Sallustius Lucullus was a man who was fortunate enough to have his name recorded in history, while also regrettably being simultaneously unfortunate enough that virtually no context or information about his life was recorded along with his name. All that is known about Sallustius Lucullus is that he was a Roman military officer and statesman who notably was appointed as a governor of Roman Britannia during the reign of Emperor Domitian (r. 81-96). His skill level as a warrior and strategist was not recorded, but he was talented enough to rise through the ranks and to be entrusted with the safety of a Roman province. He also may have been an innovator, as one of the few tales recorded about Sallustius Lucullus involved him developing or studying new weapons. In fact, unfortunately for the governor, it was his interest in new implements of war that allegedly led to his downfall. As the story goes, Sallustius Lucullus developed a new kind of spear and named the weapon after himself; in doing so, however, he somehow angered Emperor Domitian. The scholar, Suetonius (c. 70-130+), recorded the odd tale writing, “Sallustius Lucullus, governor of Britain, had equally offended Domitian by allowing a new type of lance to be called ‘the Lucullan’” (Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars, Domitian, chapter 10). Sallustius Lucullus’ fall from grace with the emperor, be it from the lance naming incident or some other unknown cause, proved to be fatal in its consequences. The governor was recalled from Britannia and was executed by Emperor Domitian.
Written by C. Keith Hansley
Picture Attribution: (Image of a Roman cavalryman, dated 1910, via the New York Public Library Digital Collections, in front of A Roman Legion (from Trajan’s Column), c. 16th century, via the MET, both [Public Domain] via Creative Commons and Open Access).
- The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius, translated by Robert Graves and edited by James B. Rives. New York: Penguin Classics, 2007.