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[60]

But they even designed to stain the character of Marcus Cato by that transaction; ignorant of the extent of such a man's wisdom, and integrity, and magnanimity, and virtue; which is tranquil during a terrible tempest, and shines amid the darkness, and, though driven from its proper position,1 still remains, and clings to his country, and shines at all times by its own unassisted light, and is never tarnished by the dirt or disgrace of others. Their object was, not to do honour to Marcus Cato, but to banish him. They did not think that they were entrusting that commission to him, but imposing it on him; and said openly in the assembly, that they had cut Marcus Cato's tongue out, which had always spoken so freely against all extraordinary commissions. They will feel, I trust, in a short time, that that freedom of his still continues; and even if that be possible that it exists in a still greater degree from this circumstance, that Marcus Cato, even when he despaired of being any longer able to do any good by his authority, still with his voice and with every expression of indignation struggled against those consuls and, after my departure, weeping for my misfortune and for that of the republic, attacked Piso in such language, that he made that most abandoned and most shameless man almost repent of his bargain about the province


1 Clodius had an old grudge against Ptolemaeus king of Cyprus for refusing to ransom him once when be was taken prisoner by pirates; and now, having proposed a law to reduce his kingdom to the state of a province, and to confiscate all his property, he got the execution of the decree given to Cato, partly to throw discredit on Cato, and partly to oblige him to acknowledge the validity of his acts by submitting to bear a part in them: and Cato was much pleased at the commission. Ptolemaeus, as soon as he had heard of the law and of Cato's approach, poisoned himself in despair.

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