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of each province, and at the same time not to give any offence to the
Galatian Deiotarus,[675] who prayed Cato to come to him on account of
the ancient ties of hospitality and friendship that subsisted between
him and Cato's family, he made his sojourning after this fashion. At
daybreak he used to send forward his bread-maker and cook to the place
where he intended to lodge; and it was their practice to enter the
city with great decorum and no stir, and if there happened to be no
ancient friend of Cato's family there or no acquaintance, they would
prepare for his reception in an inn without troubling anybody; and if
there was no inn, they would in that case apply to the magistrates and
gladly accept what accommodation was offered. And oftentimes getting
no credit, and being neglected because they did not apply to the
magistrates about these matters with noise or threats, Cato came upon
them before they had accomplished their business, and when he was
seen, he was still more despised; and because he would sit silently on
the baggage, he gave them the notion of being a person of mean
condition and a very timid man. However Cato would call them to him,
and would say, "Ye miserable wretches, lay aside this inhospitable
practice. All those who come to you will not be Catos. Dull by your
kind reception the power of those who only want a pretext to take by
force what they cannot get from you with your consent."

XIII. In Syria[676] a laughable incident is said to have happened to
him. For as he was walking to Antiocheia, he saw near the gates on the
outside a number of men arranged on each side of the road, among whom
young men by themselves in cloaks and boys on the other side stood in
orderly wise, and some had white vests and crowns, and these were
priests of the gods or magistrates. Now Cato, being quite sure that
some honourable reception was preparing for him by the city, was angry
with those of his own people who had been sent on, for not having
prevented this, and he bade his friends get off their horses and he
proceeded with them on foot. But when they came near, he who was
arranging all this ceremony and setting the folk in order, a man
somewhat advanced in years, holding a rod in his hand and a chaplet,
advanced in front of the rest, and meeting Cato, without even saluting
him, asked where they had left Demetrius and when he would be there.
Demetrius had been a slave of Pompeius, but at this time, as all the
world, so to speak, had their eyes on Pompeius, Demetrius was courted
above his merits on account of his great influence with Pompeius. Now
the friends of Cato were seized with such a fit of laughter that they
could not contain themselves as they walked through the crowd, but
Cato, who at the time was vehemently disconcerted, uttered the words,
"O ill-fated city," and nothing more; afterwards however he was
accustomed to laugh at the matter himself both when he told the story
and when he thought of it.

XIV. However Pompeius himself reproved those who thus misbehaved
themselves towards Cato in their ignorance. For when Cato on his
arrival at Ephesus went to pay his respects to Pompeius as his elder,
and much his superior in reputation and then at the head of the
greatest armies, Pompeius observing him did not wait or allow Cato to
approach him as he was seated, but springing up as to a man of
superior rank, he met him and gave him his right hand. And Pompeius
passed many encomiums on the merit of Cato while treating him as a
friend and showing him attention during his stay, and still more when
he had departed, so that all persons being admonished and now
directing their observation to Cato admired him for the things for
which he was despised, and studied his mildness and magnanimity. Yet
it did not escape notice that the great attention of Pompeius to him
proceeded more from respect than from love, and people discerned that
Pompeius honoured him while he was present, and was glad when he went
away. For the other young men who came to him, he was ambitious to
keep with him, and he wished them to stay, but he asked of Cato
nothing of the kind, and as if he were not commander with
irresponsible power while Cato was there, he was glad to get rid of
him; and yet he was almost the only person among those who were
sailing to Rome to whom Pompeius commended his children and wife, who
however were connected with Cato by kinship. In consequence of this
there was high regard and great exertion and emulation in the cities
towards Cato, and suppers and invitations, wherein Cato bade his
friends keep a watch upon him, lest he should unawares make good what
Curio[677] had said. For Curio, who was annoyed at the austerity of
Cato, who was his friend and intimate, asked him if he should like to
visit Asia after he had served his time in the army. And on Cato
saying that he should like it very much, "You say well," replied
Curio, "for you will be more agreeable when you return thence, and
tamer," using some such words as these.

XV. Deiotarus the Galatian, who was now an old man, sent for Cato,
wishing to intrust to him his children and his family; and on his
arrival he offered him all manner of presents, and tried and entreated
him in every way till he so irritated Cato, that after arriving in the
evening and staying all night, he set off on the following day about
the third hour. However when he had advanced one day's journey, he
found in Possinus[678] more presents than before awaiting him there,
and letters from the Galatian begging him to receive them; and if he
should not be disposed to take them, to let his friends at least
receive favours on his account, as they well deserved it, and Cato had
not much of his own. But Cato did not give in even to these arguments,
though he saw that some of his friends were beginning to be softened
and were inclined to blame him; but observing that all receiving of
gifts might find a good excuse, and his friends should share in all
that he got honourably and justly, he sent back the presents to
Deiotarus. As he was about to set sail to Brundisium, his friends
thought that they ought to put the ashes of Cæpio in another vessel,
but Cato, saying that he would rather part with his life than the
ashes of his brother, set sail. And indeed it is said that it chanced
that he had a very dangerous passage, though the rest got to
Brundisium with little difficulty.

XVI. On his return to Rome he spent his time either at home in the
company of Athenodorus, or in the Forum assisting his friends. Though
the office of Quæstor[679] was now open to him, he did not become a
candidate for it till he had read the laws relating to the
quæstorship, and had learned all particulars from the experienced, and
had comprehended the powers of the office in a certain shape.
Accordingly as soon as he was established in the office, he made a
great change in the servants and clerks about the treasury, for as
they constantly had in hand the public accounts and the laws, and had
young superiors who, by reason of their inexperience and ignorance, in
fact required others to teach and direct them, they did not allow
their superiors to have any power, but were the superior officers
themselves, until Cato vigorously applied himself to the business, not
having the name only and the honour of a magistrate, but understanding
and judgment and apt expression; and he resolved to make the clerks
into servants as they really were, in some things detecting their evil
doings, and in others correcting their errors which arose from
inexperience. But as the clerks were insolent, and attempted to
ingratiate themselves with and to flatter the other quæstors, and
resisted him, he expelled from the treasury the first among them whom
he had detected in knavish dealings in a matter of trust concerning an
inheritance, and he brought another to trial for dishonesty. This
second person Catulus Lutatius[680] the censor came forward to defend,
a man who had great dignity from his office, and the greatest from his
merit, being considered superior to all the Romans in integrity and
temperance; and he was also an admirer and intimate friend of Cato all
through his life. Now, when Catulus found that the justice of the case
was against him and openly asked to have the man acquitted for his
sake, Cato would not allow him to act so: and when he still continued
to urge his request, Cato said, "It were a scandalous thing, Catulus,
for you, who are the censor, and whose duty it is to examine into our
lives, to be turned out[681] by our officers." When Cato had uttered
these words, Catulus looked at him as if he were going to reply, but
he said nothing, and either being angry or ashamed he went away in
silence and perplexed. However the man was not convicted, for when the
votes for condemnation had exceeded those for acquittal by a single
vote, and Lollius Marcus, one of the colleagues of Cato, owing to
sickness had not attended at the trial, Catulus sent to him and
prayed him to give his support to the man; and he was carried thither
in a litter after the trial and gave the vote which acquitted. However
Cato did not employ the clerk nor give him his pay, nor did he take
any reckoning at all of the vote of Lollius.

XVII. Having thus humbled the clerks and reduced them to obedience, by
managing the accounts in his own way, he made the treasury in a short
time more respected than the Senate, so that every body said and
considered that Cato had surrounded the quæstorship with the dignity
of the consulship. For in the first place finding that many persons
owed old debts to the state and that the state was indebted to many,
he at the same time put an end to the state being wronged and wronging
others, by demanding the money from those who owed it vigorously and
without relenting at all, and paying the creditors speedily and
readily, so that the people respected him when they saw those pay who
expected to defraud the state, and those recover who never expected
it. In the next place, it was the general practice to bring in
writings without observing the proper forms, and previous quæstors
used to receive false decrees to please persons, and at their request.
Cato however let nothing of this kind escape his notice, and on one
occasion being in doubt about a decree, whether it was really
ratified, though many persons testified to the fact, he would not
trust them, nor did he allow it to be deposited until the consuls came
and by oath confirmed its genuineness. Now there were many whom Sulla
had rewarded for killing proscribed persons at the rate of twelve
thousand drachmæ apiece, and though all detested them as accursed and
abominable wretches, no one ventured to bring them to punishment; but
Cato, calling to account every man who had public money by unfair
means, made him give it up and at the same time upbraided him for his
unholy and illegal acts with passion and argument. Those whom this
befel were immediately charged with murder and were brought before the
judices in a manner prejudged, and were punished, to the joy of all
who considered that the tyranny of those former times was at the same
time blotted out and that they witnessed Sulla himself punished.

XVIII. The many were captivated by his persevering and unwearied
industry: for none of his colleagues went up earlier to the treasury
or came away after him. He never omitted attending any meeting of the
people and of the Senate, for he feared and kept a watch on those who
were ready to vote for remissions of debts and taxes and for gifts in
favour of any body. By proving that the treasury was inaccessible and
free from intrigues, and full of money, he showed that they could be
rich without doing wrong. Though at first he appeared to be disliked
by and odious to some of his colleagues, he afterwards gained their
good-will by subjecting himself on behalf of them all to the hatred
that was incurred by not giving away the public money and by not
deciding dishonestly, and by furnishing them with an answer to those
who preferred their requests and urged them, that nothing could be
done if Cato did not consent. On the last day of his office when he
had been accompanied to his house by almost all the citizens, he heard
that many who were intimate with Marcellus,[682] and men of influence,
had fallen upon him at the treasury and having got round him were
forcing him to sign a certain payment of money that was due. Marcellus
from his boyhood had been a friend of Cato and together with him had
been a most excellent magistrate, but by himself he was easily led by
others through false shame, and was ready to oblige any body.
Accordingly Cato immediately returned to the treasury, and finding
that Marcellus had been prevailed upon to sign the payment asked for
the tablets and erased what was written, while Marcellus stood by and
said not a word. Having done this Cato conducted him down from the
treasury and put him in his house; and Marcellus neither then nor
afterwards found fault with Cato, but continued on intimate terms with
him all along. Nor did Cato when he had quitted the treasury leave it
destitute of protection, but slaves of his were there daily who copied
out the transactions, and he himself purchased for five talents books
which contained the public accounts from the times of Sulla to his own
quæstorship, and he always had them in his hands.

XIX. He used to go into the Senate house the first, and he was the
last to come away; and often while the rest were slowly assembling, he
would sit and read quietly, holding his toga before the book. He never
went abroad when there was to be a meeting of the Senate; but
afterwards when Pompeius saw that Cato could not be prevailed upon,
and could never be brought to comply with the unjust measures on which
he was intent, he used to contrive to engage him in giving his aid to
some friend in a matter before the courts, or in arbitrations, or in
discharging some business. But Cato quickly perceiving his design,
refused all such engagements and made it a rule to do nothing else
while the Senate was assembled. For it was neither for the sake of
reputation, nor self-aggrandisement, nor by a kind of spontaneous
movement, nor by chance, like some others, that he was thrown into the
management of state affairs, but he selected a public career as the
proper labour of a good man, and thought that he ought to attend to
public concerns more than the bee to its cells, inasmuch as he made it
his business to have the affairs of the provinces and decrees and
trials and the most important measures communicated to him by his
connections and friends in every place. On one occasion by opposing
Clodius the demagogue, who was making a disturbance and laying the
foundation for great charges, and calumniating to the people the
priests and priestesses, among whom was also Fabia,[683] the sister of
Terentia, Cicero's wife, he was in great danger, but he involved
Clodius in disgrace and compelled him to withdraw from the city; and
when Cicero thanked him, Cato said that he ought to reserve his
gratitude for the state, as it was for the sake of the state that he
did every thing and directed his political measures. In consequence of
this there was a high opinion of him, so that an orator said to the
judices on a certain trial when the evidence of a single person was
produced, that it was not right to believe a single witness even if he
was Cato; and many persons now were used to say when speaking of
things incredible and contrary to all probability, as by way of
proverb, that this could not be believed even if Cato said it. And
when a man of bad character and great expense delivered a discourse in
the senate in favour of frugality and temperance, Amnæus[684] rose up
and said, "My man, who will endure you, you who sup like Crassus, and
build like Lucullus, and harangue us like Cato." Others also who were
people of bad character and intemperate, but in their language
dignified and severe, they used to call by way of mockery, Catos.

XX. Though many invited him to the tribuneship, he did not think it
well to expend the power of a great office and magistracy, no more
than that of a strong medicine, on matters wherein it was not
required. At the same time as he had leisure from public affairs, he
took books and philosophers with him and set out for Lucania, for he
had lands there on which there was no unseemly residence. On the road
he met with many beasts of burden and baggage and slaves, and learning
that Nepos Metellus[685] was returning to Rome for the purpose of
being a candidate for the tribuneship, he halted without speaking, and
after a short interval ordered his people to turn back. His friends
wondering at this, he said, "Don't you know that even of himself
Metellus is a formidable man by reason of his violence; and now that
he has come upon the motion of Pompeius, he will fall upon the state
like a thunderbolt and put all in confusion? It is therefore not a
time for leisure or going from home, but we must get the better of the
man or die nobly in defence of liberty." However at the urgency of his
friends he went first to visit his estates, and after staying no long
time he returned to the city. He arrived in the evening, and as soon
as day dawned, he went down into the Forum to be a candidate for the
tribuneship and to oppose Metellus. For this magistracy gives more
power to check than to act; and even if all the rest of the tribunes
save one should assent to a measure, the power lies with him who does
not consent or permit.

XXI. At first there were few of Cato's friends about him, but when his
views became public, in a short time all the people of character and
distinction crowded together and cheered and encouraged him, for they
said it was no favour that he was receiving, but he was conferring the
greatest favour on his country and the most honest of the citizens,
for that when it was often in his power to hold a magistracy without
any trouble, he now came down to contend on behalf of freedom and the
constitution, not without danger. It is said that owing to many
persons through zeal and friendly disposition crowding towards him he
was in some danger, and with difficulty on account of the crowd he
made his way to the Forum. Being elected tribune with others and with
Metellus, and observing that the consular comitia were accompanied
with bribery, he rated the people, and at the close of his speech he
swore that he would prosecute the briber, whoever he might be, with
the exception of Silanus,[686] on account of his connection with him;
for Silanus had to wife Servilia, a sister of Cato. For this reason he
passed over Silanus, but he prosecuted Lucius Murena,[687] on the
charge of having secured his election with Silanus by bribery. There
was a law according to which the accused had always the power to
appoint a person to watch the accuser, in order that it might not be
unknown what he was getting together and preparing to support the
prosecution. Now he who was appointed by Murena to watch Cato used to
accompany him and observe his conduct, and when he saw that Cato was
doing nothing with unfair design or contrary to equity, but honourably
and in a kindly spirit was going a simple and straightforward course
towards the prosecution, he had such admiration of his noble bearing
and morality that he would come up to Cato in the Forum, or go to his
door and ask, whether he intended that day to attend to any matters
that concerned the prosecution, and if he said that he did not, he
would take his word and go away. When the trial came on, Cicero, who
was then consul and one of the advocates of Murena, on account of
Cato's connection with the Stoics, ridiculed and mocked these
philosophers and their so-called paradoxes, and thus made the judices
laugh. On which it is said that Cato, with a smile, observed to those
who were present, "My friends, what a ridiculous consul we have."
Murena, who was acquitted, did not display towards Cato the temper of
a bad or a foolish man, for in his consulship he used to ask his
advice in the most important affairs, and all along in every other
matter showed him respect and confidence. Cato's own conduct was the
cause of this, for while he was severe and terrible on the judgment
seat and in the Senate on behalf of justice, he was benevolent and
friendly in all his social intercourse.

XXII. Before Cato entered on the tribuneship, during Cicero's
consulship he supported his administration in many other difficulties,
and he put the finishing stroke to the measures relating to
Catiline,[688] which were the most important and glorious of all.
Catiline himself, who was designing to effect a pernicious and
complete change in the Roman state, and was at the same time stirring
up insurrection and war, being convicted by Cicero, fled from the
city; but Lentulus and Cethegus and many others with them, who had
taken up the conspiracy, upbraiding Catiline with cowardice and want
of spirit in his designs, were plotting to destroy the city with
fire, and to subvert the supremacy of Rome by the revolt of nations
and by foreign wars. Their schemes having been discovered in the
manner told in the Life of Cicero, he laid the matter before the
Senate for their deliberation, whereupon Silanus, who spoke first,
gave his opinion that the men ought to suffer the extreme punishment,
and those who followed him spoke to the same effect, till it came to
Cæsar's turn. Cæsar now rose, and as he was a powerful speaker and
wished rather to increase all change and disturbance in the state than
to allow it to be quenched, considering it as the stuff for his own
designs to work upon, he urged many arguments of a persuasive and
humane kind to the effect that the men ought not to be put to death
without trial, and he advised that they should be confined in prison:
and he wrought so great a change in the opinion of the Senate, who
were afraid of the people, that even Silanus retracted what he had
said, and affirmed that neither had he recommended that they should be
put to death, but that they should be imprisoned; for to a Roman this
was the extreme of punishment.

XXIII. Such had been the change, and all the Senators in a body had
gone over to the milder and more humane proposal, when Cato rising to
deliver his opinion, commenced his speech in anger and passion,
abusing Silanus for changing his mind, and attacking Cæsar, whom he
charged with a design to overturn the State under a popular guise and
pretext of humanity, and with making the Senate alarmed at things at
which he himself ought to be alarmed, and therewith well content, if
he escaped unharmed on account of what had passed and without
suspicion, when he was so openly and audaciously endeavouring to
rescue the common enemies of all, and admitting that he had no pity
for the state, such and so great though it was, and though it had so
narrowly escaped destruction, but was shedding tears and lamenting
because those who ought never to have existed or been born would by
their death release the state from great bloodshed and danger. They
say that this is the only speech of Cato which is preserved, and that
it was owing to Cicero the consul, who had previously instructed
those clerks who surpassed the rest in quick writing in the use of
certain signs which comprehended in their small and brief marks the
force of many characters and had placed them in different parts of the
Senate house. For the Romans at this time were not used to employ nor
did they possess what are called note-writers,[689] but it was on this
occasion, as they say, that they were first established in a certain
form. However, Cato prevailed and changed the opinion of the Senate,
who condemned the men to death.

XXIV. Now as we perhaps ought not to omit even the slight tokens of
character when we are delineating as it were a likeness of the soul,
it is reported that on this occasion when Cæsar was making much
exertion and a great struggle against Cato, and the attention of the
Senate was fixed on both of them, a small letter was brought in for
Cæsar from the outside. Cato attempted to fix suspicion on this
matter, and alleged that some of the senators were disturbed at it and
he bade him read the writing, on which Cæsar handed the letter to Cato
who was standing near him. Cato read the letter, which was an amatory
epistle addressed to Cæsar by his sister Servilia[690] who was
enamoured of Cæsar and had been debauched by him, and throwing it at
Cæsar he said, "Take it, drunkard," and so resumed his speech. Indeed

Online Library46 PlutarchPlutarch's Lives Volume III → online text (page 49 of 55)