The English Works of Thomas Hobbes (1839) 2 vols. - Vol. 8

BOOK: The English Works of Thomas Hobbes (1839) 2 vols. - Vol. 8
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The English Works of Thomas Hobbes (1839) 2 vols. - Vol. 8


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of the
written by
translated by

merit of Hobbes’ translation of Thucydides lies principally in the simplicity and force of the language: bearing in that respect some affinity to the original. Viewed merely as a translation, it will be found to contain, owing partly to the corrupt state of the Greek text of his day, partly to his habitual disregard of minute details so that accuracy were attained in essentials, manifold errors and omissions. As these defects disfigure the narrative, and sometimes perplex the reader, it has been considered worth while to attempt, by short notes, something towards their removal: without however affecting to offer a translation either critically correct or even free from many errors. In the performance of this task the interpretations of Goeller, Arnold, Thirlwall and others, have been followed wheresoever they were available: where such help failed, the editor had to rely on his own imperfect resources.

To render the work more useful to the English reader and those not deeply versed in Grecian history, some historical notes have been added, drawn for the most part in substance from Mueller’s history of the Dorians, Hermann’s Grecian Antiquities, Thirlwall’s history of Greece, Niebuhr’s history of Rome, c. Wheresoever Aristotle is cited, his Politics will be understood to be the work referred to.

Several phrases having been marked by Hobbes himself with square brackets, to designate them as interpolations, the same marks have been added for the same purpose to other words and passages.

Those corrections of the Greek text by Bekker and others only have been noticed, which serve to explain the cause of Hobbes’ departure in those instances from the right interpretation.

It has been considered useless to reprint the maps belonging to the original edition, and referred to in the Epistle to the Reader. These were unavoidably rude and imperfect, and have been long superseded both by the more general maps to be found in any modern Atlas, and the numerous maps and plans which have been published of late years for the particular illustration of this history. It has however been thought useful to append Goeller’s map of the siege of Syracuse, which is accessible only in his edition of the text.

E. G.
knight of the bath, baron of hardwick, and earl of devonshire.

Right Honourable,
I take confidence from your Lordship’s goodness in the very entrance of this Epistle, to profess, with simplicity and according to the faith I owe my master now in heaven, that it is not unto yourself, but to your Lordship’s father that I dedicate this my labour, such as it is. For neither am I at liberty to make choice of one to whom I may present it as a voluntary oblation; being bound in duty to bring it in as an account to him, by whose indulgence I had both the time and ammunition to perform it. Nor if such obligation were removed, know I any to whom I ought to dedicate it rather. For by the experience of many years I had the honour to serve him, I know this: there was not any, who more really, and less for glory’s sake favoured those that studied the liberal arts liberally, than my Lord your father did; nor in whose house a man should less need the university than in his. For his own study, it was bestowed, for the most part, in that kind of learning which best deserveth the pains and hours of great persons, history and civil knowledge: and directed not to the ostentation of his reading, but to the government of his life and the public good. For he read, so that the learning he took in by study, by judgment he digested, and converted into wisdom and ability to benefit his country: to which also he applied himself with zeal, but such as took no fire either from faction or ambition. And as he was a most able man, for soundness of advice and clear expression of himself, in matters of difficulty and consequence, both in public and private: so also was he one whom no man was able either to draw or justle out of the straight path of justice. Of which virtue, I know not whether he deserved more by his severity in imposing it (as he did to his last breath) on himself, or by his magnanimity in not exacting it to himself from others. No man better discerned of men: and therefore was he constant in his friendships, because he regarded not the
but the
with whom also he conversed with an openness of heart that had no other guard than his own integrity and that
nil conscire.
To his equals he carried himself equally, and to his inferiors familiarly; but maintaining his respect fully, and only with the native splendour of his worth. In sum, he was one in whom might plainly be perceived, that
are but the same thing in the different degrees of persons. To him therefore, and to the memory of his worth, be consecrated this, though unworthy, offering.

And now, imitating in this
worship the
worship of the gentiles; who, when they dedicated any thing to their gods, brought and presented the same to their images: I bring and present this gift of mine,
the history of thucydides,
translated into English with much more diligence than elegance, to your Lordship; who are the image of your father, (for never was a man more exactly copied out than he in you), and who have in you the seeds of his virtues already springing up: humbly intreating your Lordship to esteem it amongst the goods that descend upon you, and in your due time to read it. I could recommend the author unto you, not impertinently, for that he had in his veins the blood of kings; but I choose rather to recommend him for his writings, as having in them profitable instruction for noblemen, and such as may come to have the managing of great and weighty actions. For I may confidently say, that notwithstanding the excellent both examples and precepts of heroic virtue you have at home, this book will confer not a little to your institution; especially when you come to the years to frame your life by your own observation. For in history, actions of
do appear plainly and distinctly, which are which; but in the present age they are so disguised, that few there be, and those very careful, that be not grossly mistaken in them. But this, I doubt not, is superfluously spoken by me to your Lordship. Therefore I end with this prayer: that it will please God to give you virtues suitable to the fair dwelling he hath prepared for them, and the happiness that such virtues lead unto both in and after this world.

Your Lordship’s most humble servant,
Tho: Hobbes.

this translation have already past the censure of some, whose judgments I very much esteem: yet because there is something, I know not what, in the censure of a multitude, more terrible than any single judgment, how severe or exact soever, I have thought it discretion in all men, that have to do with so many, and to me, in my want of perfection, necessary, to bespeak your candour. Which that I may upon the better reason hope for, I am willing to acquaint you briefly, upon what grounds I undertook this work at first; and have since, by publishing it, put myself upon the hazard of your censure, with so small hope of glory as from a thing of this nature can be expected. For I know, that mere translations have in them this property: that they may much disgrace, if not well done; but if well, not much commend the doer.

It hath been noted by divers, that Homer in poesy, Aristotle in philosophy, Demosthenes in eloquence, and others of the ancients in other knowledge, do still maintain their primacy: none of them exceeded, some not approached, by any in these later ages. And in the number of these is justly ranked also our Thucydides; a workman no less perfect in his work, than any of the former; and in whom (I believe with many others) the faculty of writing history is at the highest. For the principal and proper work of history being to instruct and enable men, by the knowledge of actions past, to bear themselves prudently in the present and providently towards the future: there is not extant any other (merely human) that doth more naturally and fully perform it, than this of my author. It is true, that there be many excellent and profitable histories written since: and in some of them there be inserted very wise discourses, both of manners and policy. But being discourses inserted, and not of the contexture of the narration, they indeed commend the knowledge of the writer, but not the history itself: the nature whereof is merely narrative. In others, there be subtle conjectures at the secret aims and inward cogitations of such as fall under their pen; which is also none of the least virtues in a history, where conjecture is thoroughly grounded, not forced to serve the purpose of the writer in adorning his style, or manifesting his subtlety in conjecturing. But these conjectures cannot often be certain, unless withal so evident, that the narration itself may be sufficient to suggest the same also to the reader. But Thucydides is one, who, though he never digress to read a lecture, moral or political, upon his own text, nor enter into men’s hearts further than the acts themselves evidently guide him: is yet accounted the most politic historiographer that ever writ. The reason whereof I take to be this. He filleth his narrations with that choice of matter, and ordereth them with that judgment, and with such perspicuity and efficacy expresseth himself, that, as Plutarch saith, he maketh his auditor a spectator. For he setteth his reader in the assemblies of the people and in the senate, at their debating; in the streets, at their seditions; and in the field, at their battles. So that look how much a man of understanding might have added to his experience, if he had then lived a beholder of their proceedings, and familiar with the men and business of the time: so much almost may he profit now, by attentive reading of the same here written. He may from the narrations draw out lessons to himself, and of himself be able to trace the drifts and counsels of the actors to their seat.

These virtues of my author did so take my affection, that they begat in me a desire to communicate him further: which was the first occasion that moved me to translate him. For it is an error we easily fall into, to believe that whatsoever pleaseth us, will be in like manner and degree acceptable to all: and to esteem of one another’s judgment, as we agree in the liking or dislike of the same things. And in this error peradventure was I, when I thought, that as many of the more judicious as I should communicate him to, would affect him as much as I myself did. I considered also, that he was exceedingly esteemed of the Italians and French in their own tongues: notwithstanding that he be not very much beholden for it to his interpreters. Of whom (to speak no more than becomes a candidate of your good opinion in the same kind) I may say this: that whereas the author himself so carrieth with him his own light throughout, that the reader may continually see his way before him, and by that which goeth before expect what is to follow; I found it not so in them. The cause whereof, and their excuse, may be this: they followed the Latin of Laurentius Valla, which was not without some errors; and he a Greek copy not so correct as now is extant. Out of French he was done into English (for I need not dissemble to have seen him in English) in the time of King Edward the Sixth: but so, as by multiplication of error he became at length traduced, rather than translated into our language. Hereupon I resolved to take him immediately from the Greek, according to the edition of Æmilius Porta: not refusing or neglecting any version, comment, or other help I could come by. Knowing that when with diligence and leisure I should have done it, though some error might remain, yet they would be errors but of one descent; of which nevertheless I can discover none, and hope they be not many. After I had finished it, it lay long by me: and other reasons taking plaee, my desire to communicate it ceased.

For I saw that, for the greatest part, men came to the reading of history with an affection much like that of the people in Rome: who came to the spectacle of the gladiators with more delight to behold their blood, than their skill in fencing. For they be far more in number, that love to read of great armies, bloody battles, and many thousands slain at once, than that mind the art by which the affairs both of armies and cities be conducted to their ends. I observed likewise, that there were not many whose ears were well accustomed to the names of the places they shall meet with in this history; without the knowledge whereof it can neither patiently be read over, perfectly understood, nor easily remembered: especially being many, as here it falleth out. Because in that age almost every city both in Greece and Sicily, the two main scenes of this war, was a distinct commonwealth by itself, and a party in the quarrel.

Nevertheless I have thought since, that the former of these considerations ought not to be of any weight at all, to him that can content himself with the few and better sort of readers: who, as they only judge, so is their approbation only considerable. And for the difficulty arising from the ignorance of places, I thought it not so insuperable, but that with convenient pictures of the countries it might be removed. To which purpose, I saw there would be necessary especially two: a general map of Greece, and a general map of Sicily. The latter of these I found already extant, exactly done by Philip Cluverius; which I have caused to be cut, and you have it at the beginning of the sixth book. But for maps of Greece, sufficient for this purpose, I could light on none. For neither are the tables of Ptolomy, and descriptions of those that follow him, accommodate to the time of Thucydides; and therefore few of the places by him mentioned, therein described: nor are those that be, agreeing always with the truth of history. Wherefore I was constrained to draw one as well as I could myself. Which to do, I was to rely for the main figure of the country on the modern description now in reputation: and in that, to set down those places especially (as many as the volume was capable of) which occur in the reading of this author, and to assign them that situation, which, by travel in Strabo, Pausanias, Herodotus, and some other good authors, I saw belonged unto them. And to shew you that I have not played the mountebank in it, putting down exactly some few of the principal, and the rest at adventure, without care and without reason, I have joined with the map an index, that pointeth to the authors which will justify me where I differ from others. With these maps, and those few brief notes in the margin upon such passages as I thought most required them, I supposed the history might be read with very much benefit by all men of good judgment and education, (for whom also it was intended from the beginning by Thucydides), and have therefore at length made my labour public, not without hope to have it accepted. Which if I obtain, though no otherwise than in virtue of the author’s excellent matter, it is sufficient.

BOOK: The English Works of Thomas Hobbes (1839) 2 vols. - Vol. 8
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