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LIFE OF CAIUS SALLUSTIUS CRISPUS.
AIUS SALLUSTIUS CRISPUS belonged to a plebeian family, and was born at Amiternum, in the territory of the Sabines, B. C. 86. He was therefore fourteen years younger than Caesar, and twenty years younger than Cicero. The weight of authority for the MSS. are not unanimous -seems to decide that we should write C. Sallustius Crispus, and not C. Crispus Sallustius; and Sallustius rather than Salustius. Like the sons of many provincial families in good circumstances, he received his education at Rome, and seems to have devoted his earlier years to literary pursuits.
Sallust lived in a corrupt and licentious age. The standard of both public and private morality was low. Hence the profligate and immoral life attributed to him proved no bar to political preferment. In B. C. 59, at the age of twenty-seven, he obtained the quaestorship, which entitled him to a seat in the senate. In B. C. 52, he became a tribune of the plebs, and it was while holding this office that he assisted in the prosecution of Milo for the murder of Clodius. In B. C. 50, the censors expelled Sallust from the senate on the alleged ground of his licentious conduct. But as he belonged to the faction of Caesar, whom the senatorial party were striving to repress, it is more than probable that his immorality was merely made the pretext for his exclusion. In B. C. 47, the year after the battle of Pharsalia, Sallust obtained the praetorship, and thus regained his seat in the senate. In the following year he accompanied Caesar in his campaign in Africa, where a remnant of the senatorial party had rallied under Scipio and Cato. On the conclusion of that war, Caesar left him there as governor of Numidia, in which capacity he is charged with having greatly
oppressed and plundered the people. Certain it is, that though he was governor but one year, he amassed enormous wealth. The Numidians charged him with maladministration, and threatened him with a prosecution for extortion; but through the influence of Caesar, who is said to have received a portion of the plunder, he was allowed to escape. He then retired from public life, and with the wealth thus acquired he purchased a villa at Tibur, and laid out, on the Quirinālis, in the suburbs of Rome, those magnificent gardens which were afterwards called horti Sallustiani. The beauty of these gardens has been much celebrated, and after the death of Sallust they became the retreat of successive emperors down to the time of Aurelianus. In his villa at Tibur or in the splendid palace surrounded by his gardens, Sallust spent the close of his life in literary retirement; and it is more than probable that here also he composed those historical works on which his reputation depends. The story that he married Terentia, the divorced wife of Cicero, rests on insufficient authority. He died in B. C. 34.
The two great political parties in Rome were the populares, or popular party, embracing the great mass of the plebs, and sometimes an ambitious patrician, like Caesar; and the optimātes, or aristocratic party, comprising the senate, the patricians, the young nobility, and the chief part of the equites; who had almost exclusively filled the chief offices of governSallust was a warm supporter of the popular party, and his strong dislike of the aristocracy, particularly of its younger branch, frequently shows itself in his writings. After his expulsion from the senate he probably repaired to Caesar's quarters in Gaul, and shared the fortunes of that great commander.
The extant works of Sallust are two historical treatises on selected portions of Roman history: the Catilina, or Bellum Catilinarium, which unfolds the origin, progress, and suppres sion of the conspiracy of Catilina, of which Sallust was himself an eye-witness; and the Jugurtha, or Bellum Jugurthinum, which describes the varying fortune and the final success of the Romans in their war with Jugurtha, the wily king of Numidia. Sallust's residence in that country probably suggested the work to him, and enabled him to collect materials for it. Besides these, Sallust also wrote a Roman History in five books, of
which however but a few disconnected fragments remain. These works, as previously stated, were probably all written after his retirement from public life, though the composition of each of them has been assigned to widely different dates.
Sallust has always been regarded as a charming writer. Among Roman authors he is certainly unsurpassed in the art of historical composition. His style is one altogether peculiar, and is characterized by a sententious brevity. He is the most concise among the Roman writers of the golden age. With him style was evidently a matter of primary importance. He made Thucydides his model, and studied a pointed style, rendered more forcible by antithesis and contrast. There is this difference, however, between the Greek and the Roman: "The brevity of Thucydides is the result of condensation; that of Sallust is elliptical expression. He gives a hint, and the reader must supply the rest: whilst Thucydides only expects his readers to unfold and develop ideas which already existed in a concentrated form. Sallust requires addition; Thucydides dilution and expansion." (Browne's Rom. Class. Lit.)
He is perhaps over-fond of certain antique forms and modes of expression, and clings too tenaciously to the old orthography at a time when the new was becoming very generally adopted. Yet in the Catilina and Jugurtha there is not a single word used which is not also of frequent occurrence in contemporary and later writers." (Merivale.) Niebuhr remarks that Sallust "preserves the old phraseology with a predilection guided by learning and judgment," and Aulus Gellius speaks of him as "proprietatum in verbis retinentissimus." His attempt to imitate, rather than follow the bent of his own genius, not unfrequently develops in his style more of art than of nature, and more artistic polish than native ease and grace.
· Sallust's private character was a subject of controversy in ancient as it has also been in modern times, and different opinions have been formed in regard to it. The first permanent allusion to it grew out of the bitterness and animosity of partisan feeling. Sallust, in his general history, had spoken disparagingly of Pompey, and Lenaeus, the latter's freedman, replied in an invective full of virulence and slanderous accusations; and though the historian is said to have been defended
by Asconius Pediānus, who lived and wrote in the age of Augustus, the unfavorable view of his character prevailed among his contemporaries. The Declamatio in Sallustium, purporting to have been written by Cicero, simply repeats former charges, and is now very generally believed to have been the work of Porcius Latro, a rhetorician who lived in the reign of Claudius. The identity of the historian with the Sallustius whose profligacy is noticed by Horace in the second satire of the first book, is merely the result of conjecture, and has nothing more to recommend it than identity of name. That, like many of his distinguished contemporaries, Sallust was a man of loose morals, we may easily believe: the morals of the age were loose; but that he was more than usually vicious we may reasonably refuse to believe. The heat of political controversy is not favorble to the development of truth, and in the absence of reliable testimony, it is wiser, more just and charitable to accord to Sallust a character more in accordance with the cultivated mind, the good taste, and the literary ability, which all must agree he possessed. This is the judgment to which the present age is tending, and the one on which it will doubtless rest.