In this essay, I will look in detail at “The Early History of Rome – (Catiline 6, 7, 9)” by Sallust. This passage describes how Rome was established and in particular, how great the Roman Empire was. After reading the piece of writing, it is clear that Sallust is proud of the achievements of his ancestors. He includes strong elements of propaganda, exaggeration and rhetoric.
From the very beginning of the passage, Sallust emphasises his pro-Roman attitude by stating “Urbem Romam”. This simple phrase has hidden propaganda embedded into it. To begin with, it is the first word of the passage and therefore carries the inevitable emphasis from which the reader will be drawn towards. Secondly, the words are of accusative grammar, which is striking to the reader since this is abnormal and to some extent, inverted. Lastly, and more importantly, the word “Urbem” would suffice on its own and Sallust does not need to introduce “Romam” into the sentence. This is because the word “Urbem” (meaning ‘city’) was the Roman word for Rome. This added stress on Rome at the beginning of the chapter is obvious propaganda, and is a statement of pride, which Sallust is feeling towards his beloved Rome.
Sallust comments that the Aborigines and the Trojans not only contrasted each other, but also complemented each other. This is emphasised by the unity of “una” contrasting with the disarray of “dispari…dissimili”. He states that the Trojans has a strong leader but no land, whereas the Aborigines had no laws or government but had land. This contrast is emphasised by the asyndeton and tricolon (“sine legibus, sine imperio, liberum atque solutum”). It is customary for historical accounts to be written in an objective fashion; however, it is clear that Sallust has failed to do so. Since this piece of work is propaganda, Sallust has made biased remarks. This can be seen when he says, “incredible memoratu est”, – ‘it is incredible to remember’. This is metaphorical and emphasises how complete the unity of the two races was.
A good rhetorical device involves using as many tenses as possible. Using all the tenses makes the text vivid and emphasises the theme in question. In this particular passage, Sallust relates to “Urbem Romam”, which was a present-day city in Roman times. Secondly, he mentions the “Aborigines”, which were people from the past. Finally, Sallust speaks about the “civitas”, the civil order that beheld Rome throughout its existence.
Sallust is proud that the Romans were, apparently, satisfied with what they had and were neither greedy nor jealous. This is emphasised by Sallust since he repeats the word “satis… satisque” (enough and enough) in lines 9-10. Sallust is saying that they were contempt with what they already had and that they had a sense of moderation. To highlight this characteristic even more, Sallust pictures the enemy as being the opposite, jealous and greedy.
In order for Sallust to project his pride of the Romans onto the readers, he describes situations and then exaggerates the outcome for the benefit of the Roman reputation. For instance, in line 14 Sallust describes how the Romans reacted to the threat of the enemy. He says that they were determined (“virtute”), brave (“festinare” – hurry), motivated (“hortari” – encouraged), organised (“parare” – prepared), and finally loyal (“sociis atque amicis auxilia portabant”) By not only stating the points, but listing them, Sallust makes the reader feel like there are so many good factors, and that he could carry on listing them forever.
Sallust conveniently introduces information regarding the set up of their new government. He says that, “corpus annis infirmum” – bodies sick with age, were given the two highest governing roles in the new state. This adds pity to the passage and makes the Romans seem not only strong and brave, but also kind and considerate.
The repetition of “brevi… memoratu est” (7) from the previous section (6) shows just how important Sallust believes the swift coalition of the two races was. There are numerous repeated words and phrases throughout the passages. These help Sallust to drill his pride of the Romans into his readers.
Sallust includes irony in line 5 when he says that “civitas… adepta libertate quantum brevi creverit” (“how quickly the state grew once freedom had been obtained”). This is ironic since the unity of people and government does not usually occur once freedom has been granted. On the same line, Sallust comments that their entire motivation was for “cupido gloriae”, the desire for glory. Sallust has twisted the meaning of glory because it really means glory for the state, a motivation that Sallust believes in. However, these men (“iuventas”) were trained for the state and therefore it is highly predictable that they would behave in such a way.
Sallust has included four main lines of double negatives (9-12). In these lines, Sallust has emphasised the Roman familiarity to strenuous labour. By using “non” plus the negative verb (three times), Sallust has created a strong positive culmination of activities. Because the verbs have patriotic and courageous meanings, these four lines are by far the most prophetic in the passage. The word “omnia” (everything) sums up his pride for the Roman attitude.
The passage becomes more emphatic as it progresses. For example, statements such as ‘they hurried to climb the wall the fastest’ make sense after reader the previous exaggerated proclamations. Sallust uses many an example in this section of the Catiline. By using examples, Sallust is trying to give evidence for his strong views. His examples are also backings for the historical basis of the period. In addition, the language is generally very simple and this suggests factual events.