« IndietroContinua »
and hatred. Two years later (B. c. 50), he was ejected from the senate by the censor Appius Claudins, one of the most zealous among the optimates. The other censor, L. Piso, did not protect either Sallust, or any of the others who shared the same fate with him, against this act of partiality. Rome was at that time governed by the most oppressive oligarchy, which was then mainly directed against Julius Caesar, who, as a reward for his brilliant achievements in extending the Roman dominion in Gaul, desired to be allowed to offer himself in his absence as a candidate for his second consulship-a desire which the people were willing to comply with, as it was based upon a law which had been passed some years before in favour of Caesar; but the optimates endeavoured in every way to oppose him, and drawing Pompey over to their side, they brought about a rupture between him and Caesar. Sallust was looked upon in the senate as a partisan of the latter, and this was the principal reason why he was deprived of his seat in the great council of the republic; and L. Piso, the father-in-law of Caesar, is said not to have opposed the partiality of his colleague in the censorship, in order to increase the number of Caesar's partisans. When, in B. c. 49, Caesar established his right by force of arms, Sallust went over to him, and was restored not only to his seat in the senate, but was advanced to the praetorship in the year B. c. 47. Sallust served, both before and during his year of office, in the capacity of a lieutenant in Caesar's armies. He also accompanied him to Africa in the war against the Pompeian party there, and after its successful termination, was left behind as proconsul of Numidia, which was made a Roman province. In the discharge of his duties, he is said to have indulged in extorting money from the new subjects of Rome. He was accused, but acquitted. This is the historical statement of Dion Cassius; but a hostile writer of doubtful authority mentions that, by paying 12,000 pieces of gold to Caesar (perhaps as damages for the injury done), he purchased his acquittal.
Hereupon Sallust withdrew from public life, to devote his leisure to literature, and the composition of works on the history of his native country; for, as after the murder of Caesar, in B. C. 44, the republic was again delivered over to a state of military despotism, peaceful advice was deprived of its influence. It need hardly be mentioned that Sallust, as he had qualified himself for the highest political career, and the great offices of the republic, must have been possessed of an independent property; but the statement, that he afterwards gave himself up to a life of luxury-that he purchased a villa at Tibur, which had formerly belonged to Caesar-and that he possessed a splendid mansion, with a garden laid out with elegant plantations and
appropriate buildings, at Rome, near the Colline gate-is founded on the equivocal authority of a writer of a late period, who was hostile to him. It is indeed certain that there existed at Rome horti Sallustiani, in which Augustus frequently resided, and which were afterwards in the possession of the Roman emperors; but it is doubtful as to whether they had been acquired and laid out by our historian, or by his nephew, a Roman eques, and particular favourite of Augustus. The statement that Sallust married Terentia, the divorced wife of Cicero, is still more doubtful, and probably altogether fictitious.* There is, however, a statement of a contemporary, the learned friend of Cicero, M. Varro, which cannot be doubted—that in his earlier years Sallust, in the midst of the party-strife at Rome, kept up an illicit intercourse with the wife of Milo; but how much the hostility of party may have had to do with such a report, cannot be decided. In his writings, Sallust expresses a strong disgust of the luxurious mode of life, and the avarice and prodigality, of his contemporaries; and there can be no doubt that these repeated expressions of a stern morality excited both his contemporaries and subsequent writers to hunt up and divulge any moral foibles in his life and character, especially as in his compositions he struck into a new path, by abandoning the ordinary style, and artificially reviving the ancient style of composition.
The historical works of Sallust are, De Bello Catilinae, De Bello Jugurthino (or the two Bella, as the ancients call them), and five books of Historiae - that is, a history of the Roman republic during the period of twelve years, from the death of Sulla in B. c. 78, down to the appointment of Pompey to the supreme command in the war against Mithridates in B. c. 66. This history was regarded by the ancients as the principal work of our author; but is now lost, with the exception of four speeches and two political letters, which some admirer of oratory copied separately from the context of the history, and which have thus been preserved to our times. The two Bella, which are preserved entire, form the contents of the present volume.
*This strange account is found in Hieronymus's first work against Jovinianus, towards the end; and it becomes still more strange by the addition, that Terentia was married a third time to the orator Messalla Corvinus (who was consul with Augustus, B. c. 31):-Illa (Terentia) interim conjunx egregia, et quae de fonti bus Tullianis hauserat sapientiam, nupsit Sallustio, inimico ejus, et tertio Messallae Corvino: et quasi per quosdam gradus eloquentiae devoluta est. It almost appears as if in this tradition it had been intended to mark three phases in the style of Roman oratory, for Sallust was twenty years younger than Cicero, and Messalla nearly as many years younger than Sallust.
The work De Bello Catilinae formed the beginning of his historical compositions, as is clear from the author's own introduction; but it was not written till after the murder of Caesar in B. C. 44. In it he describes the conspiracy of L. Sergius Catilina, a man of noble birth and high rank, but ruined circumstances; its discovery, and the punishment of the conspirators at Rome in B. c. 63; and its final and complete suppression in a pitched battle at the beginning of the year B. c. 62.
The Bellum Jugurthinum treats of the life of Jugurtha, who in B. c. 118, together with his cousins, Adherbal and Hiempsal, governed Numidia. Having crushed his two cousins by fraud and violence, Jugurtha afterwards maintained himself in his usurped kingdom for several years against the Roman armies and generals that were sent out against him, until in the end, after several defeats sustained at the hands of the Roman consuls, L. Metullus and C. Marius, his own ally, Bocchus, king of Mauretania, delivered him up into the hands of the Roman quaestor, L. Sulla.
In the work on the war of Catiline, Sallust reveals especially the corruption of what was called the Roman nobility, by tracing the criminal designs of the conspirators to their sources—avarice, and the love of pleasure. In the history of the Jugurthine war, he particularly exposes and condemns the system of bribery in which the leading men of that age indulged; but on the other hand, he draws a pleasing contrast in describing the restoration of military discipline by Metullus and Marius. The difficult campaigns in the extensive and desert country of Numidia, and the wonderful events of this war, also deserve the attention of the reader; the more so, as the author has bestowed the greatest care on giving vivid descriptions of them.
Among the writings of Sallust, which have been transmitted to us in manuscripts, and are printed in the larger editions of his works, there are two epistles addressed to Caesar, containing the author's opinions and advice regarding the new constitution to be given to the republic, after the defeat of the optimates and their faction by the dictator. They are written in his own peculiar style: the first contains excellent ideas and energetic exposures of the general defects and evils in the state, as well as plans for remedying them; the second adds some proposals regarding the courts of justice, and the composition of the senate, the utility and practicability of which appear somewhat doubtful. The authenticity of these epistles, therefore, is still a matter of uncertainty. Lastly, there are two Declamations (declamationes), the one purporting to be by M. Cicero against Sallust, and the other by Sallust against Cicero; but both are evidently unworthy of the character and style of the men whose names they bear,
and are justly considered to be the production of some wretched rhetorician of the third or fourth century of the Christian era. Such declaimers made use of all possible reports that were current respecting the moral weaknesses of the two men, and respecting an enmity between them, of which history knows. nothing, and which is contradicted by our author himself, by the praise he bestows, in his 'Catilinarian War,' upon Cicero.
Sallust's character as an historian, and his grammatical style, have been the subjects of contradictory opinions even among the ancients themselves—both his own contemporaries, and the men of succeeding ages. Some condemned his introductions, as having nothing to do with the works themselves; found fault with the minute details of the speeches introduced in the narrative; and called him a senseless imitator, in words and expressions, of the earlier Roman historians, especially of Cato. Others praised him for his vivid delineations of character, the precision and vigour of his diction, and for the dignity which he had given to his style by the use of ancient words and phrases which were no longer employed in the ordinary language of his own day. But however different these opinions may appear, there is truth both in the censure and in the praise, though the praise no doubt outweighs the censure; and the general opinion among the later Romans justly declared primus Romana Crispus in historia. It is obvious that it is altogether unjust to say that his introductions are unsuitable, and that the speeches he introduces are inappropriate for an author must be allowed to write a preface to make an avowal of his own sentiments; and the speeches are inseparably connected with the forms of public life in antiquity: they are certainly not too long, and express most accurately, both in sentiment and style, the characters of the great men to whom the author assigns them. We have no hesitation in declaring that the speeches in the Catiline and Jugurtha, as well as those extracted from the Historiae, are the most precious specimens of the kind that have come down to us from antiquity.
As regards the grammatical style and the imitation of earlier authors, for which Sallust has been blamed by some, and praised by others, it must be observed that he is the first among the classical authors extant in whose works we perceive a difference between the refined language of public life, such as we have it in Cicero and Caesar, and a new and artificially-formed language of literature. Cicero and Caesar wrote just as a well-educated
It has indeed been said that Quinctilian, who wrote about the year 95 after Christ, cites passages from these Declamations; but critical investigation has shown that these passages are interpolations, and are found only in the worst manuscripts.
orator of taste spoke: after the death of Caesar, oratory began to withdraw from the active scenes of public life; and there remained few authors who, following the practical vocation of an orator, though at an unfavourable epoch, yet observed the principle which is generally correct- that a man ought to write in the same manner in which well-bred people speak. But most men of talent who devoted themselves to written composition for the satisfaction of their own minds, or for the instruction of their contemporaries, created for themselves a new style, such as was naturally developed in them by reading the earlier authors, and through their own relations to their readers and not hearers. Livy clung to the language, style, and the full-sounding period of the oratorical style, though even he in many points deviated from the natural refinement of a Caesar and a Cicero; but Sallust gave up the oratorical period, divided the long-spun, full-sounding, and well-finished oratorical sentence into several short sentences; and in this manner he seemed to go back to the ancients, who had not yet invented the period : but still there was a great difference between his style, in which the ancient simplicity was artificially restored, and the genuine ancient sentence formed without any rhetorical art. He wrote without periods, because he would not write otherwise, and not because he could not; he divided the rhetorical period into separate sentences, because it appeared to him advantageous in his animated description of minute details; and he wrote concisely, because he did not want the things to fill up his sentences which the orator requires to give roundness and fulness to his periods. He states in isolated independent sentences those ideas and thoughts which the orator distributes among leading and subordinate sentences; but he did all this consciously, as an artist, and with the conviction that it was conducive to historical animation. Tacitus was his imitator in this artificial historical style; and notwithstanding all his well-deserved praise, it must be admitted that the blame cast upon Sallust attaches in a still higher degree to Tacitus. It is a fact beyond all doubt, that Sallust introduced into the language of literature antiquated forms, words, and expressions; and this arose from a desire to recall with the ancient language also the ancient vigour and simplicity. But even this revival of what was ancient is visible only here and there, and all such words and phrases might be exchanged for others and more customary ones, without depriving Sallust of his essential characteristics; for these consist in a vivid perception of the important moments of an action, in placing them in strong contrasts, to excite his readers, and in the effect produced by isolated sentences simply put in juxtaposition without the artifice of a polished and intricate period.