Sallust was a master of historical narrative, even if his history's can only barely be labled as such. In his desire to press home a moral of the greed and corruption of Rome he sacrificed much of the truth to his own political agenda, even more so than was normal for historians of the time. These two monographs are the only complete surviving works of the great Latin stylist, and despite the details are well worth the reading.
Gaius Sallustius Crispus [anglicised as "Sallust"; 86-35 BCE] was a Roman historian and politician, and is the earliest known Roman historian with surviving works to his name.
He observed, "although citizens of low birth had access to other magistries, the consulship was still reserved by custom for noblemen, who contrived to pass it on from one to another of their number. A self-made man, however, distinguished he might be or however admirable his achievements, was invariably considered unworthy of that honour, almost as if he were unclean." (Pg. 99-100) He notes that "Pompey was the first man in Roman history to become a consul before he was a senator." (Pg. 160)
He states, "it was long a subject of hot dispute among men whether physical strength or mental ability was the more important requirement for success in war. Before you start on anything, you must plan; when you have made your plans, prompt action is needed. Thus neither is sufficient without the aid of the other." (Pg. 175)
He explains, "It is my intention to give a brief account, as accurate as I can make it, of the conspiracy of Catline, a criminal enterprise which I consider specially memorable as being unprecedented in itself and fraught with unprecedented dangers to Rome." (Pg. 177) Noting that Catline was admired, he laments, "In every country paupers envy respectable citizens and make heroes of unprincipled characters, hating the established order of things and hankering after innovation; discontented with their own lot, they are bent on general upheaval. turmoil and rebellion bring them carefree profit, since poverty has nothing to lose." (Pg. 203)
Not the most accurate historian (the back cover notes, "These narratives are more noteworthy for literary style than strict accuracy"), but they are still memorable ancient historical records.
The two tales in this were hugely influential historical essays more or less up to the early 20C; they served as models of moralistic writing as well as clear exposition in Latin. I remember studying both the content and writing style while (inexplicably) attempting to master Latin in college.
In the Jugurthine War, you get wonderful details on the rise of the great generals, Marius and Sulla, who were friends and then deadly rivals in a struggle that essentially sowed the seeds of the end of the Roman Republic in the next generation. While the plot covers a war in Northern Africa on a ruthless rebel King, Jugurtha, the most important aspects of the work are on the transformation of the Roman army from amateur soldier-farmer landowners to a professional corps that admitted anyone. While a necessary measure to maintain the expansion of the Roman empire as the population of traditional army recruits dwindled, this led directly to rise of powerful generals, who could rely on the personal loyalty of their troops if they wished to grab power in civil war, which had been avoided for centuries. First, there was Sulla's dictatorship, then Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon. But the story takes place before that, when the military genius Marius was transforming the army and mentoring the ambitious Sulla. The reader can study the organization of the army as well as the changing mores of Roman society that this reflected. It is a great masterpiece and fun read, with wonderfully quirky details. In many ways, it is about the end of the oligarchy that ruled the Republic for so long, as exemplified by the failure of Metellus and how despised enemy, Marius (who was not a aristocrat and knew no Greek) took over from him and triumphed.
The story on Cataline's conspiracy is more about Rome's civil society and governance. It is a far more openly moralistic tale of an attempted coup by a disgraced aristocrat, who was opposed by Cicero; in the background Julius Caesar and Pompey are also present, as are a number of lesser known Senators such as Scaurus. While this adds crucial detail to the historical picture, its preachiness and one-sided portrait - and many sloppy chronological mistakes - make it a fairly boring read, i.e. for scholars. It is a tale of decadence and ruffians who are tempted by power in the promises of a fool, Cataline.
The introductory essays are also splendidly detailed regarding historical controversies and background currents as well as beautifully written. I learned a great deal about the context in which Sallust's essays were conceived, e.g. his reasons for moralizing, his hypocracies, and career.
So, while rather recondite, this is a truly great volume of one of antiquity's most influential writers. Recommended.