Leven van Marcus Porcius Cato “Uticensis” (75 v. Chr.) door Plutarchus
Translated by John Dryden
The family of Cato derived its first lustre from his great-grandfather Cato, whose virtue gained him such great reputation and authority among the Romans, as we have written in his life.
This Cato was, by the loss of both his parents, left an orphan, together with his brother Caepio, and his sister Porcia. He had also a half-sister, Servilia, by the mother’s side. All these lived together, and were bred up in the house of Livius Drusus, their uncle by the mother, who, at that time, had a great share in the government, being a very eloquent speaker, a man of the greatest temperance, and yielding in dignity to none of the Romans.
It is said of Cato that even from his infancy, in his speech, his countenance, and all his childish pastimes, he discovered an inflexible temper, unmoved by any passion, and firm in everything. He was resolute in his purposes, much beyond the strength of his age, to go through with whatever he undertook. He was rough and ungentle toward those that flattered him, and still more unyielding to those who threatened him. It was difficult to excite him to laughter, his countenance seldom relaxed even into a smile; he was not quickly or easily provoked to anger, but if once incensed, he was no less difficult to pacify.
When he began to learn, he proved dull, and slow to apprehend, but of what he once received, his memory was remarkably tenacious. And such in fact, we find generally to be the course of nature; men of fine genius are readily reminded of things, but those who receive with most pains and difficulty, remember best; every new thing they learn, being, as it were, burnt and branded in on their minds. Cato’s natural stubbornness and slowness to be persuaded may also have made it more difficult for him to be taught. For to learn is to submit to have something done to one; and persuasion comes soonest to those who have least strength to resist it. Hence young men are sooner persuaded than those that are more in years, and sick men, than those that are well in health. In fine, where there is least previous doubt and difficulty, the new impression is most easily accepted. Yet Cato, they say, was very obedient to his preceptor, and would do whatever he was commanded; but he would also ask the reason, and inquire the cause of everything. And, indeed, his teacher was a very well-bred man, more ready to instruct than to beat his scholars. His name was Sarpedon.
When Cato was a child, the allies of the Romans sued to be made free citizens of Rome. Pompaedius Silo, one of their deputies, a brave soldier and a man of great repute, who had contracted a friendship with Drusus, lodged at his house for several days, in which time being grown familiar with the children, “Well,” said he to them, “will you entreat your uncle to befriend us in our business?” Caepio, smiling, assented, but Cato made no answer, only he looked steadfastly and fiercely on the strangers. Then said Pompaedius, “And you, young sir, what say you to us? will not you, as well as your brother, intercede with your uncle in our behalf?” And when Cato continued to give no answer, by his silence and his countenance seeming to deny their petition, Pompaedius snatched him up to the window as if he would throw him out, and told him to consent, or he would fling him down, and, speaking in a harsher tone, held his body out of the window, and shook him several times. When Cato had suffered this a good while, unmoved and unalarmed, Pompaedius, setting him down, said in an undervoice to his friend, “What a blessing for Italy that he is but a child! If he were a man, I believe we should not gain one voice among the people.” Another time, one of his relations, on his birthday, invited Cato and some other children to supper, and some of the company diverted themselves in a separate part of the house, and were at play, the elder and the younger together, their sport being to act the pleadings before the judges, accusing one another, and carrying away the condemned to prison. Among these a very beautiful young child, being bound and carried by a bigger into prison, cried out to Cato, who seeing what was going on, presently ran to the door, and thrusting away those who stood there as a guard, took out the child, and went home in anger, followed by some of his companions.
Cato at length grew so famous among them, that when Sylla designed to exhibit the sacred game of young men riding courses on horseback, which they called Troy, having gotten together the youth of good birth, he appointed two for their leaders. One of them they accepted for his mother’s sake, being the son of Metella, the wife of Sylla; but as for the other, Sextus, the nephew of Pompey, they would not be led by him, nor exercise under him. Then Sylla asking whom they would have, they all cried out, Cato; and Sextus willingly yielded the honour to him, as the more worthy.
Sylla, who was a friend of their family, sent at times for Cato and his brother to see them and talk with them; a favour which he showed to very few, after gaining his great power and authority. Sarpedon, full of the advantage it would be, as well for the honour as the safety of his scholars, would often bring Cato to wait upon Sylla at his house, which, for the multitude of those that were being carried off in custody, and tormented there, looked like a place of execution. Cato was then in his fourteenth year, and seeing the heads of men said to be of great distinction brought thither, and observing the secret sighs of those that were present, he asked his preceptor, “Why does nobody kill this man?” “Because,” said he, “they fear him, child, more than they hate him.” “Why, then,” replied Cato, “did you not give me a sword, that I might stab him, and free my country from this slavery?” Sarpedon hearing this, and at the same time seeing his countenance swelling with anger and determination, took care thenceforward to watch him strictly, lest he should hazard any desperate attempt.
While he was yet very young, to some that asked him whom he loved best, he answered, his brother. And being asked, whom next, he replied, his brother, again. So likewise the third time, and still the same, till they left off to ask any further. As he grew in age, this love to his brother grew yet the stronger. When he was about twenty years old, he never supped, never went out of town, nor into the forum, without Caepio. But when his brother made use of precious ointments and perfumes, Cato declined them; and he was, in all his habits, very strict and austere, so that when Caepio was admired for his moderation and temperance, he would acknowledge that indeed he might be accounted such, in comparison with some other men, “but,” said he, “when I compare myself with Cato, I find myself scarcely different from Sippius,” one at that time notorious for his luxurious and effeminate living.
Cato being made priest of Apollo, went to another house, took his portion of their paternal inheritance, amounting to a hundred and twenty talents, and began to live yet more strictly than before. Having gained the intimate acquaintance of Antipater the Tyrian, the Stoic philosopher, he devoted himself to the study, above everything, of moral and political doctrine. And though possessed, as it were, by a kind of inspiration for the pursuit of every virtue, yet what most of all virtue and excellence fixed his affection was that steady and inflexible justice which is not to be wrought upon by favour or compassion. He learned also the art of speaking and debating in public, thinking that political philosophy, like a great city, should maintain for its security the military and warlike element. But he would never recite his exercises before company, nor was he ever heard to declaim. And to one that told him men blamed his silence, “But I hope not my life.” he replied, “I will begin to speak, when I have that to say which had not better be unsaid.”
The great Porcian Hall, as it was called, had been built and dedicated to the public use by the old Cato, when aedile. Here the tribunes of the people used to transact their business, and because one of the pillars was thought to interfere with the convenience of their seats, they deliberated whether it were best to remove it to another place, or to take it away. This occasion first drew Cato, much against his will, into the forum; for he opposed the demand of the tribunes, and in so doing gave a specimen both of his courage and his powers of speaking, which gained him great admiration. His speech had nothing youthful or refined in it, but was straightforward, full of matter, and rough, at the same time that there was a certain grace about his rough statements which won the attention; and the speaker’s character, showing itself in all he said, added to his severe language something that excited feelings of natural pleasure and interest. His voice was full and sounding, and sufficient to be heard by so great a multitude, and its vigour and capacity of endurance quite indefatigable, for he often would speak a whole day and never stop.
When he had carried this cause, he betook himself again to study and retirement. He employed himself in inuring his body to labour and violent exercise; and habituated himself to go bareheaded in the hottest and the coldest weather, and to walk on foot at all seasons. When he went on a journey with any of his friends, though they were on horseback and he on foot, yet he would often join now one, then another, and converse with them on the way. In sickness the patience he showed in supporting, and the abstinence he used for curing, his distempers were admirable. When he had an ague, he would remain alone, and suffer nobody to see him, till he began to recover, and found the fit was over. At supper, when he threw dice for the choice of dishes, and lost, and the company offered him nevertheless his choice, he declined to dispute, as he said, the decision of Venus. At first, he was wont to drink only once after supper, and then go away; but in process of time he grew to drink more, insomuch that oftentimes he would continue till morning. This his friends explained by saying that state affairs and public business took him up all day, and being desirous of knowledge, he liked to pass the night at wine in the conversation of philosophers. Hence, upon one Memmius saying in public, that Cato spent whole nights in drinking, “You should add,” replied Cicero, “that he spends whole days in gambling.” And in general Cato esteemed the customs and manners of men at that time so corrupt, and a reformation in them so necessary, that he thought it requisite, in many things, to go contrary to the ordinary way of the world. Seeing the lightest and gayest purple was then most in fashion, he would always wear that which was the nearest black; and he would often go out of doors, after his morning meal, without either shoes or tunic; not that he sought vain-glory from such novelties, but he would accustom himself to be ashamed only of what deserves shame, and to despise all other sorts of disgrace.
The estate of one Cato, his cousin, which was worth one hundred talents, falling to him, he turned it all into ready money, which he kept by him for any of friends that should happen to want, to whom he would lend it without interest. And for some of them, he suffered his own land and his slaves to be mortgaged to the public treasury.
When he thought himself of an age fit to marry, having never before known any woman, he was contracted to Lepida, who had before been contracted to Metellus Scipio, but on Scipio’s own withdrawal from it, the contract had been dissolved, and she left at liberty. Yet Scipio afterwards repenting himself, did all he could to regain her, before the marriage with Cato was completed, and succeeded in so doing. At which Cato was violently incensed, and resolved at first to go to law about it; but his friends persuaded him to the contrary. However, he was so moved by the beat of youth and passion that he wrote a quantity of iambic verses against Scipio, in the bitter, sarcastic style of Archilochus, without, however, his licence and scurrility. After this, he married Atilia, the daughter of Soranus, the first but not the only woman he ever knew, less happy thus far than Laelius, the friend of Scipio, who in the whole course of so long a life never knew but the one woman, to whom he was united in his first and only marriage.
In the war of the slaves, which took its name from Spartacus, their ringleader, Gellius was general, and Cato went a volunteer, for the sake of his brother Caepio, who was a tribune in the army. Cato could find here no opportunity to show his zeal or exercise his valour, on account of the ill conduct of the general. However, amidst the corruption and disorders of that army, he showed such a love of discipline, so much bravery upon occasion, and so much courage and wisdom in everything, that it appeared he was in no way inferior to the old Cato. Gellius offered him great rewards, and would have decreed him the first honours; which, however, he refused, saying he had done nothing that deserved them. This made him be thought a man of strange and eccentric temper.
There was a law passed, moreover, that the candidates who stood for any office should not have prompters in their canvass, to tell them the names of the citizens; and Cato, when he sued to be elected tribune, was the only man that obeyed this law. He took great pains to learn by his own knowledge to salute those he had to speak with, and to call them by their names; yet even those who praised him for this, did not do so without some envy and jealousy, for the more they considered the excellence of what he did, the more they were grieved at the difficulty they found to do the like.
Being chosen tribune, he was sent into Macedon to join Rubrius, who was general there. It is said that his wife showing much concern, and weeping at his departure, Munatius, one of Cato’s friends, said to her, “Do not trouble yourself, Atilia, I will engage to watch over him for you.” “By all means,” replied Cato; and when they had gone one day’s journey together, “Now,” said he to Munatius, after they had supped, “that you may be sure to keep your promise to Atilia, you must not leave me day nor night,” and from that time, he ordered two beds to be made in his own chamber, that Munatius might lie there. And so he continued to do, Cato making it his jest to see that he was always there. There went with him fifteen slaves, two freedmen, and four of his friends; these rode on horseback, but Cato always went on foot, yet would he keep by them, and talk with each of them in turn as they went.
When he came to the army, which consisted of several legions, the general gave him the command of one; and as he looked upon it as a small matter, and not worthy a commander, to give evidence of his own signal valour, he resolved to make his soldiers, as far as he could, like himself, not, however, in this relaxing the terrors of his office, but associating reason with his authority. He persuaded and instructed every one in particular, and bestowed rewards or punishments according to desert; and at length his men were so well disciplined, that it was hard to say whether they were more peaceable or more warlike, more valiant or more just; they were alike formidable to their enemies their enemies and courteous to their allies, fearful to do wrong, and forward to gain honour. And Cato himself acquired in the fullest measure, what it had been his least desire to seek, glory and good repute; he was highly esteemed by all men, and entirely beloved by the soldiers. Whatever he commanded to be done, he himself took part in the performing; in his apparel, his diet, and mode of travelling, he was more like a common soldier than an officer; but in character, high purpose, and wisdom, he far exceeded all that had the names and titles of commanders, and he made himself, without knowing it, the object of general affection. For the true love of virtue is in all men produced by the love and respect they bear to him that teaches it; and those who praise good men, yet do not love them, may respect their reputation, but do not really admire, and will never imitate their virtue.
There dwelt at that time in Pergamus, Athenodorus, surnamed Cordylio, a man of high repute for his knowledge of the Stoic philosophy, who was now grown old, and had always steadily refused the friendship and acquaintance of princes and great men. Cato understood this; so that imagining he should not be able to prevail with him by sending or writing, and being by the laws allowed two months’ absence from the army, he resolved to go into Asia to see him in person, trusting to his own good qualities not to lose his labour. And when he had conversed with him, and succeeded in persuading him out of his former resolutions, he returned and brought him to the camp as joyful and as proud of this victory as if he had done some heroic exploit, greater than any of those of Pompey or Lucullus, who with their armies at that time were subduing so many nations and kingdoms.
While Cato was yet in the service, his brother, on a journey towards Asia, fell sick at Aenus in Thrace, letters with intelligence of which were immediately despatched to him. The sea was very rough, and no convenient ship of any size to be had; so Cato getting into a small trading-vessel, with only two of his friends, and three servants, set sail from Thessalonica, and having very narrowly escaped drowning, he arrived at Aenus just as Caepio expired. Upon this occasion, he was thought to have showed himself more a fond brother than a philosopher, not only in the excess of his grief, bewailing and embracing the dead body, but also in the extravagant expenses of the funeral, the vast quantity of rich perfumes and costly garments which were burnt with the corpse, and the monument of Thasian marble, which he erected, at the cost of eight talents, in the public place of the town of Aenus. For there were some who took upon them to cavil at all this, as not consistent with his usual calmness and moderation, not discerning that though he were steadfast, firm, and inflexible to pleasure, fear or foolish entreaties, yet he was full of natural tenderness and brotherly affection. Divers of the cities and princes of the country sent him many presents, to honour the funeral of his brother; but he took none of their money, only the perfumes and ornaments he received, and paid for them also. And afterwards, when the inheritance was divided between him and Caepio’s daughter, he did not require any portion of the funeral expenses to be discharged out of it. Notwithstanding this, it has been affirmed that he made his brother’s ashes be passed through a sieve, to find the gold that was melted down when burnt with the body. But he who made this statement appears to have anticipated an exemption for his pen, as much as for his sword, from all question and criticism.
The time of Cato’s service in the army being expired, he received, at his departure, not only the prayers and praises, but the tears and embraces of the soldiers, who spread their clothes at his feet and kissed his hand as he passed, an honour which the Romans at that time scarcely paid even to a very few of their generals and commanders-in-chief. Having left the army, he resolved, before he would return home and apply himself to state affairs, to travel in Asia, and observe the manners, the customs, and the strength of every province. He was also unwilling to refuse the kindness of Deiotarus, King of Galatia, who having had great familiarity and friendship with his father, was very desirous to receive a visit from him. Cato’s arrangements in his journey were as follows. Early in the morning he sent out his baker and his cook towards the place where he designed to stay the next night; these went soberly and quietly into the town, in which, if there happened to be no friend or acquaintance of Cato or his family, they provided for him in an inn, and gave no disturbance to anybody; but if there were no inn, then and in this case only, they went to the magistrates, and desiring them to help them to lodgings, took without complaint whatever was allotted to them. His servants thus behaving themselves towards the magistrates, without noise and threatening, were often discredited, or neglected by them, so that Cato many times arrived and found nothing provided for him. And it was all the worse when he appeared himself; still less account was taken of him. When they saw him sitting, without saying anything, on his baggage, they set him down at once as a person of no consequence, who did not venture to make any demand. Sometimes, on such occasions, he would call them to him and tell them, “Foolish people, lay aside this inhospitality. All your visitors will not be Catos. Use your courtesy, to take off the sharp edge of power. There are men enough who desire but a pretence, to take from you by force, what you give with such reluctance.”
While he travelled in this manner, a diverting accident befell him in Syria. As he was going into Antioch, he saw a great multitude of people outside the gates, ranged in order on either side the way; here the young men with long cloaks, there the children decently dressed; others wore garlands and white garments who were the priests and magistrates. Cato imagining all this could mean nothing but a display in honour of his reception, began to be angry with his servants, who had been sent before, for suffering it to be done; then making his friends alight, he walked along with them on foot. As soon as he came near the gate, an elderly man, who seemed to be master of these ceremonies, with a wand and a garland in his hand, came up to Cato, and without saluting him, asked him where he had left Demetrius, and how soon he thought he would he there. This Demetrius was Pompey’s servant, and as at this time the whole world, so to say, had its eyes fixed upon Pompey, this man also was highly honoured, on account of his influence with his master. Upon this Cato’s friends fell into such violent laughter, that they could not restrain themselves while they passed through the crowd; and he himself, ashamed and distressed, uttered the words, “Unfortunate city!” and said no more. Afterwards however, it always made him laugh, when he either told the story or was otherwise reminded of it.
Pompey himself shortly after made the people ashamed of their ignorance and folly in thus neglecting him, for Cato, coming in his journey to Ephesus, went to pay his respects to him, who was the elder man, had gained much honour, and was then general of a great army. Yet Pompey would not receive him sitting, but as soon as he saw him, rose up, and going to meet him, as the more honourable person, gave him his hand, and embraced him with great show of kindness. He said much in commendation of his virtue both at that time when receiving him, and also yet more after he had withdrawn. So that now all men began at once to display their respect for Cato, and discovered in him the very same things for which they despised him before, an admirable mildness of temper and greatness of spirit. And indeed the civility that Pompey himself showed him appeared to come from one that rather respected than loved him; and the general opinion was, that while Cato was there he paid him admiration, but was not sorry when he was gone. For when other young men came to see him he usually urged and entreated them to continue with him. Now he did not at all invite Cato to stay, but as if his own power were lessened by the other’s presence, he very willingly allowed him to take his leave. Yet to Cato alone, of all those who went for Rome, he recommended his children and his wife, who was indeed connected by relationship with Cato.
After this, all the cities through which he passed strove and emulated each other in showing him respect and honour. Feasts and entertainments were made for his reception, so that he bade his friends keep strict watch and take care of him, lest he should end by making good what was said by Curio, who though he were his familiar friend, yet disliking the austerity of his temper, asked him one day if, when he left the army, he designed to see Asia, and Cato answering, “Yes, by all means.” “You do well,” replied Curio, “you will bring back with you a better temper and pleasanter manners;” pretty nearly the very words he used.
Deiotarus, being now an old man, had sent for Cato, to recommend his children and family to his protection; and as soon as he came, brought him presents of all sorts of things, which he begged and entreated him to accept. And his importunities displeased Cato so much, that though he came but in the evening, he stayed only that night, and went away early the next morning. After he was gone one day’s journey, he found at Pessinus a yet greater quantity of presents provided for him there, and also letters from Deiotarus entreating him to receive them, or at least to permit his friends to take them, who for his sake deserved some gratification, and could not have much done for them out of Cato’s own means. Yet he would not suffer it, though he saw some of them very willing to receive such gifts, and ready to complain of his severity; but he answered, that corruption would never want pretence, and his friends should share with him in whatever he should justly and honestly obtain, and so returned the presents to Deiotarus.
When he took ship for Brundusium, his friends would have persuaded him to put his brother’s ashes into another vessel; but he said he would sooner part with his life than leave them, and so set sail. And as it chanced, he, we are told, had a very dangerous passage, though others at the same time went over safely enough.
After he was returned to Rome, he spent his time for the most part either at home, in conversation with Athenodorus, or at the forum, in the service of his friends. Though it was now the time that he should become quaestor, he would not stand for the place till he had studied the laws relating to it, and by inquiry from persons of experience, had attained a distinct understanding of the duty and authority belonging to it. With this knowledge, as soon as he came into the office, he made a great reformation among the clerks and under-officers of the treasury, people who had long practice and familiarity in all the public records and the laws, and, when new magistrates came in year by year so ignorant and unskillful as to be in absolute need of others to teach them what to do, did not submit and give way, but kept the power in their own hands, and were in effect the treasurers themselves. Till Cato, applying himself roundly to the work, showed that he possessed not only the title and honour of a quaestor, but the knowledge and understanding and full authority of his office. So that he used the clerks and under-officers like servants as they were, exposing their corrupt practices, and instructing their ignorance. Being bold, impudent fellows, they flattered the other quaestors his colleagues, and by their means endeavoured to maintain an opposition against him. But he convicted the chiefest of them of a breach of trust in the charge of an inheritance, and turned him out of his place. A second he brought to trial for dishonesty, who was defended by Lutatius Catulus, at that time censor, a man very considerable for his office, but yet more for his character, as he was eminent above all the Romans of that age for his reputed wisdom integrity. He was also intimate with Cato, and much commended his way of living. So perceiving he could not bring off his client, if he stood a fair trial, he openly began to beg him off. Cato objected to his doing this. And when he continued still to be importunate, “It would be shameful, Catulus,” he said, “that the censor, the judge of all our lives, should incur the dishonour of removal by our officers.” At this expression, Catulus looked as if he would have made some answer; but he said nothing and either through anger or shame went away silent, and out of countenance. Nevertheless, the man was not found guilty, for the voices that acquitted him were but one in number less than those that condemned him, and Marcus Lollius, one of Cato’s colleagues, who was absent by reason of sickness, was sent for by Catulus, and entreated to come and save the man. So Lollius was brought into court in a chair, and gave his voice also for acquitting him. Yet Cato never after made use of that clerk, and never paid him his salary, nor would he make any account of the vote given by Lollius. Having thus humbled the clerks, and brought them to be at command, he made use of the books and registers as he thought fit, and in a little while gained the treasury a higher name than the senate-house itself; and all men said, Cato had made the office of a quaestor equal to the dignity of a consul. When he found many indebted to the state upon old accounts, and the state also in debt to many private persons, he took care that the public might no longer either do or suffer wrong; he strictly and punctually exacted what was due to the treasury, and as freely and speedily paid all those to whom it was indebted. So that the people were filled with sentiments of awe and respect, on seeing those made to pay, who thought to have escaped with their plunder, and others receiving all their due, who despaired of getting anything. And whereas usually those who brought false bills and pretended orders of the senate, could through favour get them accepted, Cato would never be so imposed upon; and in the case of one particular order, on the question arising whether it had passed the senate, he would not believe a great many witnesses that attested it, nor would admit of it, till the consuls came and affirmed it upon oath.
There were at that time a great many whom Sylla had made use of as his agents in the proscription, and to whom he had for their service in putting men to death, given twelve thousand drachmas apiece. These men everybody hated as wicked and polluted wretches, but nobody durst be revenged upon them. Cato called every one to account, as wrongfully possessed of the public money, and exacted it of them, and at the same time sharply reproved them for their unlawful and impious actions. After these proceedings they were presently accused of murder, and being already in a manner prejudged as guilty, they were easily found so, and accordingly suffered; at which the whole people rejoiced and thought themselves now to see the old tyranny finally abolished, and Sylla himself, so to say, brought to punishment.
Cato’s assiduity also, and indefatigable diligence, won very much upon the people. He always came first of any of his colleagues to the treasury, and away the last. He never missed any assembly of the people, or sitting of the senate; being always anxious and on the watch for those who lightly, or as a matter of interest, passed votes in favour of this or that person, for remitting debts or granting away customs that were owing to the state. And at length, having kept the exchequer pure and clear from base informers, and yet having filled it with treasure, he made it appear that the state might be rich without oppressing the people. At first he excited feelings of dislike and irritation in some of his colleagues, but after a while they were well contented with him, since he was perfectly willing that they should cast all the odium on him, when they declined to gratify their friends with the public money, or to give dishonest judgments in passing their accounts; and when hard-pressed by suitors, they could readily answer it was impossible to do anything unless Cato would consent. On the last day of his office, he was honourably attended to his house by, almost all the people; but on the way he was informed that several powerful friends were in the treasury with Marcellus, using all their interest with him to pass a certain debt to the public revenue, as if it had been a gift. Marcellus had been one of Cato’s friends from his childhood, and so long as Cato was with him, was one of the best of his colleagues in this office, but when alone, was unable to resist the importunity of suitors, and prone to do anybody a kindness. So Cato immediately turned back, and finding that Marcellus had yielded to pass the thing, he took the book, and while Marcellus silently stood by and looked on, struck it out. This done, he brought Marcellus out of the treasury, and took him home with him; who for all this, neither then, nor ever after, complained of him, but always continued his friendship and familiarity with him.
Cato, after he had laid down his office, yet did not cease to keep a watch upon the treasury. He had his servants who continually wrote out the details of the expenditure, and he himself kept always by him certain books, which contained the accounts of the revenue from Sylla’s time to his own quaestorship, which he had bought for five talents.
He was always first at the senate, and went out last; and often, while the others were slowly collecting, he would sit and read by himself, holding his gown before his book. He was never once out of town when the senate was to meet. And when afterwards Pompey and his party, finding that he could never be either persuaded or compelled to favour their unjust designs, endeavoured to keep him from the senate, by engaging him in business for his friends, to plead their causes, or arbitrate in their differences, or the like, he quickly discovered the trick, and to defeat it, fairly told all his acquaintance that he would never meddle in any private business when the senate was assembled. Since it was not in the hope of gaining honour or riches, nor out of mere impulse, or by chance that he engaged himself in politics, but he undertook the service of the state as the proper business of honest man, and therefore he thought himself obliged to be as constant to his public duty as the bee to the honeycomb. To this end, he took care to have his friends and correspondents everywhere, to send him reports of the edicts, decrees, judgments, and all the important proceedings that passed in any of the provinces. Once when Clodius, the seditious orator, to promote his violent and revolutionary projects, traduced to the people some of the priests and priestesses (among whom Fabia, sister to Cicero’s wife, Terentia, ran great danger), Cato having boldly interfered, and having made Clodius appear so infamous that he was forced to leave the town, was addressed, when it was over, by Cicero, who came to thank him for what he had done. “You must thank the commonwealth,” said he, for whose sake alone he professed to do everything. Thus he gained a great and wonderful reputation; so that an advocate in a cause, where there was only one witness against him, told the judges they ought not to rely upon a single witness, though it were Cato himself. And it was a sort of proverb with many people, if any very unlikely and incredible thing were asserted, to say, they would not believe it, though Cato himself should affirm it. One day a debauched and sumptuous liver talking in the senate about frugality and temperance, Anaeus standing up, cried, “Who can endure this, sir, to have you feast like Crassus, build like Lucullus, and talk like Cato.” So likewise those who were vicious and dissolute in their manners, yet affected to be grave and severe in their language, were in derision called Catos.
At first, when his friends would have persuaded him to stand to be tribune of the people, he thought it undesirable; for that the power of so great an office ought to be reserved, as the strongest medicines, for occasions of the last necessity. But afterwards in a vacation time, as he was going, accompanied with his books and philosophers, to Lucania, where he had lands with a pleasant residence, they met by the way a great many horses, carriages, and attendants, of whom they understood, that Metellus Nepos was going to Rome, to stand to be tribune of the people. Hereupon Cato stopped, and after a little pause, gave orders to return back immediately; at which the company seeming to wonder, “Don’t you know,” said he, “how dangerous of itself the madness of Metellus is? and now that he comes armed with the support of Pompey, he will fall like lightning on the state, and bring it to utter disorder; therefore this is no time for idleness and diversion, but we must go and prevent this man in his designs, or bravely die in defence of our liberty.” Nevertheless, by the persuasion of his friends, he went first to his country-house, where he stayed but a very little time, and then returned to town.
He arrived in the evening, and went straight the next morning to the forum, where he began to solicit for the tribuneship, in opposition to Metellus. The power of this office consists rather in controlling than performing any business; for though all the rest except any one tribune should be agreed, yet his denial or intercession could put a stop to the whole matter. Cato, at first, had not many that appeared for him; but as soon as his design was known, all the good and distinguished persons of the city quickly came forward to encourage and support him, looking upon him, not as one that desired a favour of them, but one that proposed to do a great favour to his country and all honest men; who had many times refused the same office, when he might have had it without trouble, but now sought it with danger, that he might defend their liberty and their government. It is reported that so great a number flocked about him that he was like to be stifled amidst the press, and could scarce get through the crowd. He was declared tribune, with several others, among whom was Metellus.
When Cato was chosen into this office, observing that the election of consuls was become a matter of purchase, he sharply rebuked the people for this corruption, and in the conclusion of his speech protested he would bring to trial whomever he should find giving money, making an exception only in the case of Silanus, on account of their near connection, he having married Servilia, Cato’s sister. He therefore did not prosecute him, but accused Lucius Murena, who had been chosen consul by corrupt means with Silanus. There was a law that the party accused might appoint a person to keep watch upon his accuser, that he might know fairly what means he took in preparing the accusation. He that was set upon Cato by Murena, at first followed and observed him strictly, yet never found him dealing any way unfairly or insidiously, but always generously and candidly going on in the just and open methods of proceeding. And he so admired Cato’s great spirit, and so entirely trusted to his integrity, that meeting him in the forum, or going to his house, he would ask him if he designed to do anything that day in order to the accusation, and if Cato said no, he went away, relying on his word. When the cause was pleaded Cicero, who was then consul and defended Murena, took occasion to be extremely witty and jocose, in reference to Cato, upon the Stoic philosophers, and their paradoxes, as they call them, and so excited great laughter among the judges; upon which Cato, smiling, said to the standers-by, “What a pleasant consul we have, my friends.” Murena was acquitted, and afterwards showed himself a man of no ill-feeling or want of sense; for when he was consul, he always took Cato’s advice in the most weighty affairs and, during all the time of his office, paid him much honour and respect. Of which not only Murena’s prudence, but also Cato’s own behaviour, was the cause; for though he were terrible and severe as to matters of justice, in the senate, and at the bar, yet after the thing was over his manner to all men was perfectly friendly and humane.
Before he entered on the office of tribune, he assisted Cicero, at that time consul, in many contests that concerned his office, but most especially in his great and noble acts at the time of Catiline’s conspiracy; which owed their last successful issue to Cato. Catiline had plotted a dreadful and entire subversion of the Roman state by sedition and open war, but being convicted by Cicero, was forced to fly the city. Yet Lentulus and Cethegus remained, with several others, to carry on the same plot; and blaming Catiline, as one that wanted courage, and had been timid and petty in his designs, they themselves resolved to set the whole town on fire, and utterly to overthrow the empire, rousing whole nations to revolt and exciting foreign wars. But the design was discovered by Cicero (as we have written in his life), and the matter brought before the senate. Silanus, who spoke first, delivered his opinion, that the conspirators ought to suffer the last of punishments, and was therein followed by all who spoke after him; till it came to Caesar, who being an excellent speaker, and looking upon all changes and commotions in the state as materials useful for his own purposes, desired rather to increase than extinguish them; and standing up, he made a very merciful and persuasive speech, that they ought not to suffer death without fair trial according to law, and moved that they might be kept in prison. Thus was the house almost wholly turned by Caesar, apprehending also the anger of the people; insomuch that even Silanus retracted, and said he did not mean to propose death, but imprisonment, for that was the utmost a Roman could suffer.
Upon this they were all inclined to the milder and more merciful opinion, when Cato, standing up, began at once with great passion and vehemence to reproach Silanus for his change of opinion, and to attack Caesar, who would, he said, ruin the commonwealth by soft words and popular speeches, and was endeavouring to frighten the senate, when he himself ought to fear, and be thankful, if he escaped unpunished or unsuspected, who thus openly and boldly dared to protect the enemies of the state, and while finding no compassion for his own native country, brought, with all its glories, so near to utter ruin, could yet be full of pity for those men who had better never have been born, and whose death must deliver the commonwealth from bloodshed and destruction. This only of all Cato’s speeches, it is said, was preserved; for Cicero, the consul, had disposed in various parts of the senate-house, several of the most expert and rapid writers, whom he had taught to make figures comprising numerous words in a few short strokes; as up to that time they had not used those we call shorthand writers, who then, as it is said, established the first example of the art. Thus Cato carried it, and so turned the house again, that it was decreed the conspirators should be put to death.
Not to omit any small matters that may serve to show Cato’s temper, and add something to the portraiture of his mind, it is reported, that while Caesar and he were in the very heat, and the whole senate regarding them two, a little note was brought in to Caesar which Cato declared to be suspicious, and urging that some seditious act was going on, bade the letter be read. Upon which Caesar handed the paper to Cato; who, discovering it to be a love-letter from his sister Servilia to Caesar, by whom she had been corrupted, threw it to him again, saying, “Take it, drunkard,” and so went on with his discourse. And, indeed, it seems Cato had but ill-fortune in women; for this lady was ill-spoken of for her familiarity with Caesar, and the other Servilia, Cato’s sister also, was yet more ill-conducted; for being married to Lucullus, one of the greatest men in Rome, and having brought him a son, she was afterwards divorced for incontinency. But what was worst of all, Cato’s own wife Atilia was not free from the same fault; and after she had borne him two children, he was forced to put her away for her misconduct. After that, he married Marcia, the daughter of Philippus, a woman of good reputation, who yet has occasioned much discourse; and the life of Cato, like a dramatic piece, has this one scene or passage full of perplexity and doubtful meaning.
It is thus related by Thrasea, who refers to the authority of Munatius, Cato’s friend and constant companion. Among many that loved and admired Cato, some were more remarkable and conspicuous than others. Of these was Quintus Hortensius, a man of high repute and approved virtue, who desired not only to live in friendship and familiarity with Cato, but also to unite his whole house and family with him by some sort or other of alliance in marriage. Therefore he set himself to persuade Cato that his daughter Porcia, who was already married to, Bibulus, and had borne him two children, might nevertheless be given to him, as a fair plot of land, to bear fruit also for him. “For,” said he, “though this in the opinion of men may seem strange, yet in nature it is honest, and profitable for the public that a woman in the prime of her youth should not lie useless, and lose the fruit of her womb, nor, on the other side, should burden and impoverish one man, by bringing him too many children. Also by this communication of families among worthy men, virtue would increase, and be diffused through their posterity; and the commonwealth would be united and cemented by their alliances.” Yet if Bibulus would not part with his wife altogether, he would restore her as soon as she had brought him a child, whereby he might be united to both their families. Cato answered, that he loved Hortensius very well, and much approved of uniting their houses, but he thought it strange to speak of marrying his daughter, when she was already given to another. Then Hortensius, turning the discourse, did not hesitate to speak openly and ask for Cato’s own wife, for she was young and fruitful, and he had already children enough. Neither can it be thought that Hortensius did this, as imagining Cato did not care for Marcia; for, it is said, she was then with child. Cato, perceiving his earnest desire, did not deny his request, but said that Philippus, the father of Marcia, ought also to be consulted. Philippus, therefore, being sent for, came; and finding they were well agreed, gave his daughter Marcia to Hortensius in the presence of Cato, who himself also assisted at the marriage. This was done at a later time, but since I was speaking of women, I thought it well to mention it now.
Lentulus and the rest of the conspirators were put to death; but Caesar, finding so much insinuated and charged against him in the senate, betook himself to the people, and proceeded to stir up the most corrupt and dissolute elements of the state to form a party in his support. Cato, apprehensive of what might ensue, persuaded the senate to win over the poor and unprovided-for multitude by a distribution of corn, the annual charge of which amounted to twelve hundred and fifty talents. This act of humanity and kindness unquestionably dissipated the present danger. But Metellus, coming into his office of tribune, began to hold tumultuous assemblies, and had prepared a decree, that Pompey the Great should presently be called into Italy, with all his forces, to preserve the city from the danger of Catiline’s conspiracy. This was the fair pretence; but the true design was to deliver all into the hands of Pompey, and to give him an absolute power. Upon this the senate was assembled, and Cato did not fall sharply upon Metellus, as he often did, but urged his advice in the most reasonable and moderate tone. At last he descended even to entreaty, and extolled the house of Metellus as having always taken part with the nobility. At this Metellus grew the more insolent, and despising Cato, as if he yielded and were afraid, let himself proceed to the most audacious menaces, openly threatening to do whatever he pleased in spite of the senate. Upon this Cato changed his countenance, his voice, and his language; and after many sharp expressions, boldly concluded that, while he lived, Pompey should never come armed into the city. The senate thought them both extravagant, and not well in their safe senses; for the design of Metellus seemed to be mere rage and frenzy, out of excess of mischief bringing all things to ruin and confusion, and Cato’s virtue looked like a kind of ecstasy of contention in the cause of what was good and just.
But when the day came for the people to give their voices for the passing this decree, and Metellus beforehand occupied the forum with armed men, strangers, gladiators, and slaves, those that in hopes of change followed Pompey were known to be no small part of the people, and besides, they had great assistance from Caesar, who was then praetor; and though the best and chiefest men of the city were no less offended at these proceedings than Cato, they seemed rather likely to suffer with him than able to assist him. In the meantime Cato’s whole family were in extreme fear and apprehension for him; some of his friends neither ate nor slept all the night, passing the whole time in debating and perplexity; his wife and sisters also bewailed and lamented him. But he himself, void of all fear, and full of assurance, comforted and encouraged them by his own words and conversation with them. After supper he went to rest at his usual hour, and was the next day waked out of a profound sleep by Minucius Thermus, one of his colleagues. So soon as he was up, they two went together into the forum, accompanied by very few, but met by a great many, who bade them have a care of themselves. Cato, therefore, when he saw the temple of Castor and Pollux encompassed with armed men, and the steps guarded by gladiators, and at the top Metellus and Caesar seated together, turning to his friends, “Behold,” said he, “this audacious coward, who has levied a regiment of soldiers against one unarmed naked man; and so he went on with Thermus. Those who kept the passages gave way to these two only, and would not let anybody else pass. Yet Cato taking Munatius by the hand, with much difficulty pulled him through along with him. Then going directly to Metellus and Caesar, he sat himself down between them, to prevent their talking to one another, at which they were both amazed and confounded. And those of the honest party, observing the countenance, and admiring the high spirit and boldness of Cato, went nearer, and cried out to him to have courage, exhorting also one another to stand together, and not betray their liberty nor the defender of it.
Then the clerk took out the bill, but Cato forbade him to read it, whereupon Metellus took it, and would have read it himself, but Cato snatched the book away. Yet Metellus, having the decree by heart, began to recite it without book; but Thermus put his hand to his mouth, and stopped his speech. Metellus seeing them fully bent to withstand him, and the people cowed, and inclining to the better side, sent to his house for armed men. And on their rushing in with great noise and terror, all the rest dispersed and ran away, except Cato, who alone stood still, while the other party threw sticks and stones at him from above, until Murena, whom he had formerly accused, came up to protect him, and holding his gown before him, cried out to them to leave off throwing; and, in fine, persuading and pulling him along, he forced him into the temple of Castor and Pollux. Metellus, now seeing the place clear, and all the adverse party fled out of the forum, thought he might easily carry his point; so he commanded the soldiers to retire, and recommencing in an orderly manner, began to proceed to passing the decree. But the other side having recovered themselves, returned very boldly, and with loud shouting, insomuch that Metellus’s adherents were seized with a panic, supposing them to be coming with a reinforcement of armed men, fled every one out of the place. They being thus dispersed, Cato came in again, and confirmed the courage, and commended the resolution of the people; so that now the majority were, by all means, for deposing Metellus from his office. The senate also being assembled, gave orders once more for supporting Cato, and resisting the motion, as of a nature to excite sedition and perhaps civil war in the city.
But Metellus continued still very bold and resolute; and seeing his party stood greatly in fear of Cato, whom they looked upon as invincible, he hurried out of the senate into the forum, and assembled the people, to whom he made a bitter and invidious speech against Cato, crying out, he was forced to fly from his tyranny, and this conspiracy against Pompey; that the city would soon repent their having dishonoured so great a man. And from hence he started to go to Asia, with the intention, as would he supposed, of laying before Pompey all the injuries that were done him. Cato was highly extolled for having delivered the state from this dangerous tribuneship, and having in some measure defeated, in the person of Metellus, the power of Pompey; but he was yet more commended when, upon the senate proceeding to disgrace Metellus and depose him from his office, he altogether opposed and at length diverted the design. The common people admired his moderation and humanity, in not trampling wantonly on an enemy whom he had overthrown, and wiser men acknowledged his prudence and policy in not exasperating Pompey.
Lucullus soon after returned from the war in Asia, the finishing of which, and thereby the glory of the whole, was thus, in all appearance, taken out of his hands by Pompey. And he was also not far from losing his triumph, for Caius Memmius traduced him to the people, and threatened to accuse him; rather, however, out of love to Pompey, than for any particular enmity to him. But Cato, being allied to Lucullus, who had married his sister Servilia, and also thinking it a great injustice, opposed Memmius, thereby exposing himself to much slander and misrepresentation, insomuch that they would have turned him out of his office, pretending that he used his power tyrannically. Yet at length Cato so far prevailed against Memmius that he was forced to let fall the accusations, and abandon the contest. And Lucullus having thus obtained his triumph, yet more sedulously cultivated Cato’s friendship, which he looked upon as a great guard and defence for him against Pompey’s power.
And now Pompey also returning with glory from the war, and confiding in the good-will of the people, shown in their splendid reception of him, thought he should be denied nothing, and sent therefore to the senate to put off the assembly for the election of consuls, till he could be present to assist Piso, who stood for that office. To this most of the senators were disposed to yield; Cato only not so much thinking that this delay would be of great importance, but, desiring to cut down at once Pompey’s high expectations and designs, withstood his request, and so overruled the senate that it was carried against him. And this not a little disturbed Pompey, who found he should very often fail in his projects unless he could bring over Cato to his interest. He sent, therefore, for Munatius, his friend; and Cato having two nieces that were marriageable, he offered to marry the eldest himself, and take the youngest for his son. Some say they were not his nieces, but his daughters. Munatius proposed the matter to Cato, in presence of his wife and sisters; the women were full of joy at the prospect of an alliance with so great and important a person. But Cato, without delay or balancing, forming his decision at once, answered, “Go, Munatius, go and tell Pompey that Cato is not assailable on the side of the women’s chamber; I am grateful indeed for the intended kindness, and so long as his actions are upright, I promise him a friendship more sure than any marriage alliance, but I will not give hostages to Pompey’s glory against my country’s safety.” This answer was very much against the wishes of the women, and to all his friends it seemed somewhat harsh and haughty. But afterwards, when Pompey, endeavouring to get the consulship for one of his friends, gave pay to the people for their votes, and the bribery was notorious, the money being counted out in Pompey’s own gardens, Cato then said to the women, they must necessarily have been concerned in the contamination of these misdeeds of Pompey, if they had been allied to his family; and they acknowledged that he did best in refusing it. Yet if we may judge by the event, Cato was much to blame in rejecting that alliance, which thereby fell to Caesar. And then that match was made, which, uniting his and Pompey’s power, had well-nigh ruined the Roman empire, and did destroy the commonwealth. Nothing of which, perhaps, had come to pass, but that Cato was too apprehensive of Pompey’s least faults, and did not consider how he forced him into conferring on another man the opportunity of committing the greatest.
These things, however, were yet to come. Lucullus and Pompey, meantime, had a great dispute concerning their orders and arrangements in Pontus, each endeavouring that his own ordinances might stand. Cato took part with Lucullus, who was manifestly suffering wrong; and Pompey, finding himself the weaker in the senate, had recourse to the people, and to gain votes he proposed a law for dividing the lands among the soldiers. Cato opposing him in this also made the bill he rejected. Upon this he joined himself with Clodius, at that time the most violent of all the demagogues, and entered also into friendship with Caesar, upon an occasion of which also Cato was the cause. For Caesar, returning from his government in Spain, at the same time sued to be chosen consul, and yet desired not to lose his triumph. Now the law requiring that those who stood for any office should be present, and yet that whoever expected a triumph should continue without the walls, Caesar requested the senate that his friends might be permitted to canvass for him in his absence. Many of the senators were willing to consent to it, but Cato opposed it, and perceiving them inclined to favour Caesar, spent the whole day in speaking, and so prevented the senate from coming to any conclusion. Caesar, therefore, resolving to let fall his pretensions to the triumph, came into the town, and immediately made a friendship with Pompey, and stood for the consulship. As soon as he was declared consul elect, he married his daughter Julia to Pompey. And having thus combined themselves together against the commonwealth, the one proposed laws for dividing the lands among the poor people, and the other was present to support the proposals. Lucullus, Cicero, and their friends, joined with Bibulus, the other consul, to hinder their passing, and, foremost of them all, Cato, who already looked upon the friendship and alliance of Pompey and Caesar as very dangerous, declared he did not so much dislike the advantage the people should get by this division of the lands, as he feared the reward these men would gain, by thus courting and cozening the people. And in this he gained over the senate to his opinion, as likewise many who were not senators, who were offended at Caesar’s ill-conduct, that he, in the office of consul, should thus basely and dishonourably flatter the people; practising, to win their favour, the same means that were wont to be used only by the most rash and rebellious tribunes. Caesar, therefore, and his party, fearing they should not carry it by fair dealing, fell to open force. First a basket of dung was thrown upon Bibulus as he was going to the forum; then they set upon his lictors and broke their rods; at length several darts were thrown, and many men wounded; so that all that were against those laws fled out of the forum, the rest with what haste they could, and Cato, last of all, walking out slowly, often turning back and calling down vengeance upon them.
Thus the other party not only carried their point of dividing the lands, but also ordained that all the senate should swear to confirm this law, and to defend it against whoever should attempt to alter it, inflicting great penalties on those that should refuse the oath. All these senators, seeing the necessity they were in, took the oath, remembering the example of Metellus in old time, who, refusing to swear upon the like occasion, was forced to leave Italy. As for Cato, his wife and children with tears besought him, his friends and familiars persuaded and entreated him, to yield and take the oath; but he that principally prevailed with him was Cicero, the orator, who urged upon him that it was perhaps not even right in itself, that a private man should oppose what the public had decreed; that the thing being already past altering, it were folly and madness to throw himself into danger without the chance of doing his country any good; it would be the greatest of all evils to embrace, as it were, the opportunity to abandon the commonwealth, for whose sake he did everything, and to let it fall into the hands of those who designed nothing but its ruin, as if he were glad to be saved from the trouble of defending it. “For,” said he, “though Cato have no need of Rome, yet Rome has need of Cato, and so likewise have all his friends.” Of whom Cicero professed he himself was the chief, being at that time aimed at by Clodius, who openly threatened to fall upon him, as soon as ever he should get to be tribune. Thus Cato, they say, moved by the entreaties and the arguments of his friends, went unwillingly to take the oath, which he did the last of all, except only Favonius, one of his intimate acquaintance.
Caesar, exalted with this success, proposed another law, for dividing almost all the country of Campania among the poor and needy citizens. Nobody durst speak against it but Cato, whom Caesar therefore pulled from the rostra and dragged to prison: yet Cato did not even thus remit his freedom of speech, but as he went along continued to speak against the law, and advised the people to put down all legislators who proposed the like. The senate and the best of the citizens followed him with sad and dejected looks, showing their grief and indignation by their silence, so that Caesar could not be ignorant how much they were offended; but for contention’s sake he still persisted, expecting Cato should either supplicate him, or make an appeal. But when he saw that he did not so much as think of doing either, ashamed of what he was doing and of what people thought of it, he himself privately bade one of the tribunes interpose and procure his release. However, having won the multitude by these laws and gratifications, they decreed that Caesar should have the government of Illyricum, and all Gaul, with an army of four legions, for the space of five years, though Cato still cried out they were, by their own vote, placing a tyrant in their citadel. Publius Clodius, a patrician, who illegally became a plebeian, was declared tribune of the people, as he had promised to do all things according to their pleasure, on condition he might banish Cicero. And for consuls, they set up Calpurnius Piso, the father of Caesar’s wife, and Aulus Gabinius, one of Pompey’s creatures, as they tell us, who best knew his life and manners.
Yet when they had thus firmly established all things, having mastered one part of the city by favour, and the other by fear, they themselves were still afraid of Cato, and remembered with vexation what pains and trouble their success over him had cost them, and indeed what shame and disgrace, when at last they were driven to use violence to him. This made Clodius despair of driving Cicero out of Italy while Cato stayed at home. Therefore having first laid his design, as soon as he came into his office, he sent for Cato, and told him that he looked upon him as the most incorrupt of all the Romans, and was ready to show he did so. “For whereas,” said he, “many have applied to be sent to Cyprus on the commission in the case of Ptolemy and have solicited to have the appointment, I think you alone are deserving of it, and I desire to give you the favour of the appointment.” Cato at once cried out it was a mere design upon him, and no favour, but an injury. Then Clodius proudly and fiercely answered, “If you will not take it as a kindness, you shall go, though never so unwillingly;” and immediately going into the assembly of the people he made them pass a decree, that Cato should be sent to Cyprus. But they ordered him neither ship, nor soldier, nor any attendant, except two secretaries, one of whom was a thief and a rascal, and the other a retainer to Clodius. Besides, as if Cyprus and Ptolemy were not work sufficient, he was ordered also to restore the refugees of Byzantium. For Clodius was resolved to keep him far enough off whilst himself continued tribune.
Cato, being in this necessity of going away, advised Cicero, who was next to be set upon, to make no resistance, lest he should throw the state into civil war and confusion, but to give way to the times, and thus become once more the preserver of his country. He himself sent forward Canidius, one of his friends, to Cyprus, to persuade Ptolemy to yield, without being forced; which if he did, he should want neither riches nor honour, for the Romans would give him the priesthood of the goddess at Paphos. He himself stayed at Rhodes, making some preparations, and expecting an answer from Cyprus. In the meantime, Ptolemy, King of Egypt, who had left Alexandria, upon some quarrel between him and his subjects, and was sailing for Rome, in hopes that Pompey and Caesar would send troops to restore him, in his way thither desired to see Cato, to whom he sent, supposing he would come to him. Cato had taken purging medicine at the time when the messenger came, and made answer, that Ptolemy had better come to him, if he thought fit. And when he came, he neither went forward to meet him, nor so much as rose up to him, but saluting him as an ordinary person, bade him sit down. This at once threw Ptolemy into some confusion, who was surprised to see such stern and haughty manners in one who made so plain and unpretending an appearance; but afterwards, when he began to talk about his affairs, he was no less astonished at the wisdom and freedom of his discourse. For Cato blamed his conduct, and pointed out to him what honour and happiness he was abandoning, and what humiliations and troubles he would run himself into; what bribery he must resort to, and what cupidity he would have to satisfy when he came to the leading men at Rome, whom all Egypt turned into silver would scarcely content. He therefore advised him to return home, and be reconciled to his subjects, offering to go along with him, and assist him in composing the differences. And by this language Ptolemy being brought to himself, as it might be out of a fit of madness or delirium, and discerning the truth and wisdom of what Cato said, resolved to follow his advice; but he was again over-persuaded by his friends to the contrary, and so, according to his first design, went to Rome. When he came there, and was forced to wait at the gate of one of the magistrates, he began to lament his folly in having rejected, rather, as it seemed to him, the oracle of a god than the advice merely of a good and wise.
In the meantime, the other Ptolemy, in Cyprus, very luckily for Cato, poisoned himself. It was reported he had left great riches; therefore, Cato designing to go first to Byzantium, sent his nephew Brutus to Cyprus, as he would not wholly trust Canidius. Then, having reconciled the refugees and the people of Byzantium, he left the city in peace and quietness; and so sailed to Cyprus, where he found a royal treasure of plate, tables, precious stones and purple, all which was to be turned into ready money. And being determined to do everything with the greatest exactness, and to raise the price of everything to the utmost, to this end he was always present at selling the things, and went carefully into all the accounts. Nor would he trust to the usual customs of the market, but looked doubtfully upon all alike, the officers, criers, purchasers, and even his own friends; and so in fine he himself talked with the buyers, and urged them to bid high, and conducted in this manner the greatest part of the sales.
This mistrustfulness offended most of his friends, and in particular, Munatius, the most intimate of them all, became almost irreconcilable. And this afforded Caesar the subject of his severest censures in the book he wrote against Cato. Yet Munatius himself relates, that the quarrel was not so much occasioned by Cato’s mistrust, as by his neglect of him, and by his own jealousy of Canidius. For Munatius also wrote a book concerning Cato, which is the chief authority followed by Thrasea. Munatius says, that coming to Cyprus after the other, and having a very poor lodging provided for him, he went to Cato’s house, but was not admitted, because he was engaged in private with Canidius; of which he afterwards complained in very gentle terms to Cato, but received a very harsh answer, that too much love, according to Theophrastus, often causes hatred; “and you,” he said, “because you bear me much love, think you receive too little honour, and presently grow angry. I employ Canidius on account of his industry and his fidelity; he has been with me from the first, and I have found him to be trusted.” These things were said in private between them two; but Cato afterwards told Canidius what had passed, on being informed of which, Munatius would no more go to sup with him, and when he was invited to give his counsel, refused to come. Then Cato threatened to seize his goods, as was the custom in the case of those who were disobedient; but Munatius not regarding his threats, returned to Rome, and continued a long time thus discontented. But afterwards, when Cato was come back also, Marcia, who as yet lived with him, contrived to have them both invited to sup together at the house of one Barca; Cato came in last of all, when the rest were laid down, and asked, where he should be. Barca answered him, where he pleased; then looking about, he said he would be near Munatius, and went and placed himself next to him; yet he showed him no other mark of kindness all the time they were at table together. But another time, at the entreaty of Marcia, Cato wrote to Munatius that he desired to speak with him. Munatius went to his house in the morning and was kept by Marcia till all the company was gone; then Cato came, threw both his arms about him, and embraced him very kindly they were reconciled. I have the more fully related this passage, for that I think the manners and tempers of men are more clearly discovered by things of this nature, than by great and conspicuous actions.
Cato got together little less than seven thousand talents of silver; but apprehensive of what might happen in so long a voyage by sea, he provided a great many coffers that held two talents and five hundred drachmas apiece; to each of these he fastened a long rope, and to the other end of the rope a piece of cork, so that if the ship should miscarry, it might be discovered whereabout the chests lay under water. Thus all the money, except a very little, was safely transported. But he had made two books, in which all the accounts of his commission were carefully written out, and neither of these was preserved. For his freedman Philargyrus, who had the charge of one of them, setting sail from Cenchreae, was lost, together with the ship and all her freight. And the other Cato himself kept safe till he came to Corcyra, but there he set up his tent in the market-place, and the sailors, being very cold in the night, made a great many fires, some of which caught the tents, so that they were burnt, and the book lost. And though he had brought with him several of Ptolemy’s stewards, who could testify to his integrity, and stop the mouths of enemies and false accusers, yet the loss annoyed him, and he was vexed with himself about the matter, as he had designed them not so much for a proof of his own fidelity, as for a pattern of exactness to others.
The news did not fail to reach Rome that he was coming up the river. All the magistrates, the priests, and the whole senate, with great part of the people, went out to meet him; both the banks of the Tiber were covered with people; so that his entrance was in solemnity and honour not inferior to a triumph. But it was thought somewhat strange, and looked like willfulness and pride, that when the consuls and praetors appeared, he did not disembark nor stay to salute them, but rowed up the stream in a royal galley of six banks of oars, and stopped not till he brought his vessels to the dock. However, when the money was carried through the streets, the people much wondered at the vast quantity of it, and the senate being assembled, decreed him in honourable terms an extraordinary praetorship, and also the privilege of appearing at the public spectacles in a robe faced with purple. Cato declined all these honours, but declaring what diligence and fidelity he had found in Nicias, the steward of Ptolemy, he requested the senate to give him his freedom.
Philippus, the father of Marcia, was that year consul, and the authority and power of the office rested in a manner in Cato; for the other consul paid him no less regard for his virtue’s sake than Philippus did on account of the connection between them. And Cicero, now being returned from his banishment, into which he was driven by Clodius, and having again obtained great credit among the people, went, in the absence of Clodius, and by force took away the records of his tribuneship, which had been laid up in the capitol. Hereupon the senate was assembled and Clodius complained of Cicero, who answered, that Clodius was never legally tribune, and therefore whatever he had done was void, and of no authority. But Cato interrupted him while he spoke, and at last standing up said, that indeed he in no way justified or approved of Clodius’s proceedings: but if they questioned the validity of what had been done in his tribuneship, they might also question what himself had done at Cyprus, for the expedition was unlawful, if he that sent him had no lawful authority: for himself, he thought Clodius was legally made tribune, who, by permission of the law, was from a patrician adopted into a plebeian family; if he had done ill in his office, he ought to be called to account for it; but the authority of the magistracy ought not to suffer for the faults of the magistrate. Cicero took this ill, and for a long time discontinued his friendship with Cato; but they were afterwards reconciled.
Pompey and Crassus, by agreement with Caesar, who crossed the Alps to see them, had formed a design, that they two should stand to be chosen consuls a second time, and when they should be in their office, they would continue to Caesar his government for five years more, and take to themselves the greatest provinces, with armies and money to maintain them. This seemed a plain conspiracy to subvert the constitution and parcel out the empire. Several men of high character had intended to stand to be consuls that year, but upon the appearance of these great competitors, they all desisted, except only Lucius Domitius, who had married Porcia, the sister of Cato, and was by him persuaded to stand it out, and not abandon such an undertaking, which, he said, was not merely to gain the consulship, but to save the liberty of Rome. In the meantime, it was the common topic among the more prudent part of the citizens, that they ought not to suffer the power of Pompey and Crassus to be united, which would then be carried beyond all bounds, and become dangerous to the state; that therefore one of them must be denied. For these reasons they took part with Domitius, whom they exhorted and encouraged to go on, assuring him that many who feared openly to appear for him, would privately assist him. Pompey’s party fearing this, laid wait for Domitius, and set upon him as he was going before daylight, with torches, into the Field. First, he that bore the light next before Domitius was knocked down and killed; then several others being wounded, all the rest fled, except Cato and Domitius, whom Cato held, though himself were wounded in the arm, and crying out, conjured the others to stay, and not, while they had any breath, forsake the defence of their liberty against those tyrants, who plainly showed with what moderation they were likely to use the power which they endeavoured to gain by such violence. But at length Domitius, also, no longer willing to face the danger, fled to his own house, and so Pompey and Crassus were declared elected.
Nevertheless, Cato would not give over, but resolved to stand himself to be praetor that year, which he thought would be some help to him in his design of opposing them; that he might not act as a private man, when he was to contend with public magistrates. Pompey and Crassus apprehended this; and fearing that the office of praetor in the person of Cato might be equal in authority to that of consul, they assembled the senate unexpectedly, without giving notice to a great many of the senators, and made an order, that those who were chosen praetors should immediately enter upon their office, without attending the usual time, in which, according to law, they might be accused, if they had corrupted the people with gifts. When by this order they had got leave to bribe freely, without being called to account, they set up their own friends and dependents to stand for the praetorship, giving money, and watching the people as they voted. Yet the virtue and reputation of Cato was like to triumph over all these stratagems; for the people generally felt it to be shameful that a price should be paid for the rejection of Cato, who ought rather to be paid himself to take upon him the office. So he carried it by the voices of the first tribe. Hereupon Pompey immediately framed a lie, crying out, it thundered; and straight broke up the assembly, for the Romans religiously observed this as a bad omen, and never concluded any matter after it had thundered. Before the next time, they had distributed larger bribes, and driving also the best men out of the Field, by these foul means they procured Vatinius to be chosen praetor, instead of Cato. It is said, that those who had thus corruptly and dishonestly given their voices hurried, as if it were in flight, out of the Field. The others staying together, and exclaiming at the event, one of the tribunes continued the assembly, and Cato standing up, as it were by inspiration, foretold all the miseries that afterwards befell the state, exhorted them to beware of Pompey and Crassus, who were guilty of such things, and had laid such designs, that they might well fear to have Cato praetor. When he had ended this speech, he was followed to his house by a greater number of people than all the new praetors elect put together.
Caius Trebonius now proposed the law for allotting provinces to the consuls, one of whom was to have Spain and Africa, the other Egypt and Syria, with full power of making war, and carrying it on both by sea and land, as they should think fit. When this was proposed, all others despaired of putting any stop to it, and neither did nor said anything against it. But Cato, before the voting began, went up into the place of speaking, and desiring to be heard, was with much difficulty allowed two hours to speak. Having spent that time in informing them and reasoning with them, and in foretelling to them much that was to come, he was not suffered to speak any longer; but as he was going on, a serjeant came and pulled him down; yet when he was down, he still continued speaking in a loud voice, and finding many to listen to him, and join in his indignation. Then the serjeant took him, and forced him out of the forum; but as soon as he got loose, he returned again to the place of speaking, crying out to the people to stand by him. When he had done thus several times, Trebonius grew very angry, and commanded him to be carried to prison; but the multitude followed him, and listened to the speech which he made to them as he went along; so that Trebonius began to be afraid again, and ordered him to be released. Thus that day was expended, and the business staved off by Cato. But in the days succeeding, many of the citizens being overawed by fears and threats, and others won by gifts and favours, Aquillius, one of the tribunes, they kept by an armed force within the senate-house; Cato, who cried it thundered, they drove out of the forum; many were wounded, and some slain; and at length by open force they passed the law. At this many were so incensed that they got together and were going to throw down the statues of Pompey; but Cato went and diverted them from that design.
Again, another law was proposed, concerning the provinces and legions of Caesar. Upon this occasion Cato did not apply himself to the people, but appealed to Pompey himself; and told him, he did not consider now that he was setting Caesar upon his own shoulders, who would shortly grow too weighty for him; and at length, not able to lay down the burden, nor yet to bear it any longer, he would precipitate both it and himself with it upon the commonwealth; and then he would remember Cato’s advice, which was no less advantageous to him than just and honest in itself. Thus was Pompey often warned, but still disregarded and slighted it, never mistrusting Caesar’s change, and always confiding in his own power and good fortune.
Cato was made praetor the following year; but, it seems, he did not do more honour and credit to the office by his signal integrity than he disgraced and diminished it by his strange behaviour. For he would often come to the court without his shoes, and sit upon the bench without any undergarment, and in this attire would give judgment in capital causes, and upon persons of the highest rank. It is said, also, he used to drink wine after his morning meal, and then transact the business of his office; but this was wrongfully reported of him. The people were at that time extremely corrupted by the gifts of those who sought offices, and most made a constant trade of selling their voices. Cato was eager utterly to root this corruption out of the commonwealth; he therefore persuaded the senate to make an order, that those who were chosen into any office, though nobody should accuse them, should be obliged to come into the court, and give account upon oath of their proceedings in their election. This was extremely obnoxious to those who stood for the offices, and yet more to those vast numbers who took the bribes. Insomuch that one morning, as Cato was going to the tribunal, a great multitude of people flocked together, and with loud cries and maledictions reviled him, and threw stones at him. Those that were about the tribunal presently fled, and Cato himself being forced thence, and jostled about in the throng, very narrowly escaped the stones that were thrown at him, and with much difficulty got hold of the rostra; where, standing up with a bold and undaunted countenance, he at once mastered the tumult, and silenced the clamour; and addressing them in fit terms for the occasion, was heard with great attention, and perfectly quelled the sedition. Afterwards, on the senate commending him for this, “But I,” said he, “do not commend you for abandoning your praetor in danger, and bringing him no assistance.”
In the meantime, the candidates were in great perplexity; for every one dreaded to give money himself, and yet feared lest his competitors should. At length they agreed to lay down one hundred and twenty-five thousand drachmas apiece, and then all of them to canvass fairly and honestly, on condition, that if any one was found to make use of bribery he should forfeit the money. Being thus agreed, they chose Cato to keep the stakes, and arbitrate the matter; to him they brought the sum concluded on, and before him subscribed the agreement. The money he did not choose to have paid for them, but took their securities who stood bound for them. Upon the day of election, he placed himself by the tribune who took the votes, and very watchfully observing all that passed, he discovered one who had broken the agreement, and immediately ordered him to pay his money to the rest. They, however, commending his justice highly, remitted the penalty, as thinking the discovery a sufficient punishment. It raised, however, as much envy against Cato as it gained him reputation, and many were offended at his thus taking upon himself the whole authority of the senate, the courts of judicature, and the magistracies. For there is no virtue, the honour and credit for which procures a man more odium than that of justice; and this, because more than any other, it acquires a man power and authority among the common people. For they only honour the valiant and admire the wise, while in addition they also love just men, and put entire trust and confidence in them. They fear the bold man, and mistrust the clever man, and moreover think them rather beholding to their natural complexion, than to any goodness of their will, for these excellences; they look upon valour as a certain natural strength of the mind, and wisdom as a constitutional acuteness; whereas a man has it in his power to be just, if he have but the will to be so, and therefore injustice is thought the most dishonourable, because it is least excusable.
Cato upon this account was opposed by all the great men, who thought themselves reproved by his virtue. Pompey especially looked upon the increase of Cato’s credit as the ruin of his own power, and therefore continually set up men to rail against him. Among these was the seditious Clodius, now again united to Pompey, who declared openly, that Cato had conveyed away a great deal of the treasure that was found in Cyprus; and that he hated Pompey only because he refused to marry his daughter. Cato answered, that although they had allowed him neither horse nor man, he had brought more treasure from Cyprus alone, than Pompey had, after so many wars and triumphs, from the ransacked world; that he never sought the alliance of Pompey; not that he thought him unworthy of being related to him, but because he differed so much from him in things that concerned the commonwealth. “For,” said he, “I laid down the province that was given me, when I went out of my praetorship; Pompey, on the contrary, retains many provinces for himself, and he bestows many on others; and but now he sent Caesar a force of six thousand men into Gaul, which Caesar never asked the people for, nor had Pompey obtained their consent to give. Men, and horse, and arms, in any number, are become the mutual gifts of private men to one another; and Pompey, keeping the titles of commander and general, hands over the armies and provinces to others to govern, while he himself stays at home to preside at the contests of the canvass, and to stir up tumults at elections; out of the anarchy he thus creates among us, seeking, we see well enough, a monarchy for himself.” Thus he retorted on Pompey.
He had an intimate friend and admirer of the name of Marcus Favonius, much the same to Cato as we are told Apollodorus, the Phalerian, was in old time to Socrates, whose words used to throw him into perfect transports and ecstasies, getting into his head, like strong wine, and intoxicating him to a sort of frenzy. This Favonius stood to be chosen aedile, and was like to lose it; but Cato, who was there to assist him, observed that all the votes were written in one hand, and discovering the cheat, appealed to the tribunes, who stopped the election. Favonius was afterwards chosen aedile, and Cato, who assisted him in all things that belonged to his office, also undertook the care of the spectacles that were exhibited in the theatre; giving the actors crowns, not of gold, but of wild olive, such as used to be given at the Olympic games; and instead of the magnificent presents that were usually made, he offered to the Greeks beet root, lettuces, radishes, and pears; and to the Romans earthen pots of wine, pork, figs, cucumbers, and little faggots of wood. Some ridiculed Cato for his economy, others looked with respect on this gentle relaxation of his usual rigour and austerity. In fine, Favonius himself mingled with the crowd, and sitting among the spectators, clapped and applauded Cato, bade him bestow rewards on those who did well, and called on the people to pay their honours to him, as for himself he had placed his whole authority in Cato’s hands. At the same time, Curio, the colleague of Favonius, gave very magnificent entertainments in another theatre; but the people left his, and went to those of Favonius, which they much applauded, and joined heartily in the diversion, seeing him act the private man, and Cato the master of the shows, who, in fact, did all this in derision of the great expenses that others incurred, and to teach them, that in amusements men ought to seek amusement only, and the display of a decent cheerfulness, not great preparations and costly magnificence, demanding the expenditure of endless care and trouble about things of little concern.
After this, Scipio, Hypsaeus, and Milo, stood to be consuls, and that not only with the usual and now recognized disorders of bribery and corruption, but with arms and slaughter, and every appearance of carrying their audacity and desperation to the length of actual civil war. Whereupon it was proposed that Pompey might be empowered to preside over that election. This Cato at first opposed, saying that the laws ought not to seek protection from Pompey, but Pompey from the laws. Yet the confusion lasting a long time, the forum continually, as it were, besieged with three armies, and no possibility appearing of a stop being put to these disorders, Cato at length agreed that, rather than fall into the last extremity, the senate should freely confer all on Pompey; since it was necessary to make use of a lesser illegality as a remedy against the greatest of all, and better to set up a monarchy themselves than to suffer a sedition to continue that must certainly end in one. Bibulus, therefore, a friend of Cato’s, moved the senate to create Pompey sole consul; for that either he would reestablish the lawful government, or they should serve under the master. Cato stood up, and, contrary to all expectation, seconded this motion, concluding that any government was better than mere confusion, and that he did not question but Pompey would deal honourably, and take care of the commonwealth thus committed to his charge. Pompey being hereupon declared consul, invited Cato to see him in the suburbs. When he came, he saluted and embraced him very kindly, acknowledged the favour he had done him, and desired his counsel and assistance, in the management of this office. Cato made answer, that what he had spoken on any former occasion was not out of hate to Pompey, nor what he had now done out of love to him, but all for the good of the commonwealth; that in private, if he asked him, he would freely give his advice; and in public, though he asked him not, he would always speak his opinion. And he did accordingly. For first, when Pompey made severe laws, for punishing and laying great fines on those who had corrupted the people with gifts, Cato advised him to let alone what was already passed, and to provide for the future; for if he should look up past misdemeanours, it would be difficult to know where to stop; and if he would ordain new penalties, it would be unreasonable to punish men by a law, which at that time they had not the opportunity of breaking. Afterwards, when many considerable men, and some of Pompey’s own relations, were accused, and he grew remiss, and disinclined to the prosecution, Cato sharply reproved him, and urged him to proceed. Pompey had made a law, also, to forbid the custom of making commendatory orations in behalf of those that were accused; yet he himself wrote one for Munatius Plancus, and sent it while the cause was pleading; upon which Cato, who was sitting as one of the judges, stopped his ears with his hands, and would not hear it read. Whereupon Plancus, before sentence was given, excepted against him, but was condemned notwithstanding. And indeed Cato was a great trouble and perplexity to almost all that were accused of anything, as they feared to have him one of their judges, yet did not dare to demand his exclusion. And many had been condemned because, by refusing him, they seemed to show that they could not trust to their own innocence; and it was a reproach thrown in the teeth of some by their enemies, that they had not accepted Cato for their judge.
In the meanwhile, Caesar kept close with his forces in Gaul, and continued in arms; and at the same time employed his gifts, his riches, and his friends above all things, to increase his power in the city. And now Cato’s old admonitions began to rouse Pompey out of the negligent security in which he lay, into a sort of imagination of danger at hand; but seeing him slow and unwilling, and timorous to undertake any measures of prevention against Caesar, Cato resolved himself to stand for the consulship, and presently force Caesar either to lay down his arms or discover his intentions. Both Cato’s competitors were persons of good position; Sulpicius, who was one, owed much to Cato’s credit and authority in the city, and it was thought unhandsome and ungratefully done, to stand against him; not that Cato himself took it ill. “For it is no wonder.” said he, “if a man will not yield to another, in that which he esteems the greatest good.” He had persuaded the senate to make an order, that those who stood for offices should themselves ask the people for their votes, and not solicit by others, nor take others about with them to speak for them, in their canvass. And this made the common people very hostile to him, if they were to lose not only the means of receiving money, but also the opportunity of obliging several persons, and so to become by his means both poor and less regarded. Besides this, Cato himself was by nature altogether unfit for the business of canvassing, as he was more anxious to sustain the dignity of his life and character than to obtain the office. Thus by following his own way of soliciting, and not suffering his friends to do those things which take away the multitude, he was rejected and lost the consulship.
But whereas, upon such occasions, not only those who missed the office, but even their friends and relations, used to feel themselves disgraced and humiliated, and observed a sort of mourning for several days after, Cato took it so unconcernedly that he anointed himself, and played at ball in the field, and after breakfasting, went into the forum, as he used to do, without his shoes or his tunic, and there walked about with his acquaintance. Cicero blames him, for that when affairs required such a consul, he would not take more pains, nor condescend to pay some court to the people, as also because that he afterwards neglected to try again; whereas he had stood a second time to be chosen praetor. Cato answered that he lost the praetorship the first time, not by the voice of the people, but by the violence and corrupt dealing of his adversaries; whereas in the election of consuls there had been no foul play. So that he plainly saw the people did not like his manners, which an honest man ought not to alter for their sake; nor yet would a wise man attempt the same thing again, while liable to the same prejudices.
Caesar was at this time engaged with many warlike nations, and was subduing them at great hazards. Among the rest, it was believed he had set upon the Germans, in a time of truce, and had thus slain three hundred thousand of them. Upon which, some of his friends moved the senate for a public thanksgiving; but Cato declared they ought to deliver Caesar into the hands of those who had been thus unjustly treated, and so expiate the offence and not bring a curse upon the city; “Yet we have reason,” said he, “to thank the gods, for that they spared the commonwealth, and did not take vengeance upon the army, for the madness and folly of the general.” Hereupon Caesar wrote a letter to the senate which was read openly, and was full of reproachful language and accusations against Cato; who, standing up, seemed not at all concerned, and without any heat or passion, but in a calm and, as it were, premeditated discourse, made all Caesar’s charges against him show like mere common scolding and abuse, and in fact a sort of pleasantry and play on Caesar’s part; and proceeding then to go into all Caesar’s political courses, and to explain and reveal (as though he had been not his constant opponent, but his fellow-conspirator) his whole conduct and purpose from its commencement, he concluded by telling the senate, it was not the sons of the Britons or the Gauls they need fear, but Caesar himself, if they were wise. And this discourse so moved and awakened the senate, that Caesar’s friends repented they had had a letter read, which had given Cato an opportunity of saying so many reasonable things, and such severe truths against him. However, nothing was then decided upon; it was merely said, that it would be well to send him a successor. Upon that, Caesar’s friends required that Pompey also should lay down his arms, and resign his provinces, or else that Caesar might not be obliged to either. Then Cato cried out, what he had foretold was come to pass; now it was manifest he was using his forces to compel their judgment, and was turning against the state those armies he had got from it by imposture and trickery. But out of the senate-house Cato could do but little, as the people were ever ready to magnify Caesar; and the senate, though convinced by Cato, were afraid of the people.
But when the news was brought that Caesar had seized Ariminum, and was marching with his army toward Rome, then all men, even Pompey, and the common people too, cast their eyes on Cato, who had alone foreseen and first clearly declared Caesar’s intentions. He therefore told them, “If you had believed me, or regarded my advice, you would not now have been reduced to stand in fear of one man, or to put all your hopes in one alone.” Pompey acknowledged that Cato indeed had spoken most like a prophet, while he himself had acted too much like a friend. And Cato advised the senate to put all into the hands of Pompey; “For those who can raise up great evils,” said he, “can best allay them.”
Pompey, finding he had not sufficient forces, and that those he could raise were not very resolute, forsook the city. Cato, resolving to follow Pompey into exile, sent his younger son to Munatius, who was then in the country of Bruttium, and took his eldest son with him; but wanting somebody to keep his house and take care of his daughters, he took Marcia again, who was now a rich widow, Hortensius being dead, and having left her all his estate. Caesar afterward made use of this action also, to reproach him with covetousness, and a mercenary design in his marriage. “For,” said he, “if he had need of a wife why did he part with her? And if he had not, why did he take her again? Unless he gave her only as a bait to Hortensius; and lent her when she was young, to have her again when she was rich.” But in answer to this, we might fairly apply the saying of Euripides —
“To speak of mysteries — the chief of these
Surely were cowardice in Hercules.”
For it is much the same thing to reproach Hercules for cowardice, and to accuse Cato of covetousness; though otherwise, whether he did altogether right in this marriage, might be disputed. As soon, however, as he had again taken Marcia, he committed his house and his daughters to her, and himself followed Pompey. And it is said, that from that day he never cut his hair, nor shaved his beard, nor wore a garland, but was always full of sadness, grief, and dejectedness for the calamities of his country, and continually showed the same feeling to the last, whatever party had misfortune or success.
The government of Sicily being allotted to him, he passed over to Syracuse; where, understanding that Asinius Pollio was arrived at Messena, with forces from the enemy, Cato sent to him, to know the reason of his coming thither: Pollio, on the other side, called upon him to show reason for the present convulsions. And being at the same time informed how Pompey had quite abandoned Italy, and lay encamped at Dyrrhachium, he spoke of the strangeness and incomprehensibility of the divine government of things; “Pompey, when he did nothing wisely nor honestly, was always successful; and now that he would preserve his country, and defend her liberty, he is altogether unfortunate.” As for Asinius, he said, he could drive him out of Sicily, but as there were larger forces coming to his assistance, he would not engage the island in a war. He therefore advised the Syracusans to join the conquering party and provide for their own safety; and so set sail from thence.
When he came to Pompey, he uniformly gave advice to protract the war; as he always hoped to compose matters, and was by no means desirous that they should come to action; for the commonwealth would suffer extremely, and be the certain cause of its own ruin, whoever were conqueror by the sword. In like manner, he persuaded Pompey and the council to ordain that no city should be sacked that was subject to the people of Rome; and that no Roman should be killed but in the heat of battle; and hereby he got himself great honour, and brought over many to Pompey’s party, whom his moderation and humanity attracted. Afterwards being sent into Asia, to assist those who were raising men and preparing ships in those parts, he took with him his sister Servilia, and a little boy whom she had by Lucullus. For since her widowhood, she had lived with her brother, and much recovered her reputation, having put herself under his care, followed him in his voyages, and complied with his severe way of living. Yet Caesar did not fail to asperse him upon her account also.
Pompey’s officers in Asia, it seems, had no great need of Cato; but he brought over the people of Rhodes by his persuasions, and leaving his sister Servilia and her child there, he returned to Pompey, who had now collected very great forces both by sea and land. And here Pompey, more than in any other act, betrayed his intentions. For at first he designed to give Cato the command of the navy, which consisted of no less than five hundred ships of war, besides a vast number of light galleys, scouts, and open boats. But presently bethinking himself, or put in mind by his friends, that Cato’s principal and only aim being to free his country from all usurpation, if he were master of such great forces, as soon as ever Caesar should be conquered, he would certainly call upon Pompey, also, to lay down his arms, and be subject to the laws, he changed his mind, and though he had already mentioned it to Cato, nevertheless made Bibulus admiral. Notwithstanding this, he had no reason to suppose that Cato’s zeal in the cause was in any way diminished. For before one of the battles at Dyrrhachium, when Pompey himself, we are told, made an address to soldiers and bade the officers do the like, the men listened to them but coldly and with silence, until Cato, last of all, came forward, and in the language of philosophy, spoke to them, as the occasion required, concerning liberty, manly virtue, death, and a good name; upon all which he delivered himself with strong natural passion, and concluded with calling in the aid of the gods, to whom he directed his speech, as if they were present to behold them fight for their country. And at this the army gave such a shout and showed such excitement that their officers led them on full of hope and confidence to the danger. Caesar’s party were routed and put to flight; but his presiding fortune used the advantage of Pompey’s cautiousness and diffidence to render the victory incomplete. But of this we have spoken in the life of Pompey.
While, however, all the rest rejoiced, and magnified their success, Cato alone bewailed his country, and cursed that fatal ambition which made so many brave Romans murder one another.
After this Pompey, following Caesar into Thessaly, left at Dyrrhachium a quantity of munitions, money, and stores, and many of his domestics and relations; the charge of all which he gave to Cato, with the command only of fifteen cohorts. For though he trusted him much, yet he was afraid of him too, knowing full well, that if he had bad success, Cato would be the last to forsake him, but if he conquered, would never let him use his victory at his pleasure. There were, likewise, many persons of high rank that stayed with Cato at Dyrrhachium. When they heard of the overthrow at Pharsalia, Cato resolved with himself, that if Pompey were slain, he would conduct those that were with him into Italy, and then retire as far from the tyranny of Caesar as he could, and live in exile; but if Pompey were safe, he would keep the army together for him. With this resolution he passed over to Corcyra, where the navy lay; there he would have resigned his command to Cicero, because he had been consul, and himself only a praetor: but Cicero refused it, and was going for Italy. At which Pompey’s son being incensed, would rashly and in heat have punished all those who were going away, and in the first place have laid hands on Cicero; but Cato spoke with him in private, and diverted him from that design. And thus he clearly saved the life of Cicero, and rescued several others also from ill-treatment.
Conjecturing that Pompey the Great was fled toward Egypt or Africa, Cato resolved to hasten after him; and having taken all his men aboard, he set sail; but first to those who were not zealous to continue the contest, he gave free liberty to depart. When they came to the coast of Africa they met with Sextus, Pompey’s youngest son, who told them of the death of his father in Egypt; at which they were all exceedingly grieved, and declared that after Pompey they would follow no other leader but Cato. Out of compassion, therefore, to so many worthy persons, who had given such testimonies of their fidelity, and whom he could not for shame leave in a desert country, amidst so many difficulties, he took upon him the command, and marched toward the city of Cyrene, which presently received him, though not long before they had shut gates against Labienus. Here he was informed that Scipio, Pompey’s father-in-law, was received by King Juba, and that Attius Varus, whom Pompey had made governor of Africa, had joined them with his forces. Cato therefore resolved to march toward them by land, it being now winter; and got together a number of asses to carry water, and furnished himself likewise with plenty of all other provision, and a number of carriages. He took also with him some of those they call Psylli, who cure the biting of serpents, by sucking out the poison with their mouths, and have likewise certain charms, by which they stupefy and lay asleep the serpents.
Thus they marched seven days together, Cato all the time going on foot at the head of his men, and never making use of any horse or chariot. Ever since the battle of Pharsalia, he used to sit at table, and added this to his other ways of mourning, that he never lay down but to sleep.
Having passed the winter in Africa, Cato drew out his army, which amounted to little less than ten thousand. The affairs of Scipio and Varus went very ill, by reason of their dissensions and quarrels among themselves, and their submissions and flatteries to King Juba, who was insupportable for his vanity, and the pride he took in his strength and riches. The first time he came to a conference with Cato, he had ordered his own seat to be placed in the middle, between Scipio and Cato; which Cato observing, took up his chair and set himself on the other side of Scipio, to whom he thus gave the honour of sitting in the middle, though he were his enemy, and had formerly published some scandalous writing against him. There are people who speak as if this were quite an insignificant matter, and who, nevertheless, find fault with Cato, because in Sicily, walking one day with Philostratus, he gave him the middle place, to show his respect for philosophy. However, he now succeeded both in humbling the pride of Juba, who was treating Scipio and Varus much like a pair of satraps under his orders, and also in reconciling them to each other. All the troops desired him to be their leader; Scipio, likewise, and Varus gave way to it, and offered him the command; but he said he would not break those laws which he sought to defend, and he, being but propraetor, ought not to command in the presence of a proconsul (for Scipio had been created proconsul), besides that people took it as a good omen to see a Scipio command in Africa, and the very name inspired the soldiers with hopes of success.
Scipio, having taken upon him the command, presently resolved, at the instigation of Juba, to put all the inhabitants of Utica to the sword, and to raze the city, for having, as they professed, taken part with Caesar. Cato would by no means suffer this; but invoking the gods, exclaiming and protesting against it in the council of war, he with much difficulty delivered the poor people from this cruelty. And afterwards, upon the entreaty of the inhabitants, and at the instance of Scipio, Cato took upon himself the government of Utica, lest, one way or the other, it should fall into Caesar’s hands; for it was a strong place, and very advantageous for either party. And it was yet better provided and more strongly fortified towers, and who brought in great store of corn, repaired the walls, erected towers, and made deep trenches and palisades around the town. The young men of Utica he lodged among these works, having first taken their arms from them; the rest of the inhabitants he kept within the town, and took the greatest care that no injury should be done nor affront offered them by the Romans. From hence he sent great quantity of arms, money, and provision to the camp, and made this city their chief magazine.
He advised Scipio, as he had before done Pompey, by no means to hazard a battle against a man experienced in war, and formidable in the field, but to use delay; for time would gradually abate the violence of the crisis, which is the strength of usurpation. But Scipio out of pride rejected this counsel, and wrote a letter to Cato, in which he reproached him with cowardice; and that he could not be content to lie secure himself within walls and trenches, but he must hinder others from boldly using their own good sense to seize the right opportunity. In answer to this, Cato wrote word again, that he would take the horse and foot which he had brought into Africa, and go over into Italy, to make a diversion there, and draw Caesar off from them. But Scipio derided this proposition also. Then Cato openly let it be seen that he was sorry he had yielded the command to Scipio, who he saw would not carry on the war with any wisdom, and if, contrary to all appearance, he should succeed, he would use his success as unjustly at home. For Cato had then made up his mind, and so he told his friends, that he could have but slender hopes in those generals that had so much boldness and so little conduct; yet if anything should happen beyond expectation, and Caesar should be overthrown, for his part he would not stay at Rome, but would retire from the cruelty and inhumanity of Scipio, who had already uttered fierce and proud threats against many.
But what Cato had looked for, fell out sooner than he expected. Late in the evening came one from the army, whence he had been three days coming, who brought word there had been a great battle near Thapsus; that all was utterly lost; Caesar had taken the camps, Scipio and Juba were fled with a few only, and all the rest of the army were lost. This news arriving in time of war, and in the night, so alarmed the people, that they were almost out of their wits, and could scarce keep themselves within the walls of the city. But Cato came forward, and meeting the people in this hurry and clamour, did all he could to comfort and encourage them, and somewhat appeased the fear and amazement they were in, telling them that very likely things were not so bad in truth, but much exaggerated in the report. And so he pacified the tumult for the present. The next morning he sent for three hundred, whom he used as his council; these were Romans, who were in Africa upon business, in commerce and money-lending; there were also several senators and their sons. They were summoned to meet in the temple of Jupiter. While they were coming together, Cato walked about very quietly and unconcerned, as if nothing new had happened. He had a book in his hand, which he was reading; in this book was an account of what provision he had for war, armour, corn, ammunition, and soldiers.
When they were assembled, he began his discourse; first, as regarded the three hundred themselves, and very much commended the courage and fidelity they had shown, and their having very well served their country with their persons, money, and counsel. Then he entreated them by no means to separate, as if each single man could hope for any safety in forsaking his companions; on the contrary, while they kept together, Caesar would have less reason to despise them, if they fought against him, and be more forward to pardon them, if they submitted to him. Therefore he advised them to consult among themselves, nor should he find fault whichever course they adopted. If they thought fit to submit to fortune, he would impute their change to necessity; but if they resolved to stand firm, and undertake the danger for the sake of liberty, he should not only commend, but admire their courage, and would himself be their leader and companion too, till they had put to the proof the utmost fortune of their country; which was not Utica or Adrumetum but Rome, and she had often, by her own greatness, raised herself after worse disasters. Besides, as there were many things that would conduce to their safety, so chiefly this, that they were to fight against one whose affairs urgently claimed his presence in various quarters. Spain was already revolted to the younger Pompey; Rome was unaccustomed to the bridle, and impatient of it, and would therefore be ready to rise in insurrection upon any turn of affairs. As for themselves, they ought not to shrink from the danger; and in this might take example from their enemy, who so freely exposes his life to effect the most unrighteous designs, yet never can hope for so happy a conclusion as they may promise themselves; for notwithstanding the uncertainty of war, they will be sure of a most happy life if they succeed, or a most glorious death if they miscarry. However, he said, they ought to deliberate among themselves; and he joined with them in praying the gods that in recompense of their former courage and good-will, they would prosper their present determinations. When Cato had thus spoken, many were moved and encouraged by his arguments, but the greatest part were so animated by the sense of his intrepidity, generosity, and goodness, that they forgot the present danger, and as if he were the only invincible leader, and above all fortune, they entreated him to employ their persons, arms, and estates, as he thought fit; for they esteemed it far better to meet death in following his counsel, than to find their safety in betraying one of so great virtue. One of the assembly proposed the making a decree to set the slaves at liberty; and most of the rest approved the motion. Cato said that it ought not to be done, for it was neither just nor lawful; but if any of their masters would willingly set them free, those that were fit for service should be received. Many promised so to do, whose names he ordered to be enrolled, and then withdrew.
Presently after this he received letters from Juba and Scipio. Juba, with some few of his men, was retired to a mountain, where he waited to hear what Cato would resolve upon; and intended to stay there for him, if he thought fit to leave Utica, or to come to his aid with his troops, if he were besieged. Scipio was on shipboard, near a certain promontory, not far from Utica, expecting an answer upon the same account. But Cato thought fit to retain the messengers till the three hundred should come to some resolution.
As for the senators that were there, they showed great forwardness, and at once set free their slaves, and furnished them with arms. But the three hundred being men occupied in merchandise and money-lending, much of their substance also consisting in slaves, the enthusiasm that Cato’s speech had raised in them did not long continue. As there are substances that easily admit heat, and as suddenly lose it, when the fire is removed, so these men were heated and inflamed while Cato was present; but when they began to reason among themselves, the fear they had of Caesar soon overcame their reverence for Cato and for virtue. “For who are we,” said they, “and who is it we refuse to obey? Is it not that Caesar who is now invested with all the power of Rome? and which of us is a Scipio, a Pompey, or a Cato? But now that all men make their honour give way to their fear, shall we alone engage for the liberty of Rome, and in Utica declare war against him, before whom Cato and Pompey the Great fled out of Italy? Shall we set free our slaves against Caesar, who have ourselves no more liberty than he is pleased to allow? No, let us, poor creatures, know ourselves, submit to the victor, and send deputies to implore his mercy.” Thus said the most moderate of them; but the greatest part were for seizing the senators, that by securing them they might appease Caesar’s anger. Cato, though he perceived the change, took no notice of it; but wrote to Juba and Scipio to keep away from Utica, because he mistrusted the three hundred.
A considerable body of horse, which had escaped from the late fight, riding up towards Utica, sent three men before to Cato, who yet did not all bring the same message; for one party was for going to Juba, another for joining with Cato, and some again were afraid to go into Utica. When Cato heard this, he ordered Marcus Rubrius to attend upon the three hundred, and quietly take the names of those who, of their own accord, set their slaves at liberty, but by no means to force anybody. Then taking with him the senators, he went out of the town, and met the principal officers of these horsemen, whom he entreated not to abandon so many Roman senators, not to prefer Juba for their commander before Cato, but consult the common safety, and to come into the city, which was impregnable, and well furnished with corn and other provision, sufficient for many years. The senators likewise with tears besought them to stay. Hereupon the officers went to consult their soldiers, and Cato with the senators sat down upon an embankment, expecting their resolution. In the meantime comes Rubrius in great disorder, crying out, the three hundred were all in commotion, and exciting revolt and tumult in the city. At this all the rest fell into despair, lamenting and bewailing their condition. Cato endeavoured to comfort them, and sent to the three hundred, desiring them to have patience. Then the officers of the horse returned with no very reasonable demands. They said, they did not desire to serve Juba for his pay, nor should they fear Caesar, while they followed Cato, but they dreaded to be shut up with the Uticans, men of traitorous temper, and Carthaginian blood; for though they were quiet at present, yet as soon as Caesar should appear, without doubt they would conspire together, and betray the Romans. Therefore, if he expected they should join with him, he must drive out of the town or destroy all the Uticans, that he might receive them into a place clear both of enemies and barbarians. This Cato thought utterly cruel and barbarous; but he mildly answered, he would consult the three hundred.
Then he returned to the city, where he found the men, not framing excuses, or dissembling out of reverence to him, but openly declaring that no one should compel them to make war against Caesar; which, they said, they were neither able nor willing to do. And some there were who muttered words about retaining the senators till Caesar’s coming; but Cato seemed not to hear this, as indeed he had the excuse of being a little deaf. At the same time came one to him and told him the horse were going away. And now, fearing lest the three hundred should take some desperate resolution concerning the senators, he presently went out with some of his friends, and seeing they were gone some way, he took horse, and rode after them. They, when they saw him coming, were very glad, and received him very kindly, entreating him to save himself with them. At this time, it is said, Cato shed tears, while entreating them on behalf of the senators, and stretching out his hands in supplication. He turned some of their horses’ heads, and laid hold of the men by their armour, till in fine he prevailed with them out of compassion, to stay only that one day, to procure a safe retreat for the senators. Having thus persuaded them to go along with him, some he placed at the gates of the town, and to others gave the charge of the citadel. The three hundred began to fear they should suffer for their inconstancy, and sent to Cato, entreating him by all means to come to them; but the senators flocking about him, would not suffer him to go, and said they would not trust their guardian and saviour to the hands of perfidious traitors.
For there had never, perhaps, been a time when Cato’s virtue appeared more manifestly; and every class of men in Utica could clearly see, with sorrow and admiration, how entirely free was everything that he was doing from any secret motives or any mixture of self-regard; he, namely, who had long before resolved on his own death, was taking such extreme pains, toil, and care, only for the sake of others, that when he had secured their lives, he might put an end to his own. For it was easily perceived that he had determined to die, though he did not let it appear.
Therefore, having pacified the senators, he complied with the request of the three hundred, and went to them alone without any attendance. They gave him many thanks, and entreated him to employ and trust them for the future; and if they were not Catos, and could not aspire to his greatness of mind, they begged he would pity their weakness; and told him they had determined to send to Caesar and entreat him, chiefly and in the first place, for Cato, and if they could not prevail for him, they would not accept of pardon for themselves, but as long as they had breath, would fight in his defence. Cato commended their good intentions, and advised them to send speedily, for their own safety, but by no means to ask anything in his behalf; for those who are conquered, entreat, and those who have done wrong, beg pardon; for himself, he did not confess to any defeat in all his life, but rather, so far as he had thought fit, he had got the victory, and had conquered Caesar in all points of justice and honesty. It was Caesar that ought to be looked upon as one surprised and vanquished; for he was now convicted and found guilty of those designs against his country, which he had so long practised and so constantly denied. When he had thus spoken, he went out of the assembly, and being informed that Caesar was coming with his whole army, “Ah,” said he, “he expects to find us brave men.” Then he went to the senators, and urged them to make no delay, but hasten to be gone, while the horsemen were yet in the city. So ordering all the gates to be shut, except one towards the sea, he assigned their several ships to those that were to depart, and gave money and provision to those that wanted; all which he did with great order and exactness, taking care to suppress all tumults, and that no wrong should be done to the people.
Marcus Octavius, coming with two legions, now encamped near Utica, sent to Cato to arrange about the chief command. Cato returned him no answer; but said to his friends, “Can we wonder all has gone ill with us, when our love of office survives even in our very ruin?” In the meantime, word was brought him, that the horse were going away, and were beginning to spoil and plunder the citizens. Cato ran to them, and from the first he met, snatched what they had taken; the rest threw down all they had gotten, and went away silent and ashamed of what they had done. Then he called all the people of Utica, and requested them, upon the behalf of the three hundred, not to exasperate Caesar against them, but all to seek their common safety together with them. After that, he went again to the port to see those who were about to embark; and there he embraced and dismissed those of his friends and acquaintance whom he had persuaded to go. As for his son, he did not counsel him to be gone, nor did he think fit to persuade him to forsake his father. But there was one Statyllius, a young man, in the flower of his age, of a brave spirit, and very desirous to imitate the constancy of Cato. Cato entreated him to go away, as he was a noted enemy to Caesar, but without success. Then Cato looked at Apollonides, the stoic philosopher, and Demetrius, the peripatetic; “It belongs to you to cool the fever of this young man’s spirit, and to make him know what is good for him.” And thus, in setting his friends upon their way, and in despatching the business of any that applied to him, he spent that night and the greatest part of the next day.
Lucius Caesar, a kinsman of Caesar’s, being appointed to go deputy for the three hundred, came to Cato, and desired he would assist him to prepare a persuasive speech for them; “And as to you yourself,” said he, “it will be an honour for me to kiss the hands and fall at the knees of Caesar, in your behalf.” But Cato would by no means permit him to do any such thing; “For as to myself,” said he, “if I would be preserved by Caesar’s favour, I should myself go to him; but I would not be beholden to a tyrant for his acts of tyranny. For it is but usurpation in him to save, as their rightful lord, the lives of men over whom he has no title to reign. But if you please, let us consider what you had best say for the three hundred.” And when they had continued some time together, as Lucius was going away, Cato recommended to him his son and the rest of his friends; and taking him by the hand bade him farewell.
Then he retired to his house again, and called together his son and his friends, to whom he conversed on various subjects; among the rest he forbade his son to engage himself in the affairs of state. For to act therein as became him was now impossible; and to do otherwise, would be dishonourable. Toward evening he went into his bath. As he was bathing, he remembered Statyllius and called out loud, “Apollonides, have you tamed the high spirit of Statyllius, and is he gone without bidding us farewell?” “No,” said Apollonides, “I have said much to him, but to little purpose; he is still resolute and unalterable, and declares he is determined to follow your example.” At this, it is said, Cato smiled, and answered, “That will soon be tried.”
After he had bathed, he went to supper, with a great deal of company; at which he sat up, as he had always used to do ever since the battle of Pharsalia; for since that time he never lay down but when he went to sleep. There supped with him all his own friends and the magistrates of Utica.
After supper, the wine produced a great deal of lively and agreeable discourse, and a whole series of philosophical questions was discussed. At length they came to the strange dogmas of the stoics, called their Paradoxes; and to this in particular. That the good man only is free, and that all wicked men are slaves. The peripatetic, as was to be expected, opposing this, Cato fell upon him very warmly; and somewhat raising his voice, he argued the matter at great length, and urged the point with such vehemence, that it was apparent to everybody he was resolved to put an end to his life, and set himself at liberty. And so, when he had done speaking, there was a great silence and evident dejection. Cato, therefore, to divert them from any suspicion of his design, turned the conversation, and began again to talk of matters of present interest and expectation, showing great concern for those that were at sea, as also for the others, who, travelling by land, were to pass through a dry and barbarous desert.
When the company was broke up, he walked with his friends, as he used to do after supper, gave the necessary orders to the officers of the watch, and going into his chamber, he embraced his son and every one of his friends with more than usual warmth, which again renewed their suspicion of his design. Then laying himself down, he took into his hand Plato’s dialogue concerning the soul. Having read more than half the book, he looked up, and missing his sword, which his son had taken away while he was at supper, he called his servant, and asked who had taken away his sword. The servant making no answer, he fell to reading again; and a little after, not seeming importunate, or hasty for it, but as if he would only know what had become of it, he bade it be brought. But having waited some time, when he had read through the book, and still nobody brought the sword, he called up all his servants, and in a louder tone demanded his sword. To one of them he gave such a blow in the mouth, that he hurt his own hand; and now grew more angry, exclaiming that he was betrayed and delivered naked to the enemy by his son and his servants. Then his son, with the rest of his friends, came running into the room, and falling at his feet, began to lament and beseech him. But Cato raising himself, and looking fiercely, “When,” said he, “and how did I become deranged, and out of my senses, that thus no one tries to persuade me by reason, or show me what is better, if I am supposed to be ill-advised? Must I be disarmed, and hindered from using my own reason? And you, young man, why do you not bind your father’s hands behind him that, when Caesar comes, he may find me unable to defend myself? To despatch myself I want no sword; I need but hold my breath awhile, or strike my head against the wall.”
When he had thus spoken, his son went weeping out of the chamber, and with him all the rest, except Demetrius and Apollonides, to whom, being left alone with him, he began to speak more calmly. “And you,” said he, “do you also think to keep a man of my age alive by force, and to sit here and silently watch me? Or do you bring me some reasons to prove, that it will not be base and unworthy for Cato, when he can find his safety no other way, to seek it from his enemy? If so, adduce your arguments, and show cause why we should now unlearn what we formerly were taught, in order that rejecting all the convictions in which we lived, we may now by Caesar’s help grow wiser, and be yet more obliged to him for life only. Not that I have determined aught concerning myself, but I would have it in my power to perform what I shall think fit to resolve; and I shall not fail to take you as my advisers, in holding counsel, as I shall do, with the doctrines which your philosophy teaches in the meantime, do not trouble yourselves, but go tell my son that he should not compel his father to what he cannot persuade him to.” They made him no answer, but went weeping out of the chamber. Then the sword being brought in by a little boy, Cato took it, drew it out, and looked at it; and when he saw the point was good, “Now,” said he, “I am master of myself;” and laying down the sword, he took his book again, which, it is related, he read twice over. After this he slept so soundly that he was heard to snore by those that were without.
About midnight, he called up two of his freedmen, Cleanthes, his physician, and Butas, whom he chiefly employed in public business. Him he sent to the port, to see if all his friends had sailed; to the physician he gave his hand to be dressed, as it was swollen with the blow he had struck one of his servants. At this they all rejoiced, hoping that now he designed to live.
Butas, after a while, returned, and brought word they were all gone except Crassus, who had stayed about some business, but was just ready to depart; he said, also, that the wind was high, and the sea very rough. Cato, on hearing this, sighed, out of compassion to those who were at sea, and sent Butas again to see if any of them should happen to return for anything they wanted, and to acquaint him therewith.
Now the birds began to sing, and he again fell into a little slumber. At length Butas came back, and told him all was quiet in the port. Then Cato, laying himself down, as if he would sleep out the rest of the night, bade him shut the door after him. But as soon as Butas was gone out, he took his sword, and stabbed it into his breast; yet not being able to use his band so well, on account of the swelling, he did not immediately die of the wound; but struggling, fell off the bed, and throwing down a little mathematical table that stood by, made such a noise that the servants, hearing it, cried out. And immediately his son and all his friends came into the chamber, where, seeing him lie weltering in his blood, great part of his bowels out of his body, but himself still alive and able to look at them, they all stood in horror. The physician went to him, and would have put in his bowels, which were not pierced, and sewed up the wound; but Cato, recovering himself, and understanding the intention, thrust away the physician, plucked out his own bowels, and tearing open the wound, immediately expired.
In less time than one would think his own family could have known this accident, all the three hundred were at the door. And a little after, the people of Utica flocked thither, crying out with one voice, he was their benefactor and their saviour, the only free and only undefeated man. At the very same time, they had news that Caesar was coming; yet neither fear of the present danger, nor desire to flatter the conqueror, nor the commotions and discord among themselves, could divert them from doing honour to Cato. For they sumptuously set out his body, made him a magnificent funeral, and buried him by the seaside, where now stands his statue, holding a sword. And only when this had been done, they returned to consider of preserving themselves and their city.
Caesar had been informed that Cato stayed at Utica, and did not seek to fly; that he had sent away the rest of the Romans, but himself, with his son and a few of his friends, continued there very unconcernedly, so that he could not imagine what might be his design. But having a great consideration for the man, he hastened thither with his army. When he heard of his death, it is related he said these words, “Cato, I grudge you your death, as you have grudged me the preservation of your life.” And, indeed, if Cato would have suffered himself to owe his life to Caesar, he would not so much have impaired his own honour, as augmented the other’s glory. What would have been done, of course, we cannot know, but from Caesar’s usual clemency, we may guess what was most likely.
Cato was forty-eight years old when he died. His son suffered no injury from Caesar; but, it is said, he grew idle, and was thought to be dissipated among women. In Cappadocia, he stayed at the house of Marphadates, one of the royal family there, who had a very handsome wife; and continuing his visit longer than was suitable, he made himself the subject of various epigrams; such as, for example —
“To-morrow (being the thirtieth day)
Cato, ’tis thought, will go away;”
“Porcius and Marphadates, friends so true,
One Soul, they say, suffices for the two,”
that being the name of the woman, and so again, —
“To Cato’s greatness every one confesses,
A royal Soul he certainly possesses.”
But all these stains were entirely wiped off by the bravery of his death. For in the battle of Philippi, where he fought for his country’s liberty against Caesar and Antony, when the ranks were breaking, he, scorning to fly, or to escape unknown, called out to the enemy, showed himself to them in front, and encouraged those of his party who stayed; and at length fell, and left his enemies full of admiration of his valour.
Nor was the daughter of Cato inferior to the rest of her family for sober-living and greatness of spirit. She was married to Brutus, who killed Caesar; was acquainted with the conspiracy, and ended her life as became one of her birth and virtue. All which is related in the life of Brutus.
Statyllius, who said he would imitate Cato, was at that time hindered by the philosophers, when he would have put an end to his life. He afterwards followed Brutus, to whom he was very faithful and very serviceable, and died in the field of Philippi.