BIOGRAPHICAL NOTICE OF SALLUST.
SALLUST was born at Amiternum
, a town in the Sabine
territory, on the first of October,1
in the year six hundred and sixty-six2
from the foundation of Rome
, eighty-seven years before Christ, and in the seventh consulship of Marius.
The name of his father was Caius Sallustius;3
that of his mother is unknown. His family was thought by Crinitus, and some others, to have been patrician, but by Gerlach
, and most of the later critics, is pronounced to have been plebeian, because he held the office of tribune of the people, because he makes observations unfavorable to the nobility in his writings, and because his grandson, according to Tacitus,4
was only of equestrian rank.
The ingenuity of criticism has been exercised in determining whether his name should be written with a double or single l. Jerome Wolfius,5
, are in favor of the single letter, depending chiefly on inscriptions, and on the presumption that the name is derived from salus
. But inscriptions vary; the etymology of the word is uncertain, and to derive it from sal
would authorize either mode of spelling. All the Latin authors, both in prose and poetry, have the name with the double letter, and it seems better, as Vossius6
remarks, to adhere to their practice. Among the Greeks, Dion and Eusebius have the single letter; in some other writers it is found doubled.
Another question raised respecting his name, is whether he should be called Sallustius Crispus
or Crispus Sallustius.
The latter mode is adopted by Le Clerc, Cortius, Havercamp, and some other critics; but De Brosses7
argues conclusively in favor of the former method; as Sallustius, from its termination, is evidently the name of the family or gens;
and Crispus, which denotes quelque habitude du corps,
only a surname to distinguish one of its branches. Crispus Sallustius
is found, indeed, in manuscripts; and, according to Cortius, in the best; but on what reasonable grounds can it be justified? It was perhaps adopted by some copyist front the ode of Horace8
addressed to Sallist's nephew, and inconsiderately continued by his successors.
He was removed early in life to Rome
, that he might be educated under Atteius Prætextatus, a celebrated grammarian of that age, who styled himself Philologus, and who was afterward tutor to Asinius Pollio.9
Atteius treated Sallust with very great distinction.10
He may be supposed to have soon grown conscious of his powers;11
and appears at an early period of his life to have devoted himself to study, with an intention to distinguish himself in history.12
His devotion to literature, however, was not so great as to detain him from indulgence in pleasure; for he became, if we allow any credit to the old declaimer, infamous, ætatis tirocinio,
for debauchery and extravagance. He took possession of his father's house in his father's lifetime, and sold it; an act by which he brought his father to the grave; and he was twice, for some misconduct, arraigned before the magistrates, and escaped on both occasions only through the perjury of his judges.13
When we cite this rhetorician, we must not forget that we cite an anonymous reviler, yet we must suppose with Gerlach
, and with Meisner, the German translator of Sallust, that we quote a writer who grounded his invectives on reports and opinions current at the time in which he lived.
Sallust next thought of aspiring to political distinction;14
but "the usual method of attaining notice," says De Brosses,15
"which was to secure friends and clients by pleading the causes of individuals at the bar, he seems not to have adopted;" since, as is known, no orations spoken' by him are in existence, and, as is thought, no mention is made of such orations in any other author.
Mention, however, is made of orations of Sallust, at whatever time delivered, in the well-known passage of Seneca
inquired of Cassius Severus, why he, who was so eminent in pleading important causes, displayed so little talent in pronouncing fictitious declamations, the orator replied, “Quod in me miraris, pene omnibus evenit, etc. Orationes Sallustii in honorem historiarum leguntur.
” "What you think extraordinary in me, is common to all men of ability. The greatest geniuses, to whom I am conscious of my great inferiority, have generally excelled only in one species of composition. The felicity of Virgil
in poetry deserted him in prose; the eloquence of Cicero
's orations is not to be found in his verses; and the speeches of Sallust are read only as a foil to his histories." The speeches which are here meant, are not, as has been generally imagined, those inserted in the histories, but others, which Sallust had spoken. This view of the passage was first taken by Antonius Augustinus, and communicated by him to Schottus, who mentioned it in his annotations on Seneca
But by whatever means he secured support, he had at length sufficient interest to obtain a quæstorship;18
the tenure of which gave him admission into the senate. It would appear that he was about thirty-one years of age when he attained this honor.19
It must have been about this period that his adventure with Fausta, the daughter of Sylla and wife of Milo
, occurred, of which a short account is given by Aulus Gellius20
in an extract from Varro. The English reader may take it in the version of Beloe : "Marcus Varro, a man of great authority and weight in his writings and life, in his publication entitled 'Pius,' or 'De Pace,' records that Caius Sallust, the author of that grave and serious composition (seriæ illius et severæ orationis
), in which he has exercised the severity of the censorial office, in taking cognizance of crimes, being taken by Annæus Milo
in adultery, was well scourged, and, after paying a sum of money, dismissed." The same story is told, on the authority of Asconius Pedianus the biographer of Sallust, by Acro and Porphyrio, the scholiasts on Horace, who, they think, had it in his mind when he wrote the words, “Ille flagellis ad mortem cæsus.
Servius, also, in his note on Quique ob adulterium cæsi,
in the sixth book of the Æneid,22
tells a like tale, adding that Sallust entered the house in the habit of a slave, and was caught in that disguise by Milo
Such being the case, it is not wonderful that when Sallust entered on his tribuneship of the people, to which lie was elected in the year of the city seven hundred, he seized an opportunity which occurred of being revenged on Milo
, who had shortly before killed Clodius. He joined with his colleagues, Pompeins Rufus and Plancus, in inflaming the populace, and charging Milo with premeditated hostility.23
They intimidated Cicero
's advocate, insinuating that he had planned the assassination;24
and the matter ended in Milo
During the progress of the trial, however, it is said that Sallust abated his hostility to Milo
, and even became friendly with them.26
How this reconciliation was effected, does not appear; but it seems certain that Cicero
, when he attacked Plancus, Sallust's colleague, for exciting the populace to turbulence, left Sallust himself unmolested.27
Unmolested, however, lie did not long remain; for in the year of the city seven hundred and four, in the censorship of Appius Claudius Pulcher, and Lucius Calpurnius Piso, Appius, actuated by two motives, one of which was to serve Pompey, by excluding from the senate such as were hostile to him,28
and the other to throw into the shade his own private irregularities by an ostentatious discharge of his public duties,29
expelled Sallust from the senate on pretence that he was a flagrantly immoral character.30
But Appius, by this proceeding, instead of serving Pompey, served Cæsar; for many who had previously been favorable to Pompey, or had continued neutral, betook themselves immediately to Cæsar's camp; in the number of whom was Sallust.31
His attendance on Cæsar did not go unrewarded; for when Cæsar returned from Spain
, after his victory over Afranius and Petreius, he restored Sallust, with others under similar circumstances,32
to his seat in the senate; and as it was not usual for a senator, who had been degraded from his rank, to be reinstated in it without being at the same time elected to an office, he was again made quæstor,33
or, as Dion
He was then intrusted with some military command, and sent into Illyria
, where, as Orosius34
states, he was one of those that were defeated by the Pomnpeian leaders Octavius and Libo.
Afterward, when the war in Egypt
was finished, but while the remains of Pompey's army, headed by Scipio and Cato, were still menacing hostilities in Africa
, Sallust, with the title of prætor, was directed to conduct against them a body of troops from Campania
But Sallust was intrusted with more than he was able to perform. The soldiers mutinied on the coast, compelled him to flee, and hurried away to Rome
, putting to death two senators in their way., It was on this occasion that Cæsar humbled them by addressing them as Quirites
instead of commilitones.36
Sallust was then reinstated in command, and was sent, during the African war, to the island of Cercina
, to bring off a quantity of corn that had been deposited there by the enemy; a commission which he successfully executed.37
Whether he performed any other service for Cæsar in this war, we have no account; but Cæsar, when it was ended, thought him a person of such consequence, that he gave him the government of Numidia
, with the title of pro-consul. "He received the province from Cæsar," says Dion
, "nominally to govern it, but in reality to ravage and plunder it." Whether such was Cæsar's intention or not, it is generally believed that he enriched himself by the spoil of it to the greatest possible extent.38
When his term of office, which seems to have been only a year, was expired, he "appeared at Rome
," says the declaimer, "like a man enriched in a dream." But the Numidians followed him, and accused him of extortion; a charge front which he was only acquitted through the interposition of Cæsar,39
to whom he is said to have presented a bribe.40
The trial had not been long concluded when Cæsar was assassinated, and Sallust, being thus deprived of his patron, seems to have withdrawn entirely from public life. He purchased a large tract of ground on the Quirinal hill, where he erected a splendid mansion, and laid out those magnificent gardens of which so much has been related. Their extent must have been vast, if De Brosses, who visited the spot in 1739, obtained any just notion of it.41
But some have thought them much smaller. He had also a country-house at Tibur
, which had belonged to Julius Cæsar.42
It was during this period of retirement, as is supposed, that he married Terentia, the divorced wife of Cicero, if, indeed, he married her at all; for their union rests on no very strong testimony.43
It was at this time, too, it would appear, that he commenced the composition of history, with a view to the perpetuation of his name; for he entered on it, lie says, when his mind was free from "hope, fear, or political partisanship;"44
and to no other time of his life are such expressions applicable. Dion
seems to have supposed that he appeared as a historian before he went to Numidia
, but is in all probability mistaken.
Sallust died on the thirteenth of May, in the year of the city seven hundred and eighteen, in the fifty-second year of his age,45
leaving his grand-nephew, Gains Sallustius Crispus, whom want of children had induced him to adopt, heir to all his possessions. His gardens, some years after his death, became imperial property.46
Such were the events, as far as we learn, of the life of Sallust; and such is the notion which the voice of antiquity teaches us to form of his moral character. In modern times, some attempts have been made to prove that he was less vicious than he was anciently represented.
Among those who have attempted to clear him of the charges usually brought against hin, are Miller,47
who are strenuously opposed by Gerlach50
The points on which his champions chiefly endeavor to defend him, are the adventure with Fausta, and the spoliation of Numidia
. Of the three, Miller is the most enterprising. With regard to the affair of Fausta, he sets himself boldly to impugn the authority of Varro or Gellius, on which it chiefly rests; and his reasoning is as follows: That such writers as Gellius are not always to be trusted; that Gellius often quoted from memory; that he cites old authors on the testimony of later authors; that he speaks of Varro, “fide homo multâ et gravis,
” as if he were a cotemporary that needed commendation, not the well-known Varro whose character was established; that the Varro of Gellius may therefore be a later Varro, whose book, "Pius," or "De Pace," may have been about Antoninus Pius, under whom Gellius lived, and who may have been utterly mistaken in what he said of Sallust; and that, consequently, the passage in Gellius is to be suspected. Respecting the plunder of Numidia
, his arguments are, that the province was given to Sallust to spoil, not for himself, but for Cæsar; that of the money obtained from it, the chief part was given to Cæsar; and that, consequently, Cæsar, not Sallust, is to bear the blame for what was done.
But such conjectures produce no more impression on the mind of a reader than Walpole
's " Historic Doubts" concerning Richard the Third. They suggest something that may have been, but bring no proof of what actually was; they may be allowed to be ingenious, but the general voice of history is still believed. To all Müller's suggestions Gerlach exclaims, “Credat Judæus!
” Were there, in the pages of antiquity, a single record or remark favorable to the moral character of Sallust, there would then be a point d'appui from which to commence an attack on what is said against him; but the case, alas! is exactly the reverse; wherever Sallust is characterized as a man, he is characterized unfavorably.
His writings consisted of his narratives of the Conspiracy of Catiline and the War with Jugurtha, and of a History of Rome
in five books, extending from the death of Sylla to the beginning of the Mithridatic war. The Catiline and Jugurtha have reached us entire; but of the History there now remain only four speeches, two letters, and a number of smaller fragments preserved among the grammarians. That he was not the author of the Epistles to Cæsar, the reader will find satisfactorily shown in the remarks prefixed to the translation of them in the present volume.
Sallust is supposed to have formed his style on that of Thucydides;52
but he has far excelled his model, if not in energy, certainly in conciseness and perspicuity, of expression. "The speeches of Thucydides," says Cicero,53
"contain so many dark and intricate passages, that they are scarcely understood." No such complaint can be made of any part of the writings of Sallust. "From any sentence in Thucydides," says Seneca
"however remarkable for its conciseness, if a word or two be taken away, the sense will remain, if not equally ornate, yet equally entire; but from the periods of Sallust nothing can be deducted without detriment to the meaning." “Apud eruditas aures,
” says Quintilian,55
“nihil potest esse perfectius.
The defects of his style are, that he wants the flumen orationis
so much admired in Livy and Herodotus;56
that his transitions are often abrupt; and that he too much affects antique phraseology.57
But no writer can combine qualities that are incompatible. He is justly preferred by Quintilian58
to Livy, and well merits the praise given him by Tacitus59
of being “rerum Romanarum florentissimus auctor,
” and “Romanâ primus in historiâ.
Of the numerous editions of Sallust, that of Cortius, which appeared at Leipsic
in 1724, and has been often reprinted, long indisputably held the first rank. But Cortius, as an editor, was somewhat too fond of expelling from his text all words that he could possibly pronounce superfluous; and succeeding editors, as Gerlach (Basil. 1823), Kritz (Leipsic
, 1834), and Dietsch (Leipsic
, 1846), have judiciously restored many words that he had discarded, and produced texts more acceptable in many respects to the generality of students.
Sallust has been many times translated into English. The versions most deserving notice are those of Gordon
(1744), Rose (1751), Murphy (1809), and Peacock (1845.) Gordon
has vigor, but wants polish; Rose is close and faithful but often dry and hard; Murphy is sprightly, but verbose and licentious, qualities in which his admirer, Sir Henry Steuart (1806), went audaciously beyond him; Mr. Peacock's translation is equally faithful with that of Rose, and far exceeds it in general ease and agreeableness of style.