Favorite NON-fiction

Tue Jan 28 01:43:34 PST 2003

Chris Olson - SunPS wrote:
 >>>(Ok, this one's a bit long.  Sorry.  We hit on one of those subjects
 >>>for which I'm an arrogant, stubborn bastard....;)
 >>Whats the maxim? "History is written by the victors."? I think that
 >>applies here.
 > Yes and no.  There are, for instance, some writings to come
 > out of the Roman era which were not from Cicero (most, about
 > 90%, are his).

Cicero waffled on an aweful lot but he I can't see how he can accout for
90% of the sources (not even of the written sources). I mean look at the
various Pliny's, Galen, Caesar, Varro, Sallust, Livy, Tacitus,
Suetonius, Cato, Seneca (both of them), Petronius, Plautus, Tacitus,
Ovid, Catullus, Horace, Propertius, Tibullus, Virgil, Apuleius,
Josephus, Cassius, various laws and legal codex... and that's just off
the top of my head or on my shelf.

 > So yes, history is, mostly, written by the victors.  But
 > you CAN find some that are written by the losers.

Are you claiming that Cicero is a winner or a looser? Since he was
exiled thanks to his executing citizans without trial and later
'executed' himself for picking the wrong side I am not sure he could
really be described as a 'winner'. Of course he was also male and well
off which gives him a boost. There is a large element of chance in what
we have surviving from the pre-dark ages era (and even during and post
dark ages) but being able to afford to produce many copies definately
helps with your chances. We still don't know how much of the Roman
population was literate which means we are pretty much relying on
graffiti for the lower class and as for stuff written by slaves - no
chance. And that isn't even including the sex bias or the and of the
other biases that creep in (there is a lot of ancient material
uncatalogued and sitting in old libraries in various bits of the middle
east which are only just being studied and translated and giving
historians a view of Greece and Rome from the other side).
Not to mention that that the writers of our sources are like everyone
else and want to look good or make their patrons look good or have some
other alteria motive... basically every source is suspect and open to
interpretation. Which is how historians still have jobs.
The one fact in history is that we have very few facts (dates when
things happened, and even some of them are subject to some debate, and
that things did happen) and everything else is an educated guess. Which
is a really pain to mark especially at primary and secondary school level.


P.S. We did diddly-squat about Columbus but then I doubt you had fun
trying to make a case for who murdered the Princes in the tower or were
bored to death by the industrial revolution.