Read LIFE OF MARCUS CATO of Plutarch's Lives‚ Volume II, free online book, by Aubrey Stewart & George Long, on ReadCentral.com.

I. Marcus Cato is said to have been born at Tusculum, but to have been brought up and spent his time upon a farm belonging to his father in the Sabine territory, before he began to take part in war or politics. We know nothing of his ancestry, except that he himself tells us that his father, Marcus, was a good man and brave soldier, and that his grandfather, Cato, received several military rewards for his services, and that having had five horses killed under him, he received the value of them from the public treasury, as an acknowledgment of his gallantry.

It was the Roman custom to call those who had no ancestry to recommend them, but who rose by their own merits, new men. This name was applied to Cato, who said that he was indeed new to honours and posts of importance, but that, in respect of his brave and virtuous ancestry, he was a man of ancient family. His third name originally was not Cato, but Priscus, and was changed to Cato on account of his wisdom, for in Latin catus means clever. In appearance he was rather red-haired, and grey-eyed, peculiarities which are ill-naturedly dwelt upon by the writer of the epigram

“Red-haired, grey-eyed, and savage-tusked as well,
Porcius will find no welcome e’en in hell.”

Accustomed as he was to hard exercise, temperate living, and frequent campaigns, his body was always both healthy and strong; while he also practised the power of speech, thinking it a necessary instrument for a man who does not intend to live an obscure and inactive life. He consequently improved his talents in this respect by pleading causes in the neighbouring villages and towns, so that he was soon admitted to be a capable speaker, and afterwards to be a good orator. From this time all who conversed with him perceived a gravity and wisdom in his mind which qualified him to undertake the most important duties of a statesman. Not only was he so disinterested as to plead without receiving money from his clients, but he also did not think the glory which he gained in these contests to be that after which a man ought to strive, in comparison with that which is gained in battle and campaigns, in which he was so eager to distinguish himself that when quite a lad his body was covered with wounds, all in front. He himself tells us that he made his first campaign at the age of seventeen, when Hannibal was ranging through Italy uncontrolled. In battle he was prompt, stedfast, and undismayed, and was wont to address the enemy with threats and rough language, and to encourage the others to do so, as he rightly pointed out that this often cows the enemy’s spirit as effectually as blows. When on the march he used to carry his own arms, and be followed by one servant who carried his provisions. It is said that he never spoke harshly to this man, no matter what food he placed before him, but that he would often help him to do his work when he was at leisure from military duty. He drank only water when campaigning, except that when suffering from parching thirst he would ask for some vinegar, and sometimes when his strength fairly failed he would drink a little wine.

II. Near his estate was a cottage which had once belonged to Manius Curius, who three times received the honour of a triumph. Cato used frequently to walk over and look at this cottage, and, as he observed the smallness of the plot of ground attached to it, and the simplicity of the dwelling itself, he would reflect upon how Curius, after having made himself the first man in Rome, after conquering the most warlike nations, and driving King Pyrrhus out of Italy, used to dig this little plot of ground with his own hands, and dwelt in this little cottage, after having thrice triumphed. It was there that the ambassadors of the Samnites found him sitting by the hearth, cooking turnips, and offered him much gold; but he sent them away, saying, “that a man who was contented with such a supper, had no need of gold, and that it was more honourable for him to conquer those who possessed gold, than to possess it himself.” Cato, after leaving the cottage, full of these memories, returned to his own house and farm, and after viewing its extent and the number of slaves upon it, he increased the amount of his own daily labour, and retrenched his superfluous expenses.

When Fabius Maximus took the city of Tarentum, Cato, who was a very young lad at the time, was serving in his army. He became intimate there with one Nearchus, a philosopher of the Pythagorean school, and listened with much interest to his discourses. Hearing this man, like Plato, describe pleasure as the greatest temptation to evil, and the body as the chief hindrance to the soul, which can only free and purify itself by such a course of reasoning as removes it from and sets it above all bodily passions and feelings, he was yet more encouraged in his love of simplicity and frugality. In other respects he is said to have studied Hellenic literature late in life, and not to have read Greek books till extreme old age, when he greatly improved his style of oratory, partly by the study of Thucydides, but chiefly by that of Demosthenes. Be this as it may, his writings are full of Greek ideas and Greek anecdotes: and many of his apophthegms and maxims are literally translated from the Greek.

III. The estate adjoining that of Cato belonged to one of the most powerful and highly born patricians of Rome, Valerius Flaccus, a man who had a keen eye for rising merit, and generously fostered it until it received public recognition. This man heard accounts of Cato’s life from his servants, how he would proceed to the court early in the morning, and plead the causes of all who required his services, and then on returning to his farm would work with his servants, in winter wearing a coarse coat without sleeves, in summer nothing but his tunic, and how he used to sit at meals with his servants, eating the same loaf and drinking the same wine. Many other stories of his goodness and simplicity and sententious remarks were related to Valerius, who became interested in his neighbour, and invited him to dinner. They became intimate, and Valerius, observing his quiet and ingenuous disposition, like a plant that requires careful treatment and an extensive space in which to develop itself, encouraged and urged him to take part in the political life of Rome. On going to Rome he at once gained admirers and friends by his able pleadings in the law courts, while he obtained considerable preferment by the interest of Valerius, being appointed first military tribune, and then quaestor. After this he became so distinguished a man as to be able to compete with Valerius himself for the highest offices in the state, and they were elected together, first as consuls, and afterwards as censors. Of the older Romans, Cato attached himself particularly to Fabius Maximus, a man of the greatest renown and power, although it was his disposition and mode of life which Cato especially desired to imitate. Wherefore he did not hesitate to oppose Scipio the Great, who was then a young man, but a rival and opponent of Fabius. Cato was appointed to act as his quaestor in the war in Africa, and on perceiving that Scipio was living with his usual lavish expenditure, and supplying his soldiery with extravagant pay, he sharply rebuked him, saying, “that it was not the waste of the public money that vexed him so much as the ruin of the old frugal habits of the soldiers, who were led to indulge in pleasure and luxury by receiving more pay than was necessary to supply their daily wants.” When Scipio answered that he did not require an economist for his quaestor, at a time when he was preparing to wage war on a grand scale, and reminded him that he would have to give an account to the Roman people of battles won, not of money expended, Cato left the army of Scipio, which was then being assembled in Sicily. He proceeded at once to Rome, and by adding his voice to that of Fabius in the Senate, in blame of Scipio’s unspeakable waste of money, and his childish and unsoldierly love of the public games and the theatre, conduct more worthy of the president of a public festival than of the commander-in-chief of an army, prevailed upon the people to send tribunes to enquire into the charges against him, and if they proved true, to bring him back to Rome. When they arrived in Sicily, however, Scipio pointed out to them that the preparations which he had made would ensure him the victory, and that although he loved pleasant society in his hours of leisure, yet that he had never allowed his pleasures to interfere with his serious duties. The tribunes were perfectly satisfied with this explanation, and Scipio sailed for Africa.

IV. Cato, however, gained considerable credit by his speeches on this occasion, and the Romans generally called him the new Demosthenes; yet his manner of life was more admired than his eloquence. Cleverness of speech was a quality which nearly all the young men of the time sought to attain, but Cato was singular in his keeping up the severe traditions of his ancestors in labouring with his own hands, eating a simple dinner, lighting no fire to cook his breakfast, wearing a plain dress, living in a mean house, and neither coveting superfluities nor courting their possessors. The Romans were at this period extending their empire so much as to lose much of their own original simplicity of living, as each new conquest brought them into contact with foreign customs and new modes of life. They therefore naturally looked with admiration upon Cato, observing that while they became enervated by pleasures and broke down under labours, he on the other hand seemed unaffected by either, and that too, not only while he was young and eager for fame: but even when he was an old grey-headed man, after he had been consul and had triumphed, he yet, like a victorious athlete, still kept himself in training, and never relaxed his severe discipline. He himself tells us that he never wore a garment worth more than a hundred drachmas, that when he was general and consul he still drank the same wine as his servants, that his dinner never cost him more than thirty ases in the market, and that he only indulged himself to this extent for the good of the state, that he might be strong and able to serve his country in the field. When he was left a piece of Babylonian tapestry he at once disposed of it; none of his rooms were whitewashed, and he never bought a slave for more than fifteen hundred drachmas, seeing that he required, not effeminate and handsome servants, but hardworking and strong men, to tend his horses and herd his cattle: and these, too, when they grew old and past work he thought it best to sell, and not feed them at his expense when they were useless. His rule was that nothing is cheap which one does not want, but that superfluities are dearly purchased even if they cost but one penny: and that it is better to buy land which can be ploughed, or where cattle can graze, than beds of flowers which require watering, and paths which have to be swept and kept in order.

V. These habits some ascribed to narrowness of mind, while others thought that he carried parsimony and avarice to excess in himself in order by his example to reform and restrain others. Be this as it may, I for my own part consider that his conduct in treating his slaves like beasts of burden, and selling them when old and worn out, is the mark of an excessively harsh disposition, which disregards the claims of our common human nature, and merely considers the question of profit and loss. Kindness, indeed, is of wider application than mere justice; for we naturally treat men alone according to justice and the laws, while kindness and gratitude, as though from a plenteous spring, often extend even to irrational animals. It is right for a good man to feed horses which have been worn out in his service, and not merely to train dogs when they are young, but to take care of them when they are old. When the Athenian people built the Parthenon, they set free the mules which had done the hardest work in drawing the stones up to the acropolis, and let them graze where they pleased unmolested. It is said that one of them came of its own accord to where the works were going on, and used to walk up to the acropolis with the beasts who were drawing up their loads, as if to encourage them and show them the way. This mule was, by a decree of the people of Athens, maintained at the public expense for the rest of its life. The racehorses of Kimon also, who won an Olympic victory, are buried close to the monument of their master. Many persons, too, have made friends and companions of dogs, as did Xanthippus in old times, whose dog swam all the way to Salamis beside his master’s ship when the Athenians left their city, and which he buried on the promontory which to this day is called the Dog’s Tomb. We ought not to treat living things as we do our clothes and our shoes, and throw them away after we have worn them out; but we ought to accustom ourselves to show kindness in these cases, if only in order to teach ourselves our duty towards one another. For my own part I would not even sell an ox that had laboured for me because he was old, much less would I turn an old man out of his accustomed haunts and mode of life, which is as great an affliction to him as sending him into a foreign land, merely that I might gain a few miserable coins by selling one who must be as useless to his buyer as he was to his seller.

Cato, however, as if taking a perverse pleasure in flaunting his meannesses, relates that he left behind him in Spain the horse which he rode when consul there, in order to save the state the cost of carrying him over to Italy. Whether those acts of his are to be ascribed to magnanimity or narrow-mindedness the reader must decide for himself.

VI. He was a man of wonderful temperance, in all other respects also. For example, when he was general, he only drew from the public stock three Attic bushels of wheat a month for himself and his servants, and less than three half-bushels of barley a day for his horses. When he was Governor of Sardinia, where former governors had been in the habit of charging their tents, bedding, and wearing-apparel to the province, and likewise making it pay large sums for their entertainment and that of their friends, he introduced an unheard-of system of economy. He charged nothing to the province, and visited the various cities without a carriage, walking on foot alone, attended by one single public servant carrying his robe of state and the vessel to make libations at a sacrifice. With all this he showed himself so affable and simple to those under his rule, so severe and inexorable in the administration of justice, and so vigilant and careful in seeing that his orders were duly executed, that the government of Rome never was more feared or more loved in Sardinia than when he governed that island.

VII. His conversation seems also to have had this character, for he was cheerful and harsh all at once, pleasant and yet severe as a companion, fond of jokes, but morose at the same time, just as Plato tells us that Sokrates, if judged merely from his outside, appeared to be only a silly man with a face like a satyr, who was rude to all he met, though his inner nature was earnest and full of thoughts that moved his hearers to tears and touched their hearts. For this reason I cannot understand how any persons can see a likeness between the orations of Lysias and those of Cato; however, this point must be decided by those who are more skilled than myself in the comparison of oratorical styles. I shall now relate a few of his more remarkable sayings, believing that a man’s real character can be better judged of by his words than by his looks, although some people hold the contrary opinion.

VIII. Once when he wished to restrain the Romans from distributing a large quantity of corn as a largesse to the people, he began his speech: “It is difficult, my fellow-citizens, to make the stomach hear reason, because it has no ears.” When desiring to blame the extravagance of the Romans, he said that a city could not be safe in which a fish sold dearer than an ox. He said, too, that the Romans were like sheep, who never form opinions of their own, but follow where the others lead them. “Just so,” said he, “when you are assembled together you are led by men whose advice you would scorn to take about your own private affairs.” With regard to female influence he once said, “All mankind rule their wives, we rule all mankind, and we are ruled by our wives.” This remark, however, is borrowed from Themistokles. He one day, when his child was instigating its mother to lay many commands upon him, said, “Wife, remember that the Athenians rule the Greeks, I rule the Athenians, you rule me, and your child rules you; wherefore let him not abuse his power, which, though he knows it not, is greater than that of anyone else in Greece.” Cato also said that the Romans fixed the price, not only of different dyes, but of different professions. “Just as the dyers,” said he, “dye stuff of whatever colour they see people pleased with, so do our young men only study and apply themselves to those subjects which are praised and commended by you.” He used also to beg of them, if they had become great by virtue and self-restraint, not to degenerate; and if, on the other hand, their empire had been won by licentiousness and vice, to reform themselves, since by the latter means they had become so great as not to need any further assistance from them. Those who were always seeking office, he said, were like men who could not find their way, who always wished to walk with lictors before them to show them the road. He blamed his countrymen for often electing the same men to public offices. “You will appear,” said he, “either to think that the office is not worth much, or else that there are not many worthy to fill it.” Alluding to one of his enemies who led a dissolute and discreditable life, he said: “That man’s mother takes it as a curse rather than a blessing if any one hopes that her son will survive her.” When a certain man sold his ancestral estate, which was situated by the seashore, Cato pretended to admire him, as being more powerful than the sea itself, “for this man,” said he, has “drunk up the fields which the sea itself could not swallow.” When King Eumenes came to Rome the Senate received him with special honours, and he was much courted and run after. Cato, however, held himself aloof and would not go near him, and when some one said “Yet he is an excellent man, and a good friend to Rome,” he answered, “It may be so, but a king is by nature an animal that lives on human flesh.” None of those who had borne the title of king, according to Cato, were to be compared with Epameinondas, or Perikles, or Themistokles, or with Manius Curius or Hamilcar Barcas. He used to say that his enemies hated him because he began his day’s work while it was still dark, and because he neglected his own affairs to attend to those of the public. He also was wont to say that he had rather his good actions should go unrewarded than that his bad ones should be unpunished; and that he pardoned all who did wrong except himself.

IX. When the Romans sent three ambassadors to Bithynia, one of whom was crippled by the gout, another had been trepanned and had a piece taken out of his head, and the third was thought to be a simpleton, Cato remarked that the Romans had sent an embassy which had neither feet, head, nor heart. When, for the sake of Polybius the historian, Scipio entreated Cato to exert his influence on behalf of the Achaean exiles, after a long debate in the Senate, where some advised that they should be sent back to their own country, and some that they should still be detained at Rome, he got up and said, “Have we nothing better to do than to sit all day discussing whether a parcel of old Greeks shall be buried here or in Achaia?” A few days after the Senate had decreed the restoration of the exiles, Polybius proposed to make another application, that they should be restored to all the offices which they formerly held in Achaia. He asked Cato whether he thought that he should succeed in this second appeal to the Senate; to which Cato answered with a smile, that he was imitating Ulysses, when he returned again into the cave of the Cyclops to fetch the hat and girdle which he had left behind and forgotten. He said that wise men gained more advantage from fools, than fools from wise men; for the wise men avoid the errors of fools, but fools cannot imitate the example of wise men. He said that he loved young men to have red cheeks rather than pale ones, and that he did not care for a soldier who used his hands while he marched and his feet while he fought, or one who snored louder in bed than he shouted in battle. When reproaching a very fat man he said, “How can this man’s body be useful to his country, when all parts between the neck and the groin are possessed by the belly?” Once when an epicure wished to become his friend, he said that he could not live with a man whose palate was more sensitive than his heart. He said also that the soul of a lover inhabits the body of his beloved. He himself tells us, that in his whole life he repented of three things only: First, that he had trusted a woman with a secret. Secondly, that he had gone by water when he might have gone by land. Thirdly, that he had passed one day without having made his will. To an old man who was acting wrongly he said, “My good sir, old age is ugly enough without your adding the deformity of wickedness to it.” When a certain tribune, who was suspected of being a poisoner, was endeavouring to carry a bad law, Cato remarked, “Young man, I do not know which is the worst for us, to drink what you mix, or to enact what you propose.” Once when he was abused by a man of vicious life, he answered, “We are not contending upon equal terms; you are accustomed to hearing and using bad language, while I am both unused to hearing it and unwilling to use it.”

X. When he was elected consul, together with his friend and neighbour Valerius Flaccus, the province which fell to his lot was that which the Romans call Hither Spain. While he was there engaged in establishing order, partly by persuasion, and partly by force, he was attacked by a large army of the natives, and was in danger of being disgracefully defeated by their overwhelming numbers. Consequently he applied for aid to the neighbouring tribe of the Celtiberians, who demanded as the price of their assistance the sum of two hundred talents. At this every one protested that it was unworthy of Romans to pay barbarians for their alliance, but Cato said that he saw no evil in the practice, since, if the Romans were victorious, they would pay them from the spoils of the enemy, while if they were defeated there would be no one to demand the money and no one to pay it. He won a pitched battle on this occasion, and was very successful in his whole campaign. Polybius indeed tells us that in one day at his command all the cities on this side of the river Guadalquiver pulled down their walls; and yet they were very numerous, and filled with a warlike population. Cato himself tells us that he took more cities than he spent days in Spain; nor is this a vain boast, if the number captured really, as is stated, amounted to four hundred. His soldiers enriched themselves considerably during the campaign; and at the termination of it he distributed a pound of silver to each man, saying that it was better that many Romans should return to Rome with silver in their pockets than that a few should return with gold. He himself states that he received no part of the plunder except what he ate or drank. “I do not,” said he, “blame those who endeavour to enrich themselves by such means, but I had rather vie with the noblest in virtue than with the richest in wealth, or with the most covetous in covetousness.” He not only kept his own hands clean, but those of his followers also. He took five servants to the war with him. One of these, Paccius by name, bought three boys at a sale of captives; but when Cato heard of it, Paccius, rather than come into his presence, hanged himself. Cato sold the boys, and paid the price into the public treasury.

XI. While he was still in Spain, Scipio the Great, who was his personal enemy, desiring to check his career of success, and to obtain the management of Spanish affairs for himself, contrived to get himself appointed to succeed Cato in his government. He at once hurried to Spain and brought Cato’s rule to an end. Cato, however, at once marched to meet Scipio with an escort of five companies of infantry and five hundred horsemen. On his way he conquered the tribe of the Lacetani; and finding among them six hundred deserters from the Roman army, he put them to death. When Scipio expressed his dissatisfaction with this, Cato sarcastically answered, that Rome would be greatest if those of high birth and station, and those of plebeian origin like himself, would only contend with one another in virtue. However, as the Senate decreed that nothing that Cato had settled in the province should be altered or rearranged, Scipio found that it was he rather than Cato that was disgraced, as he had to pass his time in inglorious idleness, while Cato, after enjoying a triumph, did not retire into a life of luxury and leisure, as is done by so many men whose object is display rather than true virtue, after they have risen to the highest honours in the state by being elected consuls and enjoying the honour of a triumph. He did not impair the glorious example which he had given, by withdrawing his attention from the affairs of his country, but offered his services to his friends and fellow-countrymen, both in the courts of law and in the field, as willingly as those who have just begun their public career, and are keenly eager to be elected to some new office in which they may win fresh distinction.

XII. He went with the consul Tiberius Sempronius as legate, and assisted him in regulating the country about the Danube and Thrace; and he also served as military tribune under Manius Acilius during his campaign in Greece against Antiochus the Great, who caused more terror to the Romans than any one man since the time of Hannibal. Antiochus had originally inherited nearly the whole of Asia, that is, as much as Seleukus Nikator had possessed, and having added many warlike tribes to his empire, was so elated by his conquests as to attack the Romans, whom he regarded as the only nation remaining in the whole world which was worthy to be his antagonist. He put forward as a plausible reason for beginning the war that he intended to liberate the Greeks, who did not require his interference, as they had just been made free and independent by the Romans, who had delivered them from the tyranny of Philip and the Macedonians. Antiochus crossed over into Greece, which at once became unsettled, and a prey to hopes and fears suggested by her political leaders. Manius at once sent ambassadors to the various cities. Titus Flamininus, as has been related in his Life, restrained the greater part of them from revolutionary proceedings, and kept them to their allegiance, but Cato won over Corinth, Patrae, and AEgium. Most of his time was spent in Athens; and there is said to be still extant a speech which he made to the people there in Greek, in which he speaks with admiration of the virtue of the Athenians of old, and dwells upon his own pleasure in viewing so great and beautiful a city. This, however, is a fabrication, for we know that he conversed with the Athenians through an interpreter, though he was able to speak their language, because he wished to keep to the ways of his fathers, and administer a rebuke to those who extravagantly admired the Greeks. Thus he laughed at Postumius Albinus, who wrote a history in Greek and begged that his mistakes might be pardoned, saying that it would be right to pardon them if he wrote his history by a decree of the council of Amphiktyons. He himself says that the Athenians were surprised it the shortness and pregnant nature of his talk; for what he said in a few words, his interpreter translated by a great many: and in general he concludes that the Greeks talk from the lips, and the Romans from the heart.

XIII. When Antiochus occupied the pass of Thermopylae with his army, and, after adding to the natural strength of the place by artificial defences, established himself there as if in an impregnable position, the Romans decided that to attack him in front was altogether impossible, but Cato, remembering how the Persians under Xerxes had turned the Greek forces by a circuitous march over the mountains, took a part of the force and set off by night. When they had gone for some distance over the mountains, the prisoner who served as their guide lost his way, and wandered about in that precipitous and pathless wilderness so as to cause great discouragement to the soldiers. Seeing this, Cato ordered every one to halt and await his orders, and himself, with one companion, one Lucius Manlius, an experienced mountaineer, laboriously and daringly plunged along through intense darkness, for there was no moon, while the trees and rocks added to their difficulties by preventing their seeing distinctly whither they were going, until they came to a path, which, as they thought, led directly down upon the camp of the enemy. Hereupon they set up marks to guide them upon some conspicuous crags of Mount Kallidromus, and returning to the army, led it to these marks, and started along the paths which they had descried. But before they had proceeded far the path ended in a precipice, at which they were both surprised and disheartened; for they could not tell, either by sight or hearing, that they were close to the enemy. It was now about daybreak, and they thought that they heard voices near at hand, and soon were able to see a Greek camp and an outpost at the foot of the precipice. Cato hereupon halted his army, and ordered the Firmiani, in whom he reposed especial confidence, to come forward alone. When they had assembled round him, he said, “I wish to take one of the enemy prisoner, and learn from him of what troops this outpost is formed, what their numbers are, how the rest of the army are placed, and what preparations they have made to resist us. You must dash upon them as quickly and boldly as lions do upon their defenceless prey.” At these words of Cato’s the Firmiani at once rushed down and attacked the outpost. The suddenness of their onset threw the enemy into complete confusion, and they soon caught one of them and brought him before Cato. Learning from this man that all the rest of the army was with King Antiochus himself, guarding the pass of Thermopylae, and that only a body of six hundred picked AEtolians were watching the path over the mountains, Cato despising so small and contemptible a force, at once drew his sword, and led on his troops with shouts and trumpets sounding the charge. The AEtolians, as soon as they saw the Romans descending from the hills, fled to the main body, and filled it with confusion and terror.

XIV. Meanwhile Manius on the lower ground had attacked the fortifications in the pass with his entire force. Antiochus was struck on the mouth with a stone which knocked out several of his teeth, and the pain of his wound compelled him to wheel round his horse and retreat. His troops nowhere withstood the Romans, but, although they had endless means of escape by roads where they could scarcely be followed, yet they crowded through the narrow pass with deep marshy ground on the one hand and inaccessible rocks upon the other, and there trampled each other to death for fear of the swords of the Romans.

Cato never seems to have been sparing of his own praise, and thought that great deeds required to be told in boastful language. He gives a very pompous account of this battle, and says that all those who saw him pursuing and cutting down the enemy felt that Cato did not owe so much to the Romans, as the Romans owed to Cato. He also says that the consul Manius immediately after the victory was won, enfolded him for a long time in a close embrace, and loudly declared that neither he nor all the Roman people could ever do as much for Cato as he had that day done for them. He was sent immediately after the battle to bear the news of the victory to Rome, and reached Brundusium after a prosperous voyage.

From that place he drove in one day to Tarentum, and in four more days reached Rome with the news, on the fifth day after his landing. His arrival filled the whole city with feasting and rejoicing, and made the Roman people believe that there was no nation in the world which could resist their arms.

XV. Of Cato’s warlike exploits these which we have related are the most remarkable. In his political life he seems to have thought one of his most important duties to be the impeachment and prosecution of those whom he thought to be bad citizens. He himself attacked many persons, and aided and encouraged others in doing so, a notable example being his conduct towards Scipio in the affair of Petillius. However, as Scipio was a man of noble birth and great spirit, he treated the attack made upon him with contempt, and Cato, perceiving that he could not succeed in getting him condemned to death, desisted from annoying him. But he was active in obtaining the condemnation of Scipio’s brother Lucius, who was adjudged to pay a heavy fine, which was beyond his means to provide, so that he had nearly been cast into prison, but was set free by the intervention of the tribunes of the people.

It is related of him that he once met in the forum a young man who had just succeeded in obtaining the disfranchisement, by an action at law, of an enemy of his father, who was dead. Cato took him by the hand and said, “Thus ought men to honour their parents when they die, not with the blood of lambs and kids, but with the tears and condemnation of their enemies.” He himself is said to have been the defendant in nearly fifty actions, the last of which was tried when he was eighty-six years of age: on which occasion he uttered that well-known saying, that it was hard for a man who had lived in one generation to be obliged to defend himself before another. And this was not the end of his litigations, for four years later, when at the age of ninety, he impeached Servius Galba. Indeed his life, like that of Nestor, seems to havo reached over three generations. He, as had been related, was a bitter political opponent of Scipio Africanus the Great, and he continued his enmity to Scipio’s adopted son, called Scipio the Younger, who was really the son of AEmilius Paulus, the conqueror of Perseus and the Macedonians.

XVI. Ten years after his consulship, Cato became a candidate for the office of censor. This is the highest dignity to which a Roman can aspire, and may be regarded as the goal of political life. Its powers are very extensive, and it is especially concerned with the regulation of public morals, and the mode of life of the citizens of Rome. The Romans thought that none of a man’s actions, his marriage, his family, his mode of life, his very entertainments, ought to be uncontrolled, and managed according to his own will and pleasure. They considered that a man’s true character was much more clearly shown by his private life than by his public behaviour, and were wont to choose two citizens, one a patrician, and the other a plebeian, whose duty it was to watch over the morals of the people, and check any tendency to licentiousness or extravagance. These officers they called censors, and they had power to deprive a Roman knight of his horse, and to expel men of loose and disorderly life from the Senate. They also took a census of property, and kept a register of the various tribes and classes of the citizens; and they likewise exercised various other important powers. Cato’s candidature was opposed by nearly all the most distinguished members of the Senate, for the patricians viewed him with especial dislike, regarding it as an insult to the nobility that men of obscure birth should attain to the highest honours in the state, while all those who were conscious of any private vices or departures from the ways of their fathers, feared the severities of one who, they knew, would be harsh and inexorable when in power.

These classes consequently combined together against Cato, and put up no less than seven candidates to contest the censorship with him, and endeavoured to soothe the people by holding out to them hopes of a lenient censor, as though that were what they required. Cato on the other hand would not relax his severity in the least, but threatened evil doers in his speeches from the rostra, and insisted that the city required a most searching reformation. He told the people that if they were wise, they would choose not the most agreeable, but the most thorough physicians to perform this operation for them, and that these would be himself and Valerius Flaccus; for with him as a colleague he imagined that he might make some progress in the work of destroying, by knife and cautery, the hydra of luxury and effeminacy. Of the other candidates he said that he saw that each one was eager to get the office and fill it badly, because he was afraid of those who could fill it well. The Roman people on this occasion showed itself so truly great and worthy to be courted by great men, as not to be alarmed at the earnest severity of Cato; but, setting aside all those plausible candidates who promised merely to consult their pleasure, elected Cato and Valerius censors. It seemed, indeed, as if Cato, inatead of being a candidate for election, was already in office and issuing his commands to the people, which were at once obeyed.

XVII. As soon as he was elected, Cato appointed his friend and colleague, Lucius Valerius Flaccus, chief of the Senate. He expelled several senators, amongst whom was Lucius Quintius, who had been consul seven years before, and, which was even a greater distinction than the consulship, was the brother of Titus Quintius Flamininus, the conqueror of Philip. He was expelled from the Senate for the following reason. Lucius had a favourite boy who never left his person, and followed him even on his campaigns. This boy had more power and received greater attention than the most trusty of his friends and relatives. Now, when Lucius was governor of a province as proconsul, this boy once, at a drinking party, was flattering him over his wine, saying that “Although there was going to be a show of gladiators at Rome, yet I did not stay to see it, but came out here to you, although I longed to see a man killed.” Lucius, to please him, answered in the same tone, “If that be all, do not lie there and fret, for I will soon gratify your wish.” He at once ordered a condemned criminal to be brought into the banqueting hall, and one of his servants to stand by him with an axe, and then again asked his favourite whether he wished to see a man struck dead. When the boy said that he did, he bade the servant cut off the man’s head. This is the account which most writers give of the transaction, and it is that which Cicero introduces Cato as relating in his dialogue “On Old Age;” but Livy says that the man who was put to death was a Gaulish deserter, and that Lucius did not employ a servant, but slew him with his own hand, and this is the version which Cato has followed in his written account of the matter. When Cato discussed what took place at this wine party, Lucius endeavoured to deny it, but on being challenged to state exactly what happened he refused to answer. He was most justly condemned to lose his right as a senator; but afterwards, when some spectacle was being witnessed in the theatre, he walked past the place reserved for men of consular rank, and sat down in the humblest seat of all, which so moved the people to compassion, that they forced him by their clamour to resume his former seat, thus as far as they were able reversing the sentence upon him and condoning his offence.

Cato expelled another senator, who was thought likely to be soon elected consul, named Manilius, because he had kissed his wife in the daytime in the presence of his daughter. He himself said that his own wife never embraced him except when it thundered loudly, and added by way of joke, that he was happy when Jupiter was pleased to thunder.

XVIII. His conduct in depriving of his horse Lucius Scipio, the brother of Scipio Africanus, a man who had been decreed a triumph, was censured, as being merely prompted by private spite; as he seemed merely to do it in order to insult Scipio Africanus after his death. But what caused the greatest dissatisfaction were his restrictions on luxury. This he could not attack openly, because it had taken such deep root among the people, but he caused all clothes, carriages, women’s ornaments, and furniture, which exceeded fifteen hundred drachmas in value to be rated at ten times their value and taxed accordingly, as he thought that those who possessed the most valuable property ought to contribute most largely to the revenues of the state. In addition to this he imposed a tax on all citizens of three copper ases for every thousand, in order that those who were burdened with an excessive taxation on objects of luxury, when they saw persons of frugal and simple habits paying so small a tax on the same income, might cease from their extravagance. This measure gained him the hatred of those who were taxed so heavily for their luxuries, and of those who, to avoid excessive taxation, were obliged to give up their luxuries. Most persons are as much irritated at losing the means of displaying their wealth as at losing their wealth itself, and it is in superfluities, not in necessaries, that wealth can be displayed. This is what is said to have so much surprised Ariston the Philosopher, that men should consider those persons fortunate who possess what is superfluous, rather than those who possess what is necessary and useful. Skopas the Thessalian also, when one of his friends asked him for something which was not particularly useful to him, and added, that he did not ask for anything necessary or useful, answered, “Indeed, it is in these useless and superfluous things that my wealth chiefly consists.” For the desire of wealth is not connected with any of our physical necessities, and is an artificial want arising from too much regard for the opinion of the vulgar.

XIX. Cato paid no attention to those who blamed his conduct, and proceeded to measures of still greater severity. He cut off the water-pipes, by which water was conveyed from the public fountains into private houses and gardens, destroyed all houses that encroached upon the public streets, lowered the price of contracts for public works, and farmed out the public revenues for the highest possible rents. All this made him still more unpopular. Titus Flamininus and his friends attacked him, and prevailed upon the Senate to annul the contracts which he had made for the building of temples and the construction of public works, on the ground that they were disadvantageous to the state. They also encouraged the boldest of the tribunes to prosecute him before the people, and to fine him two talents. He likewise received violent opposition in the matter of the basilica, or public hall, which he built at the public expense in the forum below the senate house, and which was called the Basilica Porcia.

In spite of all this, his censorship seems to have been wonderfully popular with the Roman people. When they placed his statue in the Temple of Hygieia, they did not enumerate his campaigns or triumphs in the inscription on the base, but wrote what we may translate as follows: “This statue was erected to Cato because, when Censor, finding the state of Rome corrupt and degenerate, he, by introducing wise regulations and virtuous discipline, restored it.”

At one time Cato affected to despise those who took pleasure in receiving honours of this kind, and used to say that while they plumed themselves on being represented in brass or marble, they forgot that the fairest image was that of himself which every citizen bore in his heart. When any one expressed surprise at his not having a statue, when so many obscure men had obtained that honour, he answered, “I had rather that men should ask why I have no statue, than that they should ask why I have one.” A good citizen, he said, ought not even to allow himself to be praised, unless the state were benefited thereby. He has glorified himself by recording that when men were detected in any fault, they would excuse themselves by saying that they must be pardoned if they did anything amiss, for they were not Catos: and that those who endeavoured clumsily to imitate his proceedings were called left-handed Catos. Also he states that the Senate looked to him in great emergencies as men in a storm look to the pilot, and that when he was not present, they frequently postponed their more important business. This indeed is confirmed by other writers: for he had great influence in Rome on account of his virtuous life, his eloquence, and his great age.

XX. He was a good father and a good husband, and was in his private life an economist of no ordinary kind, as he did not despise money-making or regard it as unworthy of his abilities. For this reason I think I ought to relate how well he managed his private affairs. He married a wife who was well born, though not rich; for he thought that though all classes might possess equally good sense, yet that a woman of noble birth would be more ashamed of doing wrong, and therefore more likely to encourage her husband to do right. He used to say that a man who beat his wife or his children laid sacrilegious hands on the holiest of things. He also said that he had rather be a good husband than a great statesman, and that what he especially admired in Sokrates the Philosopher was his patience and kindness in bearing with his ill-tempered wife and his stupid children. When his son was born, he thought that nothing except the most important business of state ought to prevent his being present while his wife washed the child and wrapped it in swaddling clothes. His wife suckled the child herself; nay, she often gave her breast to the children of her slaves, and so taught them to have a brotherly regard for her own son.

As soon as he was able to learn, Cato himself taught him his letters, although he had a clever slave named Chilon, who taught many children to read. He himself declares that he did not wish a slave to reprove his son or pull his ears because he was slow at learning. He taught the boy to read, and instructed him also in the Roman law and in bodily exercises; not confining himself to teaching him to hurl the javelin, to fight in complete armour, and to ride, but also to use his fists in boxing, to endure the extremes of heat and cold, and to swim through swiftly-flowing and eddying rivers. He tells us that he himself wrote books on history with his own hands in large letters, that the boy might start in life with a useful knowledge of what his forefathers had done, and he was as careful not to use an indecenr expression before his son as he would have been before the vestal virgins. He never bathed with him; which indeed seems to have been customary at Rome, as even fathers-in-law scrupled to bathe naked before their sons-in-law. In later times, however, the Romans learned from the Greeks the habit of bathing naked, and have taught the Greeks to do so even in the presence of women.

While Cato was engaged in this great work of forming his son’s character and completing his education he found him eager to learn, and able to make great progress from his natural ability: but he appeared so weak and delicate that his father was obliged to relax the stern simplicity of his own life in his favour, and allow him some indulgences in diet. The young man, although so weakly, yet proved himself a good soldier in the wars, and distinfuished himself greatly in the battle in which AEmilius Paulus defeated King Perseus. Afterwards, upon the same day, he either had his sword struck from his hand or let it fall from weakness, and in his grief at the loss got together some of his friends and prevailed upon them again to charge the enemy. With great exertions they succeeded in clearing a space, and at length discovered his sword under a great heap of arms and corpses of friends and foes alike which were piled upon it. Paulus, the commander-in-chief, was much pleased with the youth’s eagerness to regain his sword, and sent a letter to Cato in which he spoke in the highest terms of the courage and honourable feeling which he had shown. He afterwards married Tertia, the sister of Scipio, and had the gratification of pleasing his father as much as himself by thus allying himself with one of the noblest families in Rome. Thus was Cato rewarded for the care which he had bestowed upon his son’s education.

XXI. He possessed a large number of slaves, and when captives were for sale he always purchased those who were young, and who, like colts or puppies, could be taught and trained to their duties. None of them ever entered any house but his own, unless sent thither by Cato or by his wife: and if they were asked what Cato was doing, they always answered that they did not know. His rule was, that a slave ought either to be doing his business or to be asleep; and he greatly preferred good sleepers, as he thought that they were more easy tempered than wakeful persons, and also that men who had slept well were better able to work than those who had lain awake. Knowing that love affairs lead slaves into mischief more than anything else, he permitted them to consort with his own female slaves at a fixed price, but forbade them to have anything to do with other women.

Cato in his earlier days, being a poor man, and always employed in service in the field, never complained of any thing that he ate, and thought it most disgraceful to quarrel with his servant for not having pleased his palate. Subsequently, however, as he became richer, he used to invite his friends and colleagues to dinner, and after the repast was wont to punish with the scourge those servants who had made mistakes or cooked the food badly. He always endeavoured to establish some quarrel amongst his slaves, so that they might plot against one another, instead of combining against himself; and when any of them appeared to have committed any crime deserving to be punished by death, the offender was formally tried, and if found guilty, was put to death in the presence of all his fellow-servants.

As Cato grew more eager to make money, he declared that farming was more an amusement than a source of income, and preferred investing his money in remunerative undertakings, such as marshes that required draining, hot springs, establishments for washing and cleaning clothes, land which would produce an income by pasturage or by the sale of wood, and the like, which afforded him a considerable revenue, and one which, as he said, not Jupiter himself could injure, meaning that he was not dependent upon the weather for his income, as farmers are. He also used to deal in marine assurance, which is thought to be a most dangerous form of investment, which he managed in the following manner. For the sake of security he made those who wished to borrow money form themselves into an association of fifty persons, representing as many ships, and held one share in the undertaking himself, which was managed by his freedman Quintio, who himself used to sail in the ships of the association and transact their mercantile business.

He used to lend money to his slaves, if they desired it. They used with the money to buy young slaves, teach them a trade at Cato’s expense for a year, and then dispose of them. Many of these Cato retained in his own service, paying the price offered by the highest bidder, and deducting from it the original cost of the slave. When endeavouring to encourage his son to act in a similar manner, he used to say that it was not the part of a man, but of a lone woman, to diminish one’s capital; and once, with an excessive exaggeration, he said that the most glorious and godlike man was he who on his death was found to have earned more than he inherited.

XXII. When he was an old man, Karneades the academic, and Diogenes the stoic philosopher, came as ambassadors to Rome on the part of the Athenians, to beg that they might not be forced to pay a fine of five hundred talents which had been imposed upon them in consequence of an action at law, brought against the Athenians by the people of Oropus, before the people of Sikyon as judges, having been allowed to go against them by default. Such of the Roman youths as had any taste for literature frequented the society of these men, and took great interest in hearing their discussions. They were especially delighted with Karneades, a man of great and recognised ability, who obtained large and enthusiastic audiences at his lectures, and filled the whole city with his fame. Nothing was talked of except how a single Greek with wonderful powers of eloquence and persuasion had so bewitched the youth of Rome that they forsook all other pleasures, and plunged wildly into philosophic speculations. The greater part of the citizens were well pleased with this, and looked on with great satisfaction at their sons’ study of Greek literature, and their intimacy with such celebrated men; but Cato, when the taste for philosophy first sprang up in Rome, was vexed at it, and feared that the young men might become more eager to gain distinction by fluent speaking than by warlike exploits. However, when the fame of the philosophers increased, and a distinguished man, Caius Acilius, at the general request, translated their first lectures to the Senate, Cato decided that the philosophers must at once be conducted with all due honours out of the city. He came to the Senate and made a speech, in which he blamed them for having allowed an embassy to remain so long at Rome without accomplishing its purpose, although nothing was easier than for it to gain its point. He called upon them therefore, to decide as soon as possible and come to a vote upon the matter about which this embassy was come, in order that these philosophers might return to their schools and instruct the young men of Greece, while those of Rome might, as before, give their attention to the laws and the magistrates.

XXIII. Cato acted thus, not as some writers imagine, from any private quarrel with Karneades, but because he disliked the philosophy altogether, and from a feeling of patriotism, regarded all Greek literature and methods of education with hatred and contempt. He used to say that Sokrates was a wordy and dangerous man, who endeavoured in his own way to make himself supreme in Athens, by destroying the best of the national customs and teaching the citizens to hold opinions at variance with the laws. He ridiculed Isokrates as a teacher of rhetoric, saying that his disciples stayed with him so long learning their profession, that they were only able to practice what they had learned in the court where Minos sat as judge in the next world. In his endeavours to dissuade his son from the study of Greek literature, he abused the privileges of old age so far as to utter a prophecy that the Romans would ruin their empire by too intimate an acquaintance with the arts of Greece. Time, however, has proved this to be a mere empty slander, seeing that since then Rome has risen to a wonderful height of power and glory, and yet is thoroughly familiar with Greek writings and studies. Cato not only disliked the Greek philosophers, but also looked with suspicion on the Greek physicians who then practised at Rome. He had heard some story about Hippokrates, who, when the king of Persia offered him a large sum of money if he would come to Persia, answered that he never would give his services to barbarians who were the enemies of Greece. Cato used to say that all Greek physicians had sworn an oath to act like Hippokrates, and warned his son never to have any dealings with any of them. He himself had a book full of recipes, according to which he used to physick and regulate the diet of any who fell sick in his house, being careful never to allow the patient to fast, but making him eat salad, with ducks, pigeons, and hares, which he said were light food, and suitable for sick persons, except that it often happened that those who ate of them suffered from nightmares. He used to declare that by following this regimen, he kept both himself and all his household in perfect health.

XXIV. He seems to have been justly rewarded for his quackery, for he lost both his wife and his son by sickness. He himself, however, being of an iron constitution, made a second marriage, in spite of his advanced age, being led into it by the following circumstances. After the death of his wife he arranged a marriage between his son and the daughter of AEmilius Paulus, who was the sister of Scipio. He himself meanwhile solaced himself by an intrigue with a maid-servant who visited him by stealth. However, in a small house with a daughter-in-law in it this could not be kept secret; and one day when this woman was insolently swaggering into his father’s bedchamber, young Cato was observed by the old man to glance at her with bitter hatred and then turn away in disgust. As soon as Cato perceived that his conduct vexed his children, he said not a word, but went into the forum with his friends, as was his wont. Here one Salonius, who was one of his under-secretaries, met him and began to pay his respects to him, when Cato asked him in a loud voice whether he had provided a husband for his daughter. On the man’s replying that he had not, and would not presume to do so without consulting him, Cato replied, “Well, I, by Jupiter, have found a very suitable person to marry her, unless his age be any objection: for he is very passable in all respects except that he is very old.” As Salonius upon this bade him carry out his intention and marry the girl to whomsoever he pleased, seeing that she was his client and he was her patron, Cato without a moment’s delay told him that he wished to marry the girl himself. This proposal at first, as might be expected, astonished the secretary, who had thought that a man at Cato’s time of life was very unlikely to marry, and had never dreamed that his humble family would be allied with a house which could boast of consulates and triumphs; but as he saw that Cato was in earnest he gladly accepted his offer. While the preparations for the marriage were in progress, young Cato, taking his relatives with him, went and inquired of his father whether he had reproached or annoyed him in any way, that he was putting a mother-in-law over him. Cato at this question cried out aloud, “Hush, my son; I approve of all that you have done, and find no fault with you: I only desire to leave behind me more sons of my race, and more citizens to serve the state.” It is said that this remark was first made by Peisistratus, the despot of Athens, when, although he had sons grown up, he married Timonassa of Argos, by whom we are told that he had two sons, Iophon and Thessalus. Cato also had a son by his second marriage, whom he named Salonius after his mother. His eldest son died during his praetorship. Cato often mentions him in his writings as having been a brave and good man, but is said to have borne his loss with philosophic resignation, and to have taken as keen an interest in politics as before. He did not, as was afterwards done by Lucius Lucullus or Metellus Pius, abandon public life when he grew old, and think that it was a burden to take part in politics; still less did he imitate Scipio Africanus, who some years before had proudly turned his back on the people who grudged him the glory he had won, and spent the rest of his life in ease and retirement. Some one is said to have told Dionysius of Syracuse that an absolute monarchy is the best thing for a man to die in, and so Cato seemed to think that political life was the best for him to grow old in, while he amused himself in his leisure moments by writing and farming.

XXV. He compiled works on various subjects, especially on history. Farming he applied himself to when very young, on account of his poverty, for he himself tells us that he had only two sources of income, farming and frugality. In later life he derived both amusement and instruction from watching the operations of agriculture, and he has written a farmer’s manual, in which there is even an account of how to cook cakes and preserve fruits, so desirous was he to show a thorough knowledge of every subject. His table was never so well served as when he was in the country; for he used to invite all his friends and acquaintances from the neighbourhood, and make himself very agreeable to them, as he was a pleasant companion not only to men of his own age, but also to the young, having in the course of his long life seen and heard from others much that was interesting and curious. He regarded the table as the best means of forming friendships, and when dining used to praise the good without stint, but never would allow the names of worthless men to be mentioned, either by way of praise or blame, at his entertainments.

XXVI. The last of his political acts is said to have been the destruction of Carthage. This was actually brought to pass by Scipio the Younger, but it was chiefly owing to the counsels of Cato that the war was begun. His reason for insisting on its destruction was this. He was sent on a mission to Africa to investigate the grounds of a quarrel which existed between the Carthaginians and Masinissa, the king of the Numidians. Masinissa had always been the friend of Rome, whereas the Carthaginians, after their defeat by Scipio, had been subjected to hard conditions, having lost their sovereignty over the neighbouring tribes, and having been compelled to pay a large sum as tribute to Rome. Cato, however, found the city, not, as the Romans imagined it to be, crushed by its recent overthrow, but full of young men, overflowing with wealth, well provided with arms and munitions of war, and, as may be expected, full of warlike spirit. He concluded that it was no time for the Romans to arbitrate about the grievances of Masinissa and his Numidians, but that, unless they at once destroyed a city which bore them an undying hatred and which had recovered its strength in an incredibly short space of time, they would have as much to fear from Carthage as ever. He quickly returned home, and pointed out to the Senate that the former defeats and misfortunes suffered by the Carthaginians had not really broken their strength so much as they had dissipated their overweening self-confidence, and that in the late war they had not lost so much in strength as they had gained in experience and skill. Their present difference with the Numidians was, he urged, merely a prelude to an attack upon Rome, with which city they kept up the fiction of a peace which would soon upon a suitable opportunity be exchanged for war.

XXVII. After these words it is said that Cato threw down in the senate house some ripe figs which he had brought on purpose; and when the senators admired their size and beauty, he remarked that “the country which produced this fruit is only three days’ sail distant from Rome.” Another and a more violent method of forcing the Romans to attack them was his habit, when giving his opinion on any subject whatever, to append the words, “And I also am of opinion that Carthage must he destroyed.” On the other hand, Publius Scipio, called Nasica, used to end all his speeches with the words, “And I further am of opinion that Carthage should be left alone.” Scipio’s reason for this was that he perceived that the lower classes in Rome, elated by success, were becoming difficult for the Senate to manage, and practically forced the State to adopt whatever measures they chose. He thought that to have this fear of Carthage kept constantly hanging over them would be a salutary check upon the insolence of the people, and he thought that although Carthage was too weak to conquer the Romans, yet that it was too strong to be despised by them. Cato, on the other hand, thought it a dangerous thing that, at a time when the Romans were giddy and drunk with power, they should leave in existence a city which always had been important, and which now, sobered by defeat, was biding its time and lying in wait for a favourable opportunity to avenge itself. He argued that it was better to set the Romans free from any fear of foreign states, in order that they might be able to devote themselves uninterruptedly to the task of political reform.

These are said to have been Catos reasons for urging his countrymen to begin the third and last Punic war. He died as soon as the war was begun, leaving a prophecy that it would be finished by a young man who was then serving as military tribune, and who had given remarkable proofs of courage and generalship. Cato, on hearing of his exploits is said to have quoted Homers line

“He alone has solid wisdom; all the rest are shadows vain.”

This opinion Scipio soon confirmed by his actions.

Cato left one son by his second wife, who, as has been said, was named Salonius, and one grandson, the child of his eldest son who was dead. Salonius died during his praetorship, but his son Marcus became consul. This man was the grandfather of Cato the Philosopher, who was one of the foremost men of his day in courage and ability.