Friday, November 14, 2008
on history and its purpose
The aspects to which I would have every reader apply himself most attentively are the levels of life and morality and the character of men and policies, in peace and in war, by which our realm was acquired and expanded. Then let him observe how when discipline wavered morality first tottered and then began the head long plunge, until it has reached the present level when we can tolerate neither our vices nor their remedies.
It is this in particular that makes the study of history salutary and profitable: patterns of every sort of action are set out on a luminous monument for your inspection, and you may choose models for yourself and your state to imitate, and faults, base in their issue as in their inception, to avoid. If partiality for my own enterprise does not deceive me, there has never been any commonwealth grander or purer or richer in good examples, none into which greed and luxury were naturalized so late, none where lowly means and frugality were so long and so highly esteemed. In the degree that possessions were scant so was avarice also: it is only lately that riches have introduced greed and pleasures overflowing have imported a passion for individual and general ruin.