« IndietroContinua »
CAIUS SALLUSTIUS CRISPUS, according to the statement of the ancient chronologer Hieronymus, was born in B. C. 86, at Amiternum, in the country of the Sabines (to the north-east of Rome), and died four years before the battle of Actium-that is, in B.C. 34 or 35. After having no doubt gone through a complete course of law and the art of oratory, he devoted himself to the service of the Roman republic at a time when Rome was internally divided by the struggle of the opposite factions of the optimates, or the aristocracy, and the populares, or the democratical party. The optimates supported the power of the senate, and of the nobility who prevailed in the senate; while the populares were exerting themselves to bring all public questions of importance before the popular assembly for decision, and resisted the influence of illustrious and powerful families, whose privileges, arising from birth and wealth, they attempted to destroy. Sallust belonged to the latter of these parties. In B. c. 52 he was tribune of the people, and took an active part in the disturbances which were caused at Rome in that year by the open struggles between Annius Milo, one of the optimates, who was canvassing for the consulship, and P. Clodius, who was trying to obtain the praetorship. Milo slew Clodius on a public road: he was accused by the populares, and defended by the optimates; but the judges, who could not allow such an act of open violence to escape unpunished, condemned, and sentenced him to exile. Pompey alone, who was then consul for the third time, was capable of restoring order and tranquillity. The position of a tribune of the people was a difficult one for Sallust: he was to some extent opposed to Milo, and consequently also to Cicero, who pleaded for Milo; but there exists a statement that he gave up his opposition; and he himself, in the introduction to his Catiline,' intimates that his honest endeavours for the good of the state drew upon him only ill-will
and hatred. Two years later (B. C. 50), he was ejected from the senate by the censor Appius Claudius, 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 luxurythat 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 partystrife 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.
The work De Bello Catilinae formed the beginning of his histo
*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 fontibus 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.
rical 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. Metellus 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 Metellus 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 productions of some wretched rhetorician of the third or fourth century