Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2015.10.05 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2015.10.05

Antonio La Penna, Rodolfo Funari, C. Sallusti Crispi Historiae I: fragmenta 1.1-146. Texte und Kommentare, Bd 51.   Berlin; Boston:  De Gruyter, 2015.  Pp. 387.  ISBN 9783110195668.  €139.95.  

Reviewed by Jennifer Gerrish, College of Charleston (

Table of Contents

Sallust's Historiae have long been treated as an afterthought by modern scholars, obscured in the shadow of the monographs on Catiline and Jugurtha. This is not due to the work's lack of intrinsic interest: the 70s and 60s BCE provided rich material in the war with Sertorius, the Spartacus revolt, the war with Mithridates VI, and Pompey's campaign against the pirates. The fragmentary state of the Historiae is a more likely culprit for the scholarly squeamishness toward Sallust's third and final project. Studies of the work have been piecemeal and un-coordinated, and until now we have lacked a truly comprehensive text and commentary. Reading the Historiae has thus required separate volumes for each aspect of the work: Maurenbrecher's standard edition (perhaps supplemented by Reynolds' textually superior but incomplete OCT), Funari's edition with grammatical/lexical commentary and full testimonia, and McGushin's English translation and political/historical commentary.1 With this edition, La Penna and Funari aim to bring all these threads together into one comprehensive resource, and, presumably, to produce something that is greater than the sum of its parts. On the first count, this book achieves its aim. The editors are less successful on the second count, but this is still a welcome and valuable addition to the Sallustian bibliography.

The book's content is clearly arranged and includes all the expected components. The prolegomena by La Penna (pp.1-42) provide an overview of the sources of indirect transmission of the fragments of the Historiae. La Penna also gives a short history of previous editions. Additional introductory sections (pp. 43-49) explain the direct transmission of the orationes and epistulae, and summarize the content of the Historiae in general and Book One in more detail. The text (with apparatus) and commentary (pp. 53-354) comprise the bulk of the book, and are discussed below. La Penna has also included an Italian translation (pp. 103-117). A helpful tabula comparationis gives Maurenbrecher and McGushin's fragment numbers alongside La Penna's.

Since its publication more than a century ago, Maurenbrecher's edition of the fragments has been the generally accepted edition. La Penna is right that it is time for an update (as he first argued in the 1960s). Although Maurenbrecher's text is left largely unchallenged here (“Nella critica del testo il Maurenbrecher è filologo esperto,” 40), the editors propose several modifications to Maurenbrecher's arrangement of the fragments. La Penna previously published proposals for rearranging the fragments,2 and at last has taken the opportunity to incorporate his modifications into a complete edition (this volume is the first of a series intended to cover the five books of the Historiae). La Penna generally finds the philological rigor of Maurenbrecher's fragment arrangements wanting. He suggests that Maurenbrecher (like his predecessors, most notably de Brosses3) subordinated other concerns to the desire for a cohesive, appealing narrative (pp 38-40). The editors' changes to Maurenbrecher do not dramatically alter the structure, as the major episodes of Book One have been fairly securely delineated. The most significant modifications to Book One set forth by La Penna and Funari are found in the preface and archaeology (Frr. 1-12 and 13-20) and the beginning of Metellus' campaign against Sertorius (Frr. 105-121). More challenges to Maurenbrecher might be expected in the future volumes containing Books Two through Five, the fragments of which are fewer in number and overall less securely attributed to specific books or episodes.

The commentary, as promised, is wide-ranging and thorough. The editors introduce each section (e.g., “La rivolta di Lepido” (52-76), “Storia di Sertorio prima della guerra contro Metello” (77-104)) with a summary of its content, overview of pertinent historical and literary context, and a bibliography. Several of the more substantial fragments (in addition to both orationes) have their own brief introductions as well. The commentary covers a broad range of topics: literary sources and reception, historical context, and lexical, syntactical, and textual issues are all addressed.

On the one hand, this comprehensiveness makes the volume an indisputably valuable resource for readers of the Historiae. It is hard to argue with the utility of any resource that un-clutters one's desk. On the other hand, the commentary is largely a collocation of previous scholarship, and the reader is left searching for the edition's voice. Although the convenience of finding the observations of Maurenbrecher, McGushin, Funari, et al. in one place cannot be overstated, one would expect La Penna's considerable critical prowess to be the added value of this book. It disappoints somewhat by its conservatism. To take Fr. 81 (1.88 Maurenbrecher), from Sallust's character-sketch of Sertorius, as an example: much of what appears in La Penna's commentary can be found in Maurenbrecher, McGushin, or Funari, and the additions here are not as innovative as one might expect. The introduction to the fragment summarizes basic information: highlights of Sertorius' early career, parallels with Plutarch's Life of Sertorius, and Aulus Gellius' comparison of this passage with Demosthenes' On the Crown 67 (although, as noted below, this is later glossed over in the commentary). Of the sixteen words or phrases noted in the commentary on Fr. 81, twelve notes essentially replicate or simply refer the reader to previous commentaries.

Of greater concern are the missed opportunities, such as the brief note on per invidiam scriptorum (again using Fr. 81 as an example). The editors miss the chance to highlight the historiographical importance of this phrase, which echoes Sallust's remarks about the utility and difficulty of writing history in the preface of the Bellum Catilinae (dehinc, quia plerique, quae delicta reprehenderis, malevolentia et invidia dicta putant, BC 3.2); some further insight would be valuable here. In addition, the commentary on gloriosius would be enriched by discussion of the context provided by Aulus Gellius, one of our sources for 1.81. In the fragment introduction, the editors mention Gellius' citation of Sallust's Sertorius as a negative comparandum for Demosthenes' Philip. According to Gellius, while Philip regarded his battle scars as the price of his honor, Sertorius took inappropriate pleasure in showing his off, and would eagerly sacrifice more body parts in the pursuit of fame. In the commentary on gloriosius, however, the authors remark, “Nessuna sfumatura negativa.” In light of Gellius' remarks, it is difficult to interpret Sallust's characterization of Sertorius as wholly positive. A more nuanced discussion would be welcome, especially since the authors have already brought the Gellius passage to our attention in the fragment introduction.

Overall, the edition is a valuable resource for scholars working on Sallust or Latin historiography in general. Advanced graduate students will also find it useful, although it is not a teaching text and is unsuitable for undergraduates. Readers will benefit from the convenience of finding text, commentary, testimonia, and bibliography in one volume. La Penna's and Funari's effort will make the Historiae more accessible and, along with Ramsey's new Loeb edition of the fragments, 4 help raise Sallust's magnum opus from neglect to its rightful place in the study of Latin historiography. ​


1.   B. Maurenbrecher, C. Sallusti Crispi Historiarum Reliquiae, Leipzig 1891; L. D. Reynolds, C. Sallusti Crispi Catilina, Iugurtha, Historiarum fragmenta selecta, Appendix Sallustiana, Oxford 1991; R. Funari, C. Sallusti Crispi Historiarum fragmenta, Amsterdam 1996; P. McGushin, Sallust: The Histories, Vol. 1 and 2, Oxford 1992 and 1994.
2.   E.g., “Per la ricostruzione delle “Historiae” di Sallustio,” SIFC n.s. 35, 1963, 5-68.
3.   C. De Brosses, Histoire de la république romaine, dans le cours du VIIe siècle; par Salluste, I-III, Dijon 1777.
4.   J.T. Ramsey, Sallust II: Fragments of the Histories. Letters to Caesar, Cambridge, Mass., 2015. ​

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