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Marcus Cato   


there was great thunder; so that it was for jest with him, that it was
a pleasure for him, when Jupiter thundered.
His treatment of Lucius, likewise the brother of Scipio, and one who
had been honoured with a triumph, occasioned some odium against
Cato; for he took his horse from him, and was thought to do it with
a design of putting an affront on Scipio Africanus, now dead. But he
gave most general annoyance by retrenching people's luxury; for though
(most of the youth being thereby already corrupted) it seemed almost
impossible to take it away with an open hand and directly, yet
going, as it were, obliquely around, he caused all dress, carriages,
women's ornaments, household furniture, whose price exceeded one
thousand five hundred drachmas, to be rated at ten times as much as
they were worth; intending by thus making the assessments greater,
to increase the taxes paid upon them. He also ordained that upon every
thousand asses of property of this kind, three should be paid, so that
people, burdened with these extra charges, and seeing others of as
good estates, but more frugal and sparing, paying less into the public
exchequer, might be tried out of their prodigality. And thus, on the
one side, not only those were disgusted at Cato who bore the taxes for
the sake of their luxury, but those, too, who on the other side laid
by their luxury for fear of the taxes. For people in general reckon
that an order not to display their riches is equivalent to the
taking away of their riches, because riches are seen much more in
superfluous than in necessary things. Indeed this was what excited the
wonder of Ariston the philosopher; that we account those who possess
superfluous things more happy than those who abound with what is
necessary and useful. But when one of his friends asked Scopas, the
rich Thessalian, to give him some article of no great utility,
saying that it was not a thing that he had any great need or use for
himself, "In truth," replied he, "it is just these useless and
unnecessary things that make my wealth and happiness." Thus the desire
of riches does not proceed from a natural passion within us, but
arises rather from vulgar out-of-doors opinion of other people.
Cato, notwithstanding, being little solicitous as to those who
exclaimed against him, increased his austerity. He caused the pipes,
through which some persons brought the public water into their
houses and gardens, to be cut, and threw down all buildings which
jutted out into the common streets. He beat down also the price in
contracts for public works to the lowest, and raised it in contracts
for farming the taxes to the highest sum; by which proceedings he drew
a great deal of hatred upon himself. Those who were of Titus
Flaminius's party cancelled in the senate all the bargains and
contracts made by him for the repairing and carrying on of the
sacred and public buildings as unadvantageous to the commonwealth.
They incited also the boldest of the tribunes of the people to
accuse him and to fine him two talents. They likewise much opposed him
in building the court or basilica, which he caused to be erected at
the common charge, just by the senate-house, in the market-place,
and called by his own name, the Porcian. However, the people, it
seems, liked his censorship wondrously well; for, setting up a
statue for him in the temple of the goddess of Health, they put an
inscription under it, not recording his commands in war or his
triumph, but to the effect that this was Cato the Censor, who, by
his good discipline and wise and temperate ordinances, reclaimed the
Roman commonwealth when it was declining and sinking down into vice.
Before this honour was done to himself, he used to laugh at those
who loved such kind of things, saying, that they did not see that they
were taking pride in the workmanship of brass-founders and painters;
whereas the citizens bore about his best likeness in their breasts.
And when any seemed to wonder that he should have never a statue,
while many ordinary persons had one, "I would," said he, "much
rather be asked, why I have not one, than why I have one." In short,
he would not have any honest citizen endure to be praised, except it
might prove advantageous to the commonwealth. Yet still he had

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