BMCR 2010.08.24

A Sallust Reader: Selections from Bellum Catilinae, Bellum Iugurthinum, and Historiae. BC Latin Readers

, A Sallust Reader: Selections from Bellum Catilinae, Bellum Iugurthinum, and Historiae. BC Latin Readers. Mundelein, IL: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, 2009. xlv, 159. ISBN 9780865166875. $19.00 (pb).


Prof. Pagán has edited and commented on a good selection of texts from Sallust that will give the target readership—intermediate to advanced college Latin students — a good introduction to this most interesting author. Naturally, Sallust fans might disagree about her choices of texts. But the word-limit imposed by the publisher is a hard constraint, at which most experts would chafe. The text itself is largely unobjectionable, although the use of u for semi-consonantal v will be annoying to students introduced to Latin via textbooks using the latter character.

In her Preface (ix-x) Pagán acknowledges her chief references: Allen & Greenough’s student grammar, the OLD, and recent English-language commentaries on Sallust’s monographs. Her Introduction (xi-xxxix) gives first a brief biography of Sallust. Some reliable details derive from Asconius, Appian, Dio, and others, some from the spurious Invectivae; too much has been made of the latter. Students at this level will need prior explanation of certain terms and facts, e. g. tribune of the plebs, knights/the equestrian order, and the Bona Dea festival. Pompeius and his career was of clear interest to Sallust, of course. But the connections he draws between Sulla’s dominatio and its attendant ills, especially luxuria, avaritia, and rapina, so characteristic of Catilina, should be made firmer (xviii). She writes (xxiv), “Sulla would eventually become dictator and conduct the bloodiest proscriptions Rome had ever endured.” Were there proscriptions before Sulla? R. Seager’s OCD article will be corrective.

The editor might apply Occam’s razor to her enthusiastic interpretations of Sallust’s diction, grammar, and style (xxxii-xxxiv): “Some [of Sallust’s] terms remind us vividly of the expanding Roman empire, for example, … domi militiaeque.” But the phrase is found already in Terence. Or “the absence of geography in the Bellum Catilinae makes the internal conflict the more conspicuous.” Maybe the events happened in Rome and Etruria, places near and well known to readers? Consultation of A. D. Leeman’s Orationis Ratio (Amsterdam 1963) would have put the brakes on “Sallust is famous for his archaism, the deliberate use of language that is old or obsolete. In this way he can scorn the nobility, so excessively proud of their ancestry, using the very language that their ancestors used.” Comments on constructions go off the cliff: “Sallust is at his best when deploying the relative clause of characteristic … By expressing the characteristic in the subjunctive mood in a dependent clause, Sallust can avoid sounding bombastic or hyperbolic; instead, the relative clauses of characteristic tend to sound refined and judicious;” “Sallust’s task is to explain causes, and so the selections abound with causal clauses in the indicative mood introduced by quod.” Can a characteristic or a clause can be in a mood? I hadn’t known that the “simplicity” of Sallust’s verb usage made his “noun syntax … much more complex.” “[T]he ablative of degree of difference is Sallust’s most elegant and critical mode of expression.” And so on, passim. The editor will find better help in more authoritative grammar references than the one she relies on. Hofmann-Szantyr, 558-562, or Woodcock, A New Latin Syntax (1959), 84-89 and 114-119 would have clarified much on relative clauses with subjunctive verbs, for example. No mention of Sallust’s fondness for the historical infinitive or partitive apposition in an introduction to his style?

Pagán’s Suggested Reading (xxxix-xlv) is a useful guide for students at this level, but has an error and some odd omissions. G. M. Paul’s fine chapter on Sallust in Latin Historians (ed. T. A. Dorey 1966) is twice (xxvii, xliv) credited to P. G. Walsh; nor is Paul’s commentary on Iug. (1984) even mentioned. One would expect to find here the OCD and such works as M. von Albrecht’s Masters of Latin Prose (1989, esp. 68-85) and R. Mellor’s Roman Historians (1999, esp. 30-47).

The Commentary (25-118) is appropriate for students reading Sallust for the first time, though, as always with commentary-writing, some things are left unexplained that should be explained and others that don’t need explaining get a note. Insufficient or hasty preparation is evident, as well as the aforementioned tendency to energetic interpretation. Most analyses of sentence structure are valuable, but too much tends to be made of chiasmus and other figures of word-placement. Some desultory examples will give a sense.

On Sed at Cat. 3.3 Pagan notes: “The conj. connects this paragraph to the previous, in which Sallust bemoans the difficulty of writing history, but with an adversative force that signals the biographical content of what follows.” Perhaps not. “Vielfach hat sich die Bedeutung von sed so abgeschwächt, daß es ohne den Begriff eines Gegensatzes im Anfang eines Satzes nur dazu dient, die Erzählung einfach fortzusetzen oder einen neuen Gedanken anzuknüpfen (im Sinne von autem, et, atque. So besonders bei Sallust, der eine besondere Vorliebe für sed hat.”1 Reference to Plato, Ep. 7. 324B-325A will place Sallust’s apologia in its philosophical context, and some mention of the Ciceronian ideal of otium cum dignitate will aid understanding of this particularly Roman value. On rem publicam“Here the phrase … refers to the welfare of the state or the public good.” What’s wrong with “politics,” as in her note on 4. 2 or 84. 47? The note on ubi animus … requievit (4.1) is mistaken and mistranslated: “Sallust’s frame of mind ( animus, cf. 3. 4) changed ex multis miseriis atque periculis (abl. of cause), ‘after many woes and dangers.'” Separative is a much better explanation with requiescere ex. The gerunds in agrum colundo aut venando are not ablative but dativus finalis with intentus, a rule.2 True, Sallust uses an ablative with this participle at 2. 9, aliquo negotio intentus; but there it is instrumental. The editor seems to be drawing from the Invectivae when she conjectures (p. 29) “Sallust uses the word bellum throughout the monograph, and so he may have titled the work as a deliberate reaction to Cicero’s insistence that war was averted.” The ghost of Sallustian animus toward Cicero has, I believe, long since been put to rest. R.I.P. At Cat. 23. 3, quoi (Fulviae) cum minus gratus esset (Q. Curius) the editor explains “hyperbaton (the pron. belongs within the cum clause, but is placed before the conj. for the sake of emphasis.” Well, you’re not likely to see cum quoi (or cui) in most authors. Students’ attention should here be drawn rather to Sallust’s fondness for the connective relative.3 Pagán’s comment on domi militiaeque imperium atque iudicium at Cat. 29. 3 (with a nod to one of her students) is an interesting one but should be tempered: imperium is both military and civil, supported by the right of auspicia. 4 A similar objection can be made on her note at 54. 4 ( magnum imperium, exercitum, bellum novom): “chiasmus of adjs. and nouns with exercitum as central agent for achieving both imperium and bellum.” Not quite. First one gets imperium with auspicia; upon that an exercitus, then, maybe, a bellum. Sallust simply puts them in proper order. I was disappointed that Catilina’s self-defense, insult of Cicero, and threats before the senate (31. 4-9) was not chosen, especially because of the attention given to social class distinction in the Introduction. It is good for an editor to help readers understand some of the problems of manuscript traditions. So, at Cat. 60. 7, Pagán says that Reynolds added Catilina to indicate the change of subject. Students should also know the reason: six manuscripts have Catilina suprascript.

Her note on the style of Iug. 7. 5 ( et proeliosolet is good; reference to Thuc. 2. 40. 3 will give additional depth.5 The explanation of sibi at 7. 7 as “dat. of advantage” deserves reconsideration.6 Politically correct swipes at “Roman ethnocentricity” (evidenced by the phrase nostro mari at Iug. 17. 4, 18. 4, 18. 12), and at the Roman nobility “clinging to the very attitudes that perpetuate economic inequality” (p. 96) are out of place. It is better to avoid commenting on syntax where a reading is doubtful, as at Iug. 18. 11 ( loca proxuma Carthagine[m]): “superl. construed with acc.” Perhaps; but we’re not sure. Ancient grammarians cite or attest both ablative and dative. The same is true at Iug. 19. 4 ( proxumi Hispania[m]).

The tendency to misunderstand a grammatical construction and then to interpret it expansively is observed in a note on Iug. 84.3 ( neque plebi militia volenti putabatur). Pagán translates and explains, “‘military service was not thought to be to the people as wishing it,’ i. e. ‘military service was not thought to be to the liking of the people.’ This is a Greek construction found in Thucydides and first used in Sallust. The use of such a native Greek idiom suggests a degree of foreignness; good Romans should be willing to serve in the army.” I assume she means the supplementary use of the participle; no examples are given from Thucydides, so we must guess. I’m not convinced it’s a “Greek construction” and “a native Greek idiom” myself, nor that it was “first used in Sallust;” but, to follow her lead, are we then to take every real or imagined imitation of Thucydides as implying some comparison to traditional Roman mores? Difficulties are resolved by understanding the meaning of putabatur : “first, military service was being considered for a [part of the] plebs who didn’t want it.” There’s really nothing so Greek about it,7 and anyway a commentator should avoid weasel words like “suggests a degree of.”

Pagán’s generally good grammatical notes are not seldom off-target. For example, quo at Iug. 85. 6 is explained as a “connecting rel. pron. = et eo, abl. of degree of difference with acrius.” The point is rather that it and other similar adverbs and adverbial phrases serve as anticipatory demonstrative antecedents in a superordinate clause in correlation with relative ut (or ne) introducing a subordinate final clause. It’s neither a pronoun nor abl. of degree of difference but instrumental in origin.8 Features of Latinitas over which intermediate students stumble are often not noted, e. g. the attraction of the antecedent, as at Iug. 85. 10, Bellum me gerere cum Iugurtha iussistis, quam rem nobilitas aegerrume tulit, or why forms of aliquis are shortened after certain particles, as, in the same passage, si quemmittatis. Subordinate clauses are identified in a formulaic way throughout: “subjunctive in [clause type] introduced by [particle]” or “subjunctive because of the [particle].” Much better would be to indicate the clause type and explain, where possible, the independent nature of the subjunctive. It would have been good to remind students of the close similarities between the young Jugurtha at 6. 1-7. 7 with Marius’s self-description in his speech upon election at 85, in particular their preference for hard training, avoidance of luxury, and desire for glory. It is a pity that Metellus’s famous Spanish banquet is the only dish served from the Historiae, but, as noted, the publisher’s word-limit is a hard constraint. The map (p. 126) can be improved: all of Spain is labeled “Further Spain,” Provincia is “Transalpine Gaul,” Ethiopia occupies its present boundaries.9 A thorough Vocabulary closes the volume.

This edition is a useful introduction to Sallust, but needs revision. I hope my critical remarks will be of some help to that end. I beg the pardon of the editor and to BMCR itself for my long-overdue submission of this review.


1. R. Kühner, C. Stegmann, Ausführliche Grammatik der lateinischen Sprache (Hannover, 1914), fifth corrected edition by A. Thierfelder (1976), II. 2, 77.

2. Hofmann-Szantyr, 377.

3. Woodcock, 188-189.

4. See Derow’s article in the OCD. Cf. Gai. inst. 4. 103 omnia autem iudicia aut legitimo iure consistunt aut imperio continentur and 4. 105 ideo autem imperio contineri iudicia dicuntur, quia tamdiu valent, quamdiu is qui ea praecepit imperium habet.

5. G. M. Paul, A Historical Commentary on Sallust’s Bellum Jugurthinum (Liverpool 1984), 31.

6. Hofmann-Szantyr, 115.

7. Woodcock, 70-71.

8. Kühner-Stegmann, II. 2, 232-233, Hofmann-Szantyr, 643, Allen & Greenough, 531. 1, N. 1.

9. See Paul, 78.