The Problem with ‘Accurate’ History: Complexity within Sallust’s Bellum Catilinae

Haoyang Xu


Sallust’s Bellum Catilinae has long interested historians as one of the few primary accounts of Catiline’s conspiracy and for its complicated portrayal of its protagonist. Rather than depicting Catiline’s conspiracy as either a villainous rebellion or a courageous attempt at revolution, Sallust allows Catiline and his contemporaries to be complex, sometimes contradictory characters in complicated circumstances. In this paper, I begin by suggesting how Sallust nuances Catiline’s character by making him a symptom of widespread decline in the late Roman Republic. I then consider how Sallust’s inclusion of four speeches by Catiline, Caesar, and Cato helps him depict history as complicated by allowing his historical figures to represent their viewpoints in their own persuasive voices. I conclude that Sallust draws attention to the complexity of history in his analysis of Catiline, in order to help his contemporary readers realize the danger that the Republic was facing.  

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International Journal of Social Science Studies   ISSN 2324-8033 (Print)   ISSN 2324-8041 (Online)

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