Sallust (Loeb Classical Library) Hardcover – 1 Jul 1989
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Here he is particularly interested in the concept of decadence, the anti-Roman values of Catilina's time which, in numerous Roman narratives, leads to the fall from past Roman austerity and virtue to present moral decline.
As well as being of intrinsic interest in itself, Sallust's prose is far more literary than Cicero's oral speeches. Ben Johnson used Sallust as the basis for his play Catiline (1611) and it might also have influenced Shakespeare's Roman plays: Coriolanus, Julius Caesar, and Antony & Cleopatra (though he also relied on Livy and Plutarch). Well worth reading and the Latin's not too difficult.
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Although the letters and speeches are interesting in their own right, the best works by Sallust are regarding the wars against Jurguthra and Catiline. Both seek to show how immorality and corruption, almost in the style of Dostoyevsky, prevails among those who hold or seek to hold the reigns of power. Juguthra was a Numidian/Moorish Prince who sought to take the throne from his brother by cajoling the Roman Senate who honored him for having served in Spain. Jugurthra's thirst for power was his own demise as Rome soon went to war against him for his daring efforts. Sallust approaches Catiline as the symptom of a social malaise resulting from a corrupt aristocracy. Despite this framework to his monogram, Sallust is far less biased of Catiline than Cicero's account in his Catilinarian speeches. Catiline was a patrician whose family had not reached any high office for over two hundred years. He served under Sulla and hoped to attain the consulship after his service with the dictator. As with many aristocrats, Catiline was in heavy debt and failed to win the consulship of 63 which he lost to Cicero and his patrician co-candidate. He hated Cicero for having won the consulship without being anything more than a new man with no ancestral distinction. Feeling that Rome was lost to new men such as Cicero or other lowly plebeians, Catiline organized an intricate conspiracy to carry out a coup with other nobles and even Gauls to set Rome on fire and slaughter the nobility along with Cicero. Cicero foiled his plot and Catiline chose to leave Rome to join his army of disenfranchized Marians, Sullan veterans, and whoever believed in his cause against the wealthy. He engaged in a battle against Roman forces in the north and fought to the death along with most of his followers.
The other works are rhetorical speeches or letters attributed to Lepidus, Phillipus, Cotta, Pompey, Macer and Mithridates. Although these are interesting to read, they are not as detailed or encompassing as his 'Wars.' As with the invectives, they are probably to a great extent fabrications of the author's imagination as to what the persons would have said: a style seen as perfectly normal in antiquity. The invectives are also pseudo-speeches but historians tend to think that they were not written by Sallust but merely attributed to him.
In any case, Sallustius is an important author as he is one of the few authors whose works we have who were involved with the politics of the Late Roman Republic and therefore were either first hand witnesses of the events or knew many who were. This Loeb edition is again the best deal one can get for $21 as it has all of Sallust's works in one volume offering the reader the work in both its original Latin as well as in English. Enjoy!
He is not quite as plain spoken as Caesar but does not have the run on sentences that make Cicero a difficult read. All in all, it is a decent read but an old fashioned translation.