Plutarch's lives : in six volumes : translated from the Greek (Volume 2) online

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that the Romans were not in a condition to defpiie the
Carthaginians. On the other hand, it feemed a dange-
rous thing to Cato, that a city which had been al-
ways great, and was now grown fober and wife from
her former calamities, fliould flill lie watching every
advantage againil the Romans, who were now become
wanton and giddy by reafon of their great power ; fo
that he thought it the wifeft courfe to have all outward
dangers removed, at a time when through their depra-
vity and corruption they had fo many hanging o\v
their heads at home.

Thus Guo, they fay, ftirred up the third and lad


wai, made in tle third year of the piad ; two hundred years before
hundred and forty- fourth Olym- tlie birth of our Saviour.

. The Comparifon of

war againft the Carthaginians ; but as foon as it was
begun he died, prophefying of the pcrfon that fhould
put an end to it. He was then a young man, but he
was a tribune in the army, and had given great proofs
of his courage and conduct. When the news of his
firft exploits was brought to Rome, Cato cried out,

In him alone the foul andfenfe remain ;

the reft are fleeting forms, and Jbadows vain (i).

This prophecy Scipio foon confirmed by his actions.

Cato left one fon by his fecond wife, who, as we
obferved before, was called Salonius, and a grandfon by
the fon of his firft wife, who died before him. Cato
Salonius died in his praetorfhip, and left behind him a
fon called Marcus, who was after wards Conful. Salonius
was grandfather of Cato the philofopher, the beft and
greateft man of his time.

Comparifon of Ariftides with Cato.

HAving mentioned the moft memorable actions of
thefe great men, if the whole life of the one be
compared with that of the other, it will not be eafy
to difcern the difference between them, there being fo
many ftrong circumftances of refemblance. But if
we examine the feveral parts of their lives diftindtly, as
we confider a poem or a picture, we fhall find this
common to them both, that they advanced themfelves
to great honour and dignity in the commonwealth, by
no other means than their own virtue and abilities. It
is true, when Ariftides appeared, Athens was not in its
grandeur ; the chief magiftrates of his time being men
only of moderate and equal fortunes : the eftimate of
the greateft eftates then was five hundred Medimni ;
of thofe of the fecond order who were called Knights
three hundred ^ and of thofe of the third order, called


(i) This is fpoken of Tirefias by Circe in the tenth book of
Homer's Odyfley.

Ariftides vtitb Cato,

Zeucntae, two hundred. But Cato, out of a petty vil-
lage and from a country life, launched into the com-
monwealth, as it were into a vaft ocean, at a time
when there were no fuch governors as the Curii, Fa-
bricii, and Hoftilii ; poor labouring men were not then
advanced from the plough and fpade to be governors
and magistrates ; but greatnefs of family, riches, large
diflributions among the people, and fervility in court-
ing their favour, were the only things regarded by
the Romans, who were now elated with the ftrength
of their commonwealth ; and who loved to humble
thofe who flood candidates for any preferment. It
was very different to have fuch an one as Themiflocles
for an adverfary, a peribn of. mean extraction and
fmall fortune, (for he was not worth, as it is faid,
above three, or five talents at the moft, when lie firfi
applied himfelf to publick affairs) and to contelt with
Scipio Africanus, Servius Galba and Quintius Flaminius,
without any other aiiiitance, or fupport, but a tongue
accuflomed to fpcak with freedom, and to maintain
truth and juftice. Befides, Ariftides at Marathon, and
again at Plataeae, was but a tenth commander ; whereas
Cato was chofen one -of the two confuls when he had
many competitors, and was preferred before feven moft
noble and eminent candidates to be one of the two
Cenfors. Befides, Ariftides was never principal in any
adion, for Miltiaccs won the day at Marathon , The-
miftocles at Salamis ^ and as Herodotus tells us, Paufanias
got the glory of the important victory at Plataese ; nay
further, Sophanes, Aminias, CallimachuSjandCynaegyrus,
behaved fo well in all thofe engagements, that they
contended with Ariftides even for the fecond place.

But Cato obtained the chief praile for courage and
conduct, not only in the Spanifh war when he was con-
ful ; but even whilft lit was only tribune at Thermopylae,
and under another's command, he gained the glory of
the victory ; for he as it were opened a large gate for
the Romans to rufh in upon Antiochus, and brought the:
war on the back of one who minded only what was
before him- i- iv c tory, v/hu-h v/as bjxoncl di(-


464 fbc Comparifon of

pute Cato's own work, drove Afia out of Greece, and
by that means made a way thither afterwards for Scipio,
Both of them indeed were always victorious in war
but at home Ariftides was defeated, being bam fried and
opprefTed by the faction of Themiftocles ; whilfl Cato,
notwithftanding he had almofl all the chief men of
Rome his adverfaries, who did not leave off contending
with him even in his old age ^ yet like a fkilful wreftler
he flill kept his footing ; and though he was engaged
alfoin many publick fuits, fometimes as plaintiff, ibme-
times as defendant, he generally fucceeded in his pro-
lecution of others, and was always acquitted when pro-
fecuted himfelf ; his unblemifhed life was the bulwark
by which he defended himfelf, and his eloquence the
weapon by which he annoyed his enemies ; and to this
more truly than to chance or fortune, the fuftaining
his dignity to the laft ought to be afcribed. For An-
tipater writing of Ariftotle the philofopher, after his
death, among the other great qualities that philofo-
pher was poflefled. of, mentions this as one of the
greatefl, that he was endowed with a faculty of per-
fuading men to whatever he pleafed.

Political virtue, or the art of governing cities and
kingdoms, is undoubtedly the greateft perfection that the
nature of man can acquire ; and it is generally agreed,
that ccconomy, or the art of governing a family, is no
jfmall part of this virtue ; for a city, which is a collec-
tion of private families, cannot be in a flourilhing and
profperons condition, unlefs the families of which it is
compofed be fkmrifhing and profperous too. And Ly-
curgus, when he prohibited the ufe of gold and filver
in Sparta, and gave the citizens money made of iron,
that had been fpoiled by the fire, did not defign to
difcharge them from minding their houfhold affairs, but
only to prevent luxury (which is as it were a tumour
and inflammation caufed by riches) that every one
might have the greater plenty of the neceflaries of life.
By this eftablimment of his it appears, that he faw fur-
ther than any other legiflator, and that he was fenfible
that every ibciety had more to fear from the poor and


A R I S T I D E S With C A T O.

neceflltous part of it, than from thofe that were rich
and haughty. Therefore Cato was no lefs felicitous in
the management of domeftick concerns, than in the
government of publick affairs ; for he increafed his
eftate, and became an example to others in ceconomy
and husbandry ; concerning which he collected in his
writings many ufeful things ; whereas Ariflides by his
poverty made juflice odious, as if it were the pefl and
impoverifher of a family, and beneficial to all but thofe
that were endowed with it. Hefiod however, has fa id
many things to exhort us both to juflice and oeconomy,
and inveighs againfl idlenefs as the origin of injuflice.
This is well reprefented by Homer in thefe lines j

The works of peace my foul difdain'd to bear,
'The rural labour or domeftick care ;
To raife the maft, the mijjile dart to wing.
And fend fwift arrows from the bounding firing,
Were arts the Gods made grateful to my mind.

By this he intimates that thofe who neglect their own
eftates, are naturally led to fupport themfelves by vio-
lence and rapine. The phyficians fay of oil, that out-
wardly applied it is very wholfome ; but taken inwardly
very deftructive ; but we mufl not in the fame manner
affert that it is neceffary for a jufl man to be ufeful to
others, but unprofitable to himfelf and his family.
Therefore in this Ariftides's politicks feem to have been
defective ; for (as it is generally faid) he was fo negli-
gent of his fortune, as not to leave behind him enough
for the portions of his daughters or even for the ex-
pence of his own funeral. Whereas Cato's family pro-
duced confuls and praetors to the fourth generation ; for
his grandfons and their children came to the highefl
preferments : but Ariflides, who was the principal man
of Greece, through extreme poverty reduced fbme of
his defcendants to get their living by fliowing jugglers- .
tricks ; others to hold out their hands for publick
alms; leaving none of them means to perform any
thing great, or worthy his dignity. But on the other
hand it may be faid, that poverty is difhonourable not
VOL, II. G g in

466 ke CompanTon of

in itfelf, but when it is a fign of lazinefs, intemperance,
luxury and careleffnefs ^ and that when it is aflbciated
with all the virtues in a temperate, induftrious, juft and
valiant flatefman, it mows a great and elevated mind - y
for he is unfit for great things, who bufies himfeif in
trifles ;. nor can he relieve the many r^eedy, who himfeif
needs many things. The great qualification for ferving
the publick is not wealth, but a mind* that is fatisfied
in itfelf, and which requiring no fuperflu.ity at home,
leaves the man at full liberty to ferve the common-
wealth. God is entirely exempt from all want ; and in
proportion as the virtuous man lefiens his wants, he
approaches nearer to the perfection of the divine Being.
For as a body well built for health, requires nothing ex-
quifite, either in clothes or food ; thus it is in the whole
iyftem of a man's life, and in a family ; when they are
well conflituted, they are eafily fupported. Now riches-
ought to be proportioned to the life we make of them j
he that amailes a great deal, and makes ufe of but little,
is not better for his wealth , for if, while he is folicit-
ous to.encreafe it, he has no defire of thofe things which
wealth can procure, he is foolifh if he does defire
them, and through fordidnefs of temper abftains from
enjoying them, he is miferable. If the end of acquir-
ing riches is that they may be enjoyed, I would afk
Cato himfeif why he gloried in being contented with
little, though he pofleded much ? But if it be noble,
as indeed it is, to feed on coarfe bread, to drink the
fame wine with our {ervants and labourers, and not to
covet purple and plaiftered houfes, neither Ariflides, nor
Epaminondas, nor Manius Curius, nor Caius Fabricius are
to be-cenfured for neglecting to acquire what they did
not like to ufe : and it was a great weaknefs in fuch a
man as Goto, who efteemed turnips a moft delicate food,
and who boiled them hi mfelf while his wife kneeded the
bread, to talk fo much and fo minutely about -money,
and to write how a man may fooneft grow rich ; for to
be content with little is no otherwife the proof of a great
mind, than as it frees a man from all care about pro-
curing fuperfiuities, at the fame time .that it removes


A R I S T I D E S 'With CATO,

the defire of enjoying them. Therefore Ariflides when
he was fpeaking in defence of Callias, faid, " that it be-
"came them only to blufh at poverty, who were poor a~
il gainft their will .-, that they, who like him were wil-
" iingly fo, might glory in it ; " for it is ridiculous to think
Aritlides's poverty was to be imputed to floth, fince he
might without any reproach by the fpoil of one bar-
barian, or the plunder of one tent, 'have become wealthy.
But enough of this.

As to the difference between them in their warlike
expeditions, Cato's added not much to the -Roman em-
pire, which already was very great ; but thofe of Ari-
ftides are the nobleft, rnoft fplendid and important acti-
ons in which the Greeks were ever concerned, the battles
at Marathon, Salamin, and Plats^e. Nor is the defeat
of Antiochus, nor the demolition of the walls of the
Spanifh towns to be compared with the deftruction of
fo many thoufands of barbarians both by fea and land
in the war with Xerxes. In all thefe noble exploits Ari-
-ftides was inferior to none in valour ; but he left the
glory and the laurels, as well as the wealth and money
to thofe who defired them more ; for he was above all
thofe things. I do not blame Cato for perpetually boaft-
ing and preferring himfelf before all others, though in
one of his orations he (ays, " It is equally abfurd to praife
" and difpraife one's felf ;" but in my opinion he is more
perfectly virtuous who does not fo much as defire the
praifes of others, than he who is always extolling him-
felf; for modefty does not a little contribute to that
mildnefs of temper which becomes a ftatefman ; whereas
pride and ambition render a man harm and morofe,
and neceffarily expofe him to envy. From this fault
Ariflides was entirely free, but Cato was very fubjecl to
it. For Ariftides by aflifting his enemy Themiftocles in
matters of the higheil importance, and acting as it were the
part of an officer under him, reftored the city of Athens ;
whereas Cato, by oppofmg Scipio, almoft ruined and de-
feated his expedition againft the Carthaginians, in which
he overthrew Hannibal, who till then was invincible - y
and at laft, by continually raifing fufpicions and calum-

3 be Companion, &c.

nies againft him, he drove him out of the city, and
cauied his brother to be condemned with ignominy,
having accufed him of embezzling the publick money.

As to the virtue of temperance, which Cato always
highly extolled, Ariflides preferved it truly pure and un-
tainted : but Cato's marriage, unbecoming his dignity
and age, drew upon him no flight or improbable iufpi-
cion of his wanting this virtue. For it was not at all
decent for him at that age to bring home to his fon and
his daughter-in-law, a young wife whofe father had
been his fecretary, and received wages of the publick.
But whether he did this out of luft, or to be revenged of
his fon for the affront put upon his favourite flave,
both the fact and the caufe were difhonourable. And
the reafon which he ironically gave to his fon was falfe ;
for if he defired to get more worthy children, he ought
to have confidered it before, and to have married fome
perfon of quality, and not to have delayed it till his cri-
minal converfation with fo mean a woman came to be
difcovered j and when it was difcovered, he ought not
to have chofen him for his father-in-law whom he could
mold eafily prevail upon, but him whofe alliance would
hare been moft honourable.



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Online LibraryPlutarchPlutarch's lives : in six volumes : translated from the Greek (Volume 2) → online text (page 42 of 42)