However, Cato paid not the slightest heed to his accusers, but grew still more strict. He cut off the pipes by which people conveyed part of the public water supply into their private houses and gardens; he upset and demolished all buildings that encroached on public land; he reduced the cost of public works to the lowest, and forced the rent of public lands to the highest possible figure.
All these thing brought much odium upon him. Titus Flamininus headed a party against him which induced the Senate to annul as useless the outlays and payments which he had authorised for temples and public works, and incited the boldest of the tribunes to call him to account before the people and fine him two talents. The Senate also strongly opposed the erection of the basilica which he built at the public cost below the council-house in the Forum, and which was called the Basilica Porcia.
Still, it appears that the people approved of his censorship to an amazing extent. At any rate, after erecting a statue to his honour in the temple of Health, they commemorated in the inscription upon it, not the military commands nor the triumph of Cato, but, as the inscription may be translated, the fact
‘that when the Roman state was tottering to its fall, he was made censor, and by helpful guidance, wise restraints, and sound teachings, restored it again.’
And yet, before this time he used to laugh at those who delighted in such honours, saying that, although they knew it not, their pride was based simply on the work of statuaries and painters, whereas his own images, of the most exquisite workmanship, were borne about in the hearts of his fellow citizens. And to those who expressed their amazement that many men of no fame had statues, while he had none, he used to say:
‘I would much rather have men ask why I have no statue, than why I have one.’
In short, he thought a good citizen should not even allow himself to be praised, unless such praise was beneficial to the commonwealth.
And yet of all men he has heaped most praises upon himself. He tells us that men of self-indulgent lives, when rebuked for it, used to say:
‘We ought not to be blamed; we are no Catos.’
Also that those who imitated some of his practices and did it clumsily, were called
‘left-handed Catos.’ Also that the Senate looked to him in the most dangerous crises as seafarers to their helmsman, and often, if he was not present, postponed its most serious business. These boasts of his are confirmed, it is true, by other witnesses, for he had great authority in the city, alike for his life, his eloquence, and his age.