Immagini della pagina
PDF
ePub

yet his situation as Prætor of Numidia, which had been the scene of this war, afforded him an opportunity of collecting materials, and procuring information, while his distance in point of time from the men and parties of that period, was favorable for obtaining just and comprehensive views of the exciting events of the war, and for embodying them in a faithful and impartial narrative.

Sallust, like some other historians of antiquity, evidently regarded an elegant style as one of the chief merits of an historical work. His own style, on which he took so much pains, was carefully formed on that of Thucydides, whose manner of writing was in a great measure original, and, till the time of Sallust, peculiar to himself. The Roman has wonderfully succeeded in imitating the vigor and conciseness of the Greek historian, and infusing into his composition something of that dignity and austerity which distinguishes the works of his great model. This imitation, however, consists more in the rapid and compressed manner in which his narrative is conducted, than in the structure of his sentences-in brevity of idea, rather than of language. For while Thucydides frequently employs long and involved periods, Sallust is abrupt and sententious, and is generally considered as having carried this sort of brevity to excess. The use copulatives, for the purpose of uniting clauses or sentences, is in a great measure rejected; antiquated forms of expression, and words considered nearly obsolete, are sometimes employed, so that on the whole there is too much appearance of study, and the want of that ease and natural gracefulness so pleasing in the productions of some other writers.

In the delineation of character, Sallust particularly excels. Some of the characters drawn by him have been regarded in all ages as master-pieces of their kind. The portraits of Catiline, Jugurtha, and Marius, convey to us vivid ideas of their minds and persons, and prepare us to anticipate, in some degree, how each will act in the situation in which he is placed. In Catiline, we behold a man of a bold, profligate, untamable spirit; of infinite resources, unwearied application, and prevailing address. We see, 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 reckless horror of a guilty conscience. The introductory sketch of the genius and manners of Jugurtha, is no less able and spirited than that of Catiline. We behold him serving under Scipio, at Numantia, as brave, accomplished, and enterprising; but imbued with an ambition which, being under no control of principle, hurried him into its worst

excesses, and rendered him ultimately perfidious and cruel. 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 that suspicion and remorse which he had created in his own mind by his atrocities, and which rendered him as wretched on the throne, or at the head of his army, as in the dungeon where he terminated his unhappy life. The portraits of the other principal characters who figured in the Jugurthine war, are all well brought out. That of Marius in particular is happily touched. The parallel drawn between Cato and Cæsar is one of the most celebrated passages in the history of the Conspiracy.

The subjects chosen by Sallust form two of the most important and prominent topics in the history of Rome. The periods, indeed, which he describes, were painful, but they were interesting. Full of conspiracies, usurpations, and civil wars, they chiefly exhibit the mutual rage and iniquity of embittered factions, furious struggles between the patricians and plebeians, open corruption in the senate, venality in the courts of justice, and rapine in the provinces. This state of things, so forcibly painted by Sallust, produced the Conspiracy, and even, in some degree, formed the character of Catiline. But it was the oppressive debts of individuals, the temper of Sulla's soldiers, and the absence of Pompey with his army, which gave a possibility, and even a prospect of success to a plot which affected the vital existence of the commonwealth, and which, although arrested in its commencement, was one of those violent shocks which hasten the fall of a state. The history of the Jugurthine war exhibits a more extensive field of action, and a greater theatre of war, though the war itself was not so important or menacing to the vital interests and immediate safety of Rome. No prince, except Mithridates, gave so much employment to the Roman arms. In the course of no war-not even the second Carthaginian-were the people more desponding, and in none were they more elated with success. As a piece of composition this narrative deserves to rank very high. Nothing can be more interesting than the account of the vicissitudes of this contest. The talents, the endless resources, the total want of principle, the sufferings of conscience-all found combined in the character and condition of Jugurtha-stand forth in vivid and picturesque colors, and convey a moral lesson not easily to be effaced.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

BELLUM CATILINARIUM.

C. CRISPI SALLUSTII

BELLUM

CATILINARIUM.

1

I. OMNES homines, qui sese student præstare ceteris animalibus, summa ope niti decet, ne vitam silentio transeant, veluti pecora, quæ natura prona atque ventri obedientia finxit. Sed nostra omnis vis in animo et corpore sita est: animi imperio, corporis servitio magis utimur: alterum nobis cum dis, alterum cum belluis commune est. Quo mihi rectius videtur ingenii quam virium opibus gloriam quærere, et, quoniam vita ipsa, qua fruimur, brevis est, memoriam nostri quam maxime longam efficere. Nam divitiarum et formæ gloria. *fluxa atque fragilis est; virtus clara æternaque habetur. Sed diu magnum inter mortales certamen fuit, vine corporis an virtute animi res militaris magis procederet ; nam et prius quam incipias, consulto, et ubi consulueris, mature facto opus est. Ita utrumque per se indigens, alterum alterius auxilio eget.

3

5

II. Igitur initio reges (nam 'in terris nomen imperii id primum fuit) diversi, pars ingenium, alii corpus exerce

« IndietroContinua »