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Among other employments which are pursued by the intellect, the recording of past events is of pre-eminent utility; but of its merits I may, I think, be silent, since many have spoken of them, and since, if I were to praise my own occupation, I might be considered as presumptuously1 praising myself. I believe, too, that there will be some, who, because I have resolved to live unconnected with political affairs, will apply to my arduous and useful labors the name of idleness; especially those who think it an important pursuit to court the people, and gain popularity by entertainments. But if such persons will consider at what periods I obtained office, what sort of men2 were then unable to obtain it, and what description of persons have subsequently entered the senate,3 they will think, assuredly, that I have altered my sentiments rather from prudence than from indolence, and that more good will arise to the state from my retirement, than from the busy efforts of others.

I have often heard that Quintus Maximus,4 Publius Scipio,5 and many other illustrious men of our country, were accustomed to observe, that, when they looked on the images of their ancestors, they felt their minds irresistibly excited to the pursuit of honor.6 Not, certainly, that the wax,7 or the shape, had any such influence; but, as they called to mind their forefathers' achievements, such a flame was kindled in the breasts of those eminent persons, as could not be extinguished till their own merit had equaled the fame and glory of their ancestors.

But, in the present state of manners, who is there, on the contrary, that does not rather emulate his forefathers in riches and extravagance, than in virtue and labor? Even men of humble birth,8 who formerly used to surpass the nobility in merit, pursue power and honor rather by intrigue and dishonesty, than by honorable qualifications; as if the prætorship, consulate, and all other offices of the kind, were noble and dignified in themselves, and not to be estimated according to the worth of those who fill them.

But, in expressing my concern and regret at the manners of the state, I have proceeded with too great freedom, and at too great length. I now return to my subject.

1 IV. Presumptuously] “Per insolentiam.” The same as insolenter, though some refer it, not to Sallust, but to quis existumet, in the sense of strangely, i.e. foolishly or ignorantly. I follow Cortius's interpretation.

2 At what periods I obtained office, what sort of men, etc.] “Quibus ego tomporibus magistratus adeptus sum, et quales viri,” etc. “"Sallust obtained the quæstorship a few years after the conspiracy of Catiline, about the time when the state was agitated by the disorders of Clodius and his party. He was tribune of the people, A.U.C. 701, the year in which Clodius was killed by Milo. He was prætor in 708, when Cæsar had made himself ruler. In the expression quales viri, etc., he alludes chiefly to Cato, who, when he stood for the prætorship, was unsuccessful."” Bernouf. Kritzius defends adeptus sum.

3 What description of persons have subsequently entered the senate] “"Cæsar chose the worthy and unworthy, as suited his own purposes, to be members of the senate."” Bernouf.

4 Quintus Maximus] Quintus Fabius Maximus, of whom Ennius says, “Unus qui nobis cunctando restituit rem; Non ponebat enim rumores ante salutem.

5 Publius Scipio] Scipio Africanus the Elder, the conqueror of Hannibal. See c. 5.

6 To the pursuit of honor] “Ad vertutem.Virtus in the same sense as in virtutis viâ, c. 1.

7 The wax] “Ceram illam.” The images or busts of their ancestors, which the nobility kept in the halls of their houses, were made of wax. See Plin. H. N. xxxv., 2.

8 Men of humble birth] “Homines novi.” See Cat., c. 23.

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