Sallust Is the Saying What Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

In Bellum Iugurthinum he claimed that the state will gain more advantage from his otium than from the negotium of contemporary politicians


Sallust wrote several historical works, but the two monographs that remain intact are the Bellum Catilinae and the Bellum Jugurthinum. There are also four speeches and two letters as well as approximately 500 parts of his Historiae that was published in five books. It is believed by historians that "Sallust's merits as an artist have obscured, or made his readers willing to forget, his faults. As a historical authority he is at best second rank…Yet Sallust's value to us is considerable, mainly because his writings contain an interpretation of Roman history during the late Republic often differing from that in our other sources and opposed to optimate tradition."

Even his speeches are valuable historically, adds Laistner,

for they are full of ethos and convey Sallust's feelings about the men whose mouth he placed them in.

His moral stance may not be of interest to someone today, but it was to St. Augustine and to the Middle Ages. Further, his two major works are still used as major resources of the times that he lived. According to Burrows "Sallust, writing in the first century B.C. during the chaotic last years of the Republic, concluded that Rome's greatest times derived from the days when 'men burned to distinguish themselves and acquire glory in the service of the state'. But in his own time, Sallust feared that the emergence of absolute rulers had put an end to genuine patriotic service by reducing all men to the rank of servants of a single powerful man"

(Washington Times).

Allen states that readers can rightly be curious about Sallust's autobiographical remarks, because they are less sensational and more striking than most of the other facts that historians can glean about him.

In. Bellum Catilinae 3.3 Sallust told that his prior occurrence with public life had not been fortunate. Similarly, in this text, he also said that once he had determined to spend the rest of his life as a private citizen, he made the goal to dedicate himself to the writing of impartial and accurate historical monographs. His apologetic contriteness is difficult to understand.

Readers could see such statements as hypocritical moralizing, adds Allen, since didn't Sallust retire in luxury on unethical gains received from being part of Caesar's in group? The readers could also think that Sallust would write biased monographs with a Caesarian, or at least with a " popular" or " democratic" slant due to his interest and background in this political arena. Allen says that both of these thoughts do have some truth about them. Yet readers should also consider such questions as, Why would anyone continue being Caesarian indefinitely after Caesar died? What did other Caesarians decide to do after his death? Why was Sallust doubly sure to state that he had retired from active participation in public life forever? That is, what were Sallust's views and status at the exact time he was involved in the composition of his two major treatises?

According to Allen, to answer these questions, Syme and Taylor looked at Sallust's life in terms of what is known of the history and politics of his period. Since Sallust was a homo novus, it comes as no surprise that, in the typical daily political life during that time, he seemed no more involved with history after he had been praetor. The praetorship was the pinnacle of the new man's ambitions, says Taylor. Caesar did not think that Sallust was important enough to be given a consulship. In fact, none of Caesar's consuls were at Sollust's level. In addition, he did not reenter politics for the Second Triumvirate, because its methods disgusted him, and he was satisfied with his wealth. As a praetorian senator, his opinions would not be important enough to be recorded in the history of the period. According to Allen, Taylor writes: "Sallust, another new man, who gave up a political career before he reached the highest office ., " and she views him as leaving behind the heat of political involvement and continuing to reflect political principles in his writings."

Allen, however, views Sallust's comments somewhat differently than Syme and Taylor, by looking at other historical events. For example, Asconius may provide a reason why Caesar did not save Sallust. Asconius mentions that Sallust and two of his colleagues held undesirable public meetings about Cicero, because he was zealously defending Milo in 52 B.C. And that it was believed that Pompeius and Sallust had returned in good terms with Milo and Cicero, while Plancus retained his feelings of enmity. Perhaps, adds Allen, the truth is that Plancus was the only one of the three that Cicero accused and convicted for his part in these riots. It may be the case that Caesar just did not have the ability to save all of his adherents from the Pompeian onslaught and he thus focused on Curio.

It may be true that Caesar relied on Sallust in the civil war, yet Sallust did not seem to have much luck until two failures. Sallust finally regained some of his personal dignity by being reestablished by a praetorship and a provincial command. When Sallust came back to Rome and was accused of extortion, Caesar encouraged the case to be dropped. For Allen, it appears, then, Sallust's possible trial and release are obviously the cause of his subsequent retirement from politics; Caesar decided to choose a better and abler man than Sallust for the position. One may consider that this retirement was voluntary, since it is difficult to imagine Caesar becoming so upset about extortion. Yet, says Allen, this may be what actually occurred. In fact, there is a Suet passage stating that Caesar deprived men of senatorial rank who had been convicted of extortion. This was why Sallust had such a negative attitude about his so-called retirement.

One of the two major books completed by Sallust during this possibly forced retirement was an account of the War with Jugurtha, or Bellum Iugurthinum. He most likely wrote about this war because of his own involvement with the conflict and the contest with the Numidian prince. However, he states that he chose this historical event "because of its perilous nature and shifting fortunes, and because it marked the beginning of successful resistance to the dominant power of the nobles." In addition to the information that he had collected while he was in Numidia, Sallust also was able to use other literary sources, such as the Publius Rutilius Rufus History (Sisenna) and the Memoirs (Sulla), he also had Punic sources translated to help him write the book.


When comparing Sallust's books to present day history standards, Jugurtha reads more as if it were a historical novel than a scholastic history. The dates skip around and sometimes they are very vague instead of specifically spell out. He even changes the order of events to make it read more like an interesting story. Thus Sallust makes the capture of Jugurtha coincide with the Roman defeat by the Cimbri at Arausio, a disaster which took place, according to Livy, a year later than Sallust stated. Ironically, Sallust's erroneous dates for the capture of Jugurtha and the close of the war have been accepted by the school textbook publishers without question. Many school books are still wrong, Further, Marius' second consulship and triumph occur in the year 104B.C. not to 105B C. As Sallust noted. In other words, if Sallust had written his books today, they may have ended up on the New York Times Fiction list rather than Non-Fiction. Yet, that is if it is compared to today's standards. If comparing Sallust's works to what had previously been done at that time and before, it is a major enhancement over the history literature works earlier completed.

Reviewers have mixed impressions about Sallust's book on the War of Jugurtha. According to Syme, "In spite of many things either inadequate or peculiar, the military operations as narrated in Bellum Jugurthinum do not appear to have been distorted by prejudice against persons or by party animus"

. What Metellus achieved in warfare is told about in full detail and positively. Marius has top billing but not magnified more than what is really the case. In addition, Sallust is not only writing this because of the war, itself, but also due to the challenge to the aristocracy.

Syme continues that Sallust's portrayal is "both schematic and defective"

. One is further impelled to scrutinize Syme's entire conception of this Numidian War. From the onset, he seems to say that it was a necessary war that the nobles first tried to evade and then mismanaged -- corrupt at home and calamitous abroad, at least until Metellus retrieved Rome's honor in the field. However, Syme says that the reader is left…

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