« IndietroContinua »
of the two principal actors in his tragic histories are forcibly given, and prepare us for the incidents which follow. The portrait drawn of Catiline conveys a lively notion of his mind and person,—his profligate and untameable spirit, his infinite resources, unwearied application, and prevailing address. We behold, as it were, before us, the deadly paleness of his countenance, his ghastly eye, his unequal troubled step, and the distraction of his whole appearance, strongly indicating the restless horror of a guilty conscience. I think, however, it might have been instructive and interesting, if we had seen something more of the atrocities of the early life of this chief conspirator. The notice also of the other conspirators is too brief, and there is too little discrimination of their characters. The parallel drawn between Cato and Caesar is one of the most celebrated passages in the History of the Conspiracy. Of both these famed opponents we are presented with favourable likenesses. Their defects are thrown into the shade; and the bright qualities of each different species by which they were distinguished are contrasted, for the purpose of showing the various qualities by which men arrive at eminence.
The introductory sketch of the genius and manners of Jugurtha is no less able and spirited than the character of Catiline. The most singular part of his character was the mixture of boldness and irresolution which it combined; but the lesson we receive from it lies in the miseries of suspicion and remorse, which he had created for himself by his atrocities, and which rendered him as wretched on the throne, or at the head of his army, as in the dungeon in which he ended his existence. The portraits of the other principal characters who figured in the Jugurthine War, are also well brought out. That of Marius, in particular, is happily touched. His insatiable ambition is artfully disguised under the mask of patriotism,-his cupidity and avarice are concealed under that of martial simplicity and hardihood; but, though we know from his subsequent career the hypocrisy of his pretensions, the character of Marius is presented to us in a more favourable light than that in which it can be viewed on a survey of his whole life. We see the blunt and gallant soldier, and not that savage whose innate cruelty of soul was just
about to burst forth for the destruction of his countrymen. In drawing the portrait of Sylla, the memorable rival of Marius, the historian represents him also such as he appeared at that period, not such as he afterwards proved himself to be. We behold him with pleasure as an accomplished and subtle commander, eloquent in speech, and versatile in resources; but there is no trace of the coldblooded assassin, the tyrant, buffoon, and usurper.
History, in its original state, was confined to narrative, the reader being left to form his own reflections, on the deeds or events recorded. The historic art, however, conveys not complete satisfaction, unless these actions be connected with their causes,-the political springs or private passions in which they originated. It is the business, therefore, of the historian, to apply the conclusions of the politician in explaining the causes and effects of the trans. actions he relates. These transactions the author must receive from authentic monuments or records; but the remarks deduced from them must be the offspring of his own ingenuity. The reflections with which Sallust introduces his narrative, and those he draws from it, are so just and numerous, that he has by some been considered the father of philosophic history. It must always, however, be remembered, that the proper subject of history is the detail of national transactions,—that whatever forms not a part of the narrative is episodical, and therefore improper, if it be too long, and do not grow naturally out of the subject. Now, some of the political and moral digressions of Sallust are neither very immediately connected with his subject, nor very obviously suggested by the narration. The discursive nature and inordinate length of the introduction to his Histories have been strongly objected to. The first four sections of Catiline's Conspiracy have indeed little relation to that topic; they might as well have been prefixed to any other history, and much better to a moral or philosophic treatise. In fact, a considerable part of them, descanting on the fleeting nature of wealth and beauty, and all such adventitious possessions, are borrowed from the second oration of Isocrates. Perhaps the eight following sections are also disproportioned to the length of the history; but the preliminary essay they contain on the degradation of Roman manners and decline of
virtue, is not an unsuitable introduction to the Conspiracy as it was this corruption of morals which gave birth to it, and bestowed on it a chance of success. The preface to the Jugurthine War has much less relation to the subject which it is intended to introduce. The author discourses at large on his favourite topic,-the superiority of mental endowments over corporeal advantages, and the beauty of virtue and genius. He contrasts a life of listless indolence with one of honourable activity; and, finally, descants on the task of the historian as a suitable exercise for the highest faculties of the mind.
Besides the Conspiracy of Catiline and the Jugurthine War, which have been preserved entire, and from which our estimate of the merits of Sallust must be chiefly formed, he was author of a civil and military history of the republic, in five books, entitled Historia Rerum in Republica Romana Gestarum. This work was the mature fruit of the genius of Sallust, having been the last he composed, and is inscribed to Lucullus, the son of the celebrated commander of that name. It included, properly speaking, only a period of thirteen years, extending from the resignation of the dictatorship by Sylla, till the promulgation of the Manilian law, by which Pompey was invested with authority equal to that which Sylla had relinquished; and obtained, with unlimited power in the East, the command of the army destined to act against Mithridates. This period, though short, comprehends some of the most interesting and luminous points which appear in the Roman annals. During this interval, and almost at the same moment, the republic was attacked in the East by the most powerful and enterprising of the monarchs with whom it had yet waged war; in the West, by one of the most skilful of its own generals; and in the bosom of Italy, by its gladiators and slaves. The work was also introduced by two discourses,-the one presenting a picture of the government and manners of the Romans, from the origin of their city to the commencement of the civil wars, the other containing a general view of the dissensions of Marius and Sylla: so that the whole book may be considered as connecting the termination of the Jugurthine War and the breaking out of Catiline's Conspiracy. The loss of this valuable production is the more to be regretted,
as all the accounts of Roman history which have been written are defective during the interesting period it comprehended. Nearly seven hundred fragments belonging to it have been amassed, from scholiasts and grammarians, by De Brosses, the French translator of Sallust; but they are so short and unconnected, that they merely serve as landmarks from which we may conjecture what subjects were treated of, and what events recorded. The only parts of the History which have been preserved in any degree entire, are four orations and two letters. The first is an oration pronounced against Sylla by the turbulent M. Aemilius Lepidus, who, as is well known, being desirous, at the expiration of his year, to be appointed a second time consul, excited for that purpose a civil war, and rendered himself master of great part of Italy. His speech, which was preparatory to these designs, was delivered after Sylla had abdicated the dictatorship, but was still supposed to retain great influence at Rome. He is accordingly treated as being still the tyrant of the state; and the people are exhorted to throw off the yoke completely, and to follow the speaker to the bold assertion of their liberties. 11 The second oration is that of Lucius Philippus, which is an invective against the treasonable attempt of Lepidus, and was calculated to rouse the people from the apathy d with which they beheld proceedings that were likely to terminate in the total subversion of the government. The third harangue was delivered by the Tribune Licinius. It was an effort of that demagogue to depress the patrician, and raise the tribunitial power; for which purpose he alternately flatters the people and reviles the Senate. oration of Marcus Cotta is unquestionably a fine one. addressed it to the people during the period of his consulship, in order to calm their minds and allay their resentment at the bad success of public affairs; which, without any blame on his part, had lately, in many respects, been conducted to an unprosperous issue. Of the two letters which are extant, the one is from Pompey to the Senate, complaining in very strong terms, of the deficiency in the supplies for the army which he commanded in Spain against Sertorius; the other is supposed to be addressed from Mithridates to Arsaces, king of Parthia, and to be written when the affairs of the former monarch were pro
ceeding unsuccessfully. It exhorts him, nevertheless, with great eloquence and power of argument, to join him in an alliance against the Romans: for this purpose, it places in a strong point of view their unprincipled policy and ambitious desire of universal empire; all which could not, without this device of an imaginary letter by a foe, have been so well urged by a national historian. It concludes with showing the extreme danger which the Parthians would incur from the hostility of the Romans, should they succeed in finally subjugating Pontus and Armenia. The only other fragment of any length is the description of a splendid entertainment given to Metellus on his return, after a year's absence, from his government of Farther Spain. It appears, from several other fragments, that Sallust had introduced, on occasion of the Mithridatic War, a geographical account of the shores and countries bordering on the Euxine, in the same manner as he enters into a topographical description of Africa in his History of the Jugurthine War. This part of his work has been much applauded by ancient writers for exactness and liveli ness; and is frequently referred to, as the highest authority, by Strabo, Pomponius Mela, and other geographers.
Besides his historical works, there exist two political discourses concerning the administration of the government, in the form of letters to Julius Cæsar, which have generally, though not on sufficient grounds, been attributed to the pen of Sallust.