3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Essential highly-readable source,
This review is from: Catiline's War, The Jugurthine War, Histories: WITH The Jugurthine War (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Sallust is one of only two contemporary sources to have survived on the politics of the late Roman Republic (the other one is Cicero). All the rest was written later, sometimes much later. Another reason to read Sallust is that he was highly held in his own time for his style and clarity of expression - indeed, that is partly why this has survived.
Sallust is believed to have lived 86-34BC, he achieved senatorial rank, and he was a Caesarean (unlike Cicero, who was an optimate). His works include a history of the Jugurthine war (a late second-century BC African conflict that punctuated Rome's own internal struggles), an account of the Catilinarian conspiracy, and fragments of a history that once described the 70s and 60s BC. A lot of this is almost certainly made up. Stock descriptions of sieges and battles in the war against Jugurtha, which took place before Sallust was born, are unlikely to fit any close reality. The books contain the inevitable set speeches, all of course the author's interpretation of what might have been said. Even the Catilinarian account may well have been drawn from Cicero: Sallust was too young to have been in the senate in 63BC. Yet Sallust's books are invaluable. At least he would have been in Rome, and since Cicero was judge and party on Catiline, this second, corroborative account is priceless. And even the speeches and the fragmentary histories are of value, providing a strong flavour of the ideological conflicts that divided the Roman Republic, how they were expressed, and what the public response may have been.
Sallust is essential reading for students of the period. It also is a good alternative or complement to the host of trashy novels and movies that have recently come out about Rome.