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NE may very well wonder that ever fince the Restoration of Learning, no Man of Letters fhould have attempted to publish a large and complete Roman Hiftory, from the Foundation of Rome to the declenfion of the Roman Empire. Father Catrou has at last undertaken to fatisfy the curiofity of the Public in that refpect. Every Monarchy in Europe (fays he) had a Writer of its own, who had collected into one body the antient monuments of his Nation. We had complete Hiftories of France, Spain, England, Denmark and Sweden. Rome alone, the Mother of all Monarchies, could not find any perfon, who concerned himself for its glory, fo far as to compofe a continued Hiftory of lt. Was it for want of matter? No: Men of Letters feem rather to have been difcouraged by the great plenty of materials; and notwithstanding a vaft heap of wealth, we were left in indigence. The names of Livy, Dionyfius Halicarnaffeus, Polybius, Plutarch, and fo many others, were fo highly refpected, that no body durft incorporate them together. As if Polybius would have been wrongly combined with Salluft, and Dionyfius with Livy?
It was therefore a very painful work to be thoroughly acquainted with the Roman History, and to have a juft notion of it. Livy alone was not fufficient. There was a neceffity to have continually recourfe to Dionyfius Halicarnaffeus,
and to supply the omiffions of the former by the more particular relations of the latter. From Plutarch we were obliged to go to Polybius, in a word, to run from one Volume to another. This is not all. The contradictions of different Hiftorians did frequently appear difficult to be reconciled; their defcriptions feemed to be obfcure and intricate; their narrations were often imperfect and curtailed. It was therefore neceffary upon thofe occafions to look for information fomewhere elfe, than in Books; to confult Brafs and Marble; or to fill up the gaps of a Writer by the teftimony of another. Whole Libraries were hardly fufficient to refolve one fingle doubt. In the mean time, the pleasure and benefit of reading were loft, and whole months fpent in clearing an intricate point; and the Roman Hiftory was nothing lefs than a useful amusement.
The Author of this Hiftory has endeavoured to free the Readers from fuch a vaft labour, by reuniting the feveral works of the antient Hifto rians into one. Though I make them speak an uniform language, fays he, yet they may be diftinguished by their way of thinking. More fubtilty and delicacy will generally appear in the Greeks, and more pomp and majefty in the Latins. The reflexions of the former will be more rational and deeper: the fentiments of the latter will be noble and magnanimous.
Though the Author is refolved to write a complete Hiftory of Rome, from its origin to the declenfion of its Empire; yet he has only hitherto promised to give, in twelve Volumes, the feries and actions of the Kings, who preceded the Republic, and of the Confuls by whom it was governed, whilft it fubfifted. And there
fore he only gives us now an account of that part of the Roman History.
In the first Ages of Rome, fays he, every thing will appear wonderful. But he has corrected by the Greek Hiftorians, who were less fond of the glory of the Roman name, the eagerness of the Latins in heightening the glory of their first Heroes. He will lay afide the fables of the Romans, and be true, because he writes without partiality. He gives in his Preface a general notion of the History of Rome, from its foundation to the time of Julius Cæfar; and because fome have doubted of the truth of the Roman Hiftory till the wars of Pyrrhus in Italy, Father Catrou afferts the certainty of it in the main, by fhowing that the Pontiffs took care to write Annals, which contained a general account of the public tranfacti
Afterwards the Author mentions the Hiftorians whom he has compiled, and gives us their characters. The Hiftory of Livy (fays Father Catrou) was the only complete one, from the foundation of Rome to the fetting up again of Monarchy under Julius Cæfar. What a pompous and noble ftyle! What a fpirit, what an eloquence in his fpeeches! What lively colours in his characters! What a variety in his defcriptions! His omiffions, his want of experience in the art of war, his unexactnefs in chronology, and his ufing certain names instead of others, are the only faults that can be objected against him. He affected brevity; but perhaps what he faid, was fufficient for the Nation he defigned to inftruct. As for us, whom the diftance of time has deprived of the knowledge of the cuftoms and manners of his country, he frequent
ly leaves us in the dark; and therefore it was neceffary to have recourfe to more faithful guides: yet, no judicious Critic did ever charge that Hiftorian with want of fincerity. His credulity (continues our Author) appears more reprehenfible. He was fond of his Religion, and his refpect for his Gods made him believe, as true miracles, all the wonderful things grounded upon popular reports.
It appears to me fomewhat ftrange that Father Catrou, who must needs have read Livy, fhould represent him as a credulous and fuperftitious man. I fhall therefore make here fome obfervations to clear that Hiftorian from fuch an imputation. Livy has been cenfured for relating many Prodigies. 'Tis true he mentions many pretended prodigies; but he could hardly do otherwife, as an Hiftorian; especially, if it be confidered that he writes the Hiftory of a People very much addicted to fuperftition; and that the report of those prodigies frequently occafioned the taking of new measures, and fome alteration in the state of affairs. How can that Hiftorian be juftly accused of great credulity and superstition, fince what he fays, upon many occafions, proves the quite contrary? In the 3. chapter of the XXIV Book, speaking of the Temple of Funo Lacinia, fix miles diftant from Crotona, he fays: Inclitumque templum divitiis etiam, non tantum fanctitate. Ac miracula aliqua affinguntur plerumque tam infignibus locis. Fama eft aram effe in veftibulo templi, cujus cinerem nullo unquam moveri vento. THAT temple is not only celebrated for its holiness, but also for its wealth. Some mi racles are ufually afcribed to fuch famous places. 'Tis faid that there is an altar in the Porch, whofe afbes are never blown away by any wind, Livy's remark
remark in this paffage fhows clearly enough that