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Form: Marcus Porcius.
The earliest important representative of Latin prose, and an ardent champion of Roman national feeling in life as in literature. He was born 234 B.C., at Tusculum, and passed his youth in a laborious life in the country. At the age of seventeen he entered the army, and fought with distinction in the Haunibalic war in Italy, Sicily and Africa. He was elected quaestor in 204, aedile in 199, and praetor in 198 B.C., when he administered the province of Sardinia. He attained the consulship in B.C. 195. As proconsul he was so successful in the measures he adopted for the subjugation of the province of Spain, that he was honoured with a triumph on his return. Four years later, in the capacity of legatus, he dealt the decisive stroke which gave the Romans the victory over the troops of king Antiochus at Thermopylae. In 184 he was elected censor, and administered his office with such strictness that he received the cognomen of Censorius. He was the enemy of all innovations, especially of the Greek influence which was making itself felt at Rome. Everything which he thought endangered the ancient Roman discipline, he met with unwearied opposition, regardless of any unpopularity he might incur. He is said to have been prosecuted forty-four times, and to have been always acquitted. The occasions on which he himself appeared as prosecutor were even more numerous. Even in extreme old age he retained the vigour of his intellect, and was as active as before in politics and literature. He is said to have been an old man when he made his first acquaintance with Greek literature. He died 149 B.C., in his eighty-sixth year. [See Livy xxxix 40.] Cato was the first writer who composed a history of Rome in Latin, and who published any considerable number of his own speeches. His chief work was the Origines, or seven books of Italian and Roman history. The title Origines, or "Early History," applied properly only to the first three books, which contained the story of the kings, and traced the rise of the various cities of Italy. But it was afterwards extended to the whole work, which included the history of Rome down to B.C. 151. In the narrative of his own achievements he inserted his own speeches. From early manhood he displayed great energy as an orator. More than 150 of his speeches were known to Cicero, who speaks with respect of his oratorical performances. The titles, and some fragments of eighty of his orations have survived. In the form of maxims addressed to his son (Praecepta ad Filium) he drew a comprehensive sketch of everything which, in his opinion, was useful for a young man to know if he was to be a vir bonus. He also put together in verse some rules for every-day conduct (Carmen De Moribus). The only work of Cato which has come clown to us in anything like completeness is his treatise on agriculture (De Re Rustica), though even this we do not possess in its original shape. This was intended as a manual for the private use of one Manlius, and had reference to a particular estate belonging to him. One part is written sysmatically, the other is a miscellaneous collection of various rules. There is also a collection of 146 proverbs, each in a couple of hexameters, which bears the name of Cato. But this belongs to the later Empire, though it is probably not later than the end of the 4th century A.D. This little book was a well known manual all through the Middle Ages, and was widely circulated in translations.
Type: Standard
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