This is part 2 of 3. Part 1 is here. Part 3 is here.
“Equidem ego non ignoro, si iam mihi respondere velint, abunde illis facundam et compositam orationem fore. sed in maxumo vostro beneficio cum omnibus locis meque vosque maledictis lacerent, non placuit reticere, ne quis modestiam in conscientiam duceret. nam me quidem ex animi mei sententia nulla oratio laedere potest; quippe vera necesse est bene praedicent, falsa vita moresque mei superant. sed quoniam vostra consilia accusantur, qui mihi summum honorem et maxumum negotium imposuistis, etiam atque etiam reputate, num eorum paenitendum sit. non possum fidei causa imagines neque triumphos aut consulatus maiorum meorum ostentare, at, si res postulet, hastas, vexillum, phaleras, alia militaria dona, praeterea cicatrices advorso corpore. hae sunt meae imagines, haec nobilitas, non hereditate relicta, ut illa illis, sed quae ego meis plurumis laboribus et periculis quaesivi. non sunt composita verba mea; parvi id facio. ipsa se virtus satis ostendit; illis artificio opus est, ut turpia facta oratione tegant. neque litteras Graecas didici; parum placebat eas discere, quippe quae ad virtutem doctoribus nihil profuerant. at illa multo optima rei publicae doctus sum: hostem ferire, praesidia agitare, nihil metuere nisi turpem famam, hiemem et aestatem iuxta pati, humi requiescere, eodem tempore inopiam et laborem tolerare. his ego praeceptis milites hortabor; neque illos arte colam, me opulenter, neque gloriam meam, laborem illorum faciam. hoc est utile, hoc civile imperium. namque cum tute per mollitiem agas, exercitum supplicio cogere, id est dominum, non imperatorem esse. haec atque alia talia maiores vostri faciundo seque remque publicam celebravere. quis nobilitas freta, ipsa dissimilis moribus, nos illorum aemulos contemnit et omnis honores non ex merito, sed quasi debitos a vobis repetit.”
(Sallust, Bell. Iug. 85.26-37)
I am fully aware that if they wanted to respond to me now, they would deliver a very eloquent and crafted oration. But on the occasion of the very great kindness you have bestowed, since they cut me and you at every opportunity with insults, I did not want to be silent. I did not want modesty to be construed as a guilty conscience. In fact, it is my heartfelt opinion that no speech can damage me: the truth necessarily speaks well for me; lies are refuted by my life and character. But it is your judgement that is denounced, you who gave me the greatest office and the most important mission, and so you must consider again and again whether your action is to be regretted. I cannot justify your confidence by bringing forth the portraits or triumphs or consulships of my ancestors; but, if circumstances demand, I can bring forth spears, a banner, medallions, other military honours, and in addition the scars on the front of my body. These are my family portraits, my nobility, not an inheritance bequeathed to me, as theirs is, but won by my own many labours and dangers. My words are not well crafted; I care little for that. Manly virtue can present itself well enough; they are the ones who need artifice to hide their shameful deeds with a speech. And I have not learned Greek: I had no desire to learn that which of course was of no help in teaching the teachers virtue. But I have learned those things that are most important to the state: to strike the enemy, to defend a position, to fear nothing but a disgraceful report, to endure alike the cold of winter and the heat of summer, to sleep on the ground, to sustain hunger and hard work at the same time. These are the lessons I urge upon my soldiers. And I am not stingy with them while being lavish with myself; I do not give them the labour and take glory for myself. This is effective, this is civic command. For when you live a soft life of safety, but coerce an army with threats of punishment, that is to be a slave-owner, not a commander. It was by doing these and other similar things that your ancestors glorified themselves and their state. But the aristocrats, relying on that glory, while being themselves of a very different character, hold us in contempt, though we emulate their ancestors. And then they seek from you all the political offices, not because they deserve them, but as if they were entitled to them. (tr. William W. Batstone)
2 thoughts on “Imagines”