Welcome
   Home | Texts by category | | Quick Search:   
Authors
Works by Plutarch
Pages of Marcus Cato



Previous | Next
                  

Marcus Cato   


loitering away his time in wrestling matches and comedies, as if he
were not to make war, but holiday; and thus succeeded in getting
some of the tribunes of the people sent to call him back to Rome, in
case the accusations should prove true. But Scipio demonstrating, as
it were, to them, by his preparations, the coming victory, and,
being found merely to be living pleasantly with his friends, when
there was nothing else to do, but in no respect because of that
easiness and liberality at all the more negligent in things of
consequence and moment, without impediment, set sail toward the war.
Cato grew more and more powerful by his eloquence, so that he was
commonly called the Roman Demosthenes; but his manner of life was
yet more famous and talked of. For oratorical skill was, as an
accomplishment, commonly studied and sought after by all young men;
but he was very rare who would cultivate the old habits of bodily
labour, or prefer a light supper, and a breakfast which never saw
the fire, or be in love with poor clothes and a homely lodging, or
could set his ambition rather on doing without luxuries than on
possessing them. For now the state, unable to keep its purity by
reason of its greatness, and having so many affairs, and people from
all parts under its government, was fain to admit many mixed customers
and new examples of living. With reason, therefore, everybody
admired Cato, when they saw others sink under labours and grow
effeminate by pleasures; and yet beheld him unconquered by either, and
that not only when he was young and desirous of honour, but also
when old and grey-headed, after a consulship and triumph; like some
famous victor in the games, persevering in his exercise and
maintaining his character to the very last. He himself says that he
never wore a suit of clothes which cost more than a hundred
drachmas; and that, when he was general and consul, he drank the
same wine which his workmen did; and that the meat or fish which was
bought in the meat-market for his dinner did not cost above thirty
asses. All which was for the sake of the commonwealth, that so his
body might be the hardier for the war. Having a piece of embroidered
Babylonian tapestry left him, he sold it; because none of his
farmhouses were so much as plastered. Nor did he ever buy a slave
for above fifteen hundred drachmas; as he did not seek for
effeminate and handsome ones, but able sturdy workmen, horse-keepers
and cow-herds: and these he thought ought to be sold again, when
they grew old, and no useless servants fed in the house. In short,
he reckoned nothing a good bargain which was superfluous; but whatever
it was, though sold for a farthing, he would think it a great price,
if you had no need of it; and was for the purchase of lands for sowing
and feeding, rather than grounds for sweeping and watering.
Some imputed these things to petty avarice, but others approved of
him, as if he had only the more strictly denied himself for the
rectifying and amending of others. Yet certainly, in my judgment, it
marks an over-rigid temper for a man to take the work out of his
servants as out of brute beasts, turning them off and selling them
in their old age, and thinking there ought to be no further commerce
between man and man than whilst there arises some profit by it. We see
that kindness or humanity has a larger field than bare justice to
exercise itself in; law and justice we cannot, in the nature of
things, employ on others than men; but we may extend our goodness
and charity even to irrational creatures; and such acts flow from a
gentle nature, as water from an abundant spring. It is doubtless the
part of a kind-natured man to keep even worn-out horses and dogs,
and not only take care of them when they are foals and whelps, but
also when they are grown old. The Athenians, when they built their
Hecatompedon, turned those mules loose to feed freely which they had
observed to have done the hardest labour. One of these (they say) came
once of itself to offer its service, and ran along with, nay, and went
before, the teams which drew the wagons up to the acropolis, as if
it would incite and encourage them to draw more stoutly; upon which
there passed a vote that the creature should be kept at the public

Previous | Next
Site Search