Gaius Sallustius Crispus, usually anglicised as Sallust (/ˈsæləst/; 86 – c. 35 BC),[1] was a Roman historian and politician from an Italian plebeian family. Sallust was born at Amiternum in the country of the Sabines and was a popularis, an opponent of the old Roman aristocracy, throughout his career, and later a partisan of Julius Caesar. Sallust is the earliest known Roman historian with surviving works to his name, of which Catiline's War (about the conspiracy in 63 BC of L. Sergius Catilina), The Jugurthine War (about Rome's war against the Numidian King Jugurtha from 111 to 105 BC), and the Histories (of which only fragments survive) are still extant. Sallust was primarily influenced by the Greek historian Thucydides and amassed great (and ill-gotten) wealth from his governorship of Africa.[2]

Life and career

Sallust was probably born in Amiternum in Central Italy,[3][4][5] though Eduard Schwartz takes the view that Sallust's birthplace was Rome.[6] His birth date is calculated from the report of Jerome's Chronicon.[7] But Ronald Syme suggests that Jerome's date has to be adjusted because of his carelessness,[7] and suggests 87 BC as a more correct date.[7] However, Sallust's birth is widely dated at 86 BC,[4][8][9] and the Kleine Pauly Encyclopedia takes 1 October 86 BC as the birthdate.[10] Michael Grant cautiously offers 80s BC.[5]

There is no information about Sallust's parents or family,[11] except for Tacitus' mention of his sister.[12] The Sallustii were a provincial noble family of Sabine origin.[4][5][13] They belonged to the equestrian order and had full Roman citizenship.[4] During the Social War Sallust’s parents hid in Rome, because Amiternum was under threat of siege by rebelling Italic tribes.[14] Because of this Sallust could have been raised in Rome[11] He received a very good education.[4]

After an ill-spent youth, Sallust entered public life and may have won election as quaestor in 55 BC. However, there is no conclusive evidence about this, and some scholars suppose that Sallust did not become a quaestor — the practice of violating the cursus honorum was common in the last years of the Republic.[5][15][16] He became a Tribune of the Plebs in 52 BC, the year in which the followers of Milo killed Clodius in a street brawl. Sallust then supported the prosecution of Milo. Sallust, Titus Munatius Plancus and Quintus Pompeius Rufus also tried to blame Cicero, one of the leaders of the Senators' opposition to the triumvirate, for his support of Milo.[17] Syme suggests that Sallust, because of his position in Milo's trial, did not originally support Caesar.[18] T. Mommsen states that Sallust acted in Pompey's interests (according to Mommsen, Pompey was preparing to install his own dictatorship).[19]

According to one inscription, some Sallustius (with unclear praenomen) was a proquaestor in Syria in 50 BC under Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus.[20] Mommsen identified this Sallustius with Sallust the historian, though T. R. S. Broughton argued that Sallust the historian could not have been an assistant to Julius Caesar's adversary.[21]

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 BC, 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.

During the Civil War of 49–45 BC Sallust acted as Caesar's partisan, but his role was not significant, so his name is not mentioned in the dictator's Commentarii de Bello Civili.[22] It was reported that Sallust dined with Caesar, Hirtius, Oppius, Balbus and Sulpicius Rufus on the night after Caesar's famous crossing of the Rubicon river into Italy on 10 January.[23] In 49 BC Sallust was moved to Illyricum and probably commanded at least one legion there after the failure of Publius Cornelius Dolabella and Gaius Antonius.[10][22] This campaign was unsuccessful.[22] In 48 BC he was probably made quaestor by Caesar to re-enter the Senate.[10] However, the last statement is based on the "Invective against Sallust" ascribed to Cicero,[24] which is probably a later forgery. In late summer 47 BC a group of soldiers rebelled near Rome, demanding their discharge and payment for service. Sallust, as praetor designatus, with several other senators, was sent to persuade the soldiers, but the rebels killed two senators, and Sallust narrowly escaped death.[25][26] In 46 BC, 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. Sallust did not participate in military operations directly, but he commanded several ships and organized supply through the Kerkennah Islands. As a reward for his services, Sallust was appointed governor of the province of Africa Nova — it is not clear why: Sallust was not a skilled general, and the province was militarily significant, with three legions deployed there. Moreover, his successors as governor were experienced military men. However, Sallust successfully managed the organization of supply and transportation, and these qualities could have determined Caesar's choice.[27] As governor he committed such oppression and extortion that only Caesar's influence 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 developed his Gardens, upon which he spent much of his accumulated wealth. According to Hieronymus Stridonensis, Sallust later became the second husband of Cicero's ex-wife Terentia.[28] However prominent scholars of Roman prosopography such as Ronald Syme refute this as a legend.[29]


Sallust's account of the Catiline conspiracy (De coniuratione Catilinae or Bellum Catilinae) and of the Jugurthine War (Bellum Jugurthinum) 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 BC. 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. (Catiline had supported the party of Sulla, whom Sallust had opposed.) Mommsen has suggested that Sallust particularly wished to clear his patron (Caesar) of all complicity in the conspiracy.

In writing about the conspiracy of Catiline, Sallust's tone, style, and descriptions of aristocratic behavior show that he was 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 to show off his rhetoric at the expense of the old Roman aristocracy, whose degeneracy he delighted to paint in the blackest colours.

The work probably was written between 44 and 40 BC,[30] or between 42 and 41 BC according to Der Kleine Pauly.[10] However, Louis MacKay proposed a different dating. According to him, The Conspiracy was prepared by Sallust in 50 BC as a political pamphlet, but was not published; after the Civil War Sallust reviewed and finally published it.[31]

The work does not have any traces of personal experience, and the most common explanation is Sallust's military service during this period.[32] The main source for this work is De Consulatu Suo by Cicero.[33]

Jugurthine War

Sallust's Jugurthine War is a 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 come from the pen of a rhetorician of the first century AD, along with a counter-invective attributed to Cicero. At one time Marcus Porcius Latro was considered a candidate for the authorship of the pseudo-Sallustian corpus, but this view is no longer commonly held.[34]


The style of works written by Sallust was well known in Rome. It differs from the writings of his contemporaries — Caesar and especially Cicero. It is characterized by brevity and by the use of rare words and turns of phrase. As a result, his works are very far from the conversational Latin of his time.[35]

Consider his use of archaic words. According to Suetonius, Lucius Ateius Praetextatus (Philologus) helped Sallust to collect them.[36] Ronald Syme suggests that Sallust's choice of style and even particular words was influenced by his antipathy to Cicero, his rival, but also one of the trendsetters in Latin literature in the first century BC.[37] "The Conspiracy of Catiline" reflects many features of style that were developed in his later works.[38]

Sallust avoids common words from public speeches of contemporary Roman political orators, such as honestas, humanitas, consensus.[39] In several cases he uses rare forms of well-known words: for example, lubido instead of libido, maxumum instead of maximum, the conjunction quo in place of more common ut. He also uses the less common endings -ere instead of common -erunt in the third person plural in the perfect indicative, and -is instead of -es in the accusative plural for third declension (masculine or feminine) adjectives and nouns. Some words used by Sallust (for example, antecapere, portatio, incruentus, incelebratus, incuriosus), are not known in other writings before him. They are believed to be either neologisms or intentional revivals of archaic words.[40] Sallust also often uses antithesis, alliterations and chiasmus.[41]


On the whole, antiquity looked favourably on Sallust as a historian. Tacitus speaks highly of him (Annals, iii.30); and Quintilian does not hesitate to put him on a level with Thucydides, and declares that he is a greater historian than Livy. Martial joins the praise: "Sallust, according to the judgment of the learned, will rank as the prince of Roman historiographers".[42]

His books were sometimes used by authors of the first and second centuries AD, especially after imitations of archaic style gained popularity. Among those who borrowed information from his works were Silius Italicus, Lucan, Plutarch, and Ammianus Marcellinus.[43][44] Fronto used ancient words collected by Sallust to provide "archaic coloring" for his works.[45] In the second century AD Zenobius translated his works into Ancient Greek.[43]

Other opinions were also present. For example, Gaius Asinius Pollio criticized Sallust's addiction to archaic words and his unusual grammatical features.[46] Aulus Gellius saved Pollio's unfavorable statement about Sallust's style. According to him, Sallust once used the word transgressus meaning generally "passage [by foot]" for a platoon which crossed the sea (the usual word for this type of crossing was transfretatio).[47] Though Quintilian has a generally favorable opinion of Sallust, he disparages several features of his style:

For though a diffuse irrelevance is tedious, the omission of what is necessary is positively dangerous. We must therefore avoid even the famous terseness of Sallust (though in his case of course it is a merit), and shun all abruptness of speech, since a style which presents no difficulty to a leisurely reader, flies past a hearer and will not stay to be looked at again.[48]

Sallust struck out practically a new line in literature for himself: his predecessors had been little better than mere dry-as-dust chroniclers, but 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 he adopted 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 philosophical reflections and speeches, and in the brevity of his style, sometimes bordering upon obscurity.

During the Late Antiquity and Early Middle Ages his works retained their popularity, and some influential early Christian theologists (Marcus Minucius Felix and Augustine of Hippo) knew his writings well.[43][49] In the Middle Ages Sallust's works were often used in schools to teach Latin. His brief style influenced, among others, Widukind of Corvey and Wipo of Burgundy.[49] In the thirteenth century Sallust's passage on the expansion of the Roman Republic (Cat. 7) was cited and interpreted by theologian Thomas Aquinas and scholar Brunetto Latini.[50] During the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance Sallust's works began to influence political thought in Italy. Among many scholars and historians interested in Sallust, the most notable are Leonardo Bruni, Coluccio Salutati and Niccolo Machiavelli.[51] Petrarch also praised Sallust highly, though he primarily appreciated his style and moralization.[52] During the French Wars of Religion, De coniuratione Catilinae became widely known as a tutorial on disclosing conspiracies.[53] Among his admirers in England were Thomas More, Alexander Barclay and Thomas Elyot.[54] Justus Lipsius marked Sallust as the second most notable Roman historian after Tacitus.[55]

Nietzsche credits Sallust in Twilight of the Idols[56] 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'." Henrik Ibsen's first play was Catiline, based on Sallust's story.[49]


Several manuscripts of his works survived due to his popularity in Antiquity and the Middle Ages.

Manuscripts of his writings are usually divided into two groups: mutili (mutilated) and integri (whole; undamaged). The classification is based on the existence of the lacuna (gap) between 103.2 and 112.3 of the Jugurthine War. The lacuna exists in the mutili scrolls, while integri manuscripts have the text there. The most ancient scrolls which survive are the Codex Parisinus 16024 and Codex Parisinus 16025, known as "P" and "A" respectively. They were created in the ninth century, and both belong to the mutili group.[57] Both these scrolls include only Catiline and Jugurtha, while some other mutili manuscripts also include Invective and Cicero's response.[58] The oldest integri scrolls were created in the eleventh century AD.[59] The probability that all these scrolls came from one or more ancient manuscripts is debated.[60]

There is also a unique scroll Codex Vaticanus 3864, known as "V". It includes only speeches and letters from Catiline, Jugurtha and Histories.[57] The creator of this manuscript changed the original word order and replaced archaisms with more familiar words.[57] The "V" scroll also includes two anonymous letters to Caesar probably from Sallust,[57] but their authenticity is debated (see above).

Several fragments of Sallust's works survived in papyri of the second to fourth centuries AD. Many ancient authors cited Sallust, and sometimes their citations of Histories are the only source for reconstruction of this work. But the significance of these citations for the reconstruction is uncertain, because occasionally the authors cited Sallust from memory, and some distortions were possible.[61]


  • The Conspiracie of Cateline and The Warre of Jugurth (trans. Thomas Heywood, 1608). New York: AMS Press, 1967 (among other modern printings).
  • Loeb Classical Library, Vol. 116 (trans. J.C. Rolfe). Cambridge, MA: HUP, 1921.
  • Catiline's War, the Jugurthine War, Histories (trans. A.J. Woodman). London: Penguin, 2007 (ISBN 0140449485). (Page xxvii, "When Sallust died, probably in 35...")
  • Catiline's Conspiracy, The Jugurthine War, Histories (trans. William W. Batstone). Oxford: OUP, 2010 (ISBN 9780192823458).

See also


  1. Woodman, A.J. (2007). Catiline's War, the Jugurthine War, Histories. London: Penguin. p. xxvii. ISBN 0140449485. When Sallust died, probably in 35.
  2. Woodman, Catiline's War, the Jugurthine War, Histories, p. xxvii
  3. Syme, R. (1964) Sallust. University of California Press. p. 7
  4. Mellor, R. J. (1999) The Roman historians. Routledge. p. 30
  5. Grant, M. (1995) Greek and Roman historians: information and misinformation. Routledge. P. 13
  6. Syme, R. (1964) Sallust. University of California Press. p. 15. R. Syme provides an analysis of the hypothesis
  7. Syme, R. (1964) Sallust. University of California Press. p. 13
  8. (in Russian) Альбрехт, М. (2002) История римской литературы [Istoriya Rimskoy Literatury], Т. 1. Греко-латинский кабинет. С. 480
  9. (in Russian) Горенштейн, В. О. (1981) Гай Саллюстий Крисп. Сочинения. Наука. С. 148
  10. Schmidt, P. L. "Sallustius (4)", Der Kleine Pauly. Bd. IV. Sp. 1513
  11. Syme, R. (1964) Sallust. University of California Press. P. 14
  12. Tacitus. Annales, III.30.3
  13. Syme, R. (1964) Sallust. University of California Press. p. 9
  14. Syme, R. (1964) Sallust. University of California Press. p. 12
  15. Syme, R. (1964) Sallust. University of California Press. p. 28
  16. Earl D. C. "The Early Career of Sallust", Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte, 15 (1966), p. 306
  17. (Asc. Mil., 20 (37)) Asconius Pedianus. Commentary on Pro Milone, 20 (37)
  18. Syme, R. (1964) Sallust. University of California Press. p. 29
  19. Моммзен, Т. (2005) История Рима. Т. 3. Наука. С. 223
  20. Broughton, T. R. S. (1952) Magistrates of the Roman Republic, Vol. 2. American Philological Association. P. 242
  21. Broughton, T. R. S. (1952) Magistrates of the Roman Republic, Vol. 2. American Philological Association. P. 247
  22. Syme, R. (1964) Sallust. University of California Press. P. 36
  23. Dando-Collins, Stephan (2002). The Epic Saga of Julius Caesars Tenth Legion and Rome. p. 67. ISBN 0-471-09570-2.
  24. Broughton, T. R. S. (1952) Magistrates of the Roman Republic, Vol. 2. American Philological Association. p. 274
  25. (App. B. C., II, 92) Appian. Roman history. Civil wars, II, 92
  26. (Cass. Dio, XLII, 52) Cassius Dio. Roman history, XLII, 52
  27. Syme, R. (1964) Sallust. University of California Press. p. 37
  28. Hieronymus. Adversus Jovinianum Libri Duo, I, 48: "Illa [Terentia] […] nupsit Sallustio" Read online:
  29. Syme, Roland (1978). "Sallust's Wife". The Classical Quarterly. 28 (2). JSTOR 638680.
  30. Mellor, R. (1999) The Roman historians. Routledge. P. 32
  31. MacKay, L. A. "Sallust's Catiline: Date and Purpose", Phoenix, 16 (1962), p. 190
  32. Earl D. C. The Early Career of Sallust // In: Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte. Vol. 15, No. 3. 1966. P. 307-309
  33. MacKay, "Sallust's Catiline: Date and Purpose", p. 183
  34. Smith, William (1867), "Latro, M. Porcius", in Smith, William (ed.), Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, 2, Stefano Ciufferpebble, p. 726
  35. (in Russian) Альбрехт, М. (2002) История римской литературы, Т. 1. Греко-латинский кабинет. С. 494
  36. (Suet. Gram. 10) Suetonius. On Famous Grammarians and Rhetoricians, 10
  37. Syme, (1964) Sallust. University of California Press. p. 257
  38. Syme, (1964) Sallust. University of California Press. p. 266
  39. (in Russian) Альбрехт, М. (2002) История римской литературы, Т. 1. Греко-латинский кабинет. С. 493
  40. McGushin, P. Bellum Catilinae: A Commentary. Brill Archive, 1977. p. 19
  41. (in Russian) Горенштейн, В. О. (1981) Гай Саллюстий Крисп. Сочинения. Москва: Наука. С. 161
  42. (Mart. XIV, 191) Martial. Epigrams, XIV, 191: Hic erit, ut perhibent doctorum corda virorum, // Primus Romana Crispus in historia.
  43. (in Russian) Альбрехт, М. (2002) История римской литературы, Т. 1. Греко-латинский кабинет. С. 504
  44. Rawson E. Sallust on the Eighties? // In: The Classical Quarterly, New Series, Vol. 37, No. 1 (1987). P. 164
  45. (in Russian) Тронский, И. М. (1946) История античной литературы Ленинград: Учпедгиз. С. 47
  46. (Suet. Gram. 10) Suetonius. On Famous Grammarians and Rhetoricians, 10
  47. Gellius. Noctes Atticae, X, 26
  48. (Quint. Inst. IV, 44-45) Quintilian, Institio Oratoria, IV, 44-45
  49. (in Russian) Альбрехт, М. (2002) История римской литературы, Т. 1. Греко-латинский кабинет. С. 505
  50. Osmond P. J. "Princeps historiae Romanae: Sallust in Renaissance political thought", Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome 40 (1995), p. 104
  51. Osmond P. J. "Princeps historiae Romanae: Sallust in Renaissance political thought", Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome, 40 (1995), p. 107ff.
  52. Osmond P. J. "Princeps historiae Romanae: Sallust in Renaissance political thought", Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome, 40 (1995), p. 106
  53. Osmond P. J. "Princeps historiae Romanae", p. 121
  54. Osmond P. J. "Princeps historiae Romanae", p. 120
  55. Osmond P. J. "Princeps historiae Romanae: Sallust in Renaissance political thought", p. 101
  56. Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols, s. 13.1
  57. Ramsey, J. T. (2007) Sallust’s Bellum Catilinae. 2nd Ed. New York—Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 14
  58. Rolfe J. C. "Introduction", Sallust. Loeb Classical Library p. XVIII
  59. Ramsey J. T. (2007) Sallust’s Bellum Catilinae. 2nd Ed. New York—Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 26
  60. (in Russian) Альбрехт, М. (2002) История римской литературы, Т. 1. Греко-латинский кабинет. С. 502
  61. Ramsey J. T. (2007) Sallust's Bellum Catilinae, 2nd ed. New York—Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 15

Further reading

  • Aili, H. The Prose Rhythm of Sallust and Livy. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1979.
  • Chisholm, H., ed. "Sallust". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press, 1911.
  • Drummond, A. Law, Politics and Power: Sallust and the Execution of the Catilinarian Conspirators. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 1995.
  • Earl, D. C. The Political Thought of Sallust. Amsterdam: Hakkert, 1961.
  • Funari, R., ed. Corpus dei papiri storici greci e latini. Parte B. Storici latini. 1. Autori noti. Vol. 2 Caius Sallustius Crispus. Pisa & Rome: Fabrizio Serra Editore, 2008.
  • Hartswick, K. J. The Gardens of Sallust. A Changing Landscape. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2004.
  • Latte, K. Sallust. Leipzig: Teubner, 1935.
  • Lemprière, J. A Classical Dictionary. London: Cadell & Davies, 1820; p. 683.
  • Oniga, R. Sallustio e l'etnografia. Pisa: Giardini, 1995.
  • Osmond, P. J. "Princeps Historiae Romanae: Sallust in Renaissance Political Thought", Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome 40 (1995), pp. 101–143.
  • Renehan, R. "A Traditional Pattern of Imitation in Sallust and his Sources", Classical Philology 71 (1976), pp. 97–105.
  • Scanlon, T. Spes Frustrata: A Reading of Sallust. Heidelberg: Winter, 1987.
  • Scanlon, T. The Influence of Thucydides on Sallust. Heidelberg: Winter, 1980.
  • Syme, R. Sallust. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1964.
  • Woodman, A. J. Rhetoric in Classical Historiography. London: Croom Helm, 1988.
Latin with English translation
Latin only
  • at Latin Library (unknown edition):
    • Bellum Catilinae
    • Bellum Jugurthinum
    • Fragmenta Historiarum
    • Epistolae ad Caesarem
    • Invectiva in Ciceronem
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