The Necessity of Historians

“Triumphal arches add to the glory of illustrious men only when the writing upon them informs in whose honor they have been reared, and why.  It is the inscription that tells the spectator that the triumphal arch is that of our own Constantine, liberator of his country and promoter of peace.  Indeed no one has gained permanent fame except as the result of what he has written or of what others have written of him.  The memory of fool or emperor is, after a brief lapse of time, the same unless it be prolonged by courtesy of writers.  How many great kings do you imagine there have been, with regard to whom there is nowhere in the world a thought given or a word uttered?  Therefore there is no wiser policy for those who crave glory than to cultivate sedulously the favor of  scholars and writers; for their own achievements, doomed to utter darkness unless illumined by the lamp of letters, avail them naught.”  John of Salisbury, Policratus, Bk I in The Great Tradition: Classic Readings on What It Means to Be An Educated Human Being, ed. Richard M. Gamble. Wilmington 2007, p. 269. [Emphasis added]

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