Sallust 86 b.c.-34 b.c.
(Full name Caius Sallustius Crispus) Roman historian.
Sallust was a Roman politician and friend of Julius Caesar who after retiring from statesmanship wrote literary-historical works that describe some of the great personages and events of his age. His two major works are the Bellum Catilinae (c. 42 b.c.), on the Catiline conspiracy, and Bellum Jugurthinum (c. 40 b.c.), an account of the Jugurthine War. Fragments of his Historiae (c. 36 b.c.; Histories), which chronicle the events of 78 to 67 b.c., also remain. Sallust's historical writings are distinguished by a terse style and use of archaic language. The historian often uses a moralizing and philosophizing tone, as he does not merely describe events but tries to explain them. Sallust's works are most often praised for their vivid descriptions of historical figures. Character is frequently revealed through speeches that are attributed to people, which allows the historian to show the reader their thoughts—at least as he has chosen to depict them. Sallust was an important public figure in his day and after the second century a.d. was regarded as a historian of significance. Contemporary scholars view him as particularly important because he was the first historian to write detailed works about defined periods and events and because he attempted to be scholarly, rather than merely anecdotal, in his discussion of the process of history.
Sallust was born in 86 b.c. in Amiternum, a town some fifty miles north of Rome, in what is now the Abruzzo region of Italy. His parents were commoners, but they were well connected and Sallust was sent to Rome at an early age to be educated under Atteius Prætextatus, a celebrated grammarian of the age. He distinguished himself as a student, particularly of history, but also earned a reputation for debauchery and extravagance. After his studies, he rose swiftly to positions of importance in Rome. At the time Rome was internally divided by the struggle of the opposing factions of the optimates, or the aristocracy, and the populares, or the democratic party. The aristocracy supported the power of the Senate and the nobility who controlled it, while the populares attempted to bring all public questions of importance before the popular assembly for decision, resisting the influence of illustrious and powerful families. Sallust belonged to the latter of these parties and aligned himself in particular with Caesar. He became quaestor in 59 b.c. and tribune of the people in 52 b.c. In 50 b.c., Sallust was accused of immorality and adultery and expelled from the Senate by the censor Appius Claudius Pulcher; the real reason for his expulsion, however, was probably his friendship with Caesar. The following year, almost certainly through Caesar's influence, he was reinstated and appointed quaestor and then governor of Numidia. He was later accused of misusing his governorship to acquire a great personal fortune. After Caesar's assassination, Sallust retired to his villa to write historical literature. He died in 34 b.c.
Sallust's principal works are two historical monographs: Bellum Catilinae, on the Catilinarian conspiracy, and an account of the Jugurthine War, Bellum Jugurthinum. Sallust's Historiae is extant only in fragments. The historian is also thought by some scholars to be the author of two letters to Caesar, Epistulae ad Caesarem senem, but this claim has been disputed. The essay Invectiva in Ceneronem, an attack upon Cicero, has sometimes also been attributed to Sallust, but authorship has been denied by most contemporary scholars of Roman history.
The Bellum Catilinae presents Sallust's account of events in the year 63 b.c. and the conspiracy of L. Sergius Catilina, or Catiline, and his followers, which seriously threatened the Roman state. In his preface to the work, Sallust explains that he has turned from public life to writing history in order to do something useful. He describes Catiline as the deliberate enemy of law, order, and morality, but does not really attempt to provide any explanation of his views and intentions. Although Sallust denounces the conspirators, the Bellum Catilinae is more concerned with defending Caesar. His view of the aristocracy is critical, and he laments the loss of the traditional Roman ideals of dignity and integrity. The Bellum Jugurthinum deals with events of the late second century b.c., when Rome defeated Jugurtha, the king of Numidia. Sallust explains how Jugurtha, together with his cousins, Adherbal and Hiempsal, governed Numidia. After crushing his cousins by fraud and violence, Jugurtha maintained himself in his usurped kingdom for several years against Rome. After several defeats at the hands of the Roman consuls Metullus and Marius, Jugurtha was betrayed by an ally and put into the hands of the Roman quaestor Sulla. The introduction to the Bellum Jugurthinum is a lament on the moral decay and discord of the present age and a longing for the forgotten ideals of Rome. As in his earlier monograph, Sallust describes the degeneracy and decadence of the Roman aristocracy. Sallust's Historiae was probably intended as a continuation of L. Cornelius Sisenna's work. It covers the period of Roman history from the death of Sulla in 78 b.c. to the appointment of Pompey as the supreme commander in the war against Mithridates in 67 b. c. Of the original work, only four speeches and two political letters remain, including the often discussed “Letter of Mithridates” and speech by Lepidus. Sallust's Historiae is of particular interest to scholars because it is the best-preserved of all the pre-Livian fragmentary annalistic histories.
Sallust's merit as a historian and stylist has been the subject of contradictory opinions even among his contemporaries. Some complained that his introductions had nothing to do with the works themselves, found fault with minute details of the speeches introduced in the narrative, and viewed him as a mere imitator of earlier Roman historians. Others praised him for his vivid characterization, his vigorous prose, and the dignified tone of his writing. He has also been criticized for his moralizing tone, notwithstanding his own reputation for philandering and dishonesty. Nevertheless, his overall reputation, even in his own era, was as a historian of significance. Contemporary historians view him as important because he was one of the first to write historical monographs dealing with sharply delimited events and periods. He was also probably the first “scientific” Roman historian—one who attempted to be factual and scholarly. His deliberately archaic style conveys a sense of distinction to his reports. Many critics have focused on his commentary on the decay of Roman values and his longing for social harmony in his troubled times. He is also well regarded for providing important insights into the events of his day, despite his political partisanship, and for offering vivid portraits of public figures and descriptions of foreign lands and people. The speeches he attributes to important people may well have been written by him, but they are nonetheless colorful and interesting and have provided a rich area for discussion about the presence of the historian even as he purports to be merely a chronicler of events. Sallust's role model was the Greek historian Thucydides, and critics have noted his indebtedness to him and other writers, including Cato, whose fondness for old words and phrases he seems to have shared. Sallust's dignified style and philosophizing reflections made him a popular author after the second century, and although today he is not counted among the greatest of Roman historians, his monographs are considered invaluable for the insights they provide into the characters of the great men of the age. He is also remembered for his contributions to historiography, as he was one of the first literary historians who went beyond mere reportage and endeavored to explain the meaning of the events he described.
Bellum Catilinae (history) c. 42 b.c.
Bellum Jugurthinum (history) c. 40 b.c.
Historiae [Histories] (history) c. 36 b.c.
Gaii Sallusti Crispi Catilina (translated by C. Merivale) 1882
C. Sallustus Crispi Bellum Catilinae (translated by A. M. Cook) 1884
Sallust (translated by J. C. Rolfe) 1921
Sallusti Crispi Catilina, Iugurtha, Fragmenta Ampliora (translated by A. Kurfess) 1957
Sallustius Crispus, Bellum Catilinae (translated by P. McGushin) 1957
The Jugurthine War & The Conspiracy of Catiline (translated by S. A. Hanford) 1963
Sallust's Bellum Catalinae (translated by J. T. Ramsey) 1984
The Histories (translated by P. McGushin) 1992-94
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SOURCE: Allen, Walter, Jr. “Sallust's Political Career.” Studies in Philology 51, no. 1 (January 1954): 1-14.
[In the following essay, Allen discusses Sallust's remarks (in the prologues to his historical monographs) concerning his lack of political ambition after retirement from public life.]
Although some reaction has justifiably been voiced against the notion, principally German, of perceiving in Sallust a profound philosophical historian,1 our limited knowledge of his political career, in addition to the unfavorable reports of his private life, renders difficult the usual biographical method of studying an author's attitude and possible bias. The only aspect which concerns me here is his retirement from public life with the intention of occupying himself with literary pursuits, the item which he emphasizes in the prefaces to both his monographs.2
We can justly be curious about Sallust's autobiographical remarks, since they are less sensational and more striking than most of the other facts we can glean about him. In Cat. [Bellum Catilinae] 3.3 Sallust wrote that his early experience with public life had been unlucky: Sed ego adulescentulus initio sicuti plerique studio ad rem publicam latus sum, ibique mihi multa advorsa fuere. In Cat. 4.1 f. he explained that, after he had decided to spend the remainder of his life as a private citizen,...
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SOURCE: Mazzolani, Lidia Storoni. “Sallust—On Harmony.” In Empire without End, translated by Joan McConnell and Mario Pei, pp. 39-83. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1976.
[In the following excerpt, Mazzolani surveys Sallust's political history and his views on government and human nature, noting the author's concern with Rome's moral and social decline and his longing for social harmony in the midst of discord.]
… other enemies are within her walls, inside the very heart of Rome.
—Sallust, Bellum Catilinae 52. 351
Sallust chose recent events: the war against Jugurtha, the Numidian king who, after having murdered his two cousins, usurped the throne. The war lasted from 111 to 105 b.c. and was fought at the insistence of the left and against the judgment of the aristocrats in the Senate. After various failures by patrician commanders—except Metellus, who opened the way to victory for his successor—the conflict was finally decided in Rome's favor by Marius, the “popular” consul, the simple citizen from Arpinum who had risen from the ranks to become a top commander. Sallust's second monograph deals with an internal war: the coup d'état Catiline had prepared in 66 b.c., which ended in the execution of his accomplices in the Mamertine prison and his own death in battle, in 63. Catiline, an...
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SOURCE: McGushin, P. Introduction to C. Sallustius Crispus, Bellum Catilinae: A Commentary, pp. 1-24. Leiden, Amsterdam: E. J. Brill, 1977.
[In the following excerpt, McGushin offers an overview of Sallust's life and writings before commenting on the source, form, structure, and style of the Bellum Catilinae and analyzing the author's reputation based on his performance as a writer and a public figure.]
1. LIFE OF SALLUST
In spite of the fact that Sallust's life and writings aroused a wide variety of comment in the ancient world, surprisingly little reliable information exists for much of his career. It is now generally accepted that C. Sallustius Crispus was born at Amiternum in the Sabine land, about fifty miles north-east of Rome, in 86 B.C. and died in 35 B.C., four years before the Battle of Actium.
Our chief source for Sallust's dates is the Chronicle of Jerome. If one follows the best MS (O) and equates the different eras correctly the evidence provided by Jerome reads:
(i) Sallustius Crispus scriptor historicus in Sabinis Amiterni nascitur: ann. Abr. 1931 = Ol. 173. 3/4 = A.U.C. 669 = 85 B.C.
(ii) Sallustius diem obiit quadriennio ante Actiacum bellum: ann. Abr. 1981 = Ol. 186.1/2 = A.U.C. 719 = 35 B.C....
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SOURCE: Conley, Duane F. “The Interpretation of Sallust's Catiline 10.1-11.3.” Classical Philology 76, no. 2 (April 1981): 121-25.
[In the following essay, Conley explores Sallust's account of ambitio and avarita to show that the author does not contradict himself in Bellum Catilinae 10-11, as some scholars have claimed.]
It has long been noticed that in chapters 10-11 of the Bellum Catilinae Sallust appears to contradict himself. Chapter 10. 3 states that “primo pecuniae, deinde imperi cupido crevit,” and from the next two sentences, which develop these two concepts respectively, it is clear that Sallust identifies “pecuniae cupido” with avaritia and “imperi cupido” with ambitio. But only two sentences later, in 11. 1, we are told that “primo magis ambitio quam avaritia animos hominum exercebat.” In his recent commentary on the Catiline, P. McGushin expresses his dissatisfaction with existing attempts to explain this apparent contradiction.1 K. Büchner's conclusion that in 10. 3 Sallust names the two vices in their order of importance, then later in 11. 1 in their temporal sequence,2 seems to force the interpretation of primo … deinde in 10. 3, which taken at face value indicates a merely chronological order. D. C. Earl's proposal that the verb, exercebat, meaning “tormented,” is...
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SOURCE: Batstone, William W. “Incerta Pro Certis: An Interpretation of Sallust Bellum Catilinae 48.4-49.4.” Ramus 15, no. 2 (1986): 28-39.
[In the following essay, Batstone offers a literary and rhetorical interpretation of Bellum Catilinae 48-4-49 to show that Sallust was exploring the uncertainties of the events and actors he describes and that his reporting is not merely propaganda.]
Sallust's style is provocative and tendentious, but does his admitted moral tendentiousness carry over into a political or partisan tendentiousness? For centuries we have heard of Sallust the partisan, Sallust the propagandist, Sallustian bias. The history of this perceived bias began at least in the age of Augustus when the anonymous writer of the Invectio in Ciceronem set stylus to wax and began his fraud.1 Less than a century later (before 96 A.D.) Quintilian regarded the work as genuine Sallust (I.O. 4.1.68; 9.3.89). The deception had worked; and both the fraud itself and Quintilian's acquiescence indicate a perceived anti-Ciceronian bias to Sallust's writing.
In the modern period, the history of perceived bias, already resisted by Voss,2 came to its climax in 1897 with an article by E. Schwartz which argued for a systematic and extreme anti-Ciceronian and pro-Caesarian bias and purpose to the Bellum Catilinae.3 The charges...
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SOURCE: de Blois, Lukas. “The Perception of Expansion in the Works of Sallust.” Latomus 47, no. 3 (1988): 603-19.
[In the following essay, de Blois examines Sallust's works to see how he perceived the effects of Roman expansion, noting his moralizing approach, his view of social reality, and his ideas about the process of history.]
Res … quae ab exiguis profecta initiis eo creuerit ut iam magnitudine laboret sua …
(Livy I, Praef. 4).
Modern scholars regard Roman expansion in the last two centuries of the republic (c. 220-30 B.C.) as one of the main causes of the civil wars in the first century B.C.1. By 300 B.C., if we may believe Starr and Finley, Rome was no longer a simple agrarian state, and from that time onwards a spectacular growth set in2. The Roman territory expanded, the urbs Roma became a large city with a mixed population, the number of the Roman citizens increased abruptly as a result of the enfranchisement of freedmen, Latins who had the ius migrationis and—after 88 B.C.—Italians, and the geographical frontiers within which the military, political and administrative acts of the Roman authorities took place, widened. Public institutions were, however, only partly adjusted to the altered circumstances, which enabled the ruling élite to extend its patronage to the provinces...
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SOURCE: Ahleid, F. “Oratorical Strategy in Sallust's ‘Letter of Mithridates’ Reconsidered.” Mnemosyne 41, no. 1-2 (1988): 67-92.
[In the following essay, Ahleid discusses the “Letter of Mithridates” from the Historiae as a work of deliberative oratory.]
In his recent monograph on Mithridates VI Eupator, McGing describes the propaganda with which the king of Pontus tried to obtain support in his wars against Rome1. Among the texts discussed by McGing, Sallust Hist. [Historiae] 4,69 Maurenbrecher figures as “potentially one of the most important sources for Mithridates' propaganda, as it purports to be a personal letter of the king himself” (154,178). On the other hand, it is probably not based on an authentic document and encompasses several ideas of a “general rhetorical nature”, which Sallust easily could have thought out without any knowledge of Greek and Mithridatic anti-Roman propaganda, by just putting himself in Mithridates' situation. (McGing 154-160). We think it probable that the form in which the arguments of Mithridates are presented is also Sallustian invention of the same general rhetorical nature. Apart from the opening formula (Rex Mithridates regi Arsaci salutem), the text is an elaborate specimen of deliberative oratory. As such, it has been analysed with the help of Aristotle's Rhetorica and handbooks written by...
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SOURCE: Levene, D. S. “Sallusts's Jugurtha: An ‘Historical Fragment.’” Journal of Roman Studies 82 (1992): 53-70.
[In the following essay, Levene argues that Sallust deliberately composed his Bellum Jugurthinum as a fragment in order to highlight the moral decline and tragedy of Rome and to show that the history he writes is incomplete.]
The ancient historian is used to dealing with texts that are fragments through the accident of transmission. This paper is concerned with a deliberate fragment: a work that is notionally complete, in that it is written and presented as something finished and whole, but which at the same time draws the reader's attention in a more or less systematic fashion to the fact that it is incomplete; it shows itself to be only part of the whole. The mode was especially popular in the Romantic period; the best-known example for English readers in Coleridge's Kubla Khan, but it also revealed itself in such diverse forms as the aphoristic writings of thinkers like Friedrich Schlegel,1 or the widespread admiration of the ruins of ancient buildings.2 I intend to argue that Sallust's Jugurtha is a work of this sort.
It has always, of course, been obvious that the Jugurtha shows an interest not only in the Jugurthine War itself, but also in the part that it played in the development of, or rather, as...
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SOURCE: Wiedemann, Thomas. “Sallust's Jugurtha: Concord, Discord, and the Digressions.” Greece & Rome 40, no. 1 (April 1993): 48-57.
[In the following essay, Wiedemann discusses the three digressions in the Bellum Jugurthinum—about the ethnography of north Africa, civil unrest in Rome, and the legend of the Philaeni—which he argues Sallust used to support his belief in social harmony.]
The current fashion for emphasizing ambiguities and discontinuities in literary texts should have found Sallust's writings congenial. The Catiline explores competing and contradictory claims to virtus, exemplified by Caesar, Cato, and Catiline himself, a paragon of ambiguity in contrast to the unproblematic Cicero. The Jugurthine War is twice the length, with a more complicated structure and a wider range of material, including three formal digressions. A concern with the relationship between virtue and success, and with conflict between alternative virtues, is central to this monograph too; it concludes with a victory achieved not by years of military exertion but as the result of Jugurtha's treacherous betrayal to Sulla by Bocchus in contravention of all recognized moral principles (‘kinship, marriage, and a formal treaty’: cognationem, affinitatem, praeterea foedus intervenisse; cf. ‘deceit’, composito dolo, 111.2 and 4).
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SOURCE: Kraus, C. S., and A. J. Woodman. “Sallust.” In Latin Historians, pp. 10-50. Oxford.: Oxford University Press, 1997.
[In the following excerpt, Kraus and Woodman examine Sallust's Historiae, focusing on three elements that stand out: the author's preface regarding his profession, his character studies, and his descriptions of foreign lands and people.]
‘In these diverse ways, the lost masterpiece becomes palpable—content, architecture, and tone.’—‘[I]n my judgement the most learned and acute scholars have often been over-confident in delineating the scope of lost histories and the qualities of their authors.’1
So two eminent ancient historians on the problems of interpreting a fragmentary text such as the Historiae. Sallust's last work has come down to us in various ways: four speeches and two letters were excerpted, probably in the imperial period, and have their own manuscript tradition; there are a very few manuscript and papyrus fragments of other parts of the work (e.g. H. [Histoirae] 3.94=64 and 98=66 on the campaigns of 73 B.C.); and many short quotations, allusions, and paraphrases are found in the texts of grammarians and other ancient scholars. Finally, the Historiae was used by later writers, e.g. the elder Pliny in his Natural History and Plutarch in his Life of...
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SOURCE: Levene, D. S. “Sallust's Catiline and Cato the Censor.” Classical Quarterly 50, no. 1 (January-June 2000): 170-91.
[In the following essay, Levene argues that in the Bellum Catilinae Sallust was working in the tradition of Cato the Censor as he calls for moral uprightness and condemns the lack of virtue in contemporary life.]
That Sallust1 owed a considerable debt to the writings of Cato the Censor was observed in antiquity,2 and the observation has often been discussed and expanded on by modern scholars.3 The ancient references to Sallust's employment of Cato are mainly in the context of his adoption of an archaic style, and specifically Catonian vocabulary. But the choice of Cato as a model had an obvious significance that went beyond the purely stylistic.4 Sallust's works articulate extreme pessimism at the moral state of late-Republican Rome, and do so partly by contrasting the modern age with a prelapsarian time of near-untrammelled virtue, brought to an end only by the fall of Carthage and the consequent dominance of Roman power, which in turn led to moral corruption. Similarly, Cato famously stood in his own day for moral rectitude—and specifically appealed to past virtue as the standard to which he wished to hold his contemporaries.5 Sallust, by writing in a Catonian style, aligns himself with that tradition....
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Batstone, William W. “The Antithesis of Virtue: Sallust's Synkrisis and the Crisis of the Late Republic.” Classical Antiquity 7, no. 1 (1988): 1-29.
Discusses the synkrisis in the Bellum Catilinae from a literary and rhetorical standpoint.
Hock, Rudolph Paul. “Servile Behavior in Sallust's Bellum Catilinae.” Classical World 82, no. 1 (1988): 13–24.
Analyzes the various aspects of the motif of liberty and servitude in Bellum Catilinae..
Konrad, C. F. “Marius et Eryx (Sallust, P. Rylands 473.1).” Historia: Zeitschrift fur alte Geschichte 46, no. 1 (1997): 28-63.
Detailed study of the papyri in the John Rylands Library at Manchester, which the critic says can aid those attempting to reconstruct Sallust's Historiae.
Linderski, J. “Effete Rome: Sallust, Cat. 53,5.” Mnemosyne LII, no. 3 (1999): 67-92.
Study of the discrepancies in the text of different manuscript versions of the Bellum Catilinae 53.5.
McCreight, Thomas D. “Apuleius, Lector, Sallusth: Lexicographical, Textual and Intertextual Observationson Sallust and Apuleius.” Mnemosyne 51, no. 1 (February 1998): 41-63.
Textual analysis that purports to show that Apuleius had a...
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