Balneus

Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Pliny, Gibbon and Voltaire on History

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-04-22


Two books I really enjoy are "Naturalis Historia" by Pliny the Elder and Edward Gibbon’s magisterial "Decline and Fall…" (although it gets too depressing soon after Justinian).

Both seem to have a similar view of what gets turned into "History" (although that by Herodotos doesn’t deserve such criticism):

Because of a curious disease of the human mind, it pleases us to enshrine in history records of bloodshed and slaughter, so that those ignorant of the facts of the world may become acquainted with the crimes of mankind.

– Pliny the Elder

Antoninus diffused order and tranquility over the greatest part of the earth. His reign is marked by the rare advantage of furnishing very few materials for history; which is, indeed, little more than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind.

I like what I’ve read about Voltaire, although I’ve only delved deep into Candide.

En effet, l’histoire n’est que le tableau des crimes et des malheurs. –

Voltaire "Ingenu"

Perhaps this is a valid comment for the tablod news media of modern times (and the broadsheets can be guilty too!).

These thoughts also tie in with the "Chinese Curse":

May you live in interesting times.

There can be little doubt that climate change, and the actions of today’s politicians, will make for "interesting" history, although it may take a new renaissance after the probable coming Fall for a new Gibbon to provide the analysis.


Notes/See Also:

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