Sunday, November 12, 2017

Reading classics of Antiquity V: Sallust

Alcide Segoni (1847–1894): Il ritrovamento del corpo di Catilina / The Discovery of the Body of Catiline after the Battle of Pistoia, 1871. Public domain. Source: Galleria dell'Arte, Firenze. Photo: Wikipedia.

Numidia 112–105 B.C. and battles of the Jugurthine war. Vectorized from the original work in the U.S. Military Academy. By Frank Martini. Cartographer, Department of History, United States Military Academy - The Department of History, United States Military Academy. Public Domain. Wikipedia.

Sallustius: De coniuratione Catilinae / Bellum Catilinae
Sallust: The Conspiracy of Catiline. Written in Rome, the Roman Republic, 43 BC. Survival status: complete. Written in Latin. Originally published on papyrus in the scroll format (in tomes / volumines).
Sallustius:  De bello Iugurthino / Bellum Jugurthinum
Sallust: The Jugurthine War. Written in Rome, the Roman Republic, 41 BC. Survival status: complete. Written in Latin. Originally published on papyrus in the scroll format (in tomes / volumines).
Read in Finnish
Sallustius: Catilinan salaliitto * Jugurthan sota
Translated into Finnish by Marja Itkonen. The introduction written by Jaakko Suolahti. Series: Antiikin klassikot. 172 p. Helsinki / Porvoo: WSOY, 1963.

Sallust is the earliest Roman historian whose books are still with us, and his two historical monographs survive in a complete form. As a historian of the last decades of the Roman Republic Sallust's model was Thucydides. Like Thucydides, Sallust was partial and biased, yet aimed at rising above his prejudices and being fair and generous towards the opponent. He, in turn, became a model for Tacitus.

Sallust's portrait of Catiline and his conspiracy anno 63 BC may have been inspired by Thucydides's account of Alcibiades. They are complex and contradictory figures: amazing intriguers and fearless fighters. Sallust's account is based on official documents, the Acta Senatus, but he uses them selectively and minimizes the role of Cicero, the main conqueror of the conspiracy, and emphasizes the role of Julius Caesar.

The war of the Roman Republic against king Jugurtha of Numidia (= Algeria and Tunisia) took place in 112–105 BC, the Roman warlords being Marius and Sulla. The portrait of Jugurtha is the most impressive feature of the book, and there is again something of the amazing quality of Alcibiades in Sallust's account. The book has interesting excursions into the history of Africa. Marius was the general who transformed the Roman army, and Sulla became a Dictator of the Roman Republic, paving the way to Julius Caesar's dictatorship.

Sallust came from the provinces and was appalled at the degeneration and corruption of Rome, yet participated in it as he confesses in the first pages of The Conspiracy of Catiline. Rome had achieved grandeur during the Punic Wars against Carthage but corruption started after the victory.

Sallust:  The Jugurthine War, Chapter 41:

"For, before the destruction of Carthage, the senate and people managed the affairs of the republic with mutual moderation and forbearance; there were no contests among the citizens for honor or ascendency; but the dread of an enemy kept the state in order. When that fear, however, was removed from their minds, licentiousness and pride, evils which prosperity loves to foster, immediately began to prevail; and thus peace, which they had so eagerly desired in adversity, proved, when they had obtained it, more grievous and fatal than adversity itself. The patricians carried their authority, and the people their liberty, to excess; every man took, snatched, and seized1 what he could. There was a complete division into two factions, and the republic was torn in pieces between them. Yet the nobility still maintained an ascendency by conspiring together; for the strength of the people, being disunited and dispersed among a multitude, was less able to exert itself. Things were accordingly directed, both at home and in the field, by the will of a small number of men, at whose disposal were the treasury, the provinces, offices, honors, and triumphs; while the people were oppressed with military service and with poverty, and the generals divided the spoils of war with a few of their friends. The parents and children of the soldiers, meantime, if they chanced to dwell near a powerful neighbor, were driven from their homes. Thus avarice, leagued with power, disturbed, violated, and wasted every thing, without moderation or restraint; disregarding alike reason and religion, and rushing headlong, as it were, to its own destruction. For whenever any arose among the nobility, who preferred true glory to unjust power, the state was immediately in a tumult, and civil discord spread with as much disturbance as attends a convulsion of the earth." – Sallust, The Jugurthine War, John Selby Watson, Rev. John Selby Watson, M.A., Ed., 1899 – The Perseus Project online. – Boldfaced by me.

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