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Marcus Cato   



MARCUS cato, we are told, was born at Tusculum, though (till he
betook himself to civil and military affairs) he lived and was bred up
in the country of the Sabines, where his father's estate lay. His
ancestors seeming almost entirely unknown, he himself praises his
father Marcus, as a worthy man and a brave soldier, and Cato, his
great-grandfather, too, as one who had often obtained military prizes,
and who, having lost five horses under him, received, on the account
of his valour, the worth of them out of the public exchequer. Now it
being the custom among the Romans to call those who, having no
repute by birth, made themselves eminent by their own exertions, new
men or upstarts, they called even Cato himself so, and so he confessed
himself to be as to any public distinction or employment, but yet
asserted that in the exploits and virtues of his ancestors he was very
ancient. His third name originally was not Cato, but Priscus, though
afterwards he had the surname of Cato, by reason of his abilities; for
the Romans call a skilful or experienced man Catus. He was of a
ruddy complexion and grey-eyed; as the writer, who, with no good-will,
made the following epigram upon him lets us see:-

"Porcius, who snarls at all in every place,
With his grey eyes, and with his fiery face,
Even after death will scarce admitted be
Into the infernal realms by Hecate."

He gained, in early life, a good habit of body by working with his
own hands, and living temperately, and serving in war; and seemed to
have an equal proportion both of health and strength. And he exerted
and practised his eloquence through all the neighbourhood and little
villages; thinking it as requisite as a second body, and an all but
necessary organ to one who looks forward to something above a mere
humble and inactive life. He would never refuse to be counsel for
those who needed him, and was, indeed, early reckoned a good lawyer,
and, ere long, a capable orator.
Hence his solidity and depth of character showed itself gradually
more and more to those with whom he was concerned, and claimed, as
it were, employment in great affairs and places of public command. Nor
did he merely abstain from taking fees for his counsel and pleading,
but did not even seem to put any high price on the honour which
proceeded from such kind of combats, seeming much more desirous to
signalize himself in the camp and in real fights; and while yet but
a youth, had his breast covered with scars he had received from the
enemy: being (as he himself says) but seventeen years old when he made
his first campaign; in the time when Hannibal, in the height of his
success, was burning and pillaging all Italy. In engagements he
would strike boldly, without flinching, stand firm to his ground,
fix a bold countenance upon his enemies, and with a harsh
threatening voice accost them, justly thinking himself and telling
others that such a rugged kind of behaviour sometimes terrifies the
enemy more than the sword itself, In his marches he bore his own
arms on foot, whilst one servant only followed, to carry the provision
for his table, with whom he is said never to have been angry or
hasty whilst he made ready his dinner or supper, but would, for the
most part, when he was free from military duty, assist and help him
himself to dress it. When he was with the army, he used to drink
only water; unless, perhaps, when extremely thirsty, he might mingle
it with a little vinegar, or if he found his strength fail him, take a
little wine.
The little country house of Manius Curius, who had been thrice
carried in triumph, happened to be near his farm; so that often
going thither, and contemplating the small compass of the place, and
plainness of the dwelling, he formed an idea of the mind of the
person, who being one of the greatest of the Romans, and having

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