Brenda M. Fields (University of Florida)

In this paper, I apply modern postcolonial and psychoanalytical theories to Sallust’s Bellum Iugurthinum to show how Sallust constructs the Roman Self in opposition to the anti-hero Jugurtha, the Other. Jugurtha is a nomad, whereas a Roman ought to be stable and adhere to the mos maiorum. Jugurtha subverts the Rome/client kingdom relationship, whereas a Roman ought always to promote harmony by upholding the patron/client relationship. In the Bellum Iugurthinum, Sallust establishes clear parameters for behavior which define Romanness. Whenever a Roman strays from the prescribed behavior, he loses touch with his Roman identity and fails in his endeavors.

Sallust presents Roman identity as liable to subversion through assimilation of qualities of the Other. Sallust reveals that Roman identity is only liable to such subversion because Rome no longer possesses an enemy worthy of fear. Rome lost her metus hostilis when she destroyed Carthage. Although Jugurtha does not inspire metus hostilis, the Romans fail again and again to defeat him because they have lost their sense of Roman Self.

This concept corresponds with Michel Foucault’s theory that states only exist in permanent competition with other states and with Ernest Renan’s belief that a common hatred of the enemy unites a nation in a desire to do great things. Sallust instructs his Roman readers to combat the decline in Roman morality that followed the destruction of Carthage by restoring the harmony between the classes that had existed naturally under the pressure of a metus hostilis. For Sallust, this harmony is at the basis of Roman identity, and to reclaim it, Romans must cease to allow ambition and greed to motivate them. Instead, they must pursue virtue. Only then can they defeat any enemy, whether worthy of fear or not.

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