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Sallust on medallion from the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Florence

Gaius Sallustius Crispus (German Sallust ; * October 1, 86 BC in Amiternum ; † May 13, 35 or 34 BC in Rome ) was a Roman historian and politician.


Sallust came from a good family from the Italian municipal nobility with a knight's census and enjoyed a solid education. As a young man he went to Rome to educate himself and pursue a political career. Sallust gives information about his early experiences there in the Proömium of the Coniuratio Catilinae : Like most of them, he was drawn into politics, where he confessed to being confronted with many repulsive things:

“Because instead of decency, restraint and efficiency, audacity, bribery and greed prevailed. And although my mind, not used to such bad machinations, abhorred them, my still tender age, spoiled by ambition, was held in the midst of such great vices. "

- Sallust, Catiline, 3.3-4

Of course, it remains questionable what truthfulness should be ascribed to such statements, especially considering his further life course: In the year 55 or 54 BC. He held the bursary and was then, as usual, admitted to the Senate . 52 BC He was elected tribune of the people and appeared as part of Caesar's against Cicero .

In the year 50 BC Sallust was kicked out of the Senate by the Censor Appius Claudius Pulcher . The reason was probably on the one hand the friendship with Caesar, who was in conflict with the Senate at the time, and on the other hand moral misconduct. From 49 BC He fought alongside Caesar in the civil war against Pompey , whose negative portrayal in his historical work later reproached him with Pompey Lenaeus . He was appointed praetor for the year 46 BC , either by dressing the bursar again or (more likely) as praetor- designate . In the Senate again. 46 BC After Caesar's victory in the battle of Thapsus , Sallust became the first proconsul (governor) of the new province of Africa Nova (Tunisia and Eastern Algeria). He is said to have shamelessly exploited his office and stolen great fortunes within a very short time. A lawsuit against him for exploitation in office could only be averted with the help of Caesar.

On his return to Rome, Sallust used his wealth to buy large estates on mons pincius (now Monte Pincio ) near the Spanish Steps and Via Sistina, the so-called Horti Sallustiani . The complex was so magnificent that emperors later resided there. He moved there after Caesar's murder in 44 BC. And devoted the last ten years of his life to writing.

A fragment of the Historiae Sallusts in a papyrus of the 2nd / 3rd centuries. Century. Manchester, John Rylands Library, Pap. 473

Writing activity

After retiring from politics, Sallust devoted himself to writing history and led it to its first climax in Latin. Following on from Greek traditions, he saw historiography as a work of art. For him the chronological presentation was unimportant, he paid just as little attention to the annalistic historiography as his Greek model, because correctness was of the greatest importance to him. He wanted to keep a detailed record of the events so that future politicians could learn from them. As with most Roman historians, his focus was on the tension and artistic design of the works. His role model was the Greek historian Thucydides , whose pessimistic view of man he shared, but who was clearly superior to him in terms of accuracy and intellectual penetration of the material.

Even in antiquity, Sallust was sometimes accused of being mendacious, as he was up to 44 BC. BC himself shamelessly enriched and is said to have participated in the political game of intrigue. At least the latter was not fundamentally denied by Sallust himself.

Judgments about the Sallustian style have already been passed down by ancient authors. Sun can be found in Gellius the praise, Sallust was "perhaps the most thorough master of brevity". As Suetonius testifies, the scholar Gaius Asinius Pollio expressed the criticism that Sallust's style was "spoiled by the exaggerated preference for ancient expressions" . These two opposing characterizations contain what Sallust's readers liked or disliked: the striving for short, but often not easy to understand wording because of the shortening, and the preference for archaisms , through which what is communicated the gravitas recommended by the rhetoric , the sound of the venerable and Sublime, who, however, does not always avoid the mannered with Sallust .

Typical of Sallust's expression are z. B .:

  • Declination forms that have become non-literary, such as quoius and quoiusque instead of cuius and cuiusque , aequom instead of aequum
  • the outdated, darker vowel coloring of certain word formations such as the superlative ending -issumus instead of -issimus , the -nd-forms like fallundi instead of fallingendi , some stem syllables like vorere instead of vertere
  • in verbs the use of the compound word instead of the verb simplex and vice versa
  • the frequent use of the historical infinitive instead of finite verb forms
  • the preference - in prose - for the alternative ending -ere instead of -erunt in the 3rd person plural of the perfect active (in poems this is almost the rule with other authors too)
  • extensive avoidance of the balanced sentence period and instead the continuation of the sentence with another construction ( inconsistency )
The beginning of Sallust's Bellum Iugurthinum with glosses in the manuscript Rome, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vaticanus Palatinus lat. 883, fol. 21r (12th century)


  1. De coniuratione Catilinae (On the Conspiracy of Catilina )
  2. De bello Iugurthino (About the war against Jugurtha )
  3. Historiae (History of the years 78 to 67 BC in five books, only a few fragments have survived, including some letters and speeches.)

Appendix Sallustiana : Works that were previously ascribed to Sallust, but are nowadays partly doubted in their authenticity by research:

  1. Two letters to Caesar (from 50 to 46 BC)
  2. Invectiva in Ciceronem (= invective against Marcus Tullius Cicero : human and political attacks against him in the form of a senate speech)

Text editions and translations

Text-critical editions without translation

Editions with translation

  • Sallust: works . Latin-German. Translated and edited by Wilhelm Schöne and Werner Eisenhut. Heimeran, Munich 1965 (several reprints, most recently Oldenbourg Akademieverlag, Munich 2011, ISBN 3-05-005402-6 ).
  • Sallust: works . Latin and German. In., Trans. and come by Thorsten Burkard . Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2010, ISBN 978-3-534-18129-2 .
  • C. Sallustius Crispus: Bellum Iugurthinum / The war with Jugurtha . Ed., Trans. and come by Josef Lindauer . Artemis & Winkler, Düsseldorf / Zurich 2003, ISBN 3-7608-1374-7 .
  • C. Sallustius Crispus: Bellum Iugurthinum / The war with Jugurtha . Ed. And transl. by Karl Büchner . Reclam, Stuttgart 1986, ISBN 978-3-15-000948-2 .
  • C. Sallustius Crispus: De coniuratione Catilinae / The Conspiracy of Catilina . Latin / German. Translated and edited by Karl Büchner. Reclam, Stuttgart 1986, ISBN 3-15-009428-3 .
  • Sallust: Historiae / contemporary history. Latin / German. Transl. And ed. by Otto Leggewie, Stuttgart 1975. ISBN 3-15-009796-7
  • C. Sallustius Crispus: Two political letters to Caesar . Ed. And transl. by Karl Büchner. Reclam, Stuttgart 1986, ISBN 978-3-15-007436-7 .


Web links

Commons : Sallust  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Sallust  - Sources and full texts
Wikisource: Gaius Sallustius Crispus  - Sources and full texts (Latin)
Wikiquote: Sallust  - Quotes


  1. Gellius , Noctes Atticae 3,1,6: [...] Sallustium vel subtilissimum brevitatis artificem
  2. Suetonius , De grammaticis et rhetoribus 10.1 [...] Asinius Pollio in libro, Sallustii quo scripta reprehendit ut nimia priscorum verborum adfectatione oblita