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SALLUST AND THE POLITICS OF MACHIAVELLI

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Abstract:

This essay examines the place of Sallust in Machiavelli's political theory. Such an examination is necessary and fruitful for two basic reasons. First, the interpretative and secondary literature on Machiavelli's classical sources has neglected, with very few exceptions, the influence and role Sallust may have played in the formulation of Machiavelli's thinking. Second, the essay argues that Sallust is important to Machiavelli's attempt to recover republican liberty. At the core of Machiavelli's project to discover (or to rediscover) 'new modes and orders' is the fundamental Roman republican antithesis between libertas and dominatio. The very critique of dominatio presupposes a conception of libertas without which such a critique would be impossible. Sallust is a useful source for Machiavelli's inquiry into the political, social and military determinants foRA vivere libero e civile. Elements of such a political life are prefigured in Sallust's conception of republican politics, where 'cives cum civibus de virtute certabant' -- that is, where robust competition and healthy conflict express the virtus and the bonae artes of the body politic. In effect, Sallust is important to Machiavelli both as a historian who provides a useful critique of monarchy and despotism, and as a source through which Machiavelli is able to develop his conception of politics in general, and of republican politics in particular.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Political Science, Baruch College, CUNY, 17 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010, USA., Email: Benedetto_Fontana@baruch.cuny.edu

Publication date: January 1, 2003

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