Sallustius, Caius Crispus

, an eminent Roman historian, was born at Amiternum in 86 B. C. The rank of his ancestors is uncertain, but from some circumstances. in his writings, it is not improbable that his family was plebeian. Having passed his more early years at his native town, he was removed to Rome, where he had the advantage of profiting by the lessons of Atticus Praetextatus, surnarned Philologus, a grammarian and rhetorician of great celebrity. Under this teacher he applied -to learning with diligence, and made uncommon progress. It appears, that he had turned his thoughts in his younger days to the writing of history, for which he had unquestionably great talents; but, as he himself intimates in his preface to the history of Catiline’s conspiracy, he was diverted from this pursuit by the workings of ambition. His early lift; too, appears to have been stained by vice, which the gross enormities of his more advanced years render highly probable. In this respect he has found an able advocate in his late learned translator and commentator; but although Dr. Steuart’s researches have removed some part of the reproaches of ancient authors, enough remains to shew that Sallust partook largely of the corruption of the age in which he lived, and added to it by his own example. The story of his having been detected in an adulterous intercourse with the wife of Milo, who, after a severe whipping, made him pay a handsome sum of money, may rest upon | little authority, or may be altogether discarded as a fiction, but the general conduct of Sallust shows that the noble sentiments in his works had no influence on his conduct.

He appears to have been advanced to the office of quaestor in the year of Rome 693, and in 701 was made tribune of the people. It was now that he employed all the arts of faction to inflame the minds of the people against Milo, the murderer of Clodius; and those biographers who admit the fact of his being disgraced by Milo, as we have above related, impute to him motives of revenge only; and he was equally industrious in raising a clamour against Cicero, in order to deter him from pleading Milo’s cause. In 703 he was expelled the senate by the then censors, Appius Claudius and Calphurnius Piso, on account of his profligacy, but restored in the following year by Julius Caesar, and was likewise made quaestor, an office which he employed in accumulating riches by every corrupt measure. During Caesar’s second dictatorship he was made praetor, and when Caesar went into Africa with part of his army, he took Sallust with him, who performed some important services, in return for which Caesar made him governor of Numidia. It is here that his public character appears most atrocious and indefensible. He seems to have considered this province as a fund destined to the improvement of his private fortune, and plundered it in the most iRhuman manner. In vain did the oppressed Numidians exclaim against his rapacity, and commence a prosecution against him. His wealth was a sufficient guard against the arm of justice, and by sharing with Csesar a part of the spoils, he easily baffled all inquiry into his provincial administration. On his return, laden with this wealth, he purchased a country house at Tivoli, and one of the noblest dwellings in Rome on the Quirinal mount, with beautiful gardens, which to this day are called the gardens of Sallust. In this situation it is supposed that he wrote his account of “Catiline’s conspiracy,” and the “Jugurthine war,” and that larger history, the loss of which there is so much reason to deplore. He died at the age of fifty-one, B. C. 35. Having no children of his owfl, his ample possessions passed to the grandson of his sister; and the family flourished, with undiminished splendour, to a late sera of the Roman empire.

Whatever objections may be made to Sallust’s character as a man, he has ever been justly admired as a historian. | He is equally perspicuous and instructive: his style is clear and nervous, his descriptions, reflections, speeches, and characters, all shew the hand of a master. But his partiality may he hlamed with equal justice, and even some of his most virtuous sentiments and bitter invectives against corruption in public men may be traced rather to party spirit, than to a genuine abhorrence of corruption, which, indeed, in one who had practised it so extensively, could not be expected, unless the result of a penitence we no where read of. His attachment to Caesar, and his disrespect for Cicero, are two glaring defects in his merit as a faithful historian.

Of Sallust there are many excellent editions. His works were first printed at Venice, in 1470, and reprinted thirty times before the conclusion of that century, but these editions are of great rarity. The best of the more modern are the Aldus of 1521, 8vo, the Variorum of 1690, 8vo, Wasse’s excellent edition, printed at Cambridge in 1710, 4to; Cortius’s edition, 1724, 4to; Havercamp’s, 1742, 2 vols. 4to; the prize edition of Edinburgh, 1755, 12mo; the Bipont, 1779, 8vo that very accurate one by Mr. Homer, Lond. 1789, 8vo and one by Harles, 1799, 8vo. The late Dr. Rose of Chiswick, published a very correct translation of Sallust in 1751, 8vo, with Cicero’s Four Orations against Catiline; and more recently Sallust has found a translator, and an acute and learned commentator and advocate, in Heury Steuart, LL.D. F.R. S. and S. A.E. who published in 1806, in 2 vols. 4to, “The Works of Sallust. To which are prefixed, two Essays on the Life, literary character, and writings of the historian with notes historical, biographical, and critical.1


Life by Dr. Steuart, and by Dr. Rose. Dibdin’s Classics.