Repertorium Pomponianum

Leto, C. Crispi Sallusti Vita

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Pomponio's vita Sallusti appears at the end of his edition of Sallust's works printed in Rome by Eucharius Silber in 1490. The volume contains Sallust's Liber de coniuratione L. Sergi Catilinae, Liber de bello Iugurthino, [Orationes et epistulae ] ex libris Historiarum, and two minor works attributed to Sallust, Ad Caesarem senem de re publica and Ad C. Caesarem oratio de republica, as well as [ps.] Portius Latro, Declamatio contra L. Ser. Catilinam. The vita, in a more correct version, is also included in the presentation copy for Agostino Maffei, written by Giacomo Aurelio Questenberg (BAV, Ms. Ottobonianus lat. 2989, fol. 146). In later editions the vita usually appears anonymously under the title C. Crispi Salusti vita, often followed by incerto auctore. Only occasionally is Pomponio identified as the author. The vita, based chiefly on those sources that were hostile to Sallust, i.e., the Oratio in Sallustium, believed at the time to be the work of Cicero, and the description of him by Lenaeus, Pompey's freedman, as reported by Suetonius, gives a very negative picture of the author's personal and political life. It also pays little or no attention to Sallust's work as historian, despite the fact that Pomponio devoted several years to teaching and commenting on his two monographs, whether privately or at the Studium Urbis, and editing the texts for publication. His description of the Horti Sallustiani may reflect his personal observations on the site as recorded in his topographical survey of Rome, the Excerpta a Pomponio dum inter ambulandum cuidam domino ultramontano reliquias ac ruinas Urbis ostenderet (after 1484).


Pomponius Laetus, C. Crispi Sallusti vita, in BAV, Ms. Ottobonianus lat. 2989, fol. 146.

ed. = Sallustius, opera (Roma: Eucharius Silber, 1490), sig. t5v-t6r.



Crispus Sallustius genus ex Amiterno Sabinorum ducit,1 C. Sallustio patre genitus. Ex liberalibus artibus, in quibus educatus erat, præter eruditionem nihil accepit: omnibus voluptatibus turpissime indulsit; paternam domum vendidit ut crimine adulterii se redimeret.2 Ex questura & tribunatu nullam laudem est adsecutus.3 Favente C. Cæsare prætor Aphricam sortitus;4 provintiam expilavit et exhausit tantumque inde pecuniarum reportavit ut amoenissimos hortos sub Quirinale extra pomerium ad Collinam Portam titulo sui nominis empto loco habuerit5 atque adornaverit, non vulgares illius seculi & posterorum ætatibus delitias atque secessum,6 usque ad exactam ætatem libidinis avidus & potens. In amicitia varius & inconstans, sæpius tamen livido dente momordit. Habitus est ore improbo & animo inverecundo.7 Manis Pompei Magni, existimans hac via se Cæsari gratiorem fore, lacerare ausus est, unde in Sallustium Læneus Pompei libertus scripsit moresque eius sigillatim paucis vocabulis expressit: nebulonem, lurconem, popinionem, et lastaurum appellans.8 Vox postrema indicat fuisse hominem validæ libidinis. Scripsit stilo non abhorrente a veteribus.9 Extant Coniuratio Catilinæ & bellum Iugurthinum & quædam contiones [-cionem ed.] e libris bellorum Civilium. Ut secreta inimici fidelius intelligeret [-gere ed.], Terentiam a Cicerone repudiatam duxit uxorem [-re ed.], quæ [et quae ed.] tertio nupsit Messalæ Corvino.10



Crispus Sallustius was born into a family of Sabine Amiternum, the son of Gaius Sallustius. From his study of the liberal arts, in which he had been educated, he received nothing other than (mere) learning; he indulged disgracefully in all pleasures; he sold the paternal home in order to save himself from the charge of adultery. From his quaestorship and tribunate he won no renown. As praetor, with the favor of Caesar, he obtained the province of Africa, which he plundered and drained and from which he carried away so much money that he became owner, after purchasing the site, of the very valuable gardens behind the Quirinal outside the pomerium near Porta Collina, which he adorned as a place of no ordinary delights and retreat for his own times and for posterity, greedy for pleasure and powerful right up to the end of his life. In friendship variable and inconstant, he often bit, however, with a spiteful tooth. He was considered to have an impudent face and shameless character. He dared tear to pieces the shade of Pompey the Great (believing this to be the way of pleasing Caesar), whence Lenaeus, Pompey's freedman, took up his pen against him, describing his character and habits in a few succinct words, calling him a good-for-nothing, glutton, tavern-goer and debauchee. The last term shows that he was exceedingly dissolute. He wrote in a style not unlike that of the ancients. His extant works are the Conspiracy of Catiline, Jugurthine War, and certain speeches from the books on the civil wars. In order that he might learn more faithfully the secrets of his enemy, he married Terentia, whom Cicero had divorced; her third husband was Messala Corvinus.


Editorial Note: I have retained the spelling, with the exception of i/j and u/v, which are standardized according to modern practice, and modernized the punctuation. I thank Marianne Pade and Robert Ulery for their contributions to the editing and translation.



1 Hier. chron.a. ann. Abr. 1930. 2 Ps. Cic. in Sall. 13-14.     3 Ibid. 15. 17.     4 Bell. Afr. 8,3. 97,1.     5 Ps. Cic. in Sall. 19.     6 Cf. Pomponius Laetus, Excerpta a Pomponio dum … reliquias ac ruinas Urbis ostenderet, in de Rossi (ed.) 1882, 61, ll. 13-17, and in Valentini-Zucchetti (eds.) 4 (1953), 429, ll. 22-26.     7 quod eum [i.e., Pompeium] oris probi, animo inverecundo [sc. Sallustius] scripisset Svet. gramm. 15.     8 Ibid.     9 Cf. Svet. Aug. 86. 10 Hier. adv. Iov. 1,49.



Ullman 1973

B. L. Ullman, "The Dedication Copy of Pomponio Leto's Edition of Sallust and the 'Vita' of Sallust," in Ullman, Studies in the Italian Renaissance, 2d ed. [Rome, l973], 365-72.


Osmond and Ulery 2003

P. J. Osmond and R. W. Ulery, "Sallustius Crispus, Gaius," Catalogus translationum et commentariorum. Mediaeval and Renaissance Latin Translations and Commentaries, 8, ed. V. Brown, 183-326, at 239-40 (Washington, D.C.).


Osmond 2011b

P. J. Osmond, "Lectiones Sallustianae. Pomponio Leto's annotations on Sallust: a commentary for the Academy?" in On Renaissance Academies. Proceedings of the International Conference "From the Roman Academy to the Danish Academy in Rome. Dall'Accademia Romana all'Accademia di Danimarca a Roma. The Danish Academy in Rome, 11-13 October 2006," ed. M. Pade. ARID, Supplementum, 42 (Rome, 2011), 91-108.


Osmond forthcoming

"Pomponio Leto's life of Sallust: between vita and invectiva," in Renæssanceforum (Renaissance Forum, Universities of Aarhus and Copenhagen).


Pade 2011

M. Pade, "Lectiones Sallustianae. The 1490 Sallust Annotations, the Presentation Copy," in On Renaissance Academies. Proceedings of the International Conference "From the Roman Academy to the Danish Academy in Rome. Dall'Accademia Romana all'Accademia di Danimarca a Roma. The Danish Academy in Rome, 11-13 October 2006," ed. M. Pade. ARID, Supplementum, 42 (Rome, 2011), 109-22.




Patricia J. Osmond
20 June 2014

This entry can be cited as follows:
Pomponius Laetus, C. Crispi Sallusti Vita, ed. Patricia J. Osmond, Repertorium Pomponianum, URL:,