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in the female part of his family Cato appears to have always been
unlucky. For this sister had a bad report in respect of Cæsar; and the
conduct of the other Servilia, also a sister of Cato, was still more
unseemly. For though she was married to Lucullus, a man who was among
the first of the Romans in reputation, and bore him a child, she was
driven from his house for incontinence. And what was most scandalous
of all, even Cato's wife Atilia was not free from such vices, for
though he had two children by her, he was compelled to put her away
for her unseemly behaviour.

XXV. Cato then married Marcia, a daughter of Philippus,[691] who had
the character of being an honest woman, and about whom a good deal is
said; but just as in a drama, this part of Cato's life is a difficult
and perplexed matter. However it was after the following manner, as
Thrasea[692] writes, who refers as his authority to Munatius, a
companion and intimate associate of Cato. Among the numerous friends
and admirers of Cato there were some more conspicuous and
distinguished than others, of whom one was Quintus Hortensius,[693] a
man of splendid reputation and honest morals. Now as Hortensius was
desirous to be not merely an intimate friend and companion of Cato,
but in a manner to unite in kinship and community the whole family and
stock, he endeavoured to persuade Cato, whose daughter Porcia was the
wife of Bibulus and had born him two sons, to give her in turn to him
as a fertile soil to beget children in. He said that according to
men's opinion such a thing was strange, but that according to nature
it was good and for the advantage of states, that a woman who was in
her youth and perfection should neither lie idle and check her
procreative power, nor yet should by breeding more children than
enough cause trouble to her husband and impoverish him when he wanted
no more children; but that if there was a community of offspring among
worthy men, it would make virtue abundant and widely diffused among
families, and would mingle the state with itself by these family
relationships. If Bibulus, he said, was greatly attached to his wife,
he would return her as soon as she had born a child, and he had become
more closely united both with Bibulus and Cato by a community of
children. Cato replied that he loved Hortensius and valued his
kinship, but he considered it strange for Hortensius to speak about
the marriage of his daughter who had been given to another; on which
Hortensius changing his proposal and disclosing himself did not
hesitate to ask the wife of Cato, who was still young enough to bear
children, while Cato himself had children enough. And it cannot be
said that Hortensius did this because he knew that Cato paid no
attention to Marcia, for they say that she happened to be with child
at the time. Accordingly Cato seeing the earnestness and eagerness of
Hortensius did not refuse, but he said that Philippus the father of
Marcia must also approve of it. When they had seen Philippus and
informed him of the agreement, he did not give Marcia in marriage,
except in the presence of Cato, and Cato joined in giving her away.
Though this took place later, it seemed convenient to me to anticipate
the time as I had made mention of the female part of Cato's family.

XXVI. When Lentulus and his associates had been executed, and Cæsar,
on account of the charges and insinuations made against him before the
Senate, betook himself to the people for protection and was stirring
up the numerous diseased and corrupted members of the state and
collecting them about him, Cato, being alarmed, persuaded the Senate
to relieve the crowd of poor who had no property by an allowance of
grain, the expenditure for which purpose was to the amount of twelve
hundred and fifty talents[694] annually; and the threats of Cæsar were
manifestly rendered futile by this liberality and bounty. After this,
Metellus, as soon as he had entered on the tribuneship, got together
tumultuous meetings and proposed a law that Pompeius Magnus[695]
should hasten to Italy with his forces and should undertake the
protection of the city, which it was alleged was in danger from
Catiline. This was in appearance a specious proposal, but the real
object and end of the law was to put affairs in the hands of Pompeius
and to surrender to him the supremacy. When the Senate was assembled
and Cato did not in his usual way fall violently on Metellus, but
advised him with much forbearance and moderation, and at last even
betook himself to entreaty and praised the family of the Metelli for
having always been aristocratic, Metellus becoming much emboldened and
despising Cato, whom he supposed to be giving way and cowering, broke
out in extravagant threats and arrogant expressions, as if he would
accomplish every thing in spite of the Senate. On this Cato, changing
his attitude and tone and language, and concluding all that he said
with a vehement affirmation that so long as he lived Pompeius should
not come into the city with his soldiers, brought the Senate to this
opinion, that neither he nor Metellus was in a sober mind and that
neither of them was guided by sound considerations, but that the
measures of Metellus were madness which from excess of depravity was
loading to the destruction and confusion of every thing, and those of
Cato an enthusiasm of virtue struggling in behalf of honour and

XXVII. But when the people were going to vote on the law, and armed
strangers and gladiators and slaves had come to the Forum arrayed to
support Metellus, and that part of the people which longed for
Pompeius from desire of change was not small, and there was also great
support from Cæsar who was then prætor, and the first men of the
citizens rather shared in the indignation and wrongs of Cato than
joined him in making resistance, and great depression and alarm
prevailed in his family, so that some of his friends taking no food
watched all night with one another in perplexed deliberation on his
behalf, and his wife and sisters also were lamenting and weeping, Cato
himself displayed a fearless and confident behaviour to all, and
cheered them, and he took his supper, as usual, and after resting all
night was roused from a deep sleep by Minucius Thermus one of his
colleagues; and they went down to the Forum with a few persons
accompanying them, though many met them and urged them to be on their
guard. When Cato stopped and saw the temple of the Dioscuri[696]
surrounded by armed men and the steps guarded by gladiators, and
Metellus himself with Cæsar sitting above, he turned to his friends
and said, "O the daring and cowardly men, to collect such a force of
soldiery against a single man unarmed and defenceless." Saying this he
advanced straight forwards with Thermus; and those who occupied the
steps made way for them but they let nobody else pass, except that
Cato with difficulty pulled Munatius by the hand and got him up, and
then advancing right onwards, he flung himself between Metellus and
Cæsar and there took his seat, and so cut off their communications.
Cæsar and Metellus were disconcerted, but the better part of the
people seeing and admiring the noble bearing and spirit of Cato came
nearer, and with shouts encouraged Cato to be of good heart, and they
urged one another to stay and keep close together and not to betray
their liberty and the man who was contending in defence of it.

XXVIII. The clerk now produced the law, but Cato would not let him
read it, and when Metellus took it and began to read, Cato snatched
the writing from him; and when Metellus who knew the law by heart was
beginning to declare it orally, Thermus held his mouth with his hand
and stopped his voice, till at last Metellus seeing that the men were
making an opposition which he could not resist and that the people
were beginning to give way to what was best and to change, he ordered
armed men to hurry thither from his house[697] with threats and
shouts. This being done, and all having been dispersed except Cato,
who stood there, though he was pelted with stones and pieces of wood
from above, Murena, who had been brought to trial and prosecuted by
Cato, did not remain indifferent, but holding his toga in front of him
and calling out to those who were throwing missiles, to stop, and
finally persuading Cato himself and taking him in his arms, led him
off to the temple of the Dioscuri. Now when Metellus saw that all was
clear about the Rostra, and that his opponents were flying through the
Forum, being quite confident that he had got the victory, he ordered
the armed men to go away, and coming forward in an orderly manner he
attempted to conduct the proceedings about the law. But his opponents
quickly recovering themselves from their rout again advanced with loud
and confident shouts, so that the partizans of Metellus were seized
with confusion and fear, for they thought that their opponents were
falling on them with arms which they had provided themselves with from
some place or other, and not one of them stood his ground, but all ran
away from the Rostra. When they were thus dispersed, and Cato coming
forward partly commended and partly encouraged the people, the people
prepared themselves to put down Metellus by every means, and the
Senate assembling declared anew that they would support Cato and
resist the law, which they considered to be introducing discord and
civil war into Rome.

XXIX. Metellus himsalf was unmoved from his purpose and still bold,
but seeing that his partizans were struck with great terror at Cato,
and considered him invincible and that it was impossible to overpower
him, he suddenly hurried out to the Forum, and assembling the people
he said many things calculated to bring odium on Cato, and crying out
that he was flying from his tyranny and the conspiracy against
Pompeius, for which the city would speedily repent and for their
disgracing so great a man, he forthwith set out to Asia to lay all
these charges before Pompeius. Now the fame of Cato was great inasmuch
as he had eased the state of the no small burden of the tribuneship,
and in a manner had put down the power of Pompeius in the person of
Metellus; but he got still more credit by not consenting that the
Senate, who were minded to do it, should degrade Metellus, and by
opposing the measure and praying them not to pass it. For the majority
considered it a token of a humane and moderate temper not to trample
on his enemy nor insult him after he had got the victory; and to the
prudent it appeared wise and politic in him not to irritate Pompeius.
After this, Lucullus,[698] who had returned from his campaign, the
conclusion and the glory of which Pompeius was considered to have
snatched from him, ran the risk of not having a triumph, owing to
Caius Memmius stirring up the people and bringing charges against him,
rather to please Pompeius than out of any private ill-will. But Cato,
being connected with Lucullus by Lucullus having married Cato's sister
Servilia, and also thinking it a scandalous affair, resisted Memmius
and exposed himself to much calumny and many imputations. Finally an
attempt being made to eject Cato from his office, on the ground that
he was exercising tyrannical power, he so far prevailed as to compel
Memmius himself to desist from his prosecution and to give up the
contest. Lucullus accordingly had a triumph, in consideration of which
he stuck still more closely to the friendship of Cato, which was to
him a protection and bulwark against the power of Pompeius.

XXX. Pompeius[699] returning from his military command with great
reputation, and relying on the splendour and heartiness of his
reception for getting everything from the citizens that he asked for,
sent a message to the Senate before his arrival at Rome, to ask them
to put off the Comitia, that he might be present to assist Piso at his
canvass. The majority were ready to give way, but Cato who did not
consider the putting off the Comitia as the chief matter, and wished
to cut short the attempts and the hopes of Pompeius, opposed the
request and induced the Senate to change their mind and reject it.
This gave Pompeius no little uneasiness, and considering that he
should find no slight obstacle in Cato, if he did not make him his
friend, he sent for Munatius,[700] an intimate of Cato, and as Cato
had two marriageable nieces, he asked for the elder for his own wife,
and the younger for his son. Some say that the suit was not for the
nieces, but the daughters of Cato. When Munatius made the proposal to
Cato and his wife and sisters, the women were delighted above measure
at the prospect of the alliance by reason of the greatness and
reputation of the man; but Cato, without pause or deliberation, with
passion forthwith replied, "Go, Munatius, go, and tell Pompeius, that
Cato is not to be caught by approaching him through the women's
chamber, but that he is well content to have the friendship of
Pompeius, and if Pompeius will act rightly, Cato will show him a
friendship more sure than any marriage connection, but he will not
give up hostages to the reputation of Pompeius contrary to the
interests of his country." The women were vexed at these words, and
Cato's friends blamed his answer as both rude and insolent. The next
thing, however, was that Pompeius while trying to secure the
consulship for one of his friends, sent money for the tribes, and the
bribery[701] was notorious, the money being counted out in his
gardens. Accordingly when Cato observed to the women, that he who was
connected with Pompeius by marriage, must of necessity participate in
such measures and be loaded with the disgrace of them, they admitted
that he had judged better in rejecting the alliance of Pompeius. But
if we may judge by the result, Cato appears to have made a complete
mistake in not accepting the proposed alliance with Pompeius, and
allowing him to turn to Cæsar and to contract a marriage, which, by
uniting the power of Pompeius and Cæsar, nearly overthrew the Roman
state and did destroy the constitution, nothing of which probably
would have happened if Cato had not, through fear of the small errors
of Pompeius, overlooked the greatest, which was the allowing him to
increase the power of another.

XXXI. These things, however, were still in the future. Now when
Lucullus was engaged in a contest with Pompeius respecting the
arrangements made in Pontus, for each of them wished his own
arrangements to be confirmed, and Cato gave his aid to Lucullus, who
was manifestly wronged, Pompeius being worsted in the Senate and
seeking to make himself popular, proposed a division of lands among
the soldiery. But when Cato opposed him in this measure also and
frustrated the law, Pompeius next attached himself to Clodius, the
boldest of the demagogues at that time, and gained over Cæsar,[702] to
which Cato in a manner gave occasion. For Cæsar, who had returned from
his prætorship in Iberia, at the same time wished to be a candidate
for the consulship and asked for a triumph. But as it was the law that
those who were candidates for a magistracy should be present, and
those who were going to have a triumph should stay outside the walls,
Cæsar asked permission of the Senate to solicit the office through
means of others. Many were willing to consent, but Cato spoke against
it, and when he saw that the Senators were ready to oblige Cæsar, he
took up the whole day in talking, and thus frustrated the designs, of
the Senate. Cæsar accordingly giving up his hopes of a triumph,
entered the city, and immediately attached himself to Pompeius, and
sought the consulship. Being elected consul, Cæsar gave Julia in
marriage to Pompeius, and the two now coalescing against the state,
the one introduced laws for giving to the poor allotments and a
distribution of land, and the other assisted in supporting these
measures. But Lucullus and Cicero siding with Bibulus, the other
consul, opposed the measures, and Cato most of all, who already
suspected that the friendship and combination of Cæsar and Pompeius
had no just object, and said that he was not afraid of the
distribution of the land, but of the reward for it which those would
claim who were gratifying the multitude, and alluring them by this

XXXII. By these arguments Cato brought the Senate to an unanimous
opinion; and of those without the Senate no small number supported the
senators, being annoyed at the unusual measures of Cæsar: for what the
boldest and most reckless tribunes were used to propose for
popularity's sake, these very measures Cæsar in the possession of
consular power adopted, basely and meanly endeavouring to ingratiate
himself with the people. Cæsar's party, therefore, being alarmed, had
recourse to violence, and first of all a basket of ordure was thrown
upon Bibulus as he was going down to the Forum, and then the people
fell on his lictors and broke the fasces; finally missiles being
thrown about, and many being wounded, all the rest ran away from the
Forum except Cato, who walked away slowly, every now and then turning
round and cursing the citizens. Accordingly Cæsar's partisans not only
passed the law for the distribution of land,[703] but they added to it
a clause to compel all the Senate to swear that they would maintain
the law, and give their aid against any one who should act contrary to
it, and they enacted heavy penalties against those who did not swear.
All swore to maintain the law under compulsion, bearing in mind what
befell Metellus of old, whom the people allowed to be driven from[704]
Italy because he would not swear to observe a like enactment. For this
reason the women of Cato's family with tears earnestly entreated him
to yield and take the oath, and also his friends and intimate
acquaintance. But the person who most persuaded and induced Cato to
take the oath was Cicero the orator, who argued and urged that perhaps
it was not even right for him to think that he was the only man who
ought to refuse obedience to what had been determined by the common
voice; and when it was impossible to undo what had been done, it was
altogether senseless and mad to have no regard for himself; and of all
evils, he argued, it was the greatest to give up and surrender the
state, to the interests of which all his actions were directed, to
those who were plotting against it, as if he were glad to be released
from all struggles in its behalf; for if Cato did not stand in need of
Rome, Rome stood in need of Cato, and all his friends also did; and
among them Cicero said that he was the first, being the object of the
designs of Clodius, who was clearly proceeding to attack him by means
of the tribunitian office. By these and the like arguments and
entreaties, both at home and in the Forum, it is said that Cato was
induced to relent, and was prevailed upon with difficulty, and that he
came forward to take the oath last of all, except Favonius, one of his
friends and intimates.

XXXIII. Cæsar being encouraged, introduced another law for the
division of nearly the whole of Campania among the poor and needy.
Nobody spoke against it except Cato; and him Cæsar caused to be
dragged from the Rostra to prison, Cato the while remitting nothing of
his freedom of speech, but as he went along, at the same time speaking
about the law and advising them to cease attempting such political
measures. The Senate followed with downcast countenances, and the best
part of the people, much annoyed and troubled, though they said
nothing, so that Cæsar did not fail to see that they were displeased;
but out of self-will and expectation that Cato would appeal and have
recourse to entreaties, he continued leading him to prison. But when
it was plain that Cato intended to do nothing at all, Cæsar, overcome
by shame and the ill opinion of the thing, privately persuaded one of
the tribunes to rescue Cato. By these laws, however, and these grants
of land, they so cajoled the people, that they voted to Cæsar the
government of Illyricum and all Gaul with four legions for five years,
though Cato warned them that they would by their own votes plant the
tyrant in the Acropolis; and they transferred by illegal means Publius
Clodius from the patrician order to the plebeians, and made the man a
tribune, who was willing to do anything in his public capacity to
serve them, on condition that they would let Cicero be driven out; and
they made consuls Piso[705] Calpurnius, the father of Cæsar's wife,
and Gabinius Aulus, a man from the lap of Pompeius, as those say who
were acquainted with his habits and life.

XXXIV. But though Cæsar and his party had thus violently got
possession of the power, and had one part of the citizens at their
command through their grants, and another part through fear, they
still dreaded Cato. For even when they did get the advantage over him,
the fact that it was with difficulty and labour, and not without shame
and exposure that they hardly forced their purpose, was annoying and
vexatious. Clodius, indeed, did not expect to be able to put down
Cicero so long as Cato was at home, and as he was contriving how to
effect this, he sent for Cato as soon as he was in his office, and
addressed him to the effect that he considered Cato to be the purest
man of all the Romans, and he was ready to prove the sincerity of his
opinion by his acts, and he said that though many persons were
soliciting the commission to Cyprus and Ptolemæus,[706] and asking to
be sent, he thought Cato alone worthy of it, and that he gladly
offered him the favour. On Cato crying out that the thing was a snare
and insult and not a favour, Clodius replied in an insolent and
contemptuous manner, "Well, if you don't like it, you shall make the
voyage against your liking;" and immediately going before the people
he got the mission of Cato confirmed by a law. When Cato was leaving
Rome, Clodius allowed him neither ship nor soldier nor attendant
except two clerks, one of whom was a thief and a thorough knave, and
the other was a client of Clodius. And as if he had given him but
small occupations with the affairs of Cyprus and Ptolemæus, Clodius
commissioned him also to restore the Byzantine fugitives, his wish
being that Cato should be as long as possible from Rome during his

XXXV. Being under such compulsion, Cato advised Cicero, who was
pressed by his enemies, not to raise any commotion nor to involve the
city in a contest and bloodshed, but by yielding to the times to be
again the saviour of his country; and sending forward to Cyprus
Canidius,[707] one of his friends, he prevailed on Ptolemæus[708] to
yield without a struggle, assuring him that he should want neither
money nor respect, for that the people would give him the priesthood
of the goddess at Paphos.[709] Cato himself stayed in Rhodes making
preparation and waiting for the answers. In the meantime
Ptolemæus,[710] King of Egypt, left Alexandria in anger after
quarrelling with the citizens, and set sail for Rome in the hope that
Cæsar and Pompeius would restore him with a military force; and as he
wished to see Cato he sent a message, expecting that Cato would come
to him. Cato happened to be then undergoing a purging,[711] and he
answered that Ptolemæus must come, if he wished to see him; and when
the king did come, Cato neither advanced to meet him nor rose, but
saluted him as one of his ordinary visitors and bade him be seated;
and by this behaviour the king was at first disturbed, and was amazed
at the contrast between Cato's haughty behaviour and rough manners,
and the meanness and simplicity of the man's attire. But when he had
begun to talk with him about his own affairs, and listened to words
full of wisdom and plain-speaking, for Cato reproved him and showed
what a happy condition he had left and to what servitude and toils and
corruption and love of aggrandisement in the chief men of the Romans
he was subjecting himself, whom scarcely Egypt would satisfy if it
were all turned into silver, and Cato advised the king to return and
be reconciled to his people, and said that he was ready to sail with
him and assist in bringing about an accommodation, the king, as if he
had been brought to his senses from some madness or delirium by the
words of Cato, and perceiving the integrity and judgment of the man,
was resolved to follow his advice. However, the king was again turned
by his friends to his original design, but as soon as he was in Rome
and was approaching the door of one of the magistrates, he groaned
over his ill resolve, as if he had rejected, not the advice of a good

Online Library46 PlutarchPlutarch's Lives Volume III → online text (page 50 of 55)