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

Previous | Next

Marcus Cato   

examples of wise men. He would profess, too, that he was more taken
with young men that blushed than with those who looked pale; and
that he never desired to have a soldier that moved his hands too
much in marching, and his feet too much in fighting; or snored
louder than he shouted. Ridiculing a fat, overgrown man: "What use,"
said he, "can the state turn a man's body to, when all between the
throat and groin is taken up by the belly?" When one who was much
given to pleasures desired his acquaintance, begging his pardon, he
said he could not live with a man whose palate was of a quicker
sense than his heart. He would likewise say that the soul of a lover
lived in the body of another: and that in his whole life he most
repented of three things; one was, that he had trusted a secret to a
woman; another that he went by water when he might have gone by
land; the third, that he had remained one whole day without doing
any business of moment. Applying himself to an old man who was
committing some vice: "Friend," said he, "old age has of itself
blemishes enough; do not you add to it the deformity of vice."
Speaking to a tribune, who was reputed a Poisoner, and was very
violent for the bringing in of a bill, in order to make a certain law:
"Young man," cried he, "I know not which would be better, to drink,
what you mix, or confirm what you would put up for a law." Being
reviled by a fellow who lived a profligate and wicked life: "A
contest," replied he, "is unequal between you and me: for you can hear
ill words easily, and can as easily give them: but it is unpleasant to
me to give such, and unusual to hear them." Such was his manner of
expressing himself in his memorable sayings.
Being chosen consul, with his friend and familiar Valerius
Flaccus, the government of that part of Spain which the Romans
called the Hither Spain fell to his lot. Here, as he was engaged in
reducing some of the tribes by force, and bringing over others by good
words, a large army of barbarians fell upon him, so that there was
danger of being disgracefully forced out again. He therefore called
upon his neighbours, the Celtiberians, for help; and on their
demanding two hundred talents for their assistance, everybody else
thought it intolerable that even the Romans should promise
barbarians a reward for their aid; but Cato said there was no
discredit or harm in it; for, if they overcame, they would pay them
out of the enemy's purse, and not out of their own; but if they were
overcome, there would be nobody left either to demand the reward or to
pay it. However, he won that battle completely, and, after that, all
his other affairs succeeded splendidly. Polybius says that, by his
command, the walls of all the cities on this side the river Baetis
were in one day's time demolished, and yet there were a great many
of them full of brave and warlike men. Cato himself says that he
took more cities than he stayed days in Spain. Neither is this a
mere rhodomontade, if it be true that the number was four hundred. And
though the soldiers themselves had got much in the fights, yet he
distributed a pound of silver to every man of them, saying, it was
better that many of the Romans should return home with silver,
rather than a few with gold. For himself, he affirms, that of all
the things that were taken, nothing came to him beyond what he ate and
drank. "Neither do I find fault," continued he, "with those that
seek to profit by these spoils, but I had rather compete in valour
with the best, than in wealth with the richest, or with the most
covetous in love of money." Nor did he merely keep himself clear
from taking anything, but even all those who more immediately belonged
to him. He had five servants with him in the army; one of whom
called Paccus, bought three boys out of those who were taken
captive; which Cato coming to understand, the man, rather than venture
into his presence, hanged himself. Cato sold the boys, and carried the
price he got for them into the public exchequer.
Scipio the Great, being his enemy, and desiring, whilst he was
carrying all things so successfully, to obstruct him, and take the
affairs of Spain into his own hands, succeeded in getting himself

Previous | Next
Site Search