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Marcus Cato   


subdued the most warlike nations, nay, had driven Pyrrhus out of
Italy, now, after three triumphs, was contented to dig in so small a
piece of ground, and live in such a cottage. Here it was that the
ambassadors of the Samnites, finding him boiling turnips in the
chimney corner, offered him a present of gold; but he sent them away
with this saying; that he, who was content with such a supper, had
no need of gold; and that he thought it more honourable to conquer
those who possessed the gold, than to possess the gold itself. Cato,
after reflecting upon these things, used to return and, reviewing
his own farm, his servants, and housekeeping, increase his labour
and retrench all superfluous expenses.
When Fabius Maximus took Tarentum, Cato, being then but a youth, was
a soldier under him; and being lodged with one Nearchus, a
Pythagorean, desired to understand some of his doctrine, and hearing
from him the language, which Plato also uses- that pleasure is
evil's chief bait; the body the principal calamity of the soul; and
that those thoughts which most separate and take it off from the
affections of the body most enfranchise and purify it; he fell in love
the more with frugality and temperance. With this exception, he is
said not to have studied Greek until when he was pretty old; and in
rhetoric to have then profited a little by Thucydides, but more by
Demosthenes; his writings, however, are considerably embellished
with Greek sayings and stories; nay, many of these, translated word
for word, are placed with his own opophthegms and sentences.
There was a man of the highest rank, and very influential among
the Romans, called Valerius Flaccus, who was singularly skilful in
discerning excellence yet in the bud, and also much disposed to
nourish and advance it. He, it seems, had lands bordering upon Cato's;
nor could he but admire when he understood from his servants the
manner of his living, how he laboured with his own hands, went on foot
betimes in the morning to the courts to assist those who wanted his
counsel: how, returning home again, when it was winter, he would throw
a loose frock over his shoulders, and in the summer time would work
without anything on among his domestics, sit down with them, eat of
the same bread, and drink of the same wine. When they spoke, also,
of other good qualities, his fair dealing and moderation, mentioning
also some of his wise sayings, he ordered that he should be invited to
supper; and thus becoming personally assured of his fine temper and
his superior character, which, like a plant, seemed only to require
culture and a better situation, he urged and persuaded him to apply
himself to state affairs at Rome. Thither, therefore, he went, and
by his pleading soon gained many friends and admirers; but, Valerius
chiefly assisting his promotion, he first of all got appointed tribune
in the army, and afterwards was made quaestor, or treasurer. And now
becoming eminent and noted, he passed, with Valerius himself,
through the greatest commands, being first his colleague as consul,
and then censor. But among all the ancient senators, he most
attached himself to Fabius Maximus; not so much for the honour of
his person, and the greatness of his power, as that he might have
before him his habit and manner of life, as the best examples to
follow; and so he did not hesitate to oppose Scipio the Great, who,
being then but a young man, seemed to set himself against the power of
Fabius, and to be envied by him. For being sent together with him as
treasurer, when he saw him, according to his natural custom, make
great expenses, and distribute among the soldiers without sparing,
he freely told him that the expense in itself was not the greatest
thing to be considered, but that he was corrupting the frugality of
the soldiers, by giving them the means to abandon themselves to
unnecessary pleasures and luxuries. Scipio answered, that he had no
need for so accurate a treasurer (bearing on as he was, so to say,
full sail to the war), and that he owed the people an account of his
actions, and not of the money he spent. Hereupon Cato returned from
Sicily and, together with Fabius, made loud complaints in the open
senate of Scipio's lavishing unspeakable sums, and childishly

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