While Cato was still a boy, the Italian allies of the Romans were making efforts to obtain Roman citizenship. One of their number, Pompaedius Silo,1
a man of experience in war and of the highest position, was a friend of Drusus, and lodged at his house for several days. During this time he became familiar with the children, and said to them once:
‘Come, beg your uncle to help us in our struggle for citizenship.’
Caepio, accordingly, consented with a smile, but Cato made no reply and gazed fixedly and fiercely upon the strangers. Then Pompaedius said:
‘But thou, young man, what sayest thou to us? Canst thou not take the part of the strangers with thy uncle, like thy brother?’
And when Cato said not a word, but by his silence and the look on his face seemed to refuse the request, Pompaedius lifted him up through a window, as if he would cast him out, and ordered him to consent, or he would throw him down, at the same time making the tone of his voice harsher, and frequently shaking the boy as he held his body out at the window.
But when Cato had endured this treatment for a long time without showing fright or fear, Pompaedius put him down, saying quietly to his friends:
‘What a piece of good fortune it is for Italy that he is a boy; for if he were a man, I do not think we could get a single vote among the people.’
At another time a relation of his who was celebrating a birthday, invited Cato and other boys to supper, and the company were diverting themselves at play in a separate part of the house, older and younger together, their play being actions at law, accusations, and the conducting of the condemned persons to prison.
Accordingly, one of those thus condemned, a boy of comely looks, was led off by an older boy and shut into a chamber, where he called upon Cato for help. Then Cato, when he understood what was going on, quickly came to the door, pushed aside the boys who stood before it and tried to stop him, led forth the prisoner, and went off home with him in a passion, followed by other boys also.