Cato, Marcu Portius

, the censor, one of the greatest men among the ancients, was born at Tusculum in the year of Rome 519, about the 232d B. C. He began to bear arms at the age of seventeen; and on all occasions shewed extraordinary courage. He was a man of great sobriety, and reckoned no bodily exercise unworthy of him. He had but one horse for himself and his baggage, and he looked after and dressed it himself. At his return from his campaigns, he betook himself to plough his ground; not that he was without slaves to do it, but it was his inclination. He dressed also like his slaves, sat down at the same table with them, and partook of the same fare. He did not | in the mean while neglect to cultivate his mind, especially in regard to the art of speaking; and he employed his talents, which were very great, in generously pleading causes in the neighbouring cities without fee or reward. Valerius Flaccus, who had a country-seat near Cato, conceiving an esteem for him, persuaded him to come to Rome; where Cato, by his own merit, and the influence of so powerful a patron, was soon taken notice of, and promoted. He was first of all elected tribune of the soldiers for the province of Sicily, and then made questor in Africa under Scipio. Having in this last office reproved him for his profuseness to his soldiers, the general answered, that he did not want so exact a questor, but would make war at what expence he pleased; nor was he to give an account to the Roman people of the money he spent, but of his enterprises, and the execution of them. Cato, provoked at this answer, left Sicily, and returned to Rome. Afterwards he was made praetor, and fulfilled the duties of his office with the strictest justice. He conquered Sardinia, governed with admirable moderation, and was created consul. Being tribune in the war of Syria, he gave distinguished proofs of his valour against Antiochus the Great; and at his return stood candidate for the office of censor. But the nobles, who envied him, and dreaded his severity, set up against him seven powerful competitors, in spite of whom however he was successful. Cato’s merit, upon the whole, was superior to that of any of the great men who stood against him. He was temperate, brave, and indefatigable; frugal of the public money, and not to be corrupted. There is scarce any talent requisite for public or private life which he had not received from nature, or acquired by industry. Yet, with all these accomplishments, he had very great faults. His ambition being poir soned with envy, disturbed both his own peace and that of the whole city as long as he lived. Though he would not take bribes, he was unmerciful and unconscionable in amassing wealth by all such means as the law did not punish. Notwithstanding this, it is certain, that the people in general were pleased with his conduct; insomuch that they ordered a statue to be erected to his honour in the temple of Health, with an inscription that mentioned nothing of his victories or triumph, but imported only that by his wise ordinances in his censorship he had reformed the manners of the republic. He was the occasion of the | third Punic war; for, being dispatched to Africa to terminate a difference between the Carthaginians and the king of Numidia, on his return to Rome he reported, that Carthage was grown excessively rich and populous, and he warmly exhorted the senate to destroy a city and republic, during the existence of which,Rome could never be safe. Having brought from Africa some very large figs, he shewed them to the conscript fathers in one of the lappets of his gown. “The country (says he) where this fine fruit grows, is but a three days’ voyage from Rome.” We are told, that from this tiiiie he never spoke in the senate upon any subject, without concluding with these words, “I am also of opinion, that Carthage ought to be destroyed.” But though dignified and severe, Cato had nevertheless some disposition to mirth, and some intervals of good humour. He dropped now and then some words that were not unpleasant, and we may judge of the rest (says Balzac) by this: “He had married a very handsome wife, and history tells us that she was extremely afraid of the thunder, and loved her husband well. These two passions prompted her to the same thing; she always pitched upon her husband as a sanctuary against thunder, and threw herself into his arms at the first noise she fancied she heard in the sky. Cato, who was well pleased with the storm, and very willing to be caressed, could not conceal his joy. He revealed that domestic secret to his friends; and told them one day, speaking of his wife, c that she had found out a way to make him love bad weather; and that he never was so happy as when Jupiter was angry'.” It is worth observing, that this was during his censorship; when he degraded the senator Manlius, who would probably have been consul the year after, only for giving a kiss to his wife in the day-time, and in the presence of his daughter. Cato died in the year of Rome 604, aged 85. Rewrote, 1. A Roman History. 2. Concerning the art of war. 3. Of rhetoric. 4. A treatise of husbandry. Of these, the last only is extant. 1

1 Plutarch. Livy, &c. Universal History.