Wisdom from an ancient savant II

I was citing a passage from an ancient author to show how something written centuries back can still have relevance in our day and age. I had just furnished part of the passage…. here is the rest. All other things afterwards.

But when sloth has introduced itself in the place of industry,
and covetousness and pride in that of moderation and equity, the fortune
of a state is altered together with its morals; and thus authority is
always transferred from the less to the more deserving.

Even in agriculture,  in navigation, and in architecture, whatever
man performs owns the dominion of intellect. Yet many human beings,
resigned to sensuality and indolence, un-instructed and unimproved,
have passed through life like travellers in a strange country; to
whom, certainly, contrary to the intention of nature, the body was a
gratification, and the mind a burden. Of these I hold the life and
death in equal estimation; for silence is maintained concerning
both. But he only, indeed, seems to me to live, and to enjoy life,
who, intent upon some employment, seeks reputation from some ennobling
enterprise, or honorable pursuit.

But in the great abundance of occupations, nature points out different
paths to different individuals.

III. To act well for the Commonwealth is noble, and even to speak well for it is not without merit. Both in peace and in war it is possible to obtain celebrity; many who have acted, and many who have recorded the actions of others, receive their tribute of praise. And to me, assuredly, though by no means equal glory attends the narrator and the performer of illustrious deeds, it yet seems in the highest degree difficult to write the history of
great transactions; first, because deeds must be adequately
represented by words; and next, because most readers consider that
whatever errors you mention with censure, are mentioned through
malevolence and envy; while, when you speak of the great virtue and
glory of eminent men, every one hears with acquiescence only that
which he himself thinks easy to be performed; all beyond his own
conception he regards as fictitious and incredible.

This is from the beginning of De coniuratione Catilinae or Bellum Catilinae (The Conspiracy of Catiline or The Catiline War) – one of the most seminal points in the history of the Later Roman Republic –  by Roman historian and politician Gaius Sallustius Crispus, generally known simply as Sallust.

Sallust (86-34 BC) belonged to a well-known plebeian family from the Sabine country and began his political career as Quaestor in 55 and one of the Tribunes of the Plebs in 52.

From the beginning of his public career, Sallust operated as a decided partisan of Julius Caesar (thus indicating he had good judgement), 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 friendship with Caesar) but in the following year, 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, but committed such extortion that only the influence of Caesar enabled him to escape condemnation. On his return to Rome he retired from public life and devoted himself to historical literature and laying out in great splendour the famous gardens on the Quirinal known as the Horti Sallustiani (or Gardens of Sallust).

Unfortunately of all his works, the The Conspiracy of Catiline and Bellum Iugurthinum (The Jugurthine War) are all that survive in their entriety.

His larger and most important work Historiae, a history of Rome from 78-67 BC, only survives in fragments. What a great pity!


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