Quaeque memoria digna videbantur: digressions in Sallust's historical monographs

Research output: Other contributionPhD thesis (not Bristol)


his thesis examines the digressions in the historical monographs of Sallust, as important and under-utilised documents of the construction of his text and of his place within a Late Republican milieu. It aims to demonstrate the central place of digressions in Sallust’s historiography, and to argue that Sallust is a more sophisticated thinker than is usually recognised, engaging with a variety of contemporary ideas in his construction of a new form of Roman historiography.
The first part of the thesis explores the role of digression, a basically rhetorical technique, within historiography more widely, contributing to the current debate about the relationship between the two genres; I establish that digression is an important aspect of the historian’s activity of dispositio, through which the historical account is constructed. Drawing on classical rhetorical textbooks, works on historiography and the practice of other historians, I demonstrate that digressions have a key role within historiographical narrative, as impositions reflecting the historian’s own analysis of events, and that as such we need to pay careful attention to the relevance of ostensibly digressive material.
The second part of the thesis examines three sets of digressions in detail, arguing that in each case such passages serve to advance Sallust’s wider historiographical aims, and that the disparate material they contain demonstrates his close engagement with the intellectual developments of his period in philosophy, historiography, ethnography and geography. By close reading of passages on causation, politics and individual morality, I advance a new interpretation of Sallust’s thought and the state of Rome based on the idea of expediency, which is central to the analysis offered in the digressions; approaching these passages from the perspective of the contemporary intellectual climate allows a better appreciation of Sallust’s historiographical project.
Original languageEnglish
TypePhD thesis
Media of outputText
Publication statusPublished - 19 Nov 2015


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