Posts Tagged ‘Herodotus’

Plutarch as a writer of biographies is always a pleasure to come back to when one’s vital forces are vitiated by the meanness of living close to the plough. Our earthly existence has to deal with much of doing what are necessities that lay our larder stocked but do not however satiate the spirit. Plutarch is a writer of Parallel Lives. For examples he treats the lives of Alexander the great and Julius Caesar as pendent to one another. ‘For,’ he says, ‘I
do not write Histories, but Lives; nor do the most conspicuous acts of
necessity exhibit a man’s virtue or his vice, but oftentimes some slight
circumstance, a word, or a jest, shows a man’s character better than
battles with the slaughter of tens of thousands, and the greatest arrays
of armies and sieges of cities. Now, as painters produce a likeness by a
representation of the countenance and the expression of the eyes,
without troubling themselves about the other parts of the body, so I
must be allowed to look rather into the signs of a man’s character, and
thus give a portrait of his life, leaving others to describe great
events and battles.’ The object then of Plutarch in his Biographies was
a moral end, and the exhibition of the principal events in a man’s life
was subordinate to this his main design; and though he may not always
have adhered to the principle which he laid down, it cannot be denied
that his view of what biography should be, is much more exact than that
of most persons who have attempted this style of composition. The life
of a statesman or of a general, when written with a view of giving a
complete history of all the public events in which he was engaged, is
not biography, but history… Though altogether deficient in that critical sagacity
which discerns truth from falsehood, and distinguishes the intricacies
of confused and conflicting statements, Plutarch has preserved in his
Lives a vast number of facts which would otherwise have been unknown to
us. He was a great reader, and must have had access to large libraries.
It is said that he quotes two hundred and fifty writers, a great part of
whose works are now entirely lost.” (_Penny Cyclopaedia)


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While narrating a battle in which Persia fought against Croesus, the Lydian king, Herodotus in his Histories mentions a curious incident. At the sacking of Sardis a Persian soldier saw the distraught king of Lydia defenseless and vulnerable. So badly had the tide turned and the king did not care if he died or not. Even when the enemy soldier threatened to kill him he sat where he was. But his dumb son seeing the danger screamed. As if by a miracle the young man got his power of speech at that moment.
It is the moment that determines our worth. And we have no clue as to what we are capable of till that moment arrives. The moment of truth. We have only this moment: how shall we delineate truth?
If we cannot create Now in harmony with our Essential Self (or let Soul affix its seal of approval) forget we will ever get into grips with time in its finite mode.

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