An Upheaval of the Earth

Gaius Sallustius Crispus, known as Sallust, describes Rome after the defeat of Carthage in 146 BCE:

(This passage is from “A history of Rome from its origins to 529 A.D. as told by the Roman historians” prepared by Moses Hadas.)

The nobility turned its dignity, and the populace its liberty, into license, and every man robbed and pillaged and plundered for himself. The body politic was split into two parties, and between them the state was rent apart.

The nobility was powerful because of its organization; plebian strength was less effective because it was not centralized but dispersed among a crowd. A handful of men manipulated policy at home and in the field; the treasury, the provinces, the magistracies, the glories and triumphs, were their monopoly.

The people were burdened with military service and poverty; the spoils of war generals divided with the few. In the meanwhile the parents of the soldiers and their little children were driven from their homes, the more powerful their neighbors the quicker.

Along with power, then, there was an invasion of greed, measureless and ruthless; it tainted and spoiled everything, without scruple or reverence, until it hastened its own downfall. For as soon as nobles were found who preferred true glory to dishonest power, the state began to stir and civil dissension to arise like an upheaval of the earth.