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This webpage reproduces
The Speech to Caesar

by
[ps‑Sallust]

published in the Loeb Classical Library,
1921 (revised 1931)

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though, please let me know!

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p445 Speech on the State,
Addressed to Caesar in His Later Years

(attributed to Sallust)

1 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] It was accounted true formerly that Fortune gave as gifts kingdoms and empires, as well as the other possessions which are eagerly coveted among mortal men; for they were often found in the hands of the undeserving, as if given capriciously, and they did not remain unspoiled in anyone's hands. 2 But experience has shown that to be true which Appius1 says in his verses, that every man is the architect of his own fortune; and this proverb is especially true of you, who have excelled others to such a degree that men are sooner wearied in singing the praises of your deeds than you in doing deeds worthy of praise. 3 But as the work of an architect, so the achievements of virtue ought to be guarded with all possible care, in order that they may not be injured by neglect or fall in ruins through weakness. 4 For no one willingly yields empire to another; and however virtuous and merciful one may be, one who has more power is nevertheless feared, since it is lawful for him to be wicked. 5 The reason for this is, that potentates for the most part have perverted ideas and think themselves the more strongly entrenched the greater the wickedness of their subjects.2 6 But on the contrary, this should be one's endeavour, to p447be virtuous and valiant oneself and rule over subjects the best possible; for the worst men most bitterly resent a ruler.

7 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] But for you it is harder than for all before you to administer your conquests, 8 because your war was more merciful than their peace. Moreover, the victors demand booty, the vanquished are fellow citizens. Amidst these difficulties you have to make your way, and strengthen the state for the future, not in arms only and against the enemy, but also in the kindly arts of peace, a task far, far thornier. 9 Therefore the situation calls upon all men, whether of great or of moderate wisdom, to offer you the best advice of which each is capable. 10 And this is my opinion: even as you use your victory, so will the whole future be.

2 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] But now, to enable you the better and more easily to arrange matters, let me give you in a few words what my mind prompts.

2 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] You waged war, Caesar, with a distinguished antagonist, of great prowess, greedy for power, but not wise so much as favoured by fortune. He was followed by a small party, those who were your enemies because of the wrongs they had done you3 and those whom relationship or some other tie had attached to him. 3 For no one of them had any share in his power, and if he had been able to brook a rival, the world would not have been convulsed by war.4 4 The rest took his side rather after the usual custom of the multitude than from p449deliberate choice, each man following his neighbour, as if he were wiser than himself. 5 At the same time, the slanders of unfair critics inspired men whose whole lives were stained with infamy and debauchery with the hope of getting control of the state. They accordingly flocked into your camp and openly threatened peaceable citizens with death, robbery, in short, with everything that a perverted mind could imagine. 6 The greater number of these, however, when they saw that there was no repudiation of debts and that you did not treat your fellow citizens as enemies, gradually dispersed; a few remained, expecting to find more repose in your camp than in Rome, so great was the throng of creditors that there awaited them. 7 But an enormous number of prominent men afterwards went over to Pompey from those same motives, and debtors during the whole course of the war found in him a sacred and inviolable asylum.

3 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Therefore, since you must deal as victor with both war and peace, in order that you may end the one in the spirit of a good citizen, and make the other as just and as lasting as possible, first consider what your own conduct should be, since the settlement of the state is your task. 2 For my own part, I believe that a cruel rule is always more bitter than lasting, and that no one is fearful to the many but fear from the many recoils upon his own head; that such a life is engaged in an eternal and dangerous warfare, in which there is no safety in front, in the rear, or on the flanks, but always peril or fear. 3 On the contrary, those who have tempered their rule with kindness and mercy have found everything happy and p451prosperous; even their enemies are more friendly than their countrymen to others.

4 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Probably some will declare that with these words I am the ruiner of your victory, and that I am too well disposed towards the vanquished. Doubtless because I believe that the same privileges which we and our forefathers have often granted to foreign nations, our natural enemies, ought to be allowed to our fellow citizens, and that murder should not, after the manner of barbarians, be atoned for by murder, and blood by blood.

4 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Or has oblivion destroyed the murmurs which, a short time before this war, were directed against Gnaeus Pompeius and the victory of Sulla; when it was said that Domitius, Carbo, Brutus and others were slain, not in arms nor in battle according to the laws of war, but afterwards with the utmost barbarity, while they were begging for mercy; and that the Roman commons were slaughtered like so many cattle in the Villa Publica?5 2 Alas! before your victory was won, how savage and cruel were the secret deaths of citizens and their sudden murder, the flight of women or boys to the bosom of their parents or children, and the devastation of homes! 3 It is to such atrocities that these same men are urging you, declaring indeed that the purpose of the contest was to determine which of you two should have the right to commit outrages, and maintaining that you did not restore the state, but took it captive. It was for this reason, these men say, that after finishing their term of service p453the best and oldest soldiers of our armies6 contended in battle against their brothers and parents; namely, that through others' woes the worst of men might acquire the means to gratify their belly and their fathomless lust, and be a disgrace to your victory by staining with their crimes the patriot's glory. 4 For I think you did not fail to observe with what manners and discipline each one of them conducted himself while the victory was even then uncertain; and while directing the war how some of them gave themselves up to harlots or gluttony, whose age could not touch upon such pleasures without disgrace even in time of peace.

5 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Of war enough has been said. Since it is peace that you and all your followers are planning to establish, first, I pray you, consider what the aim is which you have in view; in that way, after separating the good from the evil, you will open a broad highway to the truth. 2 My own opinion is this: since everything which has a beginning must also have an end, when the day destined for the destruction of Rome shall come, citizen will battle with citizen; that thus worn out and enfeebled, they will fall a prey to some king or nation. Otherwise not the whole world, nor all the nations banded together, can move or crush this empire. 3 You must establish therefore even harmony with all its blessings, and cast out the evils of discord. 4 And this can be done, if you will check the frenzied indulgence in extravagance and pillage, not by calling men back to the old standards, which from the corruption of our morals have long since become a farce, but by fixing the amount of each man's income as the limit of his expenditure. 5 For it has become the custom p455for mere youths to think it a fine thing to waste their own substance and that of others, to refuse nothing to their own lust and the demands of their fellows, to regard such conduct as evidence of manliness and high spirit, but to consider modesty and self-restraint as cowardice. 6 Therefore the headstrong spirit, entering upon the wrong course, when he finds his habits no longer supplied hurls himself madly now upon our allies and now upon the citizens, subverts the established order of things, and is eager for a revolution.7 7 We must therefore for the future rid ourselves of the moneylender, to the end that each one of us may take care of his own property. 8 This is the only right way to administer a magistracy for the people and not for the creditor, and to show greatness of soul by enriching the state, not by pillaging it.

6 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] I am well aware how objectionable this step will be at first, especially to those who expected to find in the hour of victory or licence and freedom than restraint. But if you have regard to the welfare of such men rather than to their desires, you will establish both them and us, along with our allies, upon a solid foundation of peace. But if our youth continue to have the same desires and habits as at present, beyond doubt that eminent renown of yours will come to a speedy end, along with the city of Rome.

2 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Finally, wise men wage war only for the sake of peace and endure toil in the hope of quiet; unless you bring about a lasting peace, what mattered victory or defeat? 3 Therefore, I conjure you by the gods, take the commonwealth in hand and surmount all difficulties, as you always do. 4 For either you can p457cure our ills, or else all must give up the attempt. No one, however, urges you to cruel punishments or harsh sentences, by which our country is rather ravaged than corrected, but rather to keep depraved practices and evil passions far from our youth. 5 True mercy will consist in taking care that citizens may not deserve to be banished from their country, in keeping them from folly and deceptive pleasures, in establishing peace and harmony; not in being indulgent to crime and tolerant of offences, and in allowing them a temporary gratification at the expense of inevitable evil in the near future.

7 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] And for my own part, the things which cause fear to others give me a special confidence; I mean the greatness of the task and the fact that you have the whole world to set in order by land and sea. For a mind as great as yours could not touch small matters, and great responsibilities have great rewards. 2 Therefore you ought to provide that the commons, who are demoralized by largess and by the free distribution of grain, shall have their occupations, by which they may be kept from public mischief; and that our young men may cultivate honesty and industry, not extravagance and the pursuit of wealth. 3 This will come to pass, if you deprive money, which is the root of all evil, of its advantage and honour. 4 For when I have meditated, as I often do, on the means by which various eminent men acquired greatness, and have asked myself what it is that has greatly advanced peoples and nations, and then have inquired what causes have brought about the downfall of kingdoms and empires, I invariably found the same virtues and the same vices: that the victors always despised riches, the p459vanquished coveted them. 5 In fact, a mortal cannot exalt himself and draw near to the gods unless he cast away the delights of wealth and bodily pleasure, and invite his soul, not by flattery, by indulging its desires, by allowing it a perverse gratification, but by exercising it in labour, in patience, in virtuous precepts and in meritorious deeds.

8 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] In fact, to build a mansion or a country house, to adorn it with statues, tapestries, and other works of art, to make everything in it better worth seeing than its owner, is not to make one's riches an honour, but to be a disgrace to one's own riches. 2 Moreover, when those whose habit it is to overload their stomachs twice a day, and to pass no night without a harlot, have enslaved the mind, which ought to have ruled, it is vain for them to hope to find it ready for action after they have dulled and crippled it. 3 For folly ruins most things, and even itself. But these and all other evils will come to an end with the worship of money, when neither magistracies nor any of the other things which the vulgar desire are for sale.

4 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Besides this, you must prove that Italy and the provinces may be safer, which it is not difficult to accomplish; 5 for it is these same men who commit devastation everywhere, by abandoning their own homes and wrongfully appropriating those of others. 6 You must also provide that military service may not be unjust and unequal, as it has been hitherto, when some serve thirty campaigns and some none at all. It will be right too that the grain which was once made the reward of idleness be taken to the free towns and colonies and distributed to those soldiers who have returned to their homes after having served their time.

p461 7 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] I have set forth in the fewest possible words the conduct which I think will benefit our country and bring glory to you. 8 It now seems in place to say a word or two about my act.8 9 Most men have, or pretend to have, sufficient ability to sit in judgment; indeed, all are so eager to censure the doings or sayings of other men that hardly any mouth is sufficiently open,9 or any tongue sufficiently ready, to give utterance to the thoughts of their hearts. I do not regret having subjected myself to the criticism of such men; I should feel more regret for having kept silence. 10 For whether you take this course or some better one, I shall have the consciousness of having advised and aided you to the best of my ability. It only remains to pray that the immortal gods may approve your decision and grant it a happy issue.


The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Appius Claudius Caecus, consul in 307 B.C., the earliest Roman writer known to us. He composed Sententiae in the Saturnian measure in imitation of the "Golden Verses" of Pythagoras; see Cic. Tusc. Disp. 4.2.4.

2 See Cat. vii.1; Pliny, Paneg. 45.

3 cf. Tacitus, Agr. 42, proprium humani ingenii est odisse quem laeseris.

4 cf. Lucan, Pharsalia, 1.125:

Nec quemquam iam ferre potest Caesarve priorem

Pompeiusve parem.

5 A building in the Campus Martius, the headquarters of state officials when taking the census or levying troops. In it were lodged foreign ambassadors and generals applying for the honour of a triumph; here Sulla massacred the 4,000 prisoners taken in the battle at the Colline Gate; see Platner, Topogr. of Rome, p345.º

6 The evocati, reservists or volunteer veterans.

For details, see the article Evocati in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.

7 The text is corrupt and the meaning consequently uncertain.

8 Namely, the motives which have led me to give you advice.

9 That is, apparently, can be quickly enough opened.


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Page updated: 28 Apr 09