This is part 1 of 3. Part 2 is here. Part 3 is here.
“Comparate nunc, Quirites, cum illorum superbia me hominem novom. Quae illi audire aut legere solent, eorum partem vidi, alia egomet gessi; quae illi litteris, ea ego militando didici. nunc vos existumate facta an dicta pluris sint. contemnunt novitatem meam, ego illorum ignaviam; mihi fortuna, illis probra obiectantur. quamquam ego naturam unam et communem omnium existumo, sed fortissimum quemque generosissimum. ac si iam ex patribus Albini aut Bestiae quaeri posset, mene an illos ex se gigni maluerint, quid responsuros creditis, nisi sese liberos quam optumos voluisse? quod si iure me despiciunt, faciant item maioribus suis, quibus, uti mihi, ex virtute nobilitas coepit. invident honori meo; ergo invideant labori, innocentiae, periculis etiam meis, quoniam per haec illum cepi. verum homines corrupti superbia ita aetatem agunt, quasi vestros honores contemnant; ita hos petunt, quasi honeste vixerint. ne illi falsi sunt, qui divorsissumas res pariter exspectant, ignaviae voluptatem et praemia virtutis. atque etiam, cum apud vos aut in senatu verba faciunt, pleraque oratione maiores suos extollunt, eorum fortia facta memorando clariores sese putant. quod contra est. nam quanto vita illorum praeclarior, tanto horum socordia flagitiosior. et profecto ita se res habet: maiorum gloria posteris quasi lumen est, neque bona neque mala eorum in occulto patitur. huiusce rei ego inopiam fateor, Quirites, verum, id quod multo praeclarius est, meamet facta mihi dicere licet. nunc videte quam iniqui sint. quod ex aliena virtute sibi arrogant, id mihi ex mea non concedunt, scilicet quia imagines non habeo et quia mihi nova nobilitas est, quam certe peperisse melius est quam acceptam corrupisse.”
(Sallust, Bell. Iug. 85.13-25)
“Compare, now, citizens, those men, their arrogance, with me, a “new man”. The things that they heard or read about, some of them were things I saw, the rest were things I did. What they learned from books, I learned being a soldier. Now you must judge whether deeds or words are of more value. They scorn my status as a “new man”, I scorn their cowardice; I am taunted for my station in life, they for their shameful activities. I believe that we all have a single common nature, but that the bravest man is the most noble. And, if the fathers of Albinus or Bestia could be asked whether they would rather have a son like me or like the nobles, what do you think they would say except that they wanted the best possible children? On the other hand, if it is right for them to look down on me, they should look down on their own ancestors too, men whose nobility, like mine, began in manly virtue. They are jealous of my office; therefore, let them be jealous of my hard work, my integrity, even the dangers I have faced, since it was through these that I have gained that office. But these men, vitiated by arrogance, pass their lives as if they despised the honours you can give, but seek those honours as if they had lived an honourable life. Surely they are deceived if they expect to enjoy the pleasures of indolence and the rewards of manliness, two contradictory things. Furthermore, when they speak before you or in the Senate, most of their speech is taken up with praising their ancestors: they think that by recalling those brave deeds they themselves become more glorious. But the converse is true. For the more glorious the life of their ancestors is, the more shameful their own cowardice becomes. Certainly this is the truth of the matter: the glory of their ancestors is like a light which does not allow their virtues or faults to be hidden. I confess, citizens, that I have no advantages of this kind, but I have that which is much more glorious: I can talk about my own deeds. Now consider how unfair they are. They do not grant to me from my own virtue the very thing they arrogate to themselves from the virtue of others—of course it is because I do not have family portraits and my nobility is recent. But surely it is better to have created nobility than to have received and corrupted it.” (tr. William W. Batstone)
2 thoughts on “Nobilitas”