previous next
To act well for the Commonwealth is noble, and even to speak well for it is not without merit.1 Both in peace and in war it is possible to obtain celebrity; many who have acted, and many who have recorded the actions of others, receive their tribute of praise. And to me, assuredly, though by no means equal glory attends the narrator and the performer of illustrious deeds, it yet seems in the highest degeee difficult to write the history of great transactions; first, because deeds must be adequately represented2 by words; and next, because most readers consider that whatever errors you mention with censure, are mentioned through malevolence and envy; while, when you speak of the great virtue and glory of eminent men, every one hears with acquiescence3 only that which he himself thinks easy to be performed; all beyond his own conception he regards as fictitious and incredible.4

I myself, however, when a young man,5 was at first led by inclination, like most others, to engage in political affairs;6 but in that pursuit many circumstances were unfavorable to me; for, instead of modesty, temperance, and integrity,7 there prevailed shamelessness, corruption, and rapacity. And although my mind, inexperienced in dishonest practices, detested these vices, yet, in the midst of so great corruption, my tender age was insnared and infected8 by ambition; and, though I shrunk from the vicious principles of those around me, yet the same eagerness for honors, the same obloquy and jealousy,9 which disquieted others, disquieted myself.

1 III. Not without merit] “Haud absurdum.” I have borrowed this expression from Rose, to whom Muretus furnished "suâ laude non caret." "The word absurdus is often used by the Latins as an epithet for sounds disagreeable to the ear; but at length it came to be applied to any action unbecoming a rational being." Kunhardt.

2 Deeds must be adequately represented, etc.] “Facta dictis sunt exæquanda.” Most translators have regarded these words as signifying that the subject must be equaled by the style. But it is not of mere style that Sallust is speaking." He means that the matter must be so represented by the words, that honorable actions may not be too much praised, and that dishonorable actions may not be too much blamed; and that the reader may at once understand what was done and how it was done." Kunlhardt.

3 Every one hears with acquiescence, etc.] “Quæ sibi--æquo animo accipit,” etc. This is taken from Thucydides, ii. 35. " For praises spoken of other are only endured so far as each one thinks that he is himself also capable of doing any of the things he hears; but that which exceeds their own capacity, men at once envy and disbelieve." Dale's Translation: Bohn's Classical Library.

4 Regards as fictitious and incredible] “Veluti ficta, pro falsis ducit. Ducit pro falsis,” he considers as false or incredible, “veluti ficta,” as if invented.

5 When a young man] “Adolescentulus.” "It is generally admitted that all were called adolescentes by the Romans, who were between the fifteenth or seventeenth year of their age and the fortieth. The diminutive is used in the same sense, but with a view to contrast more strongly the ardor and spirit of youth with the moderation, prudence, and experience of age. So Cæsar is called adolescentulus, in c. 49, at a time when he was in his thirty-third year." Dietsch. And Cicero, referring to the time of his consulship, says, Defendi rempublicam adolescens, Philipp. ii. 46.

6 To engage in political affairs] “Ad rempublicam.” "In the phrase of Cornelius Nepos, honoribus operam dedi, I sought to obtain some share in the management of the Republic. All public matters were comprehended under the term Respublica." Cortius.

7 Integrity] “Virtute.” Cortius rightly explains this word as meaning justice, equity, and all other virtues necessary in those who manage the affairs of a state. Observe that it is here opposed to avaritia, not, as some critics would have it, to largitio.

8 Was ensnared and infected] “Corrupta tenebatur.” As obsessus tenetur, Jug., c. 24.

9 The same eagerness for honors, the same obloquy and jealousy, etc.] “Honoris cupido cadem quæ cæteros, fama atque invidia vexabat.” I follow the interpretation of Cortius: "Me vexabat honoris cupido, et vexabat propterea etiam eadem, quæ cæteros, fama atque invidia." He adds, from a gloss in the Guelferbytan MS., that it is a zeugma. "Fama atque invidia," says Gronovius, "is ἑν διὰ δυοῖν, for invidiosa et maligna fame." Bernouf, with Zanchius and others, read famâ atque invidiâ in the ablative case; and the Bipont edition has eadem quâ---famâ, etc.; but the method of Cortius is, to me, by far the most straightforward and satisfactory. Sallust, observes De Brosses, in his note on this passage, wrote the account of Catiline's conspiracy shortly after his expulsion from the Senate, and wishes to make it appear that he suffered from calumny on the occasion; though he took no trouble, in the subsequent part of his life, to put such calumny to silence.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Notes (Axel W. Ahlberg, 1919)
load focus Latin (Axel W. Ahlberg, 1919)
load focus Latin
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Cicero (New York, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide References (32 total)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: