Livy (continues Father Catrou) hardly declared for one of the oppofite factions. Being a friend to Auguftus, he was not an adulator of his Father Julius. He treated the civil war in fuch a manner, as to make one believe that he inclined to Pompey; which was an effect of his uprightness. It feems that Livy hated only the Gauls. He inveighs against them every where, or difparages them. Doubtlefs that averfion proceeded from his love for his country. The Gauls had been too often fatal to the Romans.

Dionyfius Halicarnaffeus has afforded to our Author more matter than any other Hiftorian, to fupply the omiffions of Livy. No one has penetrated farther than he into the dark Ages after the settlement of Æneas in Italy. No one has handled the Hiftory of the firft times of Rome with more judgment and exactnefs. Being a diffuse Orator, he fhows in his Speeches a greater depth in politics, and more fenfe, than gracefulness. His narrations are unfolded with great art, though flowly. By connecting circumstances one with another, he keeps the mind in fufpence; and his very digreffions contribute to make one expect an unravelling. The whole work of Dionyfius would be a treasure for the Commonwealth of Learning, if it was come entire to our hands. It would be a faithful account of all the transactions of Rome, from its rife to the first Punic war.

[ocr errors]

The character of Polybius in point of History is quite different from that of Livy and Dionyfius. He never defigned to appear an Orator, as they did. He was a foldier whom the Romans took from his own country, where his merit had raised their fufpicion. Polybius left Achaia, lately fubdued by the Republic, and came to Rome. It A 4


[ocr errors]

was not only in order to be a man of Letters. He fignalized himself in another way, more acceptable to the Romans. His ability in the council and war drew upon him the confidence of Scipio the African. Polybius attended his friend, and was a witness and an admirer of his exploits. The Hiftory he has left us, appears to be written both by an eye-witnefs, and a warrior who neglects an affected politenefs. Not contented. to relate thofe events, in which he had a hand, he makes reflexions upon them. In his Writings, he appears ftill more a Philofopher, than a military man and an Hiftorian. If he enlarges upon thofe things which happened at a great diftance, among all the nations of the world, 'tis in order to draw from them moral and ingenious reflexions. So great a man deferved a greater Encomium from Livy than what he bestows upon him. Livy, after having frequently pilfered him, is contented to fay that Polybius was not a contemptible Author. Father Catron cannot be lieve that the Latin Hiftorian was, out of jealoufy, fparing of thofe praises which were due to a Writer, who had been fo ufeful to him. A plain and faithful Hiftorian, without ornaments, could not be much admired by a Writer, who loved to write in a florid ftyle.

We are not much indebted to Diodorus of Sicily, fays Father Catrou. If he deferves to be efteemed, 'tis only for his zeal to ferve the Public by an immenfe Work, which he entitled Univerfal Bibliotheque. That weak Writer did not fufficiently try his ftrength. "Tis true that in order to be well informed of the situation of thofe places, which he defcribed in his Hiftory, he travelled through Afia and Europe. It may be said that he got more unfaithful than true me

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

moirs. At least, with respect to the Romans, Diodorus was very indifferently acquainted with the tranfactions of their Republic. He confounds the Confulates continually, and alters the names of the Confuls. The main use we have made of him, continues Father Catrou, is to mention him frequently in our Notes, in order to contradict him.

Appian has been more useful to our Historian than Diodorus of Sicily. His account of the affairs of Carthage, Syria, Parthia and Spain, of the life and behaviour of Annibal, of the cuftoms and tranfmigration of the Celts, but chief

of the laft civil wars of the Roman People, did not appear contemptible to Father Catrou. He made little account of the invectives of the Critics against his infipid way of handling Hiftory. Let his ftyle (says he) be never so weak and flaggy. Let him be, like the drone, a pilferer of the honey of the bees. We have made a good use of his pilferings. We are too much indebted to him, to be as much difpleafed with him, as moft Critics are.

Father Catron will give Dion Caffius a place of diftinction among the Writers of the reign of the Emperors. For want of Livy, that Hiftorian has been, for fome time, his chief guide.

Plutarch has acquired an universal reputation. We admire in the collection of his works fo much Learning and Wisdom, that the Statesman, the Philofopher, and the profeffed Scholar, feem to prevail ftill over the Historian. And yet, can any thing be more entertaining than his Lives of the great Men of Greece and Rome? Can any thing be more industriously put together, than the actions of both, to draw up a Parallel between them? He abounds with found reflexi


ons, worthy of a Senator, of a Conful, and,
according to the common opinion, worthy of
Trajan's Preceptor.

Zonaras himself has been of fome ufe to our
Hiftorian, who did not mind the vulgar preju-
dices against him. Notwithstanding the time
wherein he lived, and his profeffion, Father
Catrou cannot disbelieve him in every thing.
Under the reign of Alexius and Joannes Comne-
nus, the Libraries of Greece were furnished
with excellent Manufcripts, which are loft fince
Zonaras made ufe of them. We judge of his
fincerity by thofe Authors that are still extant,
and which he has faithfully quoted. Zonaras
turned Monk out of devotion; but he had spent
the former part of his life at Court, and had
been Secretary to the Emperors. He made use
of his leifure to study, and to compofe an uni-
verfal History. He has frequently been useful
to our Author, for want of other Writers.

Few Latin Hiftorians have afforded a great deal of matter for the compofition of the first part of this great work. Salluft and Julius Cæfar are almoft the only ones, whofe works have been incorporated into the Hiftory of the Confuls. Befides, Salluft and Cæfar came late, and at the laft moments of the expiring Republic. The talents of Salluft for Hiftory procured him the reputation of being the best Hiftorian of his country. It must be granted that he has fewer imperfections than Livy, the only rival that can contend with him for precedency. After all, fays our Author, is it a furprising thing that there fhould be fewer mistakes, and a more correct diction in the fmall works of Salluft, than in the immenfe Volumes of Livy? The former defcribed only what happened in his own time,


[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

and the other what was tranfacted in feveral ages. Salluft ran only a fmall race: Livy undertook a vast one: and therefore 'tis no wonder that the latter fhould have been fometimes out of breath, and the former feldom or never weary.

Father Catrou tells us that he cannot look upon Cæfar's Commentaries without a fort of awful refpect. They are a finished picture, with which the ableft painters dare not meddle without fear. 'Tis true, the Wars of Gaul were only written by Cæfar, with a defign to afford fome Memoirs to fome other Hiftorian, in order to put the laft hand to them; but the perfection of that work, which Cæfar looked upon as a firft draught, has difcouraged even the most famous Writers of the fubfequent ages. There is no where more neatnefs and politenefs in the expreffion. Facts are related with a skill to be found only in great mafters. Cæfar defcribes the marches, encampments, battels, fieges, ftratagems, fhifts after a defeat, with a fort of heroical ingenuity, that discovers his great parts, as well as his ability in the art of war. 'Tis true, he has dexterously fuppreffed what might turn to his disadvantage. It was an effect of felf-love. Other Writers have not fpared him upon that account. With their help Father Catrou has fupplied the omiffions of thofe hiftorical Memoirs.

Valerius Maximus, Macrobius, Aulus Gellius, the two Plinys, Seneca, Cicero, St. Austin, and Orofius were not Hiftorians; but they have fcattered in their works hiftorical paffages, not to be found elsewhere. Father Catrou has carefully collected them.

As for the Abridgers of the Roman History, Florus, Aurelius Victor, Eutropius, and fome


« VorigeDoorgaan »