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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces
The Invective against 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.
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 p503  An Invective against Sallustius Crispus
(attributed to Cicero)

1 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] It surely must be a great satisfaction to you, Gaius Sallustius, that you lead a life similar in all respects to your words, and that you say nothing so foul that your conduct from earliest childhood does not match it with every species of vice; so that your language is wholly consistent with your character. For neither can one who lives as you do speak otherwise than as you speak, nor can one who uses such filthy language be any more respectable in his life.

Whither shall I turn first, Fathers of the Senate, where shall I begin? For the more thoroughly you know each of us, the greater difficulty I find in addressing you; for if I defend my life and conduct against this slanderer, envy will result from boasting; or if I lay bare his conduct, character, and entire life, I shall be liable to the same charge of shamelessness that I bring against him. But in this if haply I should offend you, you ought more justly to be angry with him than with me, since he set the example.​1 2 I shall do my best to justify myself with the least possible vainglory, and to say nothing about him that is not true.

I realize, Fathers of the Senate, that my reply to his attack awakens no great expectations, since you are conscious that you can hear no new accusation against Sallust, but that you will merely pass in  p505 review all the old ones, with which your ears and mine, as well as his own, are burning. But you ought to hate the man all the more bitterly, because he did not begin with slight offences even at the outset of his career of crime, but at once set such a standard, that he could neither be outdone by anyone else nor even outdo himself during the remainder of his life. 3 Hence his only aim is to wallow in the mire with anyone and everyone. But he is very much mistaken. For no wanton words can remove the stains upon a life, but there are accusations which each one of us makes according to the testimony of his own mind. But if this man's life defies recollection,​2 you ought to examine it, Fathers of the Senate, not from a speech, but from his own character. I shall take care to be as brief as I possibly can, and this our war of words, Fathers of the Senate, will not be without profit to you; for as a rule the state is advanced by the quarrels of individuals, which allow the character of no citizen to be hidden.​a

2 4 Well then, to begin with, since Gaius Sallustius weights and measures the ancestors of all men according to the same standard and rule, I should like him to tell me whether those Scipios and Metelluses whom he cites had any renown or glory, before their own exploits and blameless lives commended them to notice. But if this was for them the beginning of repute and rank, why should the case not be similar with me, whose deeds are noble and whose life is well spent? As if you too, Sallust, were sprung from those heroes of old! If you were, some of them would now be sick at heart at your baseness. 5 I have outshone my ancestors in  p507 merit, so that if they were not known before, I would give them fame for the first time; but you by the base life which you have led have enveloped yours in thick darkness, so that even if they were once eminent citizens, they assuredly have fallen into oblivion. Do not then taunt me with the men of bygone days; for rather than depend upon the reputation of my forefathers, I prefer to win success by my own efforts, and to live in such fashion as to be for my posterity the beginning of their rank and an incentive to virtue.

It is not just, Fathers of the Senate, to compare me with those who have already passed away, and who are free from all hatred or envy; I should rather be matched against those who have been associated with me in public life. 6 If I have been too ambitious in seeking preferment (I do not refer to the ambition which aims at the good of the people, in which I admit that I have always been among the foremost, but to that ruinous and lawless kind in which Sallust is a leader), or if I have been so strict in administering the offices which I have held or in punishing evil-doing, or so vigorous in the defence of our country, that you, Sallust, call it a proscription (I suppose because not all who are like you were allowed to live in our city), yet in how much better condition would the state be if you, who are like those wicked citizens and on a par with them, had been numbered with them? 7 Did I speak falsely when I wrote, "Let arms give place to the toga," I who, clad in the toga, laid low armed men and put a peaceful end to war? Did I lie when I said, "Rome fortunate in my consul­ship," when I ended such a civil war and extinguished the fire of rebellion raging within our city?

 p509  3 1 Are you not ashamed, most inconsistent of men, to censure conduct for which you glorify me in your own histories? Is it more shameful, senators, to lie in writing or in open speech before this body? As to the charges which you have made against my life, I believe that I am as far from unchastity as you are from chastity.

8 But why should I make further complaint of your calumnies? For what falsehood would you consider shameful, when you have dared to make my eloquence an accusation against me, that eloquence whose protection you have always required because of your guilt? Or do you think that anyone can become an eminent citizen who has not been trained in these arts and studies? Do you think that there are any other elements and nursery of virtue in which the mind is trained to desire glory? But it is not to be marvelled at, Fathers of the Senate, if a man who is full of extravagance and sloth should express surprise at these pursuits as if they were new and unusual.

9 As for the unheard of virulence of your attacks upon my wife and daughter (who, women though they are, have more successfully avoided the attentions of men than you have those of your own sex) in assailing them you showed both cleverness and cunning. For you could not expect me to retaliate by attacking your family in turn, since you alone furnish enough material and have in your home nothing more shameful than yourself.​b

You are greatly mistaken, I think, if you hoped to rouse enmity against me because of the amount of my property, which in reality is much less than I deserve to have. Yet I could wish that it were not as great  p511 as it is, that my friends might still be alive, rather than that I should be the richer through their wills.3

10 Am I a runaway, Gaius Sallustius? I bowed to the madness of a tribune of the commons; I considered it more expedient to endure any lot as an individual, rather than be the cause of civil strife among the entire Roman people. And after that tribune had rioted out his year in public life, and all the disturbance which he had stirred up had subsided into peace and quiet, I returned at the summons of this assembly, my country herself leading me by the hand. To my mind, that day is the crowning glory of my whole life, when all my colleagues in the senate, and the Roman people in throngs, congratulated me on my return; so highly did these men rate me, the runaway and mercenary counsel.

4 1 11 And by Heaven! it is small wonder if I have always thought that I merited the friendship of all mankind; for I have not waited upon one person privately or made myself his slave, but every man was my friend or my foe according to the degree of his devotion to the commonwealth. My highest desire was peace; many men have fostered the reckless designs of individuals. I have feared nothing save the laws; many have wished their arms to be feared. I never coveted power except for your sakes; many even of your own number, relying upon their personal influence, have misused their power to do you harm. And so it is not surprising if I have enjoyed the friendship of no one who was not for all time the friend of our country. 12 Nor have I regret for having promised Vatinius my services when he was accused and appealed to me, for having checked the insolence of Sestius, censured  p513 the indifference of Bibulus, or applauded the valour of Caesar. For this last is the praise of an eminent citizen and is unique. If you charge it against me as a fault, it is your audacity that will be censured rather than my fault.

I would speak on, if I had to address others, Fathers of the Senate, and not you, whom I have always regarded as the prompters of all my acts. Moreover, when we have evidence of facts, what need is there for words?

5 13 I shall now return to you, Sallust, saying nothing of your father; for even if he never committed a sin in all his life, he could not have inflicted a greater injury upon his country than in begetting such a son. Nor shall I inquire into any sins of your boyhood, lest I may seem to criticize your father, who had full control of you at that time, but how you spent your youth. For if this be shown, it will readily be understood how vicious was the childhood which led up to a manhood so shameless and lawless. When the profit derived from your vile body could no longer suffice for your bottomless gullet, and when you were too old to endure what another's passion prompted, you were incited by an unbounded desire of trying upon others what you had not considered disgraceful to your own person. 14 Therefore, Fathers of the Senate, it is not easy to determine whether he acquired his property or squandered it with more dishonourable members.

He offered his father's house for sale while his father still lived. And can anyone doubt that he drove his sire to his death, when he made himself heir to all his property even before the decease of  p515 his parent? And yet he is not ashamed to ask me who lives in the house of Publius Crassus, when he himself is unable to answer the question who it is that lives in the house of his very father. Perhaps you may say (save the mark!) that he fell through the inexperience of youth and afterwards reformed. Not so! On the contrary, he became an associate in the sacrilege of Nigidius,​4 he was twice haled before the tribunal of a judge, he was all but condemned, and such was his escape, that he was not thought to be innocent, but the jurors to have committed perjury.

15 When he obtained the quaestor­ship as his first office, he brought contempt upon this place and upon this assembly, by showing that it was open even to him, the meanest of mankind. As a matter of fact, through fear that his crimes should not be known to you, although he was a reproach to the husbands of all our matrons, he pleaded guilty to adultery in your hearing and did not blush in your presence.

6 1 Be content, Sallust, with having lived as you pleased, and with having acted as you wished; be it enough that you alone are conscious of your guilt, and do not charge us with indifference and with too sound sleep. We are vigorous in defending the chastity of our wives, but were not sufficiently wide awake to guard against you. 16 Your audacity defeats our diligence. Can any reproach in word or deed, Fathers of the Senate, affect this man, who was not ashamed to confess adultery openly in your hearing? If I should decide to make no reply to  p517 you on my own account, but, to show what the law is, should read to this whole body the famous pronouncement​5 of those most irreproachable of men, Appius Claudius and Lucius Piso, in which they both concurred, should I not seem to brand you with ineffaceable stains, of which you could not rid yourself for the rest of your life? And after that revision of the senate​6 we saw you no more, unless haply you threw yourself into that camp into which all the dregs of the commonwealth had flowed.​7 17 But that same Sallust, who in time of peace could not even remain a senator, that same man after the republic was conquered by arms​8 was returned to the senate, through the medium of a quaestor­ship, by the same victor who recalled the exiles. That office he administered in such a manner that there was nothing connected with it which he did not offer for sale, provided any purchaser could be found for it; and he conducted himself as if he considered everything just and proper which he himself had desired to do, abusing his authority as completely as anyone might have done who had received the office by way of booty. 18 Having finished his quaestor­ship and having given heavy pledges to those with whom, because of their similar manner of life, he had joined himself, he now appeared to be one of that faction. For all belonged to a party into which, as into a common sewer, a flood of all the vices had flowed; what wantons, catamites, traitors, committers of sacrilege, and debtors were to be found in the city or in the free towns, in the colonies or in all Italy, were engulfed there as in a sea, abandoned and infamous  p519 characters, in no wise fit for a camp except in the licence of their vices and their love of disorder.

7 19 "But perhaps he conducted himself with moderation and integrity after he became a praetor." Not so; he so pillaged his province that our allies never suffered or looked for anything worse in time of war than they experienced during peace while he was governor of lower Africa. He drained from that province as much as could be carried off on credit or crammed into ships; he drained, I say, Fathers of the Senate, as much as he wished. He bargained with Caesar for twelve hundred thousand sesterces​9 that he should not be brought to trial. If any of these statements is false, refute it by telling us how it was that a man who a short time before could not even buy back his father's house, suddenly became rich beyond the dreams of avarice and acquired those precious gardens, and the Tiburtine residence of Gaius Caesar,​c and the rest of your possessions. 20 And were you not ashamed to ask why I had bought the house of Publius Crassus, when you were the old established master of the villa in which the master had once been Caesar? Tell me, I repeat, when you had, not devoured, but gorged your patrimony, by what means you suddenly became so prosperous and wealthy. Who, pray, made an heir of you, a man whom no one considered it respectable to have even for a friend, except of those who are like and similar to yourself?

8 21 But, good heavens! I suppose the great deeds of your ancestors exalt you, when it is true that if you resemble them or they resemble you,  p521 nothing can be added to the wickedness and baseness of all of them.

Perhaps it is your own political offices which make you insolent. Do you imagine, Gaius Sallustius, that to be twice a senator and twice a quaestor is the same thing as to be twice a consular and twice a triumphator?​10 One ought oneself to be wholly free from fault who is making ready to speak against another. He only has a right to utter reproaches who cannot hear a just reproach from another's lips. But you, the parasite of all tables, the harlot of all chambers in your youth and in later years their adulterer, are the disgrace of our whole order and a memory of the civil war. 22 For what worse affliction could we endure as a result of that strife than to see you reinstated in this assembly? Cease, then, to assail good men with your most wanton tongue, cease to make use of that disease of calumny from which you suffer, cease to measure all men by the standard of your own character. By such conduct you cannot gain a single friend; but you appear to wish to add to the number of your enemies.11

I shall cease speaking, Fathers of the Senate, for I have often seen men more grievously offend the minds of their hearers by descanting openly on others' crimes than by committing crimes themselves. I must therefore consider, not what Sallust ought by rights to hear, but how I may say what I have to say, if it is at all possible, in an honourable manner.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 That is, of talking of such matters.

2 Because his crimes are so many that no one could remember all of them.

3 Cicero tells us that he received over £200,000, about a million dollars, in bequests.

4 Referring to P. Nigidius Figulus, who, besides being the most learned Roman of his day next to Varro, was interested in the occult; see Suet. Aug. 94.5, and Hieron. Chron. yr. Abr. 1972 (= 45 B.C.), Nigidius Figulus, Pythagoricus et magus, moritur.

5 Their sentence and the speech in which they justified it.

6 Referring to the expulsion of many senators by Appius and Piso.

7 Namely Caesar's.

8 Referring to Caesar's supremacy.

9 See Index, s.v. sestertius.

10 The title applied to one who had been granted a triumph.

11 In the person of Cicero.

Thayer's Notes:

a Compare Plut. Ages. v.3‑4.

b It will be remembered that Sallust is said to have married Cicero's wife, and probably had no children (see Rolfe's introduction to Sallust, p. xii). Whoever wrote this hatchet job may have believed it; or then again that Sallust may not have married at all: which, from the emphasis on sodomy and the peculiar wealth management practices it entails (§ 14), I for my part suspect. In either case, though, our author was painted into a corner, and by necessity gives us instead the amusing image of a depraved old dragon sitting in his hole by himself.

c This is the only ancient reference to a Tiburtine villa belonging to Caesar. Ronald Syme (CQ 28:295) says it's a fabrication, attributing it to a confusion with that of Metellus Scipio mentioned by Cicero (Phil. 5.19 and ad Fam. 12.2.1).

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