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Marcus Cato   


seems, had been a friend of the Romans from the beginning; and they,
too, since they were conquered by Scipio, were of the Roman
confederacy, having been shorn of their power by loss of territory and
a heavy tax. Finding Carthage, not (as the Romans thought) low and
in an ill condition, but well manned, full of riches and all sorts
of arms and ammunition, and perceiving the Carthaginians carry it
high, he conceived that it was not a time for the Romans to adjust
affairs between them and Masinissa; but rather that they themselves
would fall into danger, unless they should find means to check this
rapid new growth of Rome's ancient irreconcilable enemy. Therefore,
returning quickly to Rome, he acquainted the senate that the former
defeats and blows given to the Carthaginians had not so much
diminished their strength, as it had abated their imprudence and
folly; that they were not become weaker, but more experienced in
war, and did only skirmish with the Numidians to exercise themselves
the better to cope with the Romans: that the peace and league they had
made was but a kind of suspension of war which awaited a fairer
opportunity to break out again.
Moreover, they say that, shaking his gown, he took occasion to let
drop some African figs before the senate. And on their admiring the
size and beauty of them, he presently added, that the place that
bore them was but three days' sail from Rome. Nay, he never after this
gave his opinion, but at the end he would be sure to come out with
this sentence, "ALSO, CARTHAGE, METHINKS, OUGHT UTTERLY TO BE
DESTROYED." But Publius Scipio Nasica would always declare his opinion
to the contrary, in these words, "It seems requisite to me that
Carthage should still stand." For seeing his countrymen to be grown
wanton and insolent, and the people made, by their prosperity,
obstinate and disobedient to the senate, and drawing the whole city,
whither they would, after them, he would have had the fear of Carthage
to serve as a bit to hold the contumacy of the multitude; and he
looked upon the Carthaginians as too weak to overcome the Romans,
and too great to be despised by them. On the other side, it seemed a
perilous thing to Cato that a city which had been always great, and
was now grown sober and wise, by reason of its former calamities,
should still lie, as it were, in wait for the follies and dangerous
excesses of the over-powerful Roman people; so that he thought it
the wisest course to have all outward dangers removed, when they had
so many inward ones among themselves.
Thus Cato, they say, stirred up the third and last war against the
Carthaginians: but no sooner was the said war begun, than he died,
prophesying of the person that should put an end to it who was then
only a young man; but, being tribune in the army, he in several fights
gave proof of his courage and conduct. The news of which being brought
to Cato's ears at Rome, he thus expressed himself:-

"The only wise man of them all is he,
The others e'en as shadows flit and flee."

This prophecy Scipio soon confirmed by his actions.
Cato left no posterity, except one son by his second wife, who was
named, as we said, Cato Salonius; and a grandson by his eldest son,
who died. Cato Salonius died when he was praetor, but his son Marcus
was afterwards consul, and he was grandfather of Cato the philosopher,
who for virtue and renown was one of the most eminent personages of
his time.

THE END

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