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Cato

A surname of the Porcian family, derived from the Sabine catus, cognate with acutus.


1.

M. Porcius Cato, surnamed Censorius, in allusion to the severity with which he discharged the office of a censor, and hence commonly styled, at the present day, “ Cato the Censor.” Other surnames were, Priscus, “the old,” and Maior, “the elder,” both alluding to his having preceded, in order of time, the younger Cato , who committed suicide at Utica. Cato the Censor was born in B.C. 234 at Tusculum, of plebeian parents. His family were in very moderate circumstances, and little, if anything, was known of it, until he himself made the name a conspicuons one. His father left him a small farm in the Sabine territory, and here the first years of his youth were spent. The state of public affairs, however, soon compelled him to take up arms for the defence of his country. The Second Punic War had broken out, and Hannibal had invaded Italy. Cato, therefore, served his first campaign, at the age of seventeen, under Fabius Maximus, when he besieged the city of Capua. Five years after this he fought under the same commander at the siege of Tarentum, and, after the capture of this place, became acquainted with the Pythagorean Nearchus, who initiated him into the principles of that system of philosophy, with which, in practice, he had already become familiar. The war being ended, Cato returned to his farm. Near this there stood a cottage belonging to Manius Curius Dentatus, who had repeatedly triumphed over the Sabines and Samnites, and had at length driven Pyrrhus from Italy. Cato was accustomed frequently to walk over to the humble abode of this renowned commander, where he was struck with admiration at the frugality of its owner, and the skilful management of the farm which was attached to it. Hence it became his great object to emulate his illustrious neighbour, and adopt him as his model. Having made an estimate of his house, lands, slaves, and expenses, he applied himself to husbandry with new ardour, and retrenched all superfluity. In the morning he went to the small towns in the vicinity to plead and defend the causes of those who applied to him for assistance. Thence he returned to his fields, where, with a plain cloak over his shoulders in winter, and almost naked in summer, he laboured with his servants till they had concluded their tasks, after which he sat down along with them at table, eating the same bread and drinking the same wine. Valerius Flaccus, a noble and powerful Roman, who occupied an estate in the neighbourhood of Cato 's residence, persuaded the young Cato to remove to Rome, and promised to assist him by his influence and patronage. Cato came, accordingly, to the capital, with an obscure name, and with no other resources than his own talents and the aid of the generous Flaccus; but by the purity of his morals, the austere energy of his character, his knowledge of the laws, his fluency of elocution, and the great ability that marked his early forensic career, he soon won for himself a distinguished name. It was in the camp, however, rather than at the bar, that he strove to raise himself to eminence. At the age of thirty he went as military tribune to Sicily. The next year he was chosen quaestor, and was attached to the army which Scipio Africanus was to carry into Africa, at which period there commenced between him and that commander a rivalry and hatred which lasted until death. Cato , who had returned to Rome, accused Scipio of extravagance; and though he failed in supporting his charge, yet his zeal for the public good gained him great influence over the minds of the people. Five years subsequent to this, after having been already aedile, he was chosen praetor, and the province of Sardinia fell to him by lot. His integrity and justice, while discharging this office, brought him into direct and most favourable contrast with those who had preceded him. Here, too, it was that he became acquainted with the poet Ennius, who was then serving among the Calabrian levies attached to the army. From Ennius he acquired the Greek language, and, on his departure from the island, he took the bard along with him to Rome. He was finally elected consul, B.C. 193, and his colleague in office was Valerius Flaccus, his early friend. While consul he strenuously but fruitlessly opposed the abolition of the famous Oppian Law (see Oppia Lex), and soon after this set out for Spain, which had attempted to shake off the Roman yoke. With newly raised troops, which he soon converted into an excellent army, he quickly reduced that province to submission, and obtained the honours of a triumph at Rome. Hardly had Cato descended from the triumphal chariot, when, laying aside the consular robe and assuming the garb of the lieutenant, he accompanied, as such, the Roman commander Sempronius into Thrace. He afterwards placed himself under the orders of Manius Acilius, the consul, to fight against Antiochus, and carry the war into Thessaly. By a bold march he seized upon Callidromus, one of the rockiest summits of Thermopylae, and thus decided the issue of the conflict. For this signal service, the consul, in the excess of his enthusiasm, embraced him in the presence of the whole army, and exclaimed that it was neither in his power, nor in that of the Roman people, to award him a recompense commensurate with his deserts (B.C. 191).

Seven years later he obtained the office of censor, notwithstanding the powerful opposition of a large part of the nobility, who dreaded to have so severe an inspector of public morals at a time when luxury, the result of their Asiatic conquests, had driven out many of the earlier virtues of the Roman people. He fulfilled this trust with inflexible rigour. Some of his acts, it is true, would seem to have proceeded from that pugnacious bitterness which must be contracted by a man engaged in constant strife and inflictions: thus, for example, he took away his horse from Lucius Scipio, and expelled Manilius from the Senate for kissing his wife in the presence of his children. Still, however, most of his proceedings when censor indicate a man who aimed, by every method, at keeping up the true spirit of earlier days. Hence, though his measures, while holding this office, caused him some obloquy and opposition, they met in the end with the highest applause; and when he resigned the censorship the people erected a statue to him in the Temple of Health, with an honourable inscription testifying his faithful discharge of the duties of his office. Cato 's attachment to the old Roman morals was still more plainly seen in his opposition to Carneades (q.v.) and his colleagues, when he persuaded the Senate to send back these philosophers, without delay, to their own schools, through fear lest the Roman youth should lose their martial character in the pursuit of Grecian learning. The whole political career of Cato was one continued warfare. He was constantly accusing others, or made the subject of accusation himself. Livy , although full of admiration for his character, still does not seek to deny that Cato was suspected of having excited the accusation brought against Scipio Africanus, which compelled that illustrious man to leave the capital. He was also the means of the condemnation of Scipio Asiaticus, who would have been dragged to prison had not Tiberius Gracchus generously interfered. As for Cato himself, he was fifty times accused and as often acquitted. He was eighty-five years of age when he saw himself compelled to answer the last accusation brought against him, and the exordium of his speech on that occasion was marked by a peculiar and touching simplicity: “It is a hard thing, Romans, to give an account of one's conduct before the men of an age different from that in which one has himself lived.”

The last act of Cato 's public life was his embassy to Carthage, to settle the dispute between the Carthaginians and King Masinissa. This voyage of his is rendered famous in history, since to it has been attributed the destruction of Carthage. In fact, struck by the rapid recovery of this city from the loss it had sustained, Cato ever after ended every speech of his with the well-known words, Praeterea censeo Carthaginem esse delendam (“I am also of opinion that Carthage ought to be destroyed”). See Carthago.

Cato died a year after his return from this embassy, in the eighty-fifth year of his age. Although frugal of the public revenues, he does not appear to have been indifferent to riches, nor to have neglected the ordinary means of acquiring them; and, if Plutarch speaks truly, some of the modes to which he had recourse for increasing his resources were anything but reputable. Towards the end of his life he was fond of indulging in a glass of wine, and of inviting daily some of his neighbours to sup with him at his villa; and the conversation on these occasions turned, not as one might have supposed, chiefly on rural affairs, but on the praises of great and excellent men among the Romans. He was twice married, and had a son by each of his wives. His conduct as husband and father was equally exemplary. In fact, Cato may be taken as a specimen of the SabinoSamnite character, narrow, bigoted, and obstinate, yet inspired with a strong sense of duty and unimpeachable integrity.

Among the literary labours of Cato , the first that deserves mention is the treatise De Re Rustica, more properly styled De Agri Cultura, which appears to have come down to us in a mutilated state, since Pliny and other writers allude to subjects as treated of by Cato , and to opinions as delivered by him in this book, which are nowhere to be found in any part of the work now extant. In its present state, it is merely the loose, disconnected journal of a plain farmer, expressed with rude, sometimes with almost oracular, brevity; and it wants all those elegant topics of embellishment and illustration which the subject might have so naturally suggested. It consists solely of the dryest rules of agriculture, and some recipes for making various kinds of cakes and wine. Servius says it is addressed to the author's son, but there is no dedication now extant. It is divided into chapters, but the author, apparently, had never taken the trouble of reducing his precepts to any sort of method, or of following any general plan. The hundred and sixty-two chapters, of which this work consists, seem so many rules committed to writing, as the daily labours of the field suggested. He gives directions about the vineyard, then goes to his corn-fields, and returns again to the vineyard. His treatise, therefore, was evidently not intended as a regular and well-composed book, but merely as a journal of incidental observations. That this was its utmost pretension is further evinced by the brevity of the precepts, and the deficiency of all illustrations or embellishment. Of the style, he of course would be little careful, as his memoranda were intended for the use only of his family and his slaves. It is therefore always simple, and sometimes rude, but it is not ill-adapted to the subject, and suits our notions of the severe manners of its author and the character of the ancient Romans.

Besides this book on agriculture, Cato left behind him various works, which have almost entirely perished. He left a hundred and fifty orations (Brutus, 17), which were extant in the time of Cicero, though almost entirely neglected, and a book on military discipline (Veget. i. 8). Both Cicero and Livy have expressed themselves very fully on the subject of Cato 's orations. The former admits that his “language is antiquated, and some of his phrases harsh and inelegant. But only change that,” he continues, “which it was not in his power to change—add number and cadence— give an easier turn to his sentences, and regulate the structure and connection of his words, and you will find no one who can claim preference over Cato.” Livy principally speaks of the facility, asperity, and freedom of his style.

Of the book on military discipline, a good deal has been incorporated into the work of Vegetius; and Cicero's orations may console us for the want of those of Cato. But the loss of the seven books De Originibus, which he commenced in his vigorous old age, and finished just before his death, must ever be deeply deplored by the historian and the antiquary. Cato is said to have begun an inquiry into the history, antiquities, and language of the Roman people, with a view to counteract the influence of the Greek taste introduced by the Scipios. The first book of the valuable work De Originibus, as we are informed by Cornelius Nepos, in his short life of Cato , contained the exploits of the kings of Rome. Cato was the first author who attempted to fix the era of the foundation of Rome, which he calculated in his Origines, and determined to have been in the first year of the 7th Olympiad, which is also the estimate followed by Dionysius of Halicarnassus. The second and third books treated of the origin of the different states of Italy, whence the whole work has received the name of Origines. The fourth and fifth books comprehended the history of the First and Second Punic Wars; and in the two remaining books the author discussed the other wars of the Romans till the time of Servius Galba, who overthrew the Lusitanians. The whole work exhibited great industry and learning, and, had it descended to us, would unquestionably have thrown much light upon the early periods of Roman history and the antiquities of the different states of Italy. Dionysius of Halicarnassus, himself a sedulous inquirer into antiquities, bears ample testimony to the research and accuracy of that part which treats of the origin of the ancient Italian cities. Cato was the first of his countrymen who wrote on the subject of medicine. This was done in a work entitled Commentarius quo Medetur Filio, Servis, Familiaribus. In this book of domestic medicine, duck, pigeons, and hare were the food he chiefly recommended to the sick. His remedies were principally extracted from herbs; and colewort or cabbage was his favourite cure (Plin. H. N. xx. 9). The recipes, indeed, contained in his work on agriculture show that his medical knowledge did not exceed that which usually exists among a semi-barbarous race, and only extended to the most ordinary simples which nature affords. Aulus Gellius (vi. 10) mentions Cato 's Libri Quaestionum Epistolicarum, and Cicero his Apophthegmata (De Officiis, i. 29)—the first example, probably, of that class of works which, under the appellation of Ana, were once so fashionable and prevalent in France.

On the life of Cato , see Plutarch and Cornelius Nepos; Cortese, De M. Porc. Catonis Vita, Operibus, et Lingua (Turin, 1883); and Weise, Quaestionum Catonian. Capita V. (Göttingen, 1887). The fragments of Cato 's writings (except the work on agriculture) are collected by Jordan (Leipzig, 1860). The best text of the Res Rustica is that of Keil (Leipzig, 1884). See, on the language, the work of Cortese, Grammatica Catoniana (Turin, 1883).


2.

Marcus, son of Cato the Censor by his first wife. He distinguished himself greatly in the battle of Pydna, against Perses, king of Macedonia, and received high eulogiums from Aemilius Paulus, the Roman commander on that occasion, whose daughter Tertia he afterwards married. He died while filling the office of praetor (Cat. Mai. 20, 24).


3.

Salonius, or, as Plutarch calls him, Salonīnus (Σαλωνῖνος), son of Cato the Censor by his second wife. This second wife was the daughter of one Salonius, who had been Cato 's secretary, and was, at the time of the marriage, a member of his retinue. Salonius, like his half-brother Marcus, died when praetor. He left, however, a son named Marcus, who attained to the consulship, and who was the father of Cato the younger, commonly called Uticensis (Cat. Mai. 27).


4.

Valerius, a celebrated grammarian and poet in the time of Sulla. He was deprived of all his patrimony during the excesses of the Civil War, and then directed his attention to literary pursuits. To him has been ascribed the poem of 186 hexameters, entitled Dirae in Battarum, an imprecation against the person who had caused the loss of his estate, and a lament for his love, Lydia. Text by Putsche (Jena, 1828) and Ribbeck (Kiel, 1867). See the treatise on Cato by Naekius (Bonn, 1847), and Haupt's edition of Vergil, p. 576 (Leipzig, 1873); Suetonius mentions other works that have not come down to us —the Diana and the Indignatio—besides treatises on grammar and rhetoric.


5.

Marcus, called also Minor, and Uticensis, from his death at Utica, was great-grandson to the censor of the same name, and was born B.C. 93. A short time after his birth he lost both his parents, and was brought up in the house of Livius Drusus, his uncle on the mother's side. Even in early life Cato displayed a maturity of judgment and an inflexible firmness of character far above his years; and Sarpedon, his instructor, being accustomed to take him frequently to the residence of Sulla , who had been his father's friend, the young Cato , then but fourteen years of age, struck with horror at the bloody scenes that were passing around him, asked his preceptor for a sword, that he might slay the tyrant. His affectionate disposition was clearly displayed in his strong attachment to Caepio, his brother by the mother's side, as may be seen by a reference to the pages of Plutarch. Being appointed to the priesthood of Apollo, he changed his residence, and took his share of his father's estate; but, though the fortune which he thus received was a considerable one, his manner of living was simpler and more frugal than ever. He formed a connection with Antipater of Tyre, the Stoic philosopher, made himself well acquainted with the tenets of that school, and ever after remained true to its principles, pushing them even to austerity. His first appearance in public was against the tribunes of the people, who wished to remove a column of the Porcian Basilica which incommoded their benches. This basilica had been erected by his great-grandfather, the censor, and the young Cato displayed on the occasion that powerful and commanding eloquence which afterwards rendered him so formidable to all his

Porcia and Uticensis. Cato (Vatican.)

opponents. His first campaign was in the war against Spartacus (q.v.), as a simple volunteer, his half-brother Caepio being a military tribune in the same army; and he distinguished himself so highly that Gellius, the praetor, wished to award him a prize of honour, which Cato , however, declined. He was then sent as military tribune to Macedonia. There he learned that Caepio was lying dangerously ill at Aenus in Thrace, and instantly embarked for that place in a small passage-boat, notwithstanding the roughness of the sea and the great peril which attended the attempt, but only arrived at Aenus just after Caepio had breathed his last. Stoicism was here of no avail, and the young Roman bitterly lamented the companion of his early years. According to Plutarch, there were some who condemned him for acting in a way so contradictory to his philosophical principles; but a more unfeeling charge was the one brought against him by Caesar, in his attack entitled Anticatones (q. v.). It was there stated that, after all the lavish expenditure in which Cato had indulged in performing the funeral obsequies of Caepio, and after having declined repayment from the daughter of the latter, he nevertheless passed Caepio's ashes through a sieve in search of the gold which might have melted down with them.

When the term of his service in Macedonia had expired, he travelled into Asia, and brought back with him the Stoic Athenodorus to Rome. He was next made quaestor, and discharged with so much impartiality the duties of this difficult office, and displayed so much integrity in its various details that, on the last day of his quaestorship, he was escorted to his house by the whole assembly of the people. So high, indeed, was the opinion entertained by his countrymen of the purity of his moral character that when, at the Floralia given by the aedile Messius, Cato happened to be a spectator, the people, out of respect for him, hesitated about ordering the prostitutes to strip themselves naked, according to long-established custom, nor would they allow this to be done until he had departed from the theatre (Val. Max. ii. 10, 8). When the conspiracy of Catiline was discovered, Cato supported by every means in his power the acts of Cicero, and was the first that gave him publicly the honourable title of Pater Patriae. Opposing after this the ambitious movements of the first triumvirate, they managed to have him removed to a distance, by sending him out as governor of the island of Cyprus. Having executed this trust with ability and success, and having deposited in the treasury nearly seven thousand talents of silver, he again took part in public affairs at Rome, and again continued his opposition to the triumvirate. When, however, the rupture took place between Pompey and Caesar, he sided with the former, and was left behind by him at Dyrrhachium to guard the military chest and magazine, while he pushed on after Caesar, who had been forced to retire from the siege of that city. Cato , therefore, was not present at the battle of Pharsalia. On receiving the news of this event, he sailed to Corcyra with the troops under his orders, and offered the command to Cicero, who declined it. He then proceeded to Africa, where he hoped to meet with Pompey; but on reaching Cyrené he heard of his death, and was also informed that Pompey's father-in-law, Scipio, had gone to Iuba, king of Mauritania, where Varus had collected a considerable force. Cato immediately resolved to join them, and, in order to effect this, was compelled to make a long and painful march across a desert region, in which his troops suffered severely from hunger, thirst, and every hardship, but which privations his own example enabled them manfully to endure. After seven days of suffering his force reached Utica, where a junction between the two armies took place. The soldiers wished to have him for their general, but he yielded to what he conceived to be the superior claims of Scipio, who held the office of proconsul; and this fault on his part, of which he soon after had reason to repent, accelerated the ruin of the cause in which he had embarked. Scipio having wished, for Iuba's gratification, to put all the inhabitants of Utica to the sword, Cato strenuously opposed this cruel plan, and accepted the command of this important city, while Scipio and Labienus marched against Caesar. Cato had advised them to protract the war; but they hazarded an engagement at Thapsus, in which they were entirely defeated, and Africa submitted to the victor. After vainly endeavouring to prevail upon the fragments of the conquered army, as they came successively to Utica, to unite in defending that city against the conqueror, Cato furnished them with all the ships in the harbour to convey them wherever they wished to go. When the evening of that day came, he retired to his own apartments, and employed himself for some time in reading the Phaedo of Plato, a dialogue that turns upon the immortality of the soul. He endeavoured at the same time to lull the suspicions of his friends by seeming to take a lively interest in the fate of those who were escaping by sea from Utica, and by sending several times to the seaside to learn the state of the wind and weather. But towards morning, when all was quiet, he stabbed himself. He fell from his bed with the blow, and the noise of his fall brought his son and servants into the room, by whose assistance he was raised from the ground, and an attempt was made to bind up the wound. Their efforts to save him were in vain, for Cato had no sooner recovered his self-possession than he tore open the would again in so effectual a manner that he instantly expired. He died at the age of forty-eiglit. When Caesar heard of his fate, he is said to have exclaimed, “I grudge thee thy death, Cato , since thou hast grudged me the saving of thy life.” Such was the end of a man whom a better philosophy, by teaching him to struggle with his predominant faults instead of encouraging them, would have rendered truly amiable and admirable. He possessed the greatest integrity and firmuess; and, from the beginning of his political career, was never swayed by fear or interest to desert that which he considered the cause of liberty and justice. During the Civil War he had the rare merit of uniting to the sincerest ardour in the cause of his party a steady regard for justice and humanity; he would not countenance cruelty or rapine because practised by his associates or coloured with a pretence of public advantages. But philosophical pride overshadowed the last scenes of his life, and led him to indulge his selfish feelings by suicide, rather than live for the happiness of his family and friends, and mitigate, as far as lay in his power, the distressed condition of his country. His character, however, was so pure, and, since Pompey's death, so superior to that of all the leaders engaged with him in the same cause, that his opponents could not refuse him their respect.


6.

M. Porcius, son of the preceding, was spared by Caesar, but led a somewhat immoral life, until he effaced the stains upon his character by a glorious death at Philippi (Cat. Min. 73).


7.

Dionysius Cato . A name erroneously given to the author of a collection of moral maxims in four books, much used as a school-book in the Middle Ages, and translated into English before 1479 by Benedict Burgh, whose version was printed by Caxton. Each maxim consists of two hexameters, the whole number of maxims being 164. The style is fairly good, and shows the poem to date from about the third century A.D. The collection is preceded by fifty-six short proverbs in prose with a separate preface, by a different author, probably of later date. The hexameters are generally spoken of as Disticha Catonis (Catonis Disticha de Moribus ad Filium), and in a Paris MS. as Liber Catonis Philosophi, but the name Cato is probably used merely to designate the maxims as shrewd and wise. The addition of the name Dionysius is doubtless due to a confusion arising from the fact that one of the earlier MSS. of the Disticha contained also a translation of the Periegesis of Dionysius. A good text is that of Hauthal (Berlin, 1869).

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