Gaius Sallustius Crispus, generally known simply as Sallust (86 BC – 35 BC), a Roman historian, belonged to a well-known plebeian family, and was born at Amiternum in the country of the Sabines. Throughout his career Sallust always stood by his principle as a popularis, an opposer of the old aristocracy of Rome and a partisan of Julius Caesar.


Life and career

After an ill-spent youth, Sallust entered public life and may have won election as quaestor in 55. He became a Tribune of the Plebs in 52, the year in which the followers of Milo killed Clodius in a street brawl. Sallust then supported the prosecution of Milo. He also had hostilities with the famous orator Cicero.

From the beginning of his public career, Sallust operated as a decided partisan of Julius Caesar, to whom he owed such political advancement as he attained. In 50 the censor Appius Claudius Pulcher removed him from the Senate on the grounds of gross immorality (probably really because of his opposition to Milo and Cicero). In the following year, perhaps through Caesar's influence, he was reinstated.

In 46 he served as a praetor and accompanied Caesar in his African campaign, which ended in the decisive defeat of the remains of the Pompeian war party at Thapsus. As a reward for his services, Sallust gained appointment as governor of the province of Africa Nova. In this capacity he committed such oppression and extortion that only the influence of Caesar enabled him to escape condemnation. On his return to Rome he purchased and began laying out in great splendour the famous gardens on the Quirinal known as the Horti Sallustiani or Gardens of Sallust. These gardens would later belong to the emperors.

Sallust then retired from public life and devoted himself to historical literature, and further developing his Gardens of Sallust, upon which he spent much of his accumulated wealth.


Sallust's account of the Catiline conspiracy (De coniuratione Catilinae or Bellum Catilinae) and of the Jugurthine War (Bellum Iugurthinum) have come down to us complete, together with fragments of his larger and most important work (Historiae), a history of Rome from 78 to 67 BC, intended as a continuation of Cornelius Sisenna's work.

The Conspiracy of Catiline

The Conspiracy of Catiline (Sallust's first published work) contains the history of the memorable year 63. Sallust adopts the usually accepted view of Catiline, and describes him as the deliberate foe of law, order and morality, and does not give a comprehensive explanation of his views and intentions. (Note that Catiline had supported the party of Sulla, which Sallust had opposed.) Mommsen's suggestion—that Sallust particularly wished to clear his patron (Caesar) of all complicity in the conspiracy—may have contained some truth.

In writing about the conspiracy of Catiline, Sallust's tone, style, and descriptions of aristocratic behavior show him as deeply troubled by the moral decline of Rome. While he inveighs against Catiline's depraved character and vicious actions, he does not fail to state that the man had many noble traits, indeed all that a Roman man needed to succeed. In particular, Sallust shows Catiline as deeply courageous in his final battle.

This subject gave Sallust the opportunity of showing off his rhetoric at the expense of the old Roman aristocracy, whose degeneracy he delighted to paint in the blackest colours.

Sallust's Catiline was of paramount importance as inspiration for the work of Henrik Ibsen. In the prologue to his first play, Catiline, the Norwegian playwright states, after relating his work to the contemporary political situation in the winter of 1848-49 AD, especially the uprising of the Magyars in Hungary, where he expresses ardent support of the Magyar revolutionaries, that he eagerly absorbed the texts of Sallust's Catilina and Cicero's speeches against the famed conspirator. He goes on, saying:

as will come clear by reading my book, I didn't share the opinions of the two old Roman writers regarding Catalina's character and deeds, and still I'm inclined to believe there has been something grand and important about such a man, by whom the advocate of the majority, Cicero, did not find it worthwhile to deal with, until the situation had turned out no longer dangerous in regard of the assault [of Catiline]. Remembered it should also be that there are few examples of historical persons, whose memory has been more entirely in possession of the opponents, than in the case of Catilina.
Henrik IbsenPrologue to Catiline (play).[1](translated from Norwegian)

The somewhat positive traits of Catiline mentioned by Sallust, in spite of the overall negative portrait, would probably not have been imagined in such a degree were it not for the art of reading expressed by Ibsen. A historiographical reading not without importance for the study of historiography, relating especially to Counterfactual history. A school of historiography with roots in Norway, especially in regard of peace and conflict studies.

Jugurthine War

Sallust's Jugurthine War is a brief monograph recording the war against Jugurtha in Numidia from c. 112 BC to 105 BC. Its true value lies in the introduction of Marius and Sulla to the Roman political scene and the beginning of their rivalry. Sallust's time as governor of Africa Nova ought to have let the author develop a solid geographical and ethnographical background to the war; however, this is not evident in the monograph despite a diversion on the subject because Sallust's priority in the Jugurthine War, as with the Catiline Conspiracy, is to use history as a vehicle for his judgement on the slow destruction of Roman morality and politics.

Other works

The extant fragments of the Histories (some discovered in 1886) show sufficiently well the political partisan, who took a keen pleasure in describing the reaction against Sulla's policy and legislation after the dictator's death. Historians regret the loss of the work, as it must have thrown much light on a very eventful period, embracing the war against Sertorius (died 72 BC), the campaigns of Lucullus against Mithradates VI of Pontus (75-66 BC), and the victories of Pompey in the East (66-62 BC).

Two letters (Duae epistolae de republica ordinanda), letters of political counsel and advice addressed to Caesar, and an attack upon Cicero (Invectiva or Declamatio in Ciceronem), frequently attributed to Sallust, are thought by modern scholars to have probably come from the pen of the rhetorician Marcus Porcius Latro, also the supposed author of a counter-invective attributed to Cicero.[2]


On the whole, antiquity looked favourably on Sallust as an historian. Tacitus speaks highly of him (Annals, iii. 30); and Quintilian does not hesitate to put him on a level with Thucydides (x.1), and declares that he is a greater historian than Livy (ii.5).

Sallust struck out for himself practically a new line in literature, his predecessors having functioned as little better than mere dry-as-dust chroniclers, whereas he endeavoured to explain the connection and meaning of events and successfully delineated character. The contrast between his early life and the high moral tone adopted by him in his writings has frequently made him a subject of reproach, but history gives no reason why he should not have reformed.

In any case, his knowledge of his own former weaknesses may have led him to take a pessimistic view of the morality of his fellow-men, and to judge them severely. He took as his model Thucydides, whom he imitated in his truthfulness and impartiality, in the introduction of philosophizing reflections and speeches, and in the brevity of his style, sometimes bordering upon obscurity. Some readers have ridiculed[citation needed] his fondness for old words and phrases (in which he imitated Cato the Elder) as an affectation, but this very affectation and his rhetorical exaggerations made Sallust a favourite author in the 2nd century and later.

Nietzsche, in Twilight of the Idols (Section 13.1) credits Sallust for his epigrammatic style: "My sense of style, for the epigram as a style, was awakened almost instantly when I came into contact with Sallust." and praises him for being "compact, severe, with as much substance as possible, a cold sarcasm against 'beautiful words' and 'beautiful sentiments'."


  1. ^ translated from Norwegian: Henrik Ibsens skrifter, Universitetet i Oslo - 2005
  2. ^ Smith, William (1867), "Latro, M. Porcius", in Smith, William, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, 2, pp. 726, 


  • Lemprière, John, A Classical Dictionary (1820), p. 683.
  • Oniga, Renato, Sallustio e l'etnografia (Pisa: Giardini, 1995).
  • Funari, R. (ed.). Corpus dei papiri storici greci e latini. Parte B. Storici latini. 1. Autori noti. Vol. 2 Caius Sallustius Crispus (Pisa ; Roma: Fabrizio Serra Editore, 2008).

External links

Latin with English translation
Latin only
  • at Latin Library (unknown edition):
    • Bellum Catilinae
    • Bellum Iugurthinum
    • Fragmenta Historiarum
    • Epistolae ad Caesarem
    • Invectiva in Ciceronem
English translation only

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Sallust — [sal′əst] (L. name Gaius Sallustius Crispus) 86 35? B.C.; Rom. historian …   English World dictionary

  • Sallust — /sal euhst/, n. (Caius Sallustius Crispus) 86 34 B.C., Roman historian. * * * Latin Gaius Sallustius Crispus born с 86 BC, Amiternum, Samnium died 35/34 BC Roman historian. Sallust probably had military experience before taking political office… …   Universalium

  • Sallust — Gaius Sallustius Crispus, deutsch Sallust (* 1. Oktober 86 v. Chr. in Amiternum; † 13. Mai 35 oder 34 v. Chr. in Rom) war ein römischer Geschichtsschreiber und Politiker. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Leben 2 Schriftstellerische Tätigkeit 3 …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Sallust — biographical name circa 86 35(or 34) B.C. Gaius Sallustius Crispus Roman historian & politician • Sallustian adjective …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Sallust — Sallụst,   lateinisch Gaius Sallụstius Crịspus, römischer Historiker, * Amiternum (heute San Vittorino, bei L Aquila) 86 v. Chr., ✝ Rom 35 (oder 34) v. Chr.; war 54 Quästor, 52 Volkstribun, wurde 50 wegen seines Lebenswandels (aber v. a. wohl… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • SALLUST —    Roman historian, born at Amiternum, in the territory of the Sabines, and attained the quæstorship and the tribunate, though a plebeian; for a misdemeanour was expelled the Senate; joined Cæsar s party in the Civil War, and became governor of… …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • SALLUST — Sallusti, Sallustus …   Abbreviations in Latin Inscriptions

  • Sallust — Sal•lust [[t]ˈsæl əst[/t]] n. anh big (Caius Sallustius Crispus) 86–34 b.c., Roman historian …   From formal English to slang

  • Sallust — /ˈsæləst/ (say saluhst) noun (Caius Sallustius Crispus), 86–34 BC, Roman historian and statesman; noted for his Cataline Conspiracy (43–42 BC) and War of Jugurtha (41–40 BC) …   Australian English dictionary

  • Sallust — Sal|lụst, Sal|lụs|ti|us (römischer Geschichtsschreiber) …   Die deutsche Rechtschreibung

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