ABSTRACT

Roman historians always regarded moral teaching as a central function, perhaps the central function, of historical writing. They saw all change in moral terms, and they saw important historical issues like causation as fundamentally moral questions.1 Thus history must do more than merely tell pleasant stories from the past; it must pass moral judgments. For it was from the study of the past, from the virtues and vices of their ancestors, that the Romans derived their conception of public morality. Crusty Cato the Elder (234-149 B.C.), who was the first to write history in Latin,

* Letter of February 2, 1816, in L. J. Capon, The Adams-Jefferson Letters (Chapel Hill, 1959) II 462.