Subjected to such constraint as this, Cato advised Cicero, whose enemies were trying to banish him, not to raise a faction or plunge the city into war and bloodshed, but to yield to the necessities of the times, and so to become again a saviour of his country. He also sent Canidius, one of his friends, to Cyprus in advance,1
and tried to persuade Ptolemy to yield his kingdom without fighting, promising that his future life should not be without wealth and honour, since the Romans would give him a priesthood of the goddess in Paphos.
He himself, however, tarried at Rhodes, making his preparations and awaiting his answers.
Meanwhile Ptolemy the king of Egypt, who had quarrelled with the citizens of Alexandria and forsaken the city in wrath, and was now on his way to Rome in the hope that Pompey and Caesar would restore him again with an armed force, wished to have an interview with Cato, and sent a messenger to him, expecting that Cato would come to him.
But Cato, as it chanced, was taking a course of medicine at the time, and bade Ptolemy come to him if he wished to see him. And when Ptolemy had come, Cato neither went to meet him nor rose from his seat, but greeted him as he would any ordinary visitor and bade him be seated. At first Ptolemy was confounded by the reception itself, and was amazed at the contrast between the haughtiness and severity of Cato's manners and the plainness and simplicity of his outfit.
But after he had begun to converse with Cato about his own situation, words of great wisdom and boldness fell upon his ears. For Cato censured his course, and showed him what great happiness he had forsaken, and to how much servility and hardship he was subjecting himself in dealing with the corruption and rapacity of the chief men at Rome, whom Egypt could scarcely glut if it were all turned into money. Cato also advised him to sail back and be reconciled with his people, holding himself ready also to sail with him and help effect the reconciliation.
Then the king, as if brought to his senses by Cato's words after a fit of madness or delirium, and recognizing the sincerity and sagacity of the speaker, determined to adopt his counsels; but he was turned back to his first purpose by his friends. However, as soon as he reached Rome and was approaching the door of a magistrate, he groaned over his own evil resolve, convinced that he had slighted, not the words of a good man, but the prophetic warning of a god.