Quote of the Day: Sallust on Sloth, Covetousness, and Losing Power

 

“And, indeed, if the intellectual ability of kings and magistrates were exerted to the same degree in peace as in war, human affairs would be more orderly and settled, and you would not see governments shifted from hand to hand, and things universally changed and confused. For dominion is easily secured by those qualities by which it was at first obtained. But when sloth has introduced itself in the place of industry, and covetousness and pride in that of moderation and equity, the fortune of a state is altered together with its morals; and thus authority is always transferred from the less to the more deserving.” — Gaius Sallustius Crispus (Sallust)

The first time I saw this quote, it was the abbreviated version starting at “But when sloth…” and going to the end. My thought reading that was, “That’s not my experience or reading of history there, old son.” But seeing the larger quote, it becomes obvious he is writing of changes in the power structures and of who is in place. Eventually, the people get tired of corruption and rise up. Eventually, a great man (or at least superior to his predecessors) arises to clean out the Augean stables of government. Or, the nation falls to another, which will have a higher vision. Sallust lived through a period when the Roman Republic was falling apart with factional fighting and finally fell into being the Roman Principate. I believe we are living through a similar period now.

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  1. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Is Sallust that planet where I defeated Moff Seerdon on the N64 flying an X-Wing?

    • #1
  2. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Is Sallust that planet where I defeated Moff Seerdon on the N64 flying an X-Wing?

    Could have been. Or maybe it’s a toast in some furrin language?

    • #2
  3. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    The republic is ineffectual and many people again seek a king. 

    When Sallust says “thus authority is always transferred from the less to the more deserving”, he seems to be noting that those who want power most and will work for it will get it. Remember that the Roman ideal was a farmer-soldier who serves in the senate or on the battlefield but is eager to return to humble farming. In other words, power is either directed by disciplined and active citizens or power returns to the highest bidders, who will thank their voters with blood and chains.

    • #3
  4. Vectorman Inactive
    Vectorman
    @Vectorman

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    Remember that the Roman ideal was a farmer-soldier who serves in the senate or on the battlefield but is eager to return to humble farming. In other words, power is either directed by disciplined and active citizens or power returns to the highest bidders, who will thank their voters with blood and chains.

    Sounds similar to many founders of the United States.


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    • #4
  5. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Vectorman (View Comment):
    Sounds similar to many founders of the United States.

    The Roman citizen was their ideal. That is why the officers of the Continental Army formed the Society of Cincinnatus.

    • #5
  6. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Above Top Secret
    @CarolJoy

    Appreciate that quote. Thanks for taking the time to bring it to us.

    • #6
  7. Barfly Member
    Barfly
    @Barfly

    Arahant: Sallust lived through a period when the Roman Republic was falling apart with factional fighting and finally fell into being the Roman Principate. I believe we are living through a similar period now.

    Similar in that the nation is fracturing. I don’t know Roman history – were the elite and governing tier of Sallust’s time both practically unchecked and revealed to be greedy buffoons, like ours? Has there ever been a time when unrest and national decline came about due to nations’ governing strata making an attempt to replace the governed? Because that’s the cause of the current conflict throughout the west.

    • #7
  8. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Barfly (View Comment):
    Similar in that the nation is fracturing. I don’t know Roman history – were the elite and governing tier of Sallust’s time both practically unchecked and revealed to be greedy buffoons, like ours?

    Pretty much. It took them about a hundred years, though. I don’t see us as lasting as long in the decline.

    Barfly (View Comment):
    Has there ever been a time when unrest and national decline came about due to nations’ governing strata making an attempt to replace the governed?

    Yes. Several times in history. The Roman Republic was one of them. The new populace were called slaves. Rome had similar populist revolts to try to take things back. Hardly the only example.

    • #8
  9. MeanDurphy Member
    MeanDurphy
    @DeanMurphy

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Is Sallust that planet where I defeated Moff Seerdon on the N64 flying an X-Wing?

    Could have been. Or maybe it’s a toast in some furrin language?

    There is no love, ‘sallust.

    • #9
  10. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Is he saying that if Stalin’s successors had worked as hard at their job as he did, that the Soviet Union would still be in operation? 

    • #10
  11. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Is he saying that if Stalin’s successors had worked as hard at their job as he did, that the Soviet Union would still be in operation?

    No.

    • #11

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