previous next
9. The Romans once chose three ambassadors to Bithynia, of whom one was gouty, another had had his head trepanned, and the third was deemed a fool. Cato made merry over this, and said that the Romans were sending out an embassy which had neither feet, nor head, nor heart. [2] His aid was once solicited by Scipio, at the instance of Polybius, in behalf of the exiles from Achaia, and after a long debate upon the question in the Senate, where some favoured and some opposed their return home, Cato rose and said: ‘Here we sit all day, as if we had naught else to do, debating whether some poor old Greeks shall be buried here or in Achaia.’ [3] The Senate voted that the men be allowed to return, and a few days afterwards Polybius tried to get admission to that body again, with a proposal that the exiles be restored to their former honours in Achaia, and asked Cato's opinion on the matter. Cato smiled and said that Polybius, as if he were another Odysseus, wanted to go back into the cave of the Cyclops for a cap and belt which he had left there.

[4] Wise men, he said, profited more from fools than fools from wise men; for the wise shun the mistakes of fools, but fools do not imitate the successes of the wise. He said he liked to see blushes on a young man's face rather than pallor, and that he had no use for a soldier who plied his hands on the march, and his feet in battle, and whose snore was louder than his war-cry. [5] Railing at the fat knight, he said, ‘Where can such a body be of service to the state, when everything between its gullet and its groins is devoted to belly?’ A certain epicure wished to enjoy his society, but he excused himself, saying that he could not live with a man whose palate was more sensitive than his heart. As for the lover, he said his soul dwelt in the body of another. [6] And as for repentance, he said he had indulged in it himself but thrice in his whole life: once when he entrusted a secret to his wife; once when he paid ship's fare to a place instead of walking thither; and once when he remained intestate a whole day. To an old man who was steeped in iniquity he said: ‘Man, old age has disgraces enough of its own; do not add to them the shame of vice.’ [7] To a tribune of the people who had been accused of using poison, and who was trying to force the passage of a useless bill, he said: ‘Young man, I know not which is worse, to drink your mixtures, or to enact your bills.’ And when he was reviled by a man who led a life of shameless debauchery, he said: ‘I fight an unequal battle with you: you listen to abuse calmly, and utter it glibly; while for me it is unpleasant to utter it, and unusual to hear it.’

Such, then, is the nature of his famous sayings.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Greek (Bernadotte Perrin, 1914)
hide References (11 total)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: