Sallust

Sallust

[sal-uhst]
Sallust (Caius Sallustius Crispus), 86 B.C.-c.34 B.C., Roman historian. He was tribune of the people (52 B.C.) and praetor (46). He was ejected (50) from the senate ostensibly for adultery, but more probably because of his partisanship for Caesar. He served with Caesar after his praetorship and was his governor in Numidia; he was subsequently accused of misusing his governorship for personal gain. His principal works are the Bellum Catilinae, on the conspiracy of Catiline and his account of the Jugurthine War, Bellum Jugurthinum. His history of Rome is extant only in fragments; it probably covered the period 78 B.C. to 67 B.C. There are also two letters, in rhetorical style, from Sallust to Caesar, the authenticity of which has been greatly disputed. As a historian Sallust was important as one of the first to write historical monographs dealing with sharply limited events and periods. Although his style is consciously archaic, it is distinguished by its terseness and directness. His character sketches are particularly impressive and vivid, and his work has found as many imitators as critics.

See studies by D. C. Earl (1961) and R. Syme (1964); bibliography by A. D. Leeman (rev. ed. 1965).

Latin Gaius Sallustius Crispus

(born circa 86 BC, Amiternum, Samnium—died 35/34 BC) Roman historian. Sallust probably had military experience before taking political office during the strife of the 50s. He began to write after his political career ended circa 45 BC, becoming one of the great Latin literary stylists, noted for his narrative writings about political personalities, corruption, and party rivalry. His works, whose influence pervades later Roman historiography, are Catiline's War (43–42 BC), dealing with corruption in Roman politics; The Jugurthine War (41–40), exploring party struggles in Rome in the late 2nd century BC; and Histories, of which only fragments remain.

Learn more about Sallust with a free trial on Britannica.com.

For the philosopher, see Sallustius; for other uses, see Sallust (disambiguation).

Gaius Sallustius Crispus, generally known simply as Sallust, (86-34 BC), a Roman historian, belonged to a well-known plebeian family, and was born at Amiternum in the country of the Sabines. Throughout his career Sallust always stood by his principle as a populares, an opposer of Pompey's party and the old aristocracy of Rome.

Biography

After an ill-spent youth, Sallust entered public life and won election as Quaestor 55 and one of the tribunes of the people in 52, the year in which the followers of Milo killed Clodius in a street brawl. Sallust then supported the following prosecution of Milo. He also had hostilities with the famous orator Cicero.

From the beginning of his public career, Sallust operated as a decided partisan of Caesar, to whom he owed such political advancement as he attained. In 50 the censor Appius Claudius Pulcher removed him from the Senate on the grounds of gross immorality (probably really because of his friendship with Caesar). In the following year, no doubt through Caesar's influence, he was reinstated.

In 46 he served as a praetor and accompanied Caesar in his African campaign, which ended in the decisive defeat of the remains of the Pompeian war party at Thapsus. As a reward for his services, Sallust gained appointment as governor of the province of Africa Nova. In this capacity he committed such oppression and extortion that only the influence of Caesar enabled him to escape condemnation. On his return to Rome he purchased and began laying out in great splendour the famous gardens on the Quirinal known as the Horti Sallustiani or Gardens of Sallust. These gardens would later belong to the emperors.

Sallust then retired from public life and devoted himself to historical literature, and further developing his Gardens of Sallust, upon which he spent much of his accumulated wealth.

Works

Sallust's account of the Catiline conspiracy (De coniuratione Catilinae or Bellum Catilinae) and of the Jugurthine War (Bellum Iugurthinum) have come down to us complete, together with fragments of his larger and most important work (Historiae), a history of Rome from 78-67 BC, intended as a continuation of Cornelius Sisenna's work.

The Conspiracy of Catiline

The Conspiracy of Catiline (Sallust's first published work) contains the history of the memorable year 63. Sallust adopts the usually accepted view of Catiline, and describes him as the deliberate foe of law, order and morality, and does not give a comprehensive explanation of his views and intentions. (Note that Catiline had supported the party of Sulla, which Sallust had opposed.) Mommsen's suggestion — that Sallust particularly wished to clear his patron (Caesar) of all complicity in the conspiracy — may have contained some truth.

In writing about the conspiracy of Catiline, Sallust's tone, style, and descriptions of aristocratic behavior show him as deeply troubled by the moral decline of Rome. While he inveighs against Catiline's depraved character and vicious actions, he does not fail to state that the man had many noble traits — indeed all that a Roman man needed to succeed. In particular, Sallust shows Catiline as deeply courageous in his final battle.

This subject gave Sallust the opportunity of showing off his rhetoric at the expense of the old Roman aristocracy, whose degeneracy he delighted to paint in the blackest colours. On the whole, he does not treat Cicero unfairly.

Jugurthine War

Sallust's Jugurthine War is a brief monograph recording the war in Numidia c.112 B.C.. Its true value lies in the introduction of Marius and Sulla to the Roman political scene and the beginning of their rivalry. Sallust's time as governor of Africa Nova ought to have let the author develop a solid geographical and ethnographical background to the war, however, this is not evident in the monograph despite a diversion on the subject because Sallust's priority in the "Jugurthine War", as with the "Catiline Conspiracy", is to use history as a vehicle for his judgement on the slow destruction of Roman morality and politics.

Other works

The extant fragments of the Histories (some discovered in 1886) show sufficiently well the political partisan, who took a keen pleasure in describing the reaction against Sulla's policy and legislation after the dictator's death. Historians regret the loss of the work, as it must have thrown much light on a very eventful period, embracing the war against Sertorius (died 72 BC), the campaigns of Lucullus against Mithradates VI of Pontus (75 - 66 BC), and the victories of Pompey in the East (66 - 62 BC).

Two letters (Duae epistolae de republica ordinanda), letters of political counsel and advice addressed to Caesar, and an attack upon Cicero (Invectiva or Declamatio in Ciceronem), frequently attributed to Sallust, are thought by modern scholars to have probably come from the pen of the rhetorician Marcus Porcius Latro, also the supposed author of a counter-invective attributed to Cicero.

Significance

On the whole, antiquity looked favourably on Sallust as an historian. Tacitus speaks highly of him (Annals, iii. 30); and Quintilian, although regarding him as inferior to Livy (ii.5), does not hesitate to put him on a level with Thucydides (x.1).

Sallust struck out for himself practically a new line in literature, his predecessors having functioned as little better than mere dry-as-dust chroniclers, whereas he endeavoured to explain the connection and meaning of events and successfully delineated character. The contrast between his early life and the high moral tone adopted by him in his writings has frequently made him a subject of reproach, but history gives no reason why he should not have reformed.

In any case, his knowledge of his own former weaknesses may have led him to take a pessimistic view of the morality of his fellow-men, and to judge them severely. He took as his model Thucydides, whom he imitated in his truthfulness and impartiality, in the introduction of philosophizing reflections and speeches, and in the brevity of his style, sometimes bordering upon obscurity. Some readers have ridiculed his fondness for old words and phrases (in which he imitated his contemporary Cato the younger) as an affectation, but this very affectation and his rhetorical exaggerations made Sallust a favourite author in the 2nd century and later.

Nietzsche, in Twilight of the Idols (Section 13.1) credits Sallust for his epigrammatic style: "My sense of style, for the epigram as a style, was awakened almost instantly when I came into contact with Sallust." and praises him for being "compact, severe, with as much substance as possible, a cold sarcasm against 'beautiful words' and 'beautiful sentiments'."

References

External links

Latin with English translation

Latin only

  • at Latin Library (unknown edition):
    • Bellum Catilinae
    • Bellum Iugurthinum
    • Fragmenta Historiarum
    • Epistolae ad Caesarem
    • Invectiva in Ciceronem

English translation only

Search another word or see Salluston Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2014 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature
FAVORITES
RECENT

;