A Dichotomy of the Human and the Bestial: Sallust and (Some of) His Models

Authors

  • Gregor Pobežin University of Primorska, SASA

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.4312/keria.15.1.105-118

Keywords:

ancient literature, Sallust

Abstract

Sallust’s prologue in his monograph The Catilinarian Conspiracy is an unusual one: at first glance it almost seems to be a philosophical introduction rather than a historiographic one. However, his singular opening style proves to be a well-planned strategy, revealing the author’s subtly conveyed political and philosophical Weltanschauung. In his prologue, Sallust abandons the well-established concept of the old aristocratic virtue (virtus) and forges an entirely new, neutral concept of virtue attainable to all who deserve it, basing it in the ideology developed by Greek authors such as Xenophon, Plato, Isocrates, and the Stoic philosophers. These fontes prove to be of the utmost importance for Sallust, for even though the concept of virtue was elaborated by the older Roman authors, it still left room for misinterpretation. The age-old position that excellence automatically comes with class (consider the Old Oligarch) is thoroughly revised in Sallust: not in the sense that virtue is classless and transcendent (which would be an exaggeration) but that all men, aristocrats too, are corruptible – and inherently devoid of virtue.

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Published

24. 07. 2013

Issue

Section

Articles