time in a moderate number of volumes? Or who in his right mind should hope to transmit with closer care or superior eloquence the procession of domestic and foreign history recorded by the felicitous pens of predecessors?
Therefore I invoke you to this undertaking, Caesar,1 surest salvation of the fatherland, in whose charge the unanimous will of gods and men has placed the governance of land and sea, by whose celestial providence the virtues of which I shall tell are most kindly fostered and the vices most sternly punished. Orators of old rightly began from Jupiter Best and Greatest, the finest poets took their start from some deity. My petty self shall betake me to your goodwill all the more properly in that other divinity is inferred by opinion whereas yours is seen by present certainty