Study Guide for Plutarch's Life of Cato the Younger

Text taken from Thomas North and/or John Dryden
Study Guide by Anne White

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Cato the Younger (95-46 B.C.)

"For he came not to serve the commonwealth to enrich himself as many did, neither for any glory or reputation, nor yet at all adventure: but that he had advisedly chosen to serve the commonwealth. . . and therefore thought himself bound to be as careful of his duty as the bee working her wax in the honeycomb."

"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. . . and he made himself, without knowing it, the object of general affection."

Marcus Porcius Cato Uticensis ("Uticensis" was added later) grew up in a world full of personal and political upheavals. He was orphaned as a baby, and a few years later the uncle who had cared for him and his siblings was murdered by political enemies; so it is no wonder that he became unusually devoted to his brother Caepio. (He is called Cato the Younger to distinguish him from his great-grandfather Cato, the subject of Plutarch's Marcus Cato the Censor.)

As a teenager, Cato's family connections and an enthusiastic teacher gave him a close-up view of Roman politics. He witnessed firsthand the brief but brutal period of Sulla's dictatorship, with the elimination of many "enemies." After receiving his inheritance (which allowed him to be independent), he spent his first years of young adulthood as a student of Stoic philosophy, with a "minimalist" lifestyle; and eventually married his first wife and started a family. In his late twenties, he began to participate in military events; commanded a legion in Macedonia; and then suffered the loss of his brother (sacrificing his usual frugality to provide him a lavish funeral). When he turned thirty, in 65 B.C., he ran successfully for quaestor, the position of city treasurer. (Thirty was the minimum age at that time to be elected for public office.) Two years later he became a tribune of the people, and had to deal with the political and legal mess caused by the Catiline Conspiracy and its aftermath. He backed Pompey's campaign in 52 B.C. to be sole consul, if only on the grounds that having a solid governor (even a dictator) was better than anarchy. However, he did not get along as well with Julius Caesar, and when the civil war started in 49 B.C., his loyalties were with those defending the Republic.

Cato, while respected as an administrator and an orator, was in many ways a square peg. In a time when people would do anything to gain power (change sides, bribe, send thugs to beat up political rivals, bill the government for imaginary expenses), he was more interested in upholding laws and keeping facts straight than in his own popularity. In his time as quaestor, he balanced the books; in his final days, while attempting to defend a town, he balanced the demands of several bickering commanders, a group of stranded senators, and three hundred Roman businessmen. The last evening of his life was spent discussing his favourite Stoic philosophy, particularly the idea that the "wise" or "good" man alone is free.

"For what is liberty? The power of living as you please." (Cicero, Paradoxa Stoicorum)

Cato's Family

Cato's was first engaged to Aemilia, but lost her to Metellus Scipio, who became the target of some furious poetry, but with whom he defended Utica years later. He married a woman named Atilia and fathered Marcus Porcius Cato and Porcia; however, they were later divorced. The story of his second wife, Marcia, was unusual: a wealthy man, Hortensius, asked to marry Cato's daughter, but Porcia was both much younger than Hortensius, and was already married (to Bibulus, at that time); so Cato consented to "give" him his own wife instead. When Hortensius died, Marcia returned to Cato, partly to care for his house and younger children while he went to Sicily and then Africa to fight against Julius Caesar.

A Large Cast of Characters

Cato the Younger was related through either blood or marriage to a great number of people, and crossed paths with (seemingly) almost every famous person in late-Republic Rome. Many of them are also the subjects of Plutarch's Lives. Students who have already studied Pompey, Caesar, Brutus, Cicero, and/or Crassus will recognize many of the events and other characters. If this era is less familiar, be patient; parts of the story that seem unclear here will be explained more fully in other Lives. The Historic Occasions sections include notes on what people such as Caesar and Pompey were doing during Cato's lifetime, because it is sometimes important, for example, to know who was in Rome during an event and who was absent.

The Government of the Roman Republic

Commonwealth is a general term referring to a country or city/state (like Rome), and its colonies or associated territories or countries. The Roman Empire did not formally exist until Octavian (Caesar Augustus) became the first Emperor in 27 B.C. However, the Roman Republic did have an empire because of the large amount of foreign territory it was acquiring. For clarity, we will call it the small-e empire.

Social Classes

There were two different types of class divisions in ancient Rome. The first was family-based, between the patricians (the nobility) and the plebeians (common people).

The second type were property- or wealth-based classes such as the senatores, the wealthiest citizens, who owned large amounts of land. The next level down, the equestrian class (in North's translation, the knights of Rome), was a "business class," made up of those who could afford horses and who therefore made up the cavalry, or soldiers on horseback, in times of war. Besides the equestrian class, there were three lower classes of property owners; and, lowest of all, the proletarii.

Were the senatores the same as the senators?

Often, but the two were not identical. Over the centuries, and even within the Republic era, both the size of the Senate and the personal requirements for membership (age, wealth) changed. Some plebeians became senators along with the patricians. Those elected to magistracies (see below) were also included in the Senate.

What was an aedile, a quaestor, a consul?

The elected positions, or magistracies, in Rome were (starting at the bottom): quaestor, aedile, praetor, and consul. (The office of tribune was a separate position, explained below.) There were various numbers of each of these: for example, two consuls were elected each year. Ex-consuls could become censors; and a consul could become dictator if the need (usually a great emergency) arose.

Who were the tribunes?

The duty of a non-military tribune (sometimes called a tribune of the plebeians, or plebs; or a "tribune of the people") was to protect the liberties of the common people from any individual or group (such as the nobles) who might take advantage of them or suppress their rights. This position was not part of the junior-senior ranking of magistrates such as quaestor and consul; it was an office voted on by the common people (plebeians).

On the Map

Place names are listed under this heading. For consistency, I have used Dryden's spelling for places instead of North's. Charlotte Mason suggested using resources such as Dent's Atlas of Ancient & Classical Geography, which can be found online. A newer resource I have used myself is the Historical Atlas of Ancient Rome by Nick Constable (Checkmark Books/Thalamus Publishing, 2003).

Top Vocabulary Terms in Cato the Younger

If you recognize these words, you're well on your way to mastering North's vocabulary. (They will not be noted in the lessons.)

1. bondmen: slaves

2. coffer: usually a box or chest, but it is used once to refer to the treasury office

3. divers: several

4. footmen: foot soldiers. Horse usually refers to soldiers on horseback, or cavalry.

5. gravity: seriousness, particularly in attitude and manners

6. impregnable, invincible: unconquerable; too powerful to be defeated or destroyed

7. marketplace: the Forum; a place where business was conducted, speeches were made, etc. The Capitol was the political and religious center of Rome.

8. prefer: propose

9. pulpit for orations: place for making speeches; also called a rostra (Dryden's word) or rostrum

10. recommend: entrust, commit for safekeeping. If someone "recommends" their children to someone else, it means "Take care of them for me" (see Lessons Three, Eleven).

11. stay: Usually means delay, detain, stop. Sometimes it means to stay in one place.

12. talent: a unit of money, measured by weight. A Roman talent weighed seventy-one pounds.

13. triumph: the parade given to honour a military hero, to show off his captives and treasure

14. voices: votes

Lesson One


Plutarch says that Cato, as a tiny child, was once asked in fun by his uncle's friend Poppaedius Silo if he would support their political activism. When Cato merely gave him a Paddington Bear-like "hard stare," the man, still jokingly, held him out the window to make him change his mind. Plutarch says that Cato remained "unmoved and unalarmed" until Silo gave up and pulled him back in. He remarked, "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."


countenance: face; appearance, manner

choleric: hot-tempered

when the blood was up: when he was angered

hardly pacified: hard to calm down

a great preferment and safety. . . : it was a good idea to have the dictator befriend the young men, rather than view them as potential rebels or rivals

on fire with choler: red with anger

strict and austere: very plain, without luxury

priest of Apollo: one appointed to "guard the Sibylline Books." This appointment may have been influenced by the friendship between Cato's uncle Mamercus and Sulla.

Stoic: Stoicism was a school of philosophy which taught, among other things, that virtue is based on knowledge, and that the wise pay little heed to either pleasure or pain, since they can quickly change.

moral philosophy: ethics; the study of right and wrong, and how people should live

civil philosophy: political science

pricked forward: urged on

which is not to be wrought upon. . . : which should not be affected by personal relationships or interests

declaim: to make a speech, particularly in a loud or forceful manner

Porcian Hall: or Porcian Basilica; a large courthouse

aedile; tribune of the people: see introductory notes

counterfeiting fineness. . . : full of fine-sounding words, but lacking genuine rhetorical skill

vehemence: passion, power

obtained his cause: won his case


Cato the Censor; "the old Cato": Marcus Porcius Cato the Elder (234 B.C.–149 BC), the great-grandfather of this Cato, and the subject of Plutarch's Marcus Cato the Censor

Quintus Servilius Caepio: half-brother of Cato

Porcia: Cato's sister; not to be confused with his daughter, also named Porcia

Servilia: half-sister of Cato. He actually had two half-sisters by this name. The older one, "Servilia Major," became the mother of Marcus Junius Brutus, but is better known for her relationship with Julius Caesar. The younger, "Servilia Minor," became the wife of Lucullus (see Lesson Two).

(Marcus) Livius Drusus: A tribune of the people, known for his efforts at social reform. His brother Mamercus Aemilius Lepidus Livianus (Cato's "Uncle Mamercus") was married to Sulla's daughter.

Sulla: Roman general who was dictator in Rome during Cato's youth

Pompey: Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, Roman statesman and general

Historic Occasions

106 B.C.: Births of Pompey and Cicero

100 B.C.: Birth of Julius Caesar

95 B.C.: Birth of Cato

91 B.C.: Murder of Cato's uncle Livius Drusus

91-89 B.C.: The Social War

88-85 B.C.: First Mithridatic War

85 B.C.: Birth of Marcus Junius Brutus

82/81 B.C.-79 B.C.: Sulla's dictatorship in Rome

78 B.C.: Death of Sulla

On the Map

A map of the Roman Republic, showing Italy and the lands and seas around it, would be helpful. If you are using Constable's Historical Atlas of Ancient Rome, there is such a map on pages 52-53.


Part One

The family and house of Cato took his first glory and name from his great grandfather, Cato the Censor, who for his virtue (as we have declared in his Life) was one of the most famous and worthiest men of Rome in his time. This Cato of whom we now write was left an orphan by his father and mother, with his brother Caepio, and Porcia his sister. Servilia was also Cato's half-sister, by his mother's side. All these were brought up with their uncle Livius Drusus, at that time the greatest man of the city: for he was passing eloquent, and very honest, and of as great a courage besides as any other Roman.

Men report that Cato from his childhood showed himself both in word and countenance, and also in all his pastimes and recreations, very constant and stable. For he would go through with that which he took upon him to do, and would force himself above his strength: he was rough and ungentle toward those that flattered him, and still more unyielding toward those who threatened him. He would hardly laugh, and yet had ever a pleasant countenance. He was not choleric, nor easy to be angered: but when the blood was up, he was hardly pacified.

When he was first put to school, he was very dull of understanding, and slow to learn: but when he had once learned it, he would never forget it, as all men else commonly do [omission]. It is reported that Cato was obedient unto his schoolmaster, and would do what he commanded him: howbeit he would ask him still the cause and reason of everything. Indeed his schoolmaster Sarpedon was very gentle, and readier to teach him than to strike him with his fist.

[omission for length: Cato, even in early life, became known both for his stubbornness and his passion for justice]

Cato at length grew so famous among (the other boys), that when Sulla 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 (Sulla) appointed two for their leaders. One of them they accepted for his mother's sake, being the son of Metella the wife of Sulla; but as for the other, Sextus, the nephew of Pompey, they would not be led by him, nor exercise under him. Then Sulla asking whom they would have, they all cried out, "Cato"; and Sextus willingly yielded the honour to him, as the more worthy.

Sulla was their father's friend, and therefore did send for them many times to come unto him, and he would talk with them: the which kindness he showed to few men, for the majesty and great authority he had. Sarpedon also (Cato's schoolmaster) thinking it a great preferment and safety for his scholars, did commonly bring Cato into Sulla's house to wait upon him: the which was rather like unto a jail or prison, for the great number of prisoners which were daily brought thither, and put to death. Cato being then but fourteen years of age, and perceiving that there were many heads brought which were said to be of great men, and that everybody sighed and mourned to see them: he asked his schoolmaster how it was possible the tyrant escaped, that someone or other killed him not. "Because," quoth Sarpedon, "that all men fear him, more than they hate him." "Why then," replied Cato again, "didst thou not give me a sword that I might kill him, to deliver my country of this slavery and bondage?" Sarpedon hearing the boy say so, and seeing his countenance and eyes on fire with choler, he marvelled much at it, and afterwards had a very good eye unto him, lest rashly he should attempt something against Sulla.

When he was but a little boy, some asked him whom he loved best. "My brother," said he. Then the other continuing still to ask him, "And who next?" he answered likewise, his brother. Then the third time again, likewise, his brother. Till at length he that asked him was weary with asking him so oft.

Yea, and when he was come of age also, he then confirmed the love he bore to his brother in his deeds. For twenty years together he never supped without his brother Caepio, neither went he ever out of his house into the marketplace, nor into the fields without him. 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.

[omission for length]

Part Two

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. For he fell in acquaintance with Antipater of Tyre, a Stoic philosopher, and gave himself chiefly unto the study of moral and civil philosophy, embracing all exercise of virtue with such an earnest desire that it seemed he was pricked forward by some god. 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. For when one of his friends told him one day, that men did mislike 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."

Part Three

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. That was the first cause that made Cato, against his will, to go into the marketplace, and to get up into the pulpit for orations, to speak against them: where having given this first proof of his eloquence and noble mind, he was marvellously esteemed of. For his oration was not like a young man, counterfeiting fineness of speech and affectation, but stout, full of wit and vehemence: and yet in the shortness of his sentences, he had such an excellent grace withal, that he marvellously delighted the hearers: and furthermore, showing in nature a certain gravity besides, it did so please them, that he made them laugh. He had a very full and audible voice that might be heard of a marvellous number of people, and such a strong nature besides, that he never fainted, nor broke his speech: for many times he would speak a whole day together, and was never weary.

So when he had obtained his cause against the tribunes, he returned again to keep his former great silence, and to harden his body with painful exercises, as to abide heat, frost, and snow bareheaded; and always to go afoot in the field, where his friends that did accompany him rode a-horseback, and sometime he would come and talk with one, sometimes with another, as he went afoot by them.

[omission for length]

Narration and Discussion

Tell what you know of Cato's childhood, both what he was like and the world around him. You may want to "interview" someone who grew up with Cato.

Why did Cato's teacher take his show of emotion over Sulla very seriously?

For older students: " 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." How have we seen this already in Cato's life? Watch for more examples as the story goes on.

Creative narration: This lesson offers several possibilities for writing dialogue or acting out scenes. (Hanging anyone out the window is not allowed.)

Lesson Two


From philosophy student to army commander: while still a young man, Cato successfully managed a military legion (approximately five thousand soldiers and their officers), and his reputation reached the ears of General Pompey. When he returned to Rome, he had lost his brother, but had gained a new friend, the philosopher Athenodorus.


blow into their ears. . . : boost their public image by appearing able to greet all the voters by name

practised: planned, plotted

lenity: gentleness

lost labour: a waste of time

cavil: object, complain

obsequies: funeral rites

time of his charge was expired: term of duty in Macedon was finished

no better colour nor occasion: no better excuse

veneration: reverence, respect

keep back: retain, keep with him


Julius Caesar: Roman politician and general

Spartacus: a gladiator turned rebel and military leader

Gellius: Lucius Gellius Publicola, consul in 72 B.C.

Rubrius: praetor in Macedon probably from 69-67 B.C.

Athenodorus (surnamed Cordylion): philosopher and librarian at Pergamum. It is said that he was accused of having cut out portions of a philosophy book with which he disagreed, and was ordered to paste it back together.

Lucullus: Lucius Lucinius Lucullus, a Roman general who had been a confederate of Sulla; the subject of Plutarch's Lucullus. He was also Cato's brother-in-law.

King Deiotarus: a king in western Galatia (now part of Turkey)

Historic Occasions

75 B.C.: Julius Caesar travelled to Rhodes and was kidnapped by pirates (see the Life of Julius Caesar)

ca. 73 B.C.: Cato married Atilia

72 B.C.: Rebellion of slaves led by Spartacus

70 B.C.: Crassus and Pompey were consuls

69 B.C.: Julius Caesar was quaestor and served in Hispania

67 B.C.: Caesar returned to Rome and re-entered politics

67 B.C.: Cato sent to Macedon as a tribune; his brother Caepio died during that time

On the Map

Macedon: or Macedonia; a kingdom to the north of Greece, which had become a Roman province

Pergamum: or Pergamon/Pergamos; city in the region of Mysia

Asia: The Roman province of Asia consisted of the former kingdoms of Mysia, Lydia, and others.

Aenus in Thrace: Or Enez; an ancient city, now part of Turkey

Thessaly: a region of Greece which became part of Macedonia

Ephesus: Greek city, now part of Turkey.


Part One

In the war of the slaves, which took its name from Spartacus (their ringleader), Gellius was general; and Cato went as 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 to be thought a man of strange and eccentric temper.

Furthermore, when there was a law made, forbidding all men that sued for any office in the commonwealth, that they should have no prompters, in any of the assemblies, to blow into their ears the names of private citizens: he alone, when he sued to be elected tribune, was obedient to the law, and committed all the private citizens' names to memory, to speak unto every one of them, and to call them by their names: so that he was envied even by those that did commend him. 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.

So Cato being elected tribune, he was sent into Macedon, unto Rubrius, who was praetor there [omission]. He had fifteen slaves with him, two free men, and four of his friends, which rode, and he himself went afoot, sometimes talking with one, otherwhile with another as he went. When he came to the camp, where there were many legions of the Romans, the praetor immediately gave him charge of one of them: who, thinking it small honour to him for himself only to be valiant, since he was but one man, he practised to make all his soldiers under him like unto himself. The which he did not by fear and terror, but by lenity and gentle persuasion, training and instructing them in every point what they should do: adding to his gentle instruction and persuasions, reward to those that did well, and punishment to them that offended. Whereby it was hard to judge whether he had made them more quiet than warlike and more valiant than just: so dreadful they showed themselves to their enemies, and courteous to their friends; fearful to do evil, and ready to win 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, (to wit, the desire to follow it) taketh no root in men's minds, unless they have a singular love and reverence unto the person, whom they desire to follow.

Part Two

When Cato understood that Athenodorus (surnamed Cordylion), a Stoic philosopher, excellently well learned, dwelt at that time in the city of Pergamum, being a very old man, and one that stiffly refused the friendship of princes and great men, he was desirous to have him about them; but to write to him, he thought it was but lost labour. Wherefore having two months' liberty by the laws of the Romans to follow his own affairs, he took sea, and went into Asia to him, hoping he should not lose his journey, for the great virtues he knew to be in him. So when he had spoken with him, and talked of divers matters together: at length he brought him from his first determination, and carried him to the camp with him, esteeming this victory more than all the conquests of Lucullus or Pompey, who had conquered the most part of all the provinces and realms of the Eastern parts of the world.

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 dispatched to him. Cato took sea presently, when it was marvellous rough and boisterous, and embarked in a small trading-vessel of a merchant of Thessaly, with two of his friends, and three bondmen only, and did escape drowning very narrowly; and yet by good fortune arrived safely, a little after his brother Caepio's death. He took his death more sorrowfully than became a philosopher, not only mourning and lamenting for him, embracing the dead corpse of his brother: but also for the exceeding charge and sumptuous funerals, which he bestowed upon him, in perfumes, sweet savours, and sumptuous silks that were burnt with his body: and furthermore, in the stately tomb of Thracian marble which he made for him, and set up in the marketplace of the Aenians, that cost eight talents.

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 cities, princes and noblemen sent him many sundry presents, to honour the funerals of his brother Caepio; howbeit, he took no money of all them, saving only spices, and sweet savours, and such other ornaments as honoured the obsequies of the dead; and yet he paid for them, unto those that brought them, as much as they were worth.

[omission for length]

So when Cato's time of his charge was expired, they did accompany him at his departure, not only with ordinary praises, vows, and prayers to the gods for his health: but with embracing, tears, and marvelous lamentations of the soldiers, which spread their garments on the ground as he went, and kissing of his hands, which honour the Romans did but to very few of their generals.

Part Three

Furthermore, Cato being determined, before he returned to Rome to deal in the affairs there, to go and see Asia, partly to be an eyewitness of the manners, customs, and power of every province as he went; and partly also to satisfy King Deiotarus' request, who having been his father's friend, had earnestly entreated him to come and see him: he went the journey, and used it in this sort. First, by peep of day, he sent his baker and cook before, where he meant to lie that night. They, coming soberly into the city or village, inquired if there were none of Cato's friends and acquaintance there, and if they found none, then they prepared his supper in an inn, and troubled no man; but if there were no inn, then they went to the governors of the town, and prayed them to help them to lodging, and did content themselves with the first that was offered them. Oftentimes the townsmen did not believe they were Cato's men, and made no account of them: because they took all things so quietly, and made no ado with the officers. Insomuch as Cato sometimes came himself, and found nothing ready for him, and when he was come, they made as small account of him, seeing him set upon his carriages, and speak never a word: for they took him for some mean man, and a timorous person. Notwithstanding, sometime he called them unto him, and told them, "O poor men, learn to be more courteous to receive travelling Romans that pass by you, and look not always to have Catos to come unto you; and therefore see that you use them with such courtesy and entertainment, that they may bridle the authority they have over you: for you shall find many that will desire no better colour nor occasion by force to take from you that which they would have, because you unwillingly also do grant them the things they would, and need."

[omission for length]

Part Four

Cato, arriving at the city of Ephesus, went towards Pompey to salute him, being the elder man, and of greater dignity and estimation than he, who at that time also was general of a great and powerful army. Pompey, seeing him coming towards him afar off, would not tarry till he came to him, sitting in his chair of state; but, rising up went to meet him, as one of the greatest and noblest persons of Rome; and taking him by the hand, after he had embraced and welcomed him, he presently fell in praise of his virtue before his face, and afterwards also commended him in his absence, when he was gone from him. Whereupon, every man after that had him in great veneration for those things which before they despised in him, when they considered better of his noble and courteous mind. For men that saw Pompey's entertainment towards him, knew well enough that Cato was a man which he rather reverenced, and for a kind of duty observed, more than for any love he bore him; and they noted further that he honoured him greatly while he was with him, but yet that he was glad when Cato went from him. For he sought to keep back all the young gentlemen of Rome that went to see him, and desired them to remain with him: but for Cato, he was nothing desirous of his company, for that in his presence he thought he could not command as he would, and therefore was willing to let him go, recommending his wife and his children to him, the which he never did before unto any other Roman that returned to Rome; and he was indeed connected by relationship with Cato.

Narration and Discussion

How did Cato achieve "glory and good repute" without seeming to want them?

Plutarch says that Pompey "honoured him greatly while he was with him, but yet that he was glad when Cato went from him." Why?

Creative narration #1: Act out the story about showing hospitality to strangers. (Christian students may want to look up Hebrews 13:2.)

Creative narration #2: You are one of the soldiers in Cato's legion, and you have been asked to make a speech at his farewell dinner. What will you say?

For extra credit: Cato had an amazing knack for remembering people's names (and, considering how repetitive Roman names could be, that was no mean feat). Why is that a useful skill? What are some ways to improve one's memory for things like names? Have you tried any of them?

Lesson Three


As Cato made his way back to Rome, he was feasted in every town, and offered gifts by a king who wanted protection. This made his Stoic soul very nervous, to the point that he asked his friends to keep reminding him of a comment, made half-jokingly, that the trip through Asia might soften him up. Having weathered those temptations and returned home, he took on a government position for which he seemed perfectly suited: a quaestor, or manager of the Roman treasury. Those used to an easy time in the accounting department were in for a surprise.


strove and emulated each other: tried to outdo each other

familiar: friend

corruption would never want pretense: North, "otherwise, corruption and bribery could lack no honest colour to take." To use Charlotte Mason's vocabulary, the Way of Reason can always find an excuse for accepting a bribe.

breach of trust: If someone entrusts you with goods or information, or trusts you to do something, and you do not keep those things safe or do what was asked, you have committed a breach of trust.

intimate with Cato: a good friend, used in the same sense as familiar

So perceiving he could not bring off his client. . . : Seeing that he had no chance of winning in a trial, he tried to "settle out of court."

litter: bed or chair that can be carried

pride and stomach: arrogance, boastfulness

he would not admit of it: he would not accept the new order (until he had verified that it actually was passed by vote)

the coffer of the treasurers: the treasury office

friends that were importunate: people that kept bothering them

pass a certain debt to the public revenue. . . : they were trying to take money from the treasury to pay off personal debts


Athenodorus: see previous lesson

Lutatius Catulus: Quintus Lutatius Catulus Capitolinus (ca. 120 B.C.-59 B.C.); a former consul

Marcellus: Marcus Claudius Marcellus; believed to be the Marcellus who was consul in 51 B.C.

Historic Occasions

65 B.C.: Cato returned to Rome and was elected quaestor

65 B.C.: Crassus was censor

On the Map

Pessinus: a city in Asia Minor (Asia Minor is also called Anatolia, or Asian Turkey)

Brundisium: or Brindisi; a port on the Adriatic Sea


Part One

After this, all the cities through which he passed strove and emulated each other in showing him respect and honour, and made him great feasts and banquets: in the which he prayed his friends to have an eye to him, least unawares he should prove Curio's words true. For Curio sometimes being his friend, and a familiar of his (though misliking his severity), asked Cato if he would go see Asia, when he left the army. Cato answered again that it was his full determination. "You do well," replied Curio, "you will bring back with you a better temper and pleasanter manners."

Furthermore, Deiotarus the king of Galatia, being a very old man, sent for Cato to come into his country to recommend his sons and house to his protection: who, when he arrived there, had great rich presents of all sorts offered him by the king, entreating him all he could to take them. This so much misliked and angered Cato, that though he came 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 pretense, and his friends should share with him in whatever he should justly and honestly obtain; and so he returned the presents to Deiotarus.

Part Two

Now when he was ready to embark, to pass over the sea again unto Brundisium, his friends would have persuaded him to put his brother's ashes into another vessel. But he answered them, that he would rather lose his own life than to leave his brother's relics. Thereupon he presently hoisted sail, and it is reported that he passed over in great danger, where other ships arrived very safely.

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.

So he no sooner came to his office, but he presently made great alteration amongst the clerks and officers of the treasury [omission]. 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. Thus, 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 and 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. Cato plainly said unto him, "It is a shame for thee, Catulus, thou that art censor, and shouldest reform all our lives, thus to forget the duty of thine office, to please our ministers." Catulus looking at Cato when he had spoken, as though he would answer him: whether it were for shame, or anger, he went his way, and said never a word more. Yet was not the party condemned, though there was one voice more that did condemn than clear him, because of the absence of one of the judges. For Marcus Lollius, one of Cato's colleagues in the quaestorship, being sick at that time and absent, Catulus sent unto him to pray him to come and help the poor man. Thereupon Lollius being brought thither in a litter after judgement given, gave his last voice, which absolutely cleared him. (Cato, this notwithstanding, would never use him as a clerk, nor pay him his wages, nor would count of Lollius' vote among others.)

Part Three

Thus having pulled down the pride and stomach of these clerks, and brought them unto reason: in short time he had all the tables and records at his commandment, and made the treasure chamber as honourable as the Senate itself: so that every man thought, and said, that Cato had added unto the quaestorship the dignity of the consulship. For finding divers men indebted before unto the commonwealth, and the commonwealth also unto divers men: he set down such an order, that the public might no longer either do or suffer wrong. For being rough with them that were indebted to the chamber, he compelled them to pay their debt, and willingly and quickly also paid them to whom the chamber owed anything: so that the people were ashamed to see some pay which never thought to have paid anything, and on the contrary side also there were others paid, which never looked to have had any part of their debts paid them. 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.

[omission for length]

Besides all this, Cato's continual pains and care of the treasure, was so well thought of, and liked of the people, as could be. For he was always the first that came to the coffer of the treasurers, and also the last that went from thence, and was never weary of any pains. Furthermore, he never missed to be at any assembly of the people or Senate, fearing, and being always careful, lest lightly by favour, any money due to the commonwealth should be forgiven: or else that they should abate the rent of the farmers, or that they should give no money but to them that had justly deserved it. Thus having rid all accusers, and also filled the coffers with treasure, he made men see that the commonwealth might be rich without oppressing of any man. Indeed at his first coming in to the office, his colleagues and companions found him marvellous troublesome and tedious, for that they thought him too rough and severe: howbeit they all loved him in the end, because he only withstood the complaints and cries of all men against them (which complained that they would not for any man's respect or favour let go the money of the common treasure) and was contented his companions should excuse themselves unto their friends that were importunate, and lay the fault upon him, saying, that it was impossible for them to bring Cato unto it.

The last day that he went out of his office, being very honourably brought home to his house by the people: it was told him that several powerful friends were in the treasury with the other quaestor, Marcellus, using all their interest with him to pass a certain debt to the public revenue, as if it had been a gift. This Marcellus had been Cato's friend even from their childhood, and whilst Cato was in office, he did orderly execute his office with him: but when he was left alone, he was of so gentle a nature, that he would easily be entreated, and was as much ashamed to deny any man, as he was also overready to grant every man that he required. Cato straight returned back upon it, 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.

Narration and Discussion

How did Cato's experiences in Asia prepare him for his new position?

How did Cato "make the treasure chamber as honourable as the Senate itself?" (Bible verse to look up: Proverbs 20:10)

For older students: How did Cato balance law with mercy in the case of Marcellus?

For older students: One of Cato's goals as quaestor was that "the commonwealth might be rich without oppressing of any man." Is that possible?

Creative narration: Write or act out a conversation between two clerks in the Roman treasury office. One of them likes Cato's new work atmosphere, and the other wishes for the good old days.

Lesson Four


Note: The next two lessons are "Part A" and "Part B" of the same story. You could choose to divide them slightly differently.

We begin with a reminder that Cato wanted only "to serve the commonwealth, like a just and honest man," and that he made a point of studying not only the laws of Rome, but everything done by the governors of its overseas provinces. In our day, he might be the political science professor who appears on the news to comment on state decisions and foreign affairs; or perhaps someone with his own podcast. He gained a reputation for being the most-believed person in Rome.

In the years leading up to Caesar's civil war, there were several disturbances and good reasons to worry. Pompey, who had been fighting overseas, was expected to return to Rome soon, and his popularity and power were growing even in his absence. In the meantime, he appeared to be sending "minions," such as Metellus Nepos, to run for office and promote his interests. Cato, in the interest of stability, agreed to run for tribune himself.

In the same year, the consul Cicero uncovered a plot (called the Catiline Conspiracy) to overthrow the government and burn down the city. This story can be read elsewhere (including Plutarch's Cicero); but one of the important aftershocks was a high level of anger and blame, both for those leaders who acted perhaps too quickly to suppress the conspiracy, and those who seemed to support it (or who attempted to protect their friends) by their lack of action. Metellus, who had just begun his time as tribune along with Cato, did everything he could to make Cicero's last month in office a miserable one. (New tribunes began their work in December, but consuls did not change until January.) He also created a bill, to be voted in by the people, to allow Pompey, plus military backup as required, to have full power to protect Rome from civil unrest.

But even the voting was not going to be easy.


laid down his office: stopped being quaestor

consort: crony, supporter

compel: force

win or corrupt: bribe

matters of arbitration: cases where his help was supposedly needed

traduced to the people: publicly accused

infamous: known for bad deeds

betimes: early; first thing in the morning

cross Metellus' enterprise: interfere with his plans

carry it from them all: defeat their proposal

favour his suit: support his campaign

bewray: reveal

insinuated and charged against him in the senate: he was accused of showing favouritism over the conspiracy issue

the most corrupt and dissolute elements of the state: North puts it "rakehells and seditious persons," or troublemakers and rebels

fair pretense: official version, cover story

entreaty: pleading

extolled: praised

insolent: proud, arrogant

ecstasy of contention: something like "getting carried away trying to be Super-Virtue-Man"


Clodius: Publius Clodius Pulcher. Roman politician, known for his long-running feud with Cicero.

Cicero: Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman statesman, lawyer, and philosopher; consul for 63 B.C.

Metellus Nepos: Quintus Caecilius Metellus Nepos (100 B.C.-55 B.C.). Tribune for 62 B.C., praetor in 60 B.C., and consul in 57 B.C. Another enemy of Cicero.

Lentulus: Publius Cornelius Lentulus Sura, a former consul; involved in the Catiline Conspiracy; put to death with others in December 63 B.C.

Lucius Sergius Catilina: or Catiline. An unsuccessful candidate for consul of the previous year, and the leader of a plot to overthrow the government

Historic Occasions

63 B.C.: Cato divorced Atilia and married Marcia

63 B.C.: Cicero was consul; Caesar was Pontifex Maximus (chief priest)

63 B.C.: Cato and Metellus Nepos elected as "tribunes of the people," and Caesar elected praetor (taking office in December for the following year)

November 63 B.C.: The Catiline conspiracy was exposed by Cicero; Catiline fled from Rome, where he died in battle soon afterwards.

December 63 B.C.: Lentulus and other conspirators were put to death for their part in the Catiline Conspiracy; Caesar argued for imprisonment, but Cato's speech led to their execution.


Part One

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 Sulla's time to his own quaestorship, which he had bought for five talents. He was the first man that came to the Senate, and the last that went out of it. There many times, the senators tarrying long before they came, he went and sat down in a corner by himself, and read closely the book he had under his gown, clapping his gown before it; and he would never be out of the city on that day when he knew the Senate should assemble.

After that, Pompey and his consorts perceiving that it was impossible to compel Cato, and much less to win or corrupt him, to favour their unjust doings: they sought what means they could to keep him from coming to the Senate, by asking him to defend certain of his friends' causes, and occupying him some other ways about matters of arbitration. But 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.

For he came not to serve the commonwealth to enrich himself as many did, neither for any glory or reputation, nor yet at all adventure: but that he had advisedly chosen to serve the commonwealth, like a just and honest man, and therefore thought himself bound to be as careful of his duty as the bee working her wax in the honeycomb. For this respect therefore, to perform his duty the better, by the means of his friends, which he had in every province belonging to the empire of Rome, he got into his hands the copies of all the chiefest acts, edicts, decrees, sentences, and the notablest judgements of the governors that remained in record.

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.

Hereby Cato won him great fame. For when a certain orator or common councillor preferred one witness unto the judges, the councillor on the other side told them, that one witness was not to be credited, though it were Cato himself. Insomuch as the people took it up for a proverb among them, that when any man spoke any strange and unlikely matter, they would say: "Nay, though Cato himself said it, yet were it not to be believed."

Part Two

[Omission for length: Cato's friends wanted him to run for the office of "tribune of the people," but he at first did not see the need to take on such a position. While heading out of the city for a vacation, however, he received the news that Metellus Nepos was running for the same position, and he immediately ordered the whole company to turn around.]

Cato said, "Do not you know that Metellus is to be feared of himself, for his rashness and folly; and now that he cometh instructed by Pompey, like a lightning he would set all the commonwealth afire? For this cause therefore, we must not now go take our pleasure in the country, but overcome his folly, or otherwise die honourably in defense of our liberty." Yet at his friends' persuasions, he went first unto his house in the country, but tarried not long there, and returned straight again to Rome.

When he came thither overnight, the next morning betimes he went into the marketplace, and sued to be tribune of the people, purposely to cross Metellus' enterprise; because the power and authority of the tribune consisteth more in hindering, than in doing anything: for if all men else were agreed of a matter, and that he only were against it, the tribune would carry it from them all.

Cato at the first had not many of his friends about him; but when they heard of his intent, why he made suit for the tribuneship: all his friends and noblemen straight took part with him, confirmed his determination, and encouraged him to go on withal, for that he did it rather to serve the commonwealth, than his own turn, considering, that where many times before he might (without resistance or denial) have obtained the same, the state being toward no trouble, he then would never sue for it, but now that he saw it in danger, where he was to fight for the commonwealth, and the protection of her liberty. It is reported that there was such a number of people about him to favour his suit, that he was like to have been stifled among them, and thought he should never have come to the marketplace, for the press of people that swarmed about him.

Thus when he was chosen tribune with Metellus and others, he perceived how they bought and sold the voices of the people when the consuls were chosen: whereupon he made an oration, and sharply rebuked the people for this corruption; and after his oration ended, solemnly protested by oath that he would accuse anyone, and bewray his name, which had given money to be chosen consul.

Part Three

[Omission for length: the Catiline Conspiracy, and the marriage troubles of Cato]

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. Whereupon Cato, fearing lest such rabble of people should put all the commonwealth in uproar and danger: he persuaded the Senate to win the poor needy people that had nothing, by distributing of corn amongst them, the which was done: for the charge thereof amounted yearly unto twelve hundred and fifty talents. This liberality did manifestly drink up and quench all those troubles which they stood in fear of.

But on the other side, Metellus Nepos, entering into his tribuneship, made certain seditious orations and assemblies, and proposed a law to the people that Pompey the Great should presently be called into Italy with his army, so that he should keep the city by his coming from the present danger of Catiline's conspiracy. This was the fair pretense; 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 least 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 make proud speeches against him, and cruel threats, that in despite of the Senate he would do that which he had undertaken. Then Cato, changing his countenance, his voice and speech, after he had spoken very sharply against him: in the end he roughly protested that while he lived, he would never suffer Pompey to come into Rome with his army. 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 of 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 praetors; 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. The night before, Cato's friends in their own homes, and his whole family, were marvellously perplexed and sorrowful, that they both refused their meat, and also could take no rest in the night because they feared for Cato. But he, as one without fear, having a good heart with him, did comfort his people, and bade them not sorrow for him: and after he had supped, as he commonly used to do, he went to bed, and slept soundly all night till the morning, when Minucius Thermus, his colleague and fellow tribune, came and called him.

Narration and Discussion

Why was Cato at first reluctant to run for the position of tribune? Why did he change his mind?

Considering their friendly meeting earlier (Lesson Two), why would Cato not want Pompey to come into Rome with an army?

Creative narration: Create campaign posters for Cato and the other candidates for tribune.

Lesson Five


Having irritated everyone around him with his calmness (what else would they have expected?), Cato headed off to the Forum for the voting and the expected riots.

After this tumultuous time, Cato seemed to stand, if briefly, in a position where he could press his own political ideas, rid himself of personal enemies such as Metellus Nepos, and even ingratiate himself forever with Pompey by approving a double marriage match within their families. However (what else would they have expected?), Cato followed his own set of values.


naked: that is, unprotected

asunder: separated

without book: without needing to read it; by heart

sedition: rebellion

vehemently bent. . . : passionately determined to follow through on his plan

peradventure: perhaps

he presently departed Rome: As a tribune of the people, he was breaking the rules by leaving the city.

infamy: criminal acts

Pompey had taken the honour. . . : Pompey had replaced Lucullus as commander in the Third Mithridatic War, in response to which Lucullus called him a "vulture."

bulwark: defensive wall

favour Piso's suit, suing to be consul: Pompey wanted to support Piso's election campaign

devices: tricks, plots

he sent a great sum of money. . . : This incident is described in Plutarch's Pompey

in Pompey's own garden: the garden was a rather exposed location for exchanging bribe money

matching: political alliance

both the one and the other. . . : they had struggled over who gave the orders

the law for dividing of the lands amongst the soldiers: Also called the lex agraria or the law Agraria, a bill to make land available to needy citizens and returning soldiers. The proposed law itself, although controversial, is not the point; the three-year attempt to pass or kill it was the symbol of the larger power struggle in the Roman Senate.

was the only author: was to blame


Lucius Lucinius Murena: see Historic Occasions

Gaius Memmius: Orator and poet; tribune in 66 B.C.

Piso: lieutenant to Pompey. Pompey requested that the elections be postponed to allow for Piso's late entry into the contest.

Munatius: Munatius Rufus; a close friend of Cato, and a source for later biographers

Historic Occasions

66 B.C.: Lucullus returned from the Third Mithridatic War, and was given a triumph (three years later)

62 B.C.: Lucius Licinius Murena was consul, but was put on trial for election bribery, and was defended by Crassus and Cicero

62 B.C.: Pompey returned to Italy, but not yet to Rome

62 B.C.: Piso elected consul for the following year

December 62 B.C.: Clodius was at the center of what was called the Bona Dea scandal, which is detailed in other Lives. His trial dragged on for months, until he was finally acquitted due to the financial influence of Crassus.

September 61 B.C.: Pompey entered Rome for his third triumph


Part One

So they both went together into the marketplace, accompanied with a very few people after them; whereupon divers of their friends came and met them by the way, and bade them take heed unto themselves. When they were come into the marketplace, and Cato saw the Temple of Castor and Pollux full of armed men, and the steps or passages kept by gladiators, and Metellus on the top of them seated by Caesar: turning to his friends he said, "See I pray you the coward there, what a number of armed men he hath gotten together, against one man naked and unarmed." Therewithal he straight went forward with his companion Thermus unto that place, and they that kept the passages opened of themselves to let him pass; but they would let no other go up but himself. But Cato with much ado, taking Minucius by the hand, got him up with him, and when he was come up, he sat him down betwixt Metellus and Caesar, to keep them asunder, that they should not whisper one in another's ear, at which they were both amazed and confounded. Whereupon the noblemen that considered Cato's countenance and boldness, wondering to see it, drew near; and by their cries willed him not to be afraid, but encouraged one another to stick by him, that stood for defense of their liberty.

So, there was a servant that took the written law in his hand, and would have read it to the people: but Cato would not let him. Then Metellus took it himself in his hands to read it: but Cato also snatched it out of his hands. Metellus notwithstanding, having it perfect without book, would needs declare the effect of it by heart. But Thermus clapped his hand before his mouth to keep him that he should not speak. Metellus seeing these two men bent by all means to keep this law from passing, and that the people did lean on their side: he beckoned to his men to go for the armed men which were at home in his house, that they should come with terror and cries to make them afraid, and so they did.

The people thereupon were dispersed here and there for fear, so that Cato was left alone in the marketplace; and they threw stones at him from beneath. But then Lucius Lucinius Murena, who had before been accused by Cato for buying of the consulship, forsook him not in that danger, but holding his long gown before him, cried out unto them beneath, that threw at Cato, to leave. So showing him the danger he had brought himself unto, holding him still by the arms, he brought Cato into the Temple of Castor and Pollux.

Then Metellus seeing the pulpit for orations empty, and his enemies fleeing out of the marketplace, he thought he had won the goal; whereupon, commanding his soldiers to depart, then proceeding gently, he attempted to pass his law. But his enemies that fled for fear, being gathered again together in the marketplace, began afresh to cry out against Metellus, with greater boldness and courage than before. Then Metellus and his adherents being afraid and amazed, doubting that their enemies had gotten weapons, and were provided, and therefore were the bolder: they fled, and all of them left the pulpit for orations.

So, when Metellus and his company were gone, Cato came again to the pulpit for orations, and greatly commended the people for the goodwill they had shown, and persuaded them to continue in their well-doing. Whereupon the common people were then against Metellus; and the Senate, also being assembled, gave order that Cato should have better aid than he had before, and that by all means possible they should resist Metellus' law, which only tended to move sedition and civil war in Rome. For Metellus himself, he was yet vehemently bent to follow his attempt and enterprise: but perceiving that his friends were marvellously afraid of Cato, as a man whom they thought invincible, he suddenly came into the marketplace, and assembling the people, told them many reasons in his oration, supposing to bring Cato in disgrace with the people; and amongst other things he said was that he would withdraw himself out of this tyrannical power of Cato's, and his conspiracy against Pompey, the which peradventure the city, before it were long, should repent for that they had shamed and defaced so noble a man.

After that, he presently departed Rome, and went into Asia to inform Pompey of all this matter.

Part Two

Cato on the other side was greatly esteemed for his doings, for that he had freed the commonwealth from the great trouble of such a foolish tribune, and by overthrowing Metellus, he had also suppressed the power of Pompey. But he was yet much more commended when he was against the Senate, who would have accused Metellus of infamy, and deprived him of his office, the which he would not suffer them to do. The common people thought him of a courteous and gentle nature, because he would not tread his enemy under his foot when he had the upper hand of him, nor be revenged of him when he had overcome him; but wise men judged it otherwise, that it was wisely done of him not to provoke Pompey.

Part Three

About this time [actually a bit before], Lucullus returned from the war, of the which it seemed that Pompey had taken the honour and glory from him for the ending of it, and was likely also to have been put from his honour of triumph, because Gaius Memmius was his adversary, who laid many accusations against him before the people, rather to please Pompey than for any malice else he had towards him. But Cato, both for that Lucullus was his brother-in-law, and had married his own sister Servilia, as also for that he saw they did him wrong: resisted this 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. Thus Lucullus, having obtained the honour of triumph, did embrace Cato's friendship more than before, taking him for a sure bulwark and defense against the power of Pompey the Great.

But Pompey, shortly after returning home again, with great honour from his conquests, trusting that for respect of his welcome he should be denied nothing at the people's hands when he came home, sent before unto the Senate, to pray them for his sake to defer the election of the consuls until he came to Rome, that being present he might favour Piso's suit, suing to be consul. Thereunto the most part of the Senate gave their consent; but Cato on the other side was against it, not that the deferring of the time was a matter of such importance, but to cut all hope from Pompey to go about to attempt any new devices, insomuch that he made the Senate change opinion again, and Pompey's request was denied. Pompey being marvellously troubled withal, and perceiving that Cato would be against him in all things if he found not some device to win him: he sent for his friend Munatius, by his means to demand Cato's two nieces of him which were marriable: the eldest for himself, and the youngest for his son. (Others say also that they were not his nieces, but his own 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 making no further delay, without other deliberation, as not greatly pleased with the motion, answered him presently: "Munatius, go thy way unto Pompey again, and tell him that Cato is not to be won by women, though otherwise I mislike not of his friendship: and withal, that so long as he shall deal uprightly in all causes, and none otherwise, that he shall find him more assuredly his friend than by any alliance of marriage; and yet, that to satisfy Pompey's pleasure and will against his country, he will never give him such pledges."

The women and his friends at that time were angry with his answer and refusal, saying, it was too stately and uncourteous. But afterwards it chanced, that Pompey suing to have one of his friends made consul, he sent a great sum of money to bribe the voices of the people; which liberality was noted, and spoken of, because the money was counted out in Pompey's own garden. Then did Cato tell the women of his house that if he had now been bound by alliance of marriage unto Pompey, he should then have been driven to have been partaker of Pompey's shameful acts. When they heard what he had told them, they all confessed then that he was wiser to refuse such alliance, than they were that wished and desired it.

And yet, if men should judge of wisdom, by the success and event of things: I must needs say that Cato was in great fault for refusing of this alliance. For thereby he was the cause of Pompey's matching with Caesar, who, joining both their powers together, was the whole destruction of the empire of Rome: whereas peradventure it had not fallen out so, if Cato fearing Pompey's light faults, had not caused him, by increasing his power with another, to commit far greater faults. Howbeit those things were yet to come.

Furthermore, Pompey being at jar with Lucullus, touching certain ordinances which he had made in the realm of Pontus, because both the one and the other would have their ordinances to take place: Cato favoured Lucullus, who had open wrong. Pompey therefore seeing that he was the weaker in the senate, took part with the common people, and put forth the law for dividing of the lands amongst the soldiers. But Cato stoutly resisting that law again, he put it by; and made Pompey thereby in a rage to acquaint himself with Publius Clodius, the most seditious and boldest person of all the tribunes; and besides that, made alliance even at that time with Caesar, whereof Cato himself was the only author.

Narration and Discussion

How was Metellus' proposed law defeated?

Plutarch ends here by saying that he thinks Cato was unwise, or at least not very far-sighted, by refusing to support Pompey. Why?

For older students: For those who have read Robert Bolt's play A Man for All Seasons: does Cato's response to Munatius sound like something More might have said about Henry VIII?

Creative narration: Make a list of ways that Cato seemed to act against Pompey, and ways that he supported him. (You could write it from Pompey's point of view: "Reasons I think Cato likes me. . . Reasons I think he doesn't.") This can be continued through later lessons.

Lesson Six


Although Julius Caesar was elected praetor for 62 B.C., the same year that Cato was tribune, he left Rome before that year was done to take on a secondary role as governor of Spain. Part of the reason was that, as governor, he would be free from having to pay off certain large debts. The governorship turned out to be a very good move for Caesar, as he successfully conquered additional tribes for Rome and gained a great deal of political support.

On his return to Rome, Caesar had a choice of rewards. The first choice was a triumphal parade for his military victories; but he chose instead the chance to run for consul. He also noticed that Pompey seemed to be needing a friend; they decided that vanquishing their mutual enemies together could be advantageous for both. Crassus was invited to join their team (he had paid off some of Caesar's debts); and Clodius ("the seditious orator") grew in influence and became tribune (breaking the rule that tribunes could not be of the noble class). Bibulus, the other consul, got the booby prize.

And as for Cato? He reluctantly agreed to take an oath of loyalty to the new regime; but even so, he was given a new job. . . as far out of Rome as Clodius could manage.


required: demanded

by his friends: by proxy, without being there in person to declare his candidacy for consul

he spent all the whole day in his oration: This is an example of a "filibuster," the attempt to delay a vote by making prolonged speeches or excessive noise.

letting fall his triumph: choosing the election over the triumph

cozening: to obtain something by deception

importunity: annoying persistence

officers' rods: the fasces, bundles of rods symbolizing Roman authority

keeping his wonted pace: walking at his usual speed

left it a prey unto them. . . : left Rome to be dominated by those who planned to enslave it

maliced of: hated by

remit: surrender, give up

for contention's sake: to continue to make his point in the argument

supplicate him: beg his forgiveness

interpose and procure his release: let Cato go

Caesar's practice tended to this end: his actions were done for this purpose

when he had won the people's favour by such laws: The law Agraria, offering free land, was calculated to increase popular support

on the commission in the case of Ptolemy: see the note under People

design upon him: plot against him

restore the refugees of Byzantium: certain men of Byzantium had been exiled for crimes against the state, and Cato was to oversee their homecoming

whom Clodius pursued: because of the events around the Catiline Conspiracy

he dared not trust Canidius so far: This story is also told in the Life of Marcus Brutus.


Brutus: Marcus Junius Brutus, known for his part in the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 B.C.; subject of Plutarch's Marcus Brutus. He was Cato's nephew, and (after Cato's death) his son-in-law.

Gabinius Paulus: also called Aulus Gabinius or Aulus Gabinius Paulus

Bibulus: Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus (102 B.C.-48 B.C.), Roman politician, supporter of Pompey

Ptolemy (#1): King of Cyprus from 80 B.C.-58 B.C.; the brother of Ptolemy (#2). Clodius enacted a bill to make Cyprus a Roman province, and Cato was sent to persuade Ptolemy to submit without trouble. Ptolemy refused, and committed suicide.

Ptolemy (#2): Ptolemy XII Auletes, King of Egypt. He had tried to avoid allowing Egypt to be annexed (like Cyprus) by becoming allies with Rome instead. Egyptian politics forced him to seek refuge in Rome from 58-55 B.C.

Canidius: The identity of Canidius is unknown (some think his name might have been Caninius).

Historic Occasions

60-54/53 B.C.: The First Triumvirate, made up of Caesar, Pompey, and Marcus Licinius Crassus

59 B.C.: Caesar and Bibulus were consuls

58 B.C.: Calpurnius Piso and Aulus Gabinius were consuls

58 B.C.: Cato sent to Cyprus

58 B.C.: Cicero went into exile, due to continued harassment by Clodius. Clodius then had Cicero's house torn down and a temple erected on the land.

58 B.C.: Food shortages in Rome; Pompey's success in acquiring grain increased his popularity

57 B.C.: Cicero returned to Rome and had his house rebuilt

57/56 B.C.: Death of Lucullus

On the Map

Spain: Spain, at this time, was a Roman province; it was sometimes called the Two Spains because it was divided into two parts

Gaul: a northern territory which included parts of France, Germany, and northern Italy

Illyria: the region on the eastern side of the Adriatic Sea, north of Greece and west of Macedon

Cyprus: an island country in the Mediterranean Sea, which had been conquered by Alexander the Great and then claimed by Egypt before becoming part of the Roman empire

Byzantium: now Istanbul

Isle of Rhodes: a large island southeast of Athens


Part One

Caesar, returning out of Spain from his praetorship, required the honour of triumph, and at the same time made suit to be consul. But there being a law to the contrary, that they that sued to be consuls should be present themselves in the city, and such also as desired honour of triumph, should be without the city, he earnestly required the Senate that he might sue for the consulship by his friends. The most part of the Senate were willing unto it, but Cato was flatly against it. He perceived that the other senators were willing to gratify Caesar: so when it came to him to deliver his opinion, he spent all the whole day in his oration, and by this policy prevented the senate so that they could not conclude anything. Then Caesar, letting fall his 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.

Therewithal, the Senate were wholly of his opinion, and so were many other honest men of the people besides, that were not of the Senate, and who took his part: marvelling much, and also being offended with Caesar's great unreasonableness and importunity; who by the authority of his consulship did prefer such things as the most seditious tribunes of the people were wont commonly to do, to curry favour with the people, and by such vile means sought to make them at his commandment. Wherefore, Caesar and his friends fearing so great enemies, fell to open force. For to begin withal, as the consul Bibulus was going to the marketplace, there was a basket of dung poured upon his head: and furthermore, the officers' rods, which they carried before him, were broken in their hands. In fine, darts were thrown at them out of every corner, and many of them being hurt, they all at length were driven to flee, and leave the marketplace. But Cato came last of all, keeping his wonted pace, and he often cast back his head, and cursed such citizens.

So, they did not only pass this law Agraria by voices of the people; but furthermore they added to it that all the Senate should be sworn to establish that law, and be bound to defend the same (if any attempted the alteration thereof), upon great penalties and fines to be set on his head, that should refuse the oath. All the other senators swore against their wills, remembering the example of the mischief that chanced unto the old Metellus, who was banished out of Italy because he would not swear to such a like law. Whereupon, the women that were in Cato's house besought him, with the tears in their eyes, that he would yield and take the oath: and so did also divers of his friends besides. Howbeit, he that most enforced and brought Cato to swear, was Cicero the orator: who persuaded him, that peradventure he would be thought unreasonable, that being but one man, he should seem to mislike that, which all other had thought meet and reasonable: and that it were a fond part of him willfully to put himself in so great danger, thinking to hinder a matter already past remedy. But yet that besides all this, a greater inconvenience would happen, if he forsook his country (for whose sake he did all these things), and left it a prey unto them which sought the utter subversion of the same, as if he were glad to be rid from the trouble of defending the commonwealth.

"For," said he, "though Cato have no need of Rome, yet Rome hath need of Cato, and so have all his friends": of the which, Cicero said, he was the chief, and was most maliced of Publius Clodius the tribune, who sought to drive him out of the country. It is said that Cato being won by these like words and persuasions at home, and openly in the marketplace, they so softened him, that he came to take his oath last of all men, except for one Favonius, a friend of his.

Caesar's heart being then lifted up, for that he had brought his first purpose to pass: he began now to prefer another law, to divide all Campania, and the country called Terra Di Lavoro ("The Land of Labour") unto the poor needy people of Rome; and no man stood against him but Cato. Whereupon Caesar made his officers to take him from the pulpit for orations, to carry him 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.

In fine, all Caesar's practice tended to this end: that when he had won the people's favour by such laws, they should then grant him the government of all the Gauls (as well on this side, as beyond the mountains); and all Illyria, with an army of four legions, for the space of five years; notwithstanding that Cato told the people before, that they themselves with their own voices did set up a tyrant that one day would cut their throats.

They did also choose Publius Clodius tribune of the people, who was of a noble house: a thing directly contrary to the law. But this Clodius had promised them, if they would help him to banish Cicero out of Rome, to do all that he could for them. Furthermore, they made Calpurnius Piso (Caesar's wife's father) and Gabinius Paulus, (a man wholly at Pompey's commandment, as they write which knew his life and manners) consuls the next year following.

Part Two

Now, notwithstanding that Caesar and Pompey had the rule of the commonwealth in their own hands, and that they had won part of the city with bribes, and the other part also with fear: yet they were both afraid of Cato, when they considered what trouble they had to overcome him, 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. Furthermore, Clodius utterly despaired that he could possibly banish Cicero, so long as Cato was there.

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 (#1) 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 he himself continued as tribune. Cato being driven by necessity to obey, he counselled Cicero (whom Clodius pursued) to beware that he made no stir against him, for fear of bringing Rome into civil war and murder for his sake; but rather to absent himself, that he might another time preserve his country.

After that, he sent his friend Canidius before into Cyprus, unto Ptolemy (#1), to persuade him to be quiet without war: declaring unto him that he should neither lack honour nor riches, for the Romans would grant him the priesthood of Venus in the city of Paphos. Cato in the meantime remained in the Isle of Rhodes, preparing himself there, and abiding his answer.

Part Three

In the time of these stirs, Ptolemy King of Egypt (#2), for a certain offence and discord with his subjects, departing out of Alexandria, sailed towards Rome, hoping that Caesar and Pompey with a great army would restore him to his crown and kingdom again. He being desirous to see Cato, sent unto him, supposing he would come at his sending for him. Cato by chance was occupied at that time about some business, and bade the messenger to ask Ptolemy to come to him, if he would see him. So when Ptolemy came, he neither went to meet him, nor rose up unto him, but only welcomed him, and bade him sit down. It amazed the king, at the first, to see, under so simple and mean a train, such a stateliness and majesty in Cato's behaviour. But when he heard him boldly talk with him of his affairs, and such grave talk come from him, reproving

"the folly he had committed to forsake such princely pleasure and wealth, to go and subject himself unto such dishonour, such extreme pains, and such passing great gifts and presents, as he should throw away to satisfy the covetousness of the rulers at Rome, the which was so insatiable, that if all the realm of Egypt were converted into silver to give among them, it would scarce suffice them: in respect whereof, he counselled him to return back with his navy, and to reconcile himself again with his subjects; offering himself also to go with him, to help to make his peace."

Then Ptolemy coming to himself, and repenting him of his folly, knowing that Cato told him truly and wisely: he determined to follow his counsel, and would have done so, had not his friends turned his mind to the contrary. So when Ptolemy came to Rome, and was driven to wait at the gates of the magistrates that were in authority: he sighed then, and repented his folly, for that he had not only despised the counsel of a wise man, but rather the oracle of a god.

Furthermore, the other Ptolemy (#1) that was in Cyprus (a happy turn for Cato) poisoned himself. Cato being also informed that he left a wonderful sum of money behind him, he determined to go himself unto Byzantium on the other business; and sent his nephew Brutus into Cyprus, because he dared not trust Canidius so far.

[omission for length]

Narration and Discussion

Cicero convinced Cato to take the oath of loyalty: "For," said he, "though Cato have no need of Rome, yet Rome hath need of Cato, and so have all his friends." What would you have done?

Why were Cato's warnings about Caesar ignored?

Creative narration: Dramatize one of the scenes from this passage, such as Clodius explaining to Cato why he should be happy to take on such an important job in Cyprus. Another possibility would be to interview Ptolemy (#2) after he had taken refuge in Rome.

Lesson Seven


If Clodius had hoped that Cato would either disgrace himself or simply disappear, he was wrong. Cato returned with a certain amount of grandeur, and carrying a large amount of treasure for Rome. Although he did not accept most of the personal rewards offered to him, he did recognize that this was his chance to use the power and influence he had gained, and he decided to run for praetor.

Unfortunately, the elections that year were again marked by corruption and violence.


drachma: a unit of money

extraordinary praetorship: It appears that Cato was offered the position without being elected, or possibly that he was offered an exception to the normal candidate deadlines

the authority of the consul was in Cato: Because of Cato's close connections with the consuls that year, he had as much power as if he had been consul himself.

tables: tablets recording Clodius' accomplishments as tribune

against the law: the office of tribune was supposed to be held only by non-nobles

the tribune also that did grant it him: that is, Clodius

popular: belonging to or associated with the lower classes

Pompey and Crassus having been with Caesar. . . : at their meeting at Lucca

prorogue: extend

Pompey's power to be joined with Crassus: if they each won one of the positions

no private person: holding a public office

came and sued: Consuls were elected late in the year and took office the first day of January; but praetors were elected separately

by the estimation of Cato: because of the great respect the people held for Cato

so wickedly given their voices: allowed themselves to be bribed


Philip: Lucius Marcius Philippus, consul for 56 B.C. along with Lentulus, a close friend of Cicero

Marcia: Cato's second wife

Lucius Domitius (Ahenobarbus): consul for 54 B.C.; an enemy of Julius Caesar; Cato's brother-in-law

Publius Vatinius: a Roman statesman who had held various offices

Historic Occasions

56 B.C.: Famous meeting of the First Triumvirate in Lucca

Early summer 56 B.C.: Probable date of Cato's return to Rome

56 B.C.: Cato divorced Marcia so that she could marry Hortensius

56 B.C.: Cicero made a speech against the acts of Clodius, but also in support of Pompey and Caesar

55 B.C.: The year began without any consuls or praetors (for complicated reasons). Pompey and Crassus were elected consuls early in the year. Cato ran for the praetorship, but was defeated by Publius Vatinius (who was later accused of winning by bribery).

On the Map

Tiber: the large river flowing through Rome


Part One

Having reconciled the refugees and the people of Byzantium, Cato 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 of 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.

[omission for length: the resulting friction between Cato and his friends, though he was eventually reconciled with Munatius]

Cato got together a 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.

[omission for length]

Part Two

News being brought that he was come to Rome by water, when they understood that he was at hand, by and by all the magistrates, the priests, the Senate, and the most part of the people also went out to meet him by the riverside: so that both sides of the Tiber were full of people, and the receiving of him in, seemed not inferior to the entry of a triumph. Notwithstanding, some thought him very presumptuous that, the consuls and praetors coming out to meet him, he did not stay his galley, but rowed still up the stream (being in a king's galley of six oars to every bank); and never stayed, until all his fleet arrived in the haven. This notwithstanding, when the coffers with money were carried thorough the marketplace into the treasure chamber, the people wondered to see so great a quantity of it. And thereupon the Senate being assembled, with great and honourable words they gave Cato an extraordinary praetorship, and the privilege also, at any common sports, to wear a purple gown.

Cato refused 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.

Philip, the father of Marcia, was that year consul; so that after a sort, the authority of the consul was in Cato: because Lentulus, colleague and fellow consul with Philip, did no less reverence Cato for his virtues, than Philip did for his alliance with him.

Furthermore, when Cicero was restored again from his banishment (the which Publius Clodius, being then tribune of the people, had put upon him), and being again grown to great credit: he went one day into the Capitol, in the absence of Clodius, by force to take away the tables which Clodius had consecrated there, in the which were comprised all his doings during the time he was tribune. Thereupon, the Senate being assembled, Clodius did accuse Cicero of this violent fact. Cicero answered him again, that because Clodius was chosen tribune directly against the law, therefore all his doings were void, and of no validity. Then Cato stood up, and said he knew that all that which Clodius did when he was tribune, was scantly good and allowable; but yet if generally any man should undo all that he had passed by that authority, then all that he himself had done likewise in Cyprus, must of necessity be revoked. For the commission that was granted unto him (by virtue whereof he had done many things) should be unlawful: because the tribune also that did grant it him, was not lawfully chosen. And therefore, that Publius Clodius was not made tribune against the law, who by consent of the law was taken out from a noble house, and made a popular person; howbeit, if he had behaved himself undutifully in his office, as other men that haply had offended, then he was to be accused to make him mend his fault, and not to destroy the authority of the office(r), which in itself was lawful.

Cicero took this ill, and for a long time discontinued his friendship with Cato; but they were afterwards reconciled.

Part Three

Pompey and Crassus, having been with Caesar to talk with him (who for that purpose came out of Gaul beyond the Alps), made an agreement there betwixt them, to demand the second consulship together; and when they had it, then to prorogue Caesar's government for five years more; and also they would have the best provinces and greatest, for themselves, with great armies, and money enough to pay them with. This was indeed a plain conspiracy to divide the empire of Rome between them, and utterly to overthrow the state of the commonwealth.

At that time there were many noblemen which came to make suit for the consulship. But when they saw Pompey and Crassus offer to make suit for it, all the rest gave over but Lucius Domitius that had married Porcia, Cato's sister: through whose persuasion he would not relinquish his suit, considering that it was not the office only of the consulship that was the chiefest matter of importance, but the liberty of the Senate and people. Straight (away) there ran a rumour through the most part of the people, that they were not to suffer Pompey's power to be joined with Crassus by means of this office: for then his authority would be too great and strong, and therefore, that of necessity one of these two were to be denied. For these reasons the good men 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 of Mars, where the election was always made; and first striking the torchbearer that went before him, they hurt him so sore, that he fell down dead at his feet.

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 defense 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.

All this notwithstanding, Domitius would tarry no longer, but betook him to his legs, and ran home. Thus were Crassus and Pompey, without denial, proclaimed consuls.

Part Four

Cato never yielded therefore, but came and sued to be praetor, because that thereby he might yet make it some strength and countenance to him against their consulship; that being no private person, he should have some better authority to resist them that were the chiefest persons. But they (Pompey and Crassus), fearing that the praetorship, by the estimation of Cato, would come to equal their authority of the consulship [omission for length]: they procured Vatinius to be chosen praetor instead of Cato. And the report went that the people that had so wickedly given their voices, feeling themselves pricked in conscience, fled immediately out of the field: and the honest men that remained were both very sorry and angry for the injury they had offered Cato. At that time, one of the tribunes keeping an assembly of the city, Cato stood up, and told (as if he had prophesied) before them all, what would happen to the commonwealth by these practices; and stirred up the people against Pompey and Caesar, saying that they were guilty of those things, and therefore procured them to be done, because they were afraid that if Cato had been praetor, he would too narrowly have sifted out their devices. In fine, Cato going home to his house, had more company to wait upon him alone, than all the other praetors that had been chosen.

Narration and Discussion

How did Cato turn his "punishment job" into a positive opportunity?

Cato lost the election, but he seemed to gain in other ways. Explain.

For older students: Cato responded to Cicero's speech by justifying the authority of Clodius, his enemy. Why did he do that?

Creative narration: You are friends with the owner and editor of the Rome Daily News, who is struggling over what to write about the election events. Give some suggestions.

Lesson Eight


The next two or three years continued to be full of power struggles and unrest. The bright spot for Cato was that he did win the praetorship for a year, although, according to Plutarch, he seemed not to care much about showing proper dignity on the judge's seat. He took charge of trying to keep that year's elections honest, which seemed to work quite well except for the fact that it made his enemies want, more than ever, to end his influence.

In 52 B.C., the threat of anarchy was serious enough for the Senate to take the emergency measure of making Pompey sole consul for that year. Unexpectedly, Cato agreed with the proposal, and it was passed.


precipitate: unload

without any coat: this may refer to the praetor's robe, which Cato seems to have refused to wear

obnoxious: disagreeable

mastered the tumult: quieted everyone down

commendation: praise

constitutional acuteness: natural quickness of mind

railers: hecklers


Gaius Trebonius: a tribune

Historic Occasions

54 B.C.: Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus and Claudius Pulcher were consuls; Cato was praetor

54 B.C.: Death of Pompey's wife Julia

53 B.C.: Death of Crassus in Syria

January 52 B.C.: The murder of Clodius by order of Milo

52 B.C.: Pompey chosen as sole consul (he asked Metellus Scipio to join him later in the year)

On the Map

Spain, Africa, Egypt, Syria: It would be helpful to look at a map showing these Roman provinces.


Part One

Gaius 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. Then Cato getting up into the pulpit for orations, before the people began to give their voices, could hardly have two hours' space to speak: but at length, they perceiving that he delayed time by foretelling things to come, would suffer him to speak no longer, but sent a sergeant to him, and plucked him by force out of the pulpit. But when he was beneath, and cried out notwithstanding, and divers gave good ear unto him: the sergeant went to him again, and took him, and carried him out of the marketplace. Howbeit the officer had no sooner left him, but he went straight towards the pulpit for orations, crying out to the people to stand by him. When he had done this several times, Trebonius grew very angry, and commanded him to be carried to prison. The people followed him hard notwithstanding, to hear what he said unto them. Whereupon Trebonius fearing some stir, was forced to command his sergeant to let Cato go [omission].

The next morning notwithstanding, the contrary faction having partly put the Romans in fear, and won the other part also by fair words and money, and by force of arms likewise kept Aquilius, one of the tribunes, from coming out of the Senate; and after they had also violently driven Cato out of the marketplace, for saying that it thundered; and having hurt many men, and also slain some out of hand in the marketplace, in the end they forcibly passed the decree by voices of the people. Many being offended therewith, went a company of them together to pluck down Pompey's images; but Cato would not suffer them.

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. Cato used many of these persuasions sundry times unto him, but Pompey never made account of them: for he would not be persuaded that Caesar would ever change in that sort, and besides he trusted too much to his own power and prosperity.

Furthermore, Cato was chosen praetor for the next year following, in the which it appeared (though he ministered justice uprightly) that he rather defaced and impaired the majesty and dignity of his office, than that he gave it grace and countenance by his doings: for he would oftentimes go afoot barelegged, and without any coat, unto his praetor's chair, and there judge matters of life and death, and upon men of great account. And some report that he would give audience right after he had dined, and drunk wine; but that is untrue.

Part Two

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. Whereupon, a great number of them went one morning to the place where he kept his audience, and all cried out upon him, 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. The Senate giving him great commendation therefore, he told them roundly and plainly: "But I have no cause to praise you, to leave a praetor in such danger of his life, offering no aid to help him."

But the suitors for the offices, they were in a marvellous case: for one way, they were afraid to give money to buy the peoples' voices, and on the other side, they were afraid also if any other did it, that they should go without their suit. So they were all agreed together, every man, to put down one hundred and twenty-five thousand drachmas apiece; and then they should make their suit justly and uprightly: on condition that if anyone was found to make use of bribery he should forfeit the money. This agreement being concluded between them, they chose Cato (as it is reported) for their arbitrator, and keeper of all the same money. This match was made in Cato's house, where they all did put in caution or sureties to answer the money: the which he took, but would not meddle with.

The day being come, Cato assisting the tribune that governed the election, and carefully marking how they did give their voices: he spied one of the suitors for the office break the accord agreed upon, and condemned him to pay the forfeiture unto the rest. But they, greatly commending his justice and integrity, forgave the forfeiture, thinking it punishment enough unto him that had forfeited to be condemned by Cato. But thereby Cato procured himself the displeasure of the other senators, for that he seemed therein to take upon him the power and authority over the whole court, and election. For there is no virtue whereof the honour and credit doth procure more envy, than justice: because the people do commonly respect and reverence that more than any other. For they do not honour the just as they do valiant men; nor have them in admiration, as they do wise men; but they love and trust them better. As for the two first, the one they are afraid of, and the other they distrust; beside, they suppose that valiancy and wisdom come rather by the benefit of nature, than of our intent and choice; 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. This was the cause why all the noblemen in manner were against Cato, as though he only had overcome them.

Pompey, especially, thought that the estimation of Cato was altogether the ruin of his own power, and therefore did daily raise up many railers against him. One of them was Publius Clodius, that seditious tribune, who was again fallen in friendship with Pompey. He accused Cato, and cried out upon him, how he had robbed the commonwealth of a wonderful treasure, by his commission in Cyprus; and that he was enemy unto Pompey, because he did refuse to marry his daughter. Cato thereto made answer,

"that he had brought more gold and silver, out of Cyprus, into the treasury of Rome, without the allowance of either horse or soldier, than Pompey had done with all his triumphs and wars, with the which he had troubled all the world [omission for length]."

Thus was he revenged of Pompey.

Part Three

[Omission for length: the tension in Rome grew, first over an election which was cancelled due to cheating, and then because of the murder of Clodius.]

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, Cato's friend and kinsman, made a motion to the Senate that they would choose Pompey sole consul. "For," said he, "either the commonwealth shall be well governed by him, or else Rome shall serve an ill lord." Cato then rising up, beyond all men's expectation, confirmed Bibulus' opinion, and said that the city were better to have one sovereign magistrate than none, and that he hoped Pompey could give present order for the pacifying of this confusion, and that he would be careful to preserve the city, when he saw that they trusted him with the government thereof. Thus was Pompey by Cato's means chosen sole consul.

Then he sent for Cato to come to his gardens to him, which were in the suburbs of the city. Cato went thither, and was received with as great honour and courtesy of Pompey, as could be devised: and in the end, after he had given him great thanks for the honours he had done him, he prayed him to afford him his advice and counsel in his government. Cato answered him thus, that he had not spoken anything before that time in respect of any ill will he bore him; neither that he delivered this last opinion of his in respect of his friendship; but wholly for the commonwealth's sake. 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.

[omission for length]

Narration and Discussion

How did Cato try to ensure honesty between the election candidates?

How was Cato "revenged of Pompey?"

Creative narration: Give Pompey's account (to someone else) of the conversation he had with Cato. You might want to add to the list of "Reasons I Think Cato Likes Me. . . I Think."

Lesson Nine


Pompey had his year as consul, and afterwards seemed to believe that his position in Rome was secure, and that the Senate would continue to support his interests. He was also distracted at this time by a recent marriage. When advised that Caesar's military activities were becoming dangerous, he insisted that Caesar a) could not become that powerful and b) would not do anything bad.Cato ran for consul, with the goal of blocking Caesar as much as possible. However, he lost the election; and Caesar's friends pushed for even more loopholes and leeway, such as extending his command in Gaul, and even proposing that he be allowed to run for consul although he was out of the country.

In 50 B.C., Pompey became seriously ill while visiting Naples. When he was able to travel again, he was cheered and applauded in every town he passed through. This assisted his recovery, but it also increased his false sense of security. When Caesar committed his act of war, Pompey finally realized that it was time to leave town; and Cato followed behind him.


the negligent security. . . : his careless belief about his safety

timorous: fearful

he was put from his consulship: he lost the election

Field of Mars: an open public area

nor yet by making the like suit again. . . : it was not worth risking another loss by running another time

premeditated discourse: prepared speech

let him have a successor: suggest that it was time for him to step down as governor

Hortensius being dead: see Cato's Family in the introductory notes

a mercenary design in his marriage: interested only in the money

committed: entrusted


Sulpicius Rufus: an orator and jurist

Germans, Britons, Gauls: various northern tribes

Historic Occasions

52 B.C.: Cato ran unsuccessfully for consul (in the election for 51 B.C.)

51 B.C.: Sulpicius Rufus and Marcus Claudius Marcellus (brother of M. Maior) were consuls

50 B.C.: Aemilius Lepidus Paullus and Gaius Claudius Marcellus (nicknamed Marcellus Minor, to distinguish him from his cousin) were consuls

50 B.C.: Hortensius died

49 B.C.: Another Gaius Claudius Marcellus (nicknamed Marcellus Maior, cousin of M. Minor) and Lentulus Crus were consuls

January 49 B.C.: Cato asked the Senate to order Caesar to disperse his army and return to Rome. Caesar insisted on keeping command of one province. Cato and Lentulus refused to back down, and this led to Caesar's act of war.

January 49 B.C.: Caesar crossed the Rubicon

49 B.C.: Marcia and her children returned to Cato's house

On the Map

Ariminium: now Rimini; a city in northern Italy. Caesar's capture of the town, after he crossed the Rubicon, was an act of open rebellion.

Bruttium: the Italian region of Calabria


Part One

Things proceeding in this sort at Rome, Caesar remained in Gaul with his army, where he made wars; nevertheless he won himself friends still in Rome, by gifts and money, and made himself very strong. 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 reveal 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."

This notwithstanding he persuaded the Senate to make a law that, from thenceforth, such as sued for any office should themselves ask the people for their votes, and not prefer their suit by others. This caused the people to be more offended with him than before, because thereby he did not only take away their fingering of money, which they got by their voices in elections; but took from them the means they had also to pleasure many, bringing them now into poverty and contempt. He therefore having no face to flatter the people and to curry favor with them, but rather sticking to his grave manner and modest life, than to seek the dignity of a consul by such means: made suit himself in person, and would not suffer his friends to take the ordinary course which might win the people's hearts, whereupon he was put from his consulship. This denial was wont not only to have made the parties refused very sorrowful, but their friends and kinsmen also greatly ashamed a long time after. Howbeit Cato made no reckoning of that, but went the next morning, and played at tennis with his friends in the Field of Mars; and, after he had dined, he walked again in the marketplace, as his manner was, without shoes on his feet, or coat. But Cicero blamed him much for that, because the commonwealth requiring then such a consul as he, he had not carefully endeavoured himself by courtesy and gentle means to win the favour of the people, neither would ever after make suit for it, although at another time he sued to be praetor. Thereunto Cato answered, that for the praetorship, he was not denied it by the goodwill of the people, but rather for that they were bribed with money. And for the election of the consuls, where there was no deceit used, he knew plainly he went without it because of his manners which the people misliked: the which he thought were no wise man's part to change for any man's pleasure; nor yet by making the like suit again, to hazard the refusal.

Part Two

Furthermore, Caesar making war with very stout nations, and having with no small danger and travail subdued them; and having also set upon the Germans, with whom the Romans were at peace, and also slain three hundred thousand persons: his friends made suit that the people should do solemn sacrifice to give thanks unto the gods. But Cato, in open Senate, was of opinion that they should deliver Caesar into their hands, whom he had injured, to receive such punishment as they thought good: to the end the whole offence, for the breach of peace, might be cast upon him, that the city might be no partaker of it, since they could not do withal. "Nevertheless," said he, "we are to do sacrifices unto the gods, to give them thanks, for that they turned not the revenge for the fury and rashness of the captain upon our poor soldiers which were in no fault, but have pardoned the commonwealth."

Caesar being advertised thereof, wrote a letter unto the Senate, containing many accusations against Cato. The letter being read, Cato rose, [and 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 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. He thereupon so offended the Senate, and made such stir among them, that Caesar's friends repented them they had caused his letters to be read in the Senate, giving Cato thereby occasion justly to complain of Caesar, and to allege much good matter against him.

At that time therefore there was nothing decreed in the Senate against Caesar, but this was said only, that it were good reason to let him have a successor. Then Caesar's friends made suit that Pompey as well should put away his army, and resign up the provinces he kept, or else that they should compel Caesar no more than him to do it. Then Cato opened his mouth, and said that the thing was now come to pass which he had ever told them of, and that Caesar came to oppress the commonwealth, openly turning the army against it, which deceitfully he had obtained of the same.

All this prevailed not, neither could he thereby win anything of the Senate, because the people favoured Caesar, and would always have him great: for the Senate did believe all that he said, but for all that they feared the people. But when the news was brought that Caesar had seized Ariminium, 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.

Then said Cato unto them: "If you would have believed me, my lords, and followed my counsel, you should not now have been afraid of one man alone, neither should you also have put your only hope in one man." Pompey answered thereunto that Cato indeed had guessed more truly, howbeit that he also had dealt more friendly. Thereupon Cato gave counsel that the Senate should refer all unto Pompey's order: "For," said he, "they that can do great mischief, know also how to help it."

Part Three

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.

[omission for length]

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.

Narration and Discussion

In Part One, why was Cicero so annoyed with Cato's (mis)handling of the election campaign?

Some of the senators praised the gods when they heard of the slaughter among the northern tribes. What was Cato's response?

For older students: Discuss this statement: "Thereupon Cato gave counsel that the Senate should refer all unto Pompey's order: ‘For,' said he, ‘they that can do great mischief, know also how to help it.'"

Creative narration: "Pompey, finding he had not sufficient forces, and that those he could raise were not very resolute, forsook the city. . . On a first reading, those words might not carry much meaning; but the Republic had just turned upside-down. Imagine that you are a Roman trying to explain recent events to a visitor. What would you say?

Lesson Ten


The last three lessons take place against the backdrop of Julius Caesar's overthrow of the Roman government. After illegally crossing the Rubicon River with his army, Caesar was declared an enemy of the state. Pompey, along with other senators, left Rome to gather and train an army in Greece. As a supporter of Pompey, Cato was sent to the colony of Syracuse, on the island of Sicily, to secure the grain supply for the army. However, his troops were overcome by Curio's forces; so Cato then went to Greece to join Pompey.

For reasons of length, the above events, plus the battles of Dyrrhachium and Pharsalus, are not included here. (Older students may wish to read Plutarch's full text.) However, even after Pompey's defeat and death, many of the Roman loyalists continued to fight against Caesar's domination. These included Cato and Metellus Scipio, who both escaped to Africa and led resistance from the city of Utica. We rejoin the story at that point.


sit at table: As mentioned in the previous lesson, Cato was refusing the comfort of "reclining" or lying down at dinner, as a sign of his grief over what had happened to Rome

proconsul: governor of a province, with authority similar to that of a consul within that jurisdiction. A propraetor (Dryden: proprietor) is someone acting with the authority of a praetor.

to see a Scipio command in Africa: previous members of his family were military heroes, such as Scipio Africanus (236/5 B.C.-183 B.C.)

take time: delay as much as possible; try to outlast Caesar rather than have to do battle with him

three hundred men: These were Roman business people (such as merchants and financiers) living in or visiting Utica

munition: military equipment

commend: praise

thitherunto: up to that point

tarry him: wait for him

promontory: outcropping of land

lord and emperor: This is a figure of speech; Rome did not yet have emperors


(Titus) Labienus: known for his long military career

Scipio: Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius Scipio Nasica, often called Metellus Scipio (c. 100/98 BC – 46 BC). Military commander; consul with Pompey (his son-in-law) in 52 B.C.

Juba: Juba I of Numidia

(Publius) Attius Varus: He had been praetor (governor) of the province of Africa under Pompey, and returned at this time to re-claim his province; he fought off troops led by Curio in 49 B.C.

Curio: Gaius Scribonius Curio is not named in Plutarch's text, except for a quick reference in Lesson Three. However, he is important to this part of the story, as Caesar sent him to lead his forces in Sicily and then in Africa, as described here.

Historic Occasions

April 49 B.C.: Cato left Syracuse (in Sicily) to join Pompey

48 B.C.: Battle of Dyrrhachium; Battle of Pharsalus

48 B.C.: Death of Bibulus

48 B.C.: Death of Pompey

December 47 B.C.: Caesar's troops landed in Africa

April 46 B.C.: Caesar defeated loyalist forces at Thapsus

On the Map

Cyrene: a city in what is now Libya

Utica: a city in what is now Tunisia, founded by the Phoenicians but taken by the Romans in the Third Punic War

Thapsus: a port city in what is now Tunisia



Leading troops he had gathered on his journey, Cato marched against the city of Cyrene, which presently received him, though not long before they had shut their 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 the province of Africa, had joined them with his forces. Cato therefore resolved to march toward them by land, it being now winter [omission]. 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 Pharsalus, 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 [omission]. 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.

Part One

Scipio, having taken upon himself the command, presently resolved, at the instigation of Juba, to put all the inhabitants of Utica to the sword, and to destroy the city for having, as they professed, taken part with Caesar. Howbeit Cato would not suffer him, but protesting unto them that were present, and calling the gods to witness in open council, with great difficulty he saved the poor people of Utica from that cruel tragedy and slaughter. And afterwards, upon the entreaty of the inhabitants, 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. Cato did both furnish it, and also fortify it. For he brought in great store of corn; he repaired the ramparts of the walls, made great high towers, and cast deep trenches round about the city, paling them in; and betwixt the trenches and the town, he lodged all the young men of Utica, and compelled them to deliver up their armour and weapons; and kept all the rest within the city itself, carefully providing, that never a man of them should be hurt by the Romans; and besides, did also send corn, armour, munition and money unto the camp: so that the city of Utica was the staple and storehouse of the wars.

Moreover, as he had before counselled Pompey not to come to battle, the like counsel he now gave also unto Scipio: not to hazard battle against a man of great skill and experience in wars, but to take time, whereby, by little and little, he should consume the power and strength of Caesar's tyranny. 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. Cato wrote again unto him, that he was ready to go into Italy, with his footmen and horsemen which he had brought into Africa, to draw Caesar from them, and to turn him against him. Scipio made but a sport at it. 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. Then he began to mistrust the good success of this war (and so he told his friends) for the general's hastiness and unskillfulness: and yet if beyond expectation it fell out well, and that Caesar were overthrown, he would never dwell at Rome anymore, but would flee the cruelty and bitterness of Scipio, who even at that present time did proudly threaten many.

Part Two

But in the end, that fell out sooner than looked for. 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 was 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, by break of day, he made proclamation that the three hundred men which he had chosen for his councillors should come and assemble in the Temple of Jupiter, they all being citizens of Rome who were in Africa for business reasons; and all the Roman senators and their children also. Now whilst they gathered themselves together, Cato himself went very gravely with a set modest countenance, as if no such matter had happened, having a little book in his hand, which he read as he went. This book contained the store and preparation of munition he had made for this war, as corn, armour, weapons, bows, slings and footmen.

When they were all assembled, he began greatly to commend the good love and faithfulness of these three hundred Romans, which had profitably served their country with their persons, money, and counsel; and did counsel them not to depart one from another, as men having no hope, or otherwise seeking to save themselves scatteringly. For remaining together, Caesar would less despise them, if they would make war against him; and would also sooner pardon them, if they craved mercy of him. Therefore he counselled them

to determine what they would do; and for his own part (he said) he would not mislike whatsoever they determined of: for if their minds followed their fortune, he would think this change to proceed of the necessity of time. But if they were resolved to withstand their misfortune, and to hazard themselves to defend their liberty: he then would not only commend them, but having their noble courage in admiration, would himself be their chieftain and companion, even to prove the fortune of their country to the uttermost. The which was not Utica, nor Adrumetum, but the city itself of Rome: the which oftentimes through her greatness, had raised herself from greater dangers and calamities [omission for length]. Notwithstanding, they were to think of the matter among themselves, and to make their prayers to the gods, that in recompense of their virtue and good service which they had showed thitherunto, they would grant them grace to determine for the best.

After Cato had ended his oration, there were divers of them that were stirred up by his lively persuasions, but the most part of them were encouraged by his constancy and noble mind, and also by his kindness: so that they presently forgot the danger they were in, and prayed him to command their persons, goods, and weapons, as he thought good, taking him for their only invincible captain, of whom fortune had no power, thinking it better to die obeying his counsel, than to save themselves, forsaking so valiant and worthy a man. Then, when one of the assembly made a motion that they should make their bondmen free, and that divers also did confirm it, Cato said he would by no means suffer it, because it was neither meet nor lawful: howbeit if their masters would set them free, that he was contented to receive them for soldiers, that could wear any weapon. Divers promised him to do it: and Cato commanded their names should be enrolled that would, and so went his way.

Part Three

Immediately after, letters were brought him from King Juba and Scipio: of the which, King Juba was hidden in a mountain with few men with him, who sent unto him to know what he would determine to do. For if he meant to forsake Utica, he would tarry him there: and if otherwise he determined to keep Utica, than that he would come and help him with an army. Scipio was on shipboard, near a certain promontory, not far from Utica, expecting an answer upon the same account. Then Cato thought it best to stay the messengers which had brought him their letters, till he saw what was the determination of the three hundred. 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," said they, "what are we, and what is he whom we disdain to obey? Is it not Caesar himself, who at this day is lord and emperor of Rome? Never a one of us is Scipio, Pompey, nor Cato: and yet now, when all men for fear (and in manner compelled) do yield and submit themselves, we will needs take upon us within the walls of Utica to fight for the liberty of Rome against him for whom Cato, fleeing with Pompey, forsook Italy; and we now make our bondmen free to fight with Caesar, having no better liberty ourselves than it pleaseth him to give us. Let us therefore now know ourselves whilst we have time, and crave mercy at his hands that is the stronger, and send unto him, to pray him to pardon us."

The greatest and wisest men of those three hundred merchants had this speech. But the most part of them sought means how to entrap the senators, hoping the better of mercy at Caesar's hand, if they did deliver them unto him. Cato did notice this change in them, but yet uttered not that which he thought, and returned the messengers back again unto King Juba and Scipio, and wrote unto them that they should beware they came not near Utica, because he did mistrust these three hundred merchants.

Narration and Discussion

Cato kept a list of the army's equipment, food supplies and so on. What other strengths did Cato's side have? What were its weaknesses?

Throughout Cato's life, he had often seen laws (such as a propraetor submitting himself to a proconsul) pushed aside by those with ambitions to rule. To show his own respect for those laws, he placed himself under Scipio's authority; but later on, he seemed to regret his decision. Should he have broken the law and taken command himself?

Creative narration: After hearing the news of the Battle of Thapsus, Cato made a speech to the senators and merchants in Utica, encouraging them to fight for Rome, and to free their slaves so that they could fight as well. At first many of them agreed, but later they became afraid and changed their minds. Write a scene involving those becoming less convinced of their chances against Caesar.

Lesson Eleven


Although all seemed lost, Cato remained in charge. The merchants and senators seemed to be more of a hindrance than a help, but he did have the assistance of a number of "horsemen" (cavalry officers) who had escaped from the Battle of Thapsus.


tarrying: waiting

Carthaginian: Phoenician

dissembling: concealing their opinions

retaining: restraining, locking up

citadel: fort

perfidious: deceitful, untrustworthy

manifestly: obviously

vanquished: conquered

wrack: destruction

last cast: last effort (referring to the last cast or throw of the dice)

spoil and plunder: rob of treasure

dispatching the business of any that applied to him: dealing with everyone else's problems

recommended his son. . . : asked him to look out for them


Marcus Rubrius: We heard in Lesson Two about Rubrius who was propraetor in Macedon, but they were not necessarily the same person.

Marcus Octavius: this may have been an ancestor of Gaius Octavius (later Caesar Augustus)

Statilius: Also no further information. (But watch for him again in the next lesson.) Statilius also appears in Plutarch's Marcus Brutus.

Apollinides, Demetrius: Plutarch seems to be the only source of information on these philosophers.

Lucius Julius Caesar: a former consul; cousin of Julius Caesar, but a supporter of Pompey. He was pardoned after the Battle of Thapsus, but was killed soon afterwards, probably by Caesar's soldiers.


Part One

Now there were a great number of horsemen which had escaped from the recent battle; who, coming towards Utica, sent three of their company unto 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.

Thereupon the captains went and spoke with their soldiers. Cato in the meantime sat him down on a little hill, with the senators, tarrying for answer.

But then on the sudden came Rubrius unto him in great haste, complaining of the tumult of these three hundred merchants, which went about to make the city to rebel: whereupon the senators, their hearts failing them, fell to bewail their miserable fortune. But Cato sought to comfort them, and then sent unto the three hundred merchants, to pray them to have a little patience. So the captains returned again with unreasonable demands of the horsemen. For they said that they cared not for King Juba's pay, neither were they afraid of Caesar's malice, as long as they had Cato for their general; but they dreaded to be shut up with the Uticans, men of traitorous temper and Carthaginian blood. "For," said they, "though now they stir not, and be quiet: yet when Caesar comes, they will be the first that will betray us, and cut our throats." And therefore they said that if Cato would have them to join with him in this war, that he should either kill or drive away all the Uticans out of the city; and then that they would come into it, when it was clear of all those barbarous people, their enemies. Cato thought this a cruel and barbarous condition; nevertheless he told them that he would talk with the three hundred.

Part Two

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 that very instant one came to him, and told him that the horsemen were going their way. Cato therefore fearing lest these three hundred merchants would lay hands upon the senators, he went unto them himself with his friends; and perceiving they were gone a great way off, he took his horse and rode after them. They, rejoicing to see him come, received him among them, and prayed him to save himself with them. But Cato prayed them again to save the senators, and that with such affection, as it forced tears in him, besides, he held up his hands unto them, took their horses by the bridles, and themselves by their weapons, 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 say, 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.

Part Three

Whereupon, having pacified the senators, he yielded unto the requests of the three hundred merchants, and went himself alone unto them. Then they thanked him much for his coming, and prayed him to command them, and boldly to trust them: so that he would pardon them if they could not be all "Catos," and would take pity of their faint hearts, though they were not so constant and noble-minded as he. They told him they were determined to send unto Caesar, specially to entreat him for Cato; and if that they could not obtain pardon for him, then they were assured they could have none for themselves, and therefore would fight for the safety of him, while they had any breath in their bodies.

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.

Part Four

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 turning unto the senators, he gave them counsel quickly to save themselves, whilst the horsemen were yet in the city. So shutting all the gates of the city, saving that towards the harbour: he appointed ships for them all, and set everything at a stay, without tumult or disorder, no man having injury offered him, and gave every one of them money to make way for their safety.

Marcus Octavius, who came with two legions, and camped hard by Utica, sent unto Cato to determine which of them two should be general. He made no answer, but turning to his friends said: "How can we wonder any more that all goeth to wrack with us, since there is such ambition amongst us for the government, even now, when we are at the last cast?" In the meantime, word was brought him that the horse soldiers were going away, and were beginning to spoil and plunder the citizens. He straight ran thither himself, and the first he met withal, he took from them that which they had gotten. The rest, before he came unto them, threw down that which they were carrying away, and hanging down their heads for shame, they went their way, and said nothing. Then he called together 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.

Then he went again to the pier, and there embracing his friends, and taking his leave of them all, he brought them to their ships. Now for his son, he did not counsel him to go, neither did he think it meet to urge him to forsake his father. Furthermore, there was one Statilius, a young man in his company, of a noble courage, that was determined to follow the invincible constancy of Cato: who counselled him to take the sea, and to sail away with the rest, because he knew he was Caesar's mortal enemy. Statilius said he would not go. Then Cato turning him unto Apollonides, a Stoic philosopher, and unto Demetrius, a Peripatetic philosopher, said, "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 dispatching the business of any that applied to him, he spent that night and the greatest part of the next day.

Then Lucius Caesar, the kinsman of Julius Caesar the conqueror, being chosen by the three hundred to go and make suit unto him for them all, came and prayed Cato to help him to make his oration, which he should say unto Caesar for them all. "And as for thee, Cato," said he, "I will kiss his hands, and fall down on my knees before him to entreat him for thee."

"Nay," said Cato, "thou shalt not do so. For if I would save my life by Caesar's grace, I could do it, if I would but go unto him; howbeit I will not be bound to a tyrant for injustice. For it is an injustice in him to take upon him, as a lord and sovereign, to save a man's life, when himself hath no authority to command. But yet let us consider, if thou wilt, what thou shalt say to crave pardon for the three hundred." So they were a while together considering the matter, and in fine, Lucius Caesar being ready to depart, Cato recommended his son and friends unto him; and taking him by the hand, bade him farewell.

Narration and Discussion

How did Cato show concern for others at this time? (A Bible verse to look up: Mark 9:35)

Give your impressions of Statilius.

For older students: The Stoic philosophers lived by principles such as "A life led according to rational nature is virtuous," and "From wisdom spring insight, bravery, self-control, and justice." How did Cato's conduct during this time reflect these beliefs?

Lesson Twelve


Seeing no possible good outcome from the war, Cato decided to take his own life. However, the events of his final night might have been written as a "black comedy," as the honourable farewell he had planned turned into a mess.


sat at his meat: see previous lessons

Paradoxes: A paradox is a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement. The Paradoxes referred to here were the principles of Stoic philosophy. An interesting side note is that Cicero, that same year, wrote Paradoxa Stoicorum, a book examining those statements. In his introduction, he praises Cato without mentioning his death (i.e. it must have been written before this dinner conversation); so the then-brand-new book may have been exactly what they were discussing.

suspect the execution of his determination: suspect what he intended to do

deranged: mad, out of one's senses

dispatch: kill

envy: This has also been translated "begrudge"

Historic Occasions

April 46 B.C.: Death of Cato

46 B.C.: Suicides of King Juba and Metellus Scipio

45 B.C.: Battle of Munda ended Caesar's civil war; death of Varus

45 B.C.: Marriage of Marcus Brutus and Porcia (Cato's daughter)

September 45 B.C.: Caesar's return to Italy

March 44 B.C.: Caesar assassinated

43 B.C.: Murder of Cicero

42 B.C.: Battle of Philippi; deaths of Marcus Brutus, Statilius, and Marcus Porcius Cato (Cato's son)


Part One

Cato returned unto his lodging, and calling his son and friends before him, and talking of many matters: among others he charged his son in no case to meddle in the affairs of the commonwealth. "For," said he, "to deal uprightly like Cato's son, the corruption of the time and state will not abide it; and contrarily, observing the time, thou canst not do like an honest man."

Toward evening he went into his bath. As he was bathing, he remembered Statilius, and called out aloud, "Apollonides, have you tamed the high spirit of Statilius, 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, and sat at his meat, as he had always used to after the Battle of Pharsalus, and never lay down but when he went to bed. There supped with him all his own friends and the magistrates of Utica. After supper, they fell into grave talk and matters of philosophy, till at length they came unto the strange Paradoxes of the Stoic philosophers, particularly this: that only the good man is free, and all the evil be slaves. The Peripatetic philosopher that was present there was straight against it. But Cato was very earnest against the Peripatetic, and argued the matter a long time, with a vehement speech and contention: insomuch as they that heard him, found then that he was determined to end his life and set himself at liberty.

But then when he had ended his argument, and saw that every man held his peace, and looked sadly of it: to comfort them again, and to put the suspicion of his death out of their heads: he began again to fall in talk of their affairs, 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.

Part Two

Now when supper was done, and the strangers gone, he walked, as his manner was, with his friends; and having taken order with the captains of the watch for matters of service, as the time required, then going into his chamber he embraced his son and his friends more lovingly than he was wont to do, whereby he made them again suspect the execution of his determination.

When he was come into his chamber and laid in his bed, he took Plato's Dialogues in his hand, treating of the soul, and read the most part of it. Then looking by his bedside, and missing his sword (which his son had taken from him when he was at supper), he called one of the grooms of his chamber to him, and asked him who had taken his sword away. His man made him no answer, and he fell again to read his book. 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 and friends ran unto him, and falling down on their knees, lamented, and besought him to be contented. Cato then rising out of his bed, looked grimly upon them, and said unto them:

"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 dispatch myself I want no sword; I need but hold my breath awhile, or strike my head against the wall."

When he had said thus, his son went out of his chamber weeping, and all his friends also, no man remaining with Cato, but Demetrius and Apollonides, unto whom he spoke more gently, and reasoned in this sort:

"What, do you think to keep an old man as I am alive by force? And have you tarried behind but to sit staring upon me, and say nothing unto me? If otherwise else, by reason you come to persuade me, that it shall be no shame for Cato, despairing of the safety of his life, to seek it by the grace and mercy of his enemy: why then do you not now tell me your reasons to persuade me, that forsaking all other fancies and determinations which hitherto we have held for good, having suddenly become wiser by Caesar's means, we should be bound the more therefore to give him thanks? I do not tell you this that I have determined anything of my life, but that it is in my power (if I list) to put the thing in execution I have determined: but yet I will consult with you, when I am so determined, to hear the reasons and opinion of your books, which yourselves do use in discourse and argument together. Go your way therefore hardily unto my son, and tell him that he must not think to compel his father unto that which he cannot prove good unto him by reason."

After this talk, Demetrius and Apollonides being nothing comforted, weeping, departed out of his chamber. Then his sword was brought him by a little boy. When he had it, he drew it out, and looked whether the point and edge of his sword was sharp and would cut. 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 for two of his freemen, Cleanthes, his physician, and Butas, whom he chiefly employed in public business. Butas he sent unto the haven to see if all his men that were embarked were under sail: and he gave his hand unto the physician to be bound up, because it was swollen with the blow he gave one of his slaves when he hit him on the face. All his servants were glad to hear of that, hoping then that he desired to live.

Soon after came Butas back again from the haven, and brought him word that all were gone but Crassus, who stayed about some business he had, and yet that he was going to take ship: howbeit that the sea was very rough, and wind exceeding great. Cato hearing this, sighed, being sorry for them that were upon the sea; and sent Butas back again to the harbour, to see if any man came back for any matter they had to say unto him. The little birds began to chirp, and Cato fell again in a little slumber. But thereupon Butas returned, and brought him word that all was quiet in the harbour, and there was no stir. Then Cato bade him go his way, and shut the door after him, and laid him down in his bed, as though he had meant to have slept out all the rest of the night.

[Cato then killed himself with his sword. Plutarch describes this quite graphically.]

Part Three

Whereupon the three hundred Romans (in less time than a man would have thought Cato's own household servants could have known of his death) were at his doors; and immediately after, all the people of Utica also came thither, and with one voice called Cato their benefactor and saviour, and said he only was a free man, and had an invincible mind; and this was done when they heard that Caesar was not far from Utica.

Furthermore, neither fear of the present danger, nor the desire to flatter the conqueror, neither any private quarrel amongst themselves, could keep them from honouring Cato's funerals. For, sumptuously setting out his body, and honourably accompanying his funerals as might be, they buried him by the seaside, where at this present time is to be seen his image, holding a sword in his hand.

After that, they made their best way to save themselves and their city.

Now Caesar being advertised, by them that came unto him, how Cato stirred not from Utica, nor fled not, but sent all others away, saving himself, and his son, and a few of his friends that remained there, being afraid of nothing: he could not devise what he meant by it. Therefore esteeming Cato much, he made haste with all the speed he could with his army, to come thither. But when he understood that Cato had slain himself, writers do report he said thus:

"O Cato, I envy thy death, since thou hast envied mine honour."

Indeed, had Cato been contented Caesar should have saved his life, he had not so much impaired his own honour, as he had augmented Caesar's glory. And yet what Caesar would have done, men make it doubtful, saving that they conjecture well of Caesar's clemency.


Cato was forty-eight years old when he died. His son suffered no injury from Caesar; but it is said he grew idle and dissipated.

[omission for content]

But his earlier 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 flee, 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 Porcia, 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.

Statilius, 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.

Narration and Discussion

". . . all the people of Utica also came thither, and with one voice called Cato their benefactor and saviour, and said he only was a free man, and had an invincible mind." If they had done this before Cato's death, might he have changed his mind?

Later on, people wondered whether Caesar would have put Cato to death, or forgiven him. What do you think?

For older students: "Indeed, had Cato been contented Caesar should have saved his life, he had not so much impaired his own honour, as he had augmented Caesar's glory." What did Plutarch mean by this?

Examination Questions

Younger Students:

1. a) Tell what you know of Cato's childhood, both what he was like and the world around him.

b) Plutarch said that Cato's attempt to make Caesar and Pompey be friends caused "the whole destruction of the empire of Rome." Can you explain why?

Older Students:

1. "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." Give some other examples of Cato's passion for law and justice.

2. (High school) "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." Explain and illustrate.


Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans. Englished by Sir Thomas North. With an introduction by George Wyndham. Volume V. London: Dent, 1894.

Plutarch's Lives: The Dryden Plutarch. Revised by Arthur Hugh Clough, Volume III. London: J.M. Dent, 1910.

AmblesideOnline Plutarch Readings:

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