De Malignitate Herodoti

Plutarch. Trans. with intro and commentary Bowen, Anthony. De Malignitate Herodoti. Warminster, Wiltshire: Aris & Phillips, 1992.


The style, O Alexander, of Herodotus, as being simple, free, and easily suiting itself to its subject, has deceived many; but more, a persuasion of his dispositions being equally sincere. For it is not only (as Plato says) an extreme injustice, to make a show of being just when one is not so; but it is also the highest malignity, to pretend to simplicity and mildness and be in the mean time really most malicious. Now since he principally exerts his malice against the Boeotians and Corinthians, though without sparing any other, I think myself obliged to defend our ancestors and the truth against this part of his writings, since those who would detect all his other lies and fictions would have need of many books. But, as Sophocles has it, the face of persuasion is prevalent, especially when delivered in good language, and such as has power to conceal both the other absurdities and the ill-nature of the writer. King Philip told the Greeks who revolted from him to Titus Quinctius, that they had got a more polished, but a longer-lasting yoke. So the malice of Herodotus is indeed more polite and delicate than that of Theopompus, yet it pinches closer, and makes a more severe impression,—not unlike to those winds which, blowing secretly through narrow chinks, are sharper than those that are more diffused. Now it seems to me very convenient to delineate, as it were, in a rough draught, [p. 332] those signs and marks that distinguish a malicious narration from a candid and unbiassed one, applying afterwards every point we shall examine to such as appertain to them.”

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