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  • Print publication year: 1999
  • Online publication date: December 2014

Book 9 - Sundials and Clocks

Summary

PREFACE

1. To the illustrious athletes who had won the Olympic, Pythian, Isthmian, and Nemean Games, the forebears of the Greeks awarded such great honor that not only are they given palms, garlands, and praises as they stand before the assembled public, but also, when they return home victorious to their cities, they are carried in triumph in four-horse chariots through their city walls to their homes, and at public expense they enjoy the rest of their lives on a pension. Now when I observe this, I am amazed that the same honors – or honors greater still – are not bestowed on writers, who provide every nation with endless utility for everlasting ages.* For this would have been a much more worthy institution to have set up, because athletes make their own bodies stronger by exercising, whereas writers strengthen not only their own wits, but indeed everyone's, by preparing books for learning and the sharpening of minds. 2. What good does it do humanity that Milo of Croton* was undefeated, or the others who were champions of this kind, other than that, so long as they were alive, they held distinction among their own fellow citizens? The valuable precepts of Pythagoras, on the other hand, of Democritus, Plato, Aristotle, and the other sages, cultivated by daily industry, not only produce ever fresh and flourishing fruit for their own fellow citizens, but indeed for all the nations. And those who from an early age enjoy an abundance of learning develop the best judgment, and in their cities they have established civilized customs, equal justice, and those laws without which no community can exist safely. 3. Since so many private and public gifts have been prepared for humanity by the wisdom of writers, I conclude that more than palms and garlands should be awarded them – indeed triumphs should be declared for them and to them it ought to be decided to dedicate thrones among the gods.