Friday, May 21, 2021


Learning from the Mistakes of Others

Polybius 1.35.6-10 (tr. Ian Scott-Kilvert):
[6] I have recorded these events in the hope that the readers of this history may profit from them, [7] for there are two ways by which all men may reform themselves, either by learning from their own errors or from those of others; the former makes a more striking demonstration, the latter a less painful one. For this reason we should never, if we can avoid it, choose the first, [8] since it involves great dangers as well as great pain, but always the second, since it reveals the best course without causing us harm. [9] From this I conclude that the best education for the situations of actual life consists of the experience we acquire from the study of serious history. [10] For it is history alone which without causing us harm enables us to judge what is the best course in any situation or circumstance.

[6] ἐγὼ δὲ τούτων ἐπεμνήσθην χάριν τῆς τῶν ἐντυγχανόντων τοῖς ὑπομνήμασι διορθώσεως. [7] δυεῖν γὰρ ὄντων τρόπων πᾶσιν ἀνθρώποις τῆς ἐπὶ τὸ βέλτιον μεταθέσεως, τοῦ τε διὰ τῶν ἰδίων συμπτωμάτων καὶ τοῦ διὰ τῶν ἀλλοτρίων, ἐναργέστερον μὲν εἶναι συμβαίνει τὸν διὰ τῶν οἰκείων περιπετειῶν, ἀβλαβέστερον δὲ τὸν διὰ τῶν ἀλλοτρίων. διὸ τὸν μὲν οὐδέποθ᾽ ἑκουσίως αἱρετέον, [8] ἐπεὶ μετὰ μεγάλων πόνων καὶ κινδύνων ποιεῖ τὴν διόρθωσιν, τὸν δ᾽ ἀεὶ θηρευτέον, ἐπεὶ χωρὶς βλάβης ἔστιν συνιδεῖν ἐν αὐτῷ τὸ βέλτιον. [9] ἐξ ὧν συνιδόντι καλλίστην παιδείαν ἡγητέον πρὸς ἀληθινὸν βίον τὴν ἐκ τῆς πραγματικῆς ἱστορίας περιγινομένην ἐμπειρίαν· [10] μόνη γὰρ αὕτη χωρὶς βλάβης ἐπὶ παντὸς καιροῦ καὶ περιστάσεως κριτὰς ἀληθινοὺς ἀποτελεῖ τοῦ βελτίονος.

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