Fortune Grows Cruel

Fortune began to grow cruel and confuse everything.  Men who had easily endured hard work, dangers, uncertainty and adversity found that leisure and wealth, things desirable at other times, were a burden and the cause of misery.  And so, at first, greed for money grew, then greed for power.  Ambition forced many men to become liars, to hide one thing in their heart and have something else ready on their tongue, to value friendship and enmity according to convenience, not substance, and to put up a good face rather than have a good heart.  At first, these things grew gradually, they were  punished occasionally; afterwards, when this contagion invaded like a plague, the state changed, and the political power which had been most just and best became cruel and intolerable.’ Sallust, Catiline’s Conspiracy 10, trans. William W. Batstone (Oxford 2010), 15. [Emphasis added]

Here Sallust describes society in the breakdown of social virtue in the late Roman Republic.  The Romans had conquered much of Mediterranean world by the end of the 2nd century BC.  The blessings of wealth and leisure led to misery instead of happiness.  Ambition created liars and transformed society from just to cruel and evil.  If one examines the actions of the Roman Senatorial class during the late Republic then Sallust’s words give an apt description.  Roman Senators promoted Roman State’s actions to enrich themselves particularly in the area of foreign policy.   

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