46 Plutarch.

Plutarch's Lives Volume III online

. (page 51 of 55)
Online Library46 PlutarchPlutarch's Lives Volume III → online text (page 51 of 55)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


man, but the prophetic warning of a deity.

XXXVI. The Ptolemæus in Cyprus, to Cato's good luck, poisoned himself;
and as it was said that he had left a large sum of money, Cato
determined to go to Byzantium himself, and he sent his nephew
Brutus[712] to Cyprus, because he did not altogether trust Canidius.
After bringing the exiles to terms with their fellow-citizens and
leaving Byzantium at peace with itself, he sailed to Cyprus. Now as
there was a great quantity of movables, such as suited a royal
household, consisting of cups, tables, precious stones and purple, all
which was to be sold and turned into money, Cato being desirous to do
everything with the greatest exactness and to bring up everything to
the highest price, and to be present everywhere and to apply the
strictest reckoning, would not trust even to the usages of the market,
but suspecting all alike, assistants, criers, purchasers and friends,
in fine, by talking to the purchasers singly and urging them to bid,
he in this way got most of the things sold that were put up for sale.
Cato thus offended the rest of his friends by showing that he did not
trust them, and Munatius, the most intimate of all, he put into a
state of resentment that was well nigh past cure; so that when Cæsar
was writing his book against Cato, this passage in the charges against
him furnished matter for the most bitter invective.

XXXVII. Munatius, however, states that his anger against Cato arose
not by reason of Cato's distrust of him, but his contemptuous
behaviour, and a certain jealousy of his own in regard to Canidius;
for Munatius also published a book about Cato, which Thrasea chiefly
followed. He says that he arrived after the rest in Cyprus and found
very poor accommodation prepared for him; and that on going to Cato's
door he was repulsed, because Cato was engaged about some matters in
the house with Canidius, and when he complained of this in reasonable
terms, he got an answer which was not reasonable and to the effect:
That excessive affection, as Theophrastus says, is in danger of often
becoming the cause of hatred, "for," continued Cato, "you, by reason
of your very great affection for me, are vexed when you suppose that
you receive less respect than is your due. But I employ Canidius
because I have made trial of him and trust him more than others, for
he came at the first and has shown himself to be an honest man." This,
says Munatius, Cato said to him, when they two were alone, but that
Cato afterwards told it to Canidius; and accordingly when Munatius
heard of it, as he says, he did not go to Cato's table nor to his
counsels when he was invited; and when Cato threatened that he would
take pledges[713] from him, which the Romans do in the case of those
who refuse to obey a command, that without caring for Cato's threats
he sailed away from Cyprus and for a long time continued to be angry
with him. That afterwards Marcia, for she was still the wife of Cato,
having spoken with Cato, both Cato and he happened to be invited to
supper by Barcas;[714] and Cato, who came in after the guests were
seated, asked where he should recline. Upon Barcas answering, "Where
he pleased," Cato looking about him said he would take his place near
Munatius; and going round he did take his place near him, but showed
him no other sign of friendly feeling during the supper. However, upon
Marcia preferring a second request, Cato wrote to him to say that he
wished to see him on some matter, and that he went early in the
morning to the house and was detained by Marcia till all the rest went
way, when Cato came in and throwing both his arms round him saluted
and received him with all signs of friendship. Now I have told this at
some length, because I consider such things to contain a certain
evidence for the exhibition and perception of character no less than
public and great acts.

XXXVIII. Cato[715] got together nearly seven thousand talents of
silver, and being afraid of the length of the voyage, he had many
vessels made, each of which contained two talents and five hundred
drachmæ, and he fastened to each vessel a long rope, to the end of
which was attached a very large piece of cork, with the view, that if
the ship were wrecked, the cork holding the vessels suspended in the
deep sea might indicate the place. Now the money, with the exception
of a small part, was safely conveyed; but though he had accounts of
all his administration carefully drawn up in two books, he saved
neither of them. One of them was in the care of his freedman
Philargyros, who set sail from Kenchreæ,[716] but was wrecked, and
lost the book and all the cargo with it: the other he had safely
carried as far as Corcyra, where he pitched his tent in the Agora; but
the sailors on account of the cold having lighted many fires, the
tents were burnt in the night, and the book was destroyed. The king's
managers who were present were ready to stop the mouths of the enemies
and detractors of Cato; but the matter gave him annoyance for other
reasons. For it was not to prove his own integrity, but to set an
example of exact dealing to others that he was ambitious to produce
his accounts, and this was the cause of his vexation.

XXXIX. Cato's arrival with the ships did not pass unobserved by the
Romans, for all the magistrates and priests, and all the Senate and a
great part of the people met him at the river, so that both the banks
were covered, and Cato's voyage upwards was not inferior to a triumph
in show and splendour. Yet it seemed to some to be a perverse and
stubborn thing, that though the consuls and prætors were present, Cato
neither landed to meet them nor stopped his course, but sweeping along
the shore in a royal galley of six banks, he never stopped till he had
moored his ships in the dockyard. However, when the money was carried
along through the Forum, the people were amazed[717] at the quantity,
and the Senate assembling voted together with suitable thanks that an
extraordinary prætorship[718] should be given to Cato, and that he
should wear a dress with a purple border when he was present at the
public spectacles. Cato protested against both these distinctions, but
he recommended the Senate to emancipate Nikias, the king's steward, to
whose care and integrity he bore testimony. At that time Philippus,
the father of Marcia, was consul, and in a manner the dignity and
power of the office were transferred to Cato, for the colleague of
Philippus[719] paid no less respect to Cato on account of his merit
than on account of his relationship to Philippus.

XL. When Cicero[720] had returned from the exile into which he was
driven by Clodius, and was now a powerful man, he forcibly pulled down
and destroyed in the absence of Clodius, the tribunitian tablets which
Clodius had recorded and placed in the Capitol; and the Senate having
been assembled about this business, and Clodius making it a matter of
accusation, Cicero said that inasmuch as Clodius had been made tribune
in an illegal manner, all that had been done during his tribunate and
recorded ought to be ineffectual and invalid. But Cato took exception
to what Cicero said, and at length he rose and declared, that he was
of opinion that there was nothing sound or good in any degree in the
administration of Clodius, but that if any man was for rescinding all
that Clodius had done in his tribunate, all his own measures relating
to Cyprus were thereby rescinded, and his mission had not been legal,
having been proposed by a man who was not legally tribune: he
maintained that Clodius had not been illegally elected tribune by
virtue of being adopted out of the patrician body into a plebeian
family, for the law allowed this; but if he had been a bad magistrate,
like others, it was fitting to call to account the man who had done
wrong, and not to annul the office which had been wronged also. In
consequence of this, Cicero was angry with Cato, and for a long time
ceased all friendly intercourse with him: however, they were
afterwards reconciled.

XLI. After this Pompeius and Crassus[721] had a meeting with Cæsar,
who had come across the Alps, in which they agreed that they should
seek a second consulship; and when they were established in it, they
should cause another period in Cæsar's government as long as the first
to be given him by the vote of the people, and to themselves the chief
of the provinces and money and military forces: the which was a
conspiracy for the division of the supreme power and the destruction
of the constitution. Now though many honest men were at this time
preparing to be candidates for the consulship, they were deterred by
seeing Pompeius and Crassus canvassing; but Lucius Domitius alone, the
husband of Porcia, the sister of Cato, was induced by Cato not to give
way or to yield, as the contest was not for office but for the liberty
of Rome. And indeed it was currently said among that part of the
citizens who were still of sober thoughts, that they ought not to
allow the consular office to become completely overbearing and
oppressive by permitting the power of Crassus and Pompeius to be
combined, but that they should deprive one of them of the office. And
they ranged themselves on the side of Domitius, urging and encouraging
him to keep to his purpose; for many, they argued, even of those who
said nothing by reason of fear, would help him with their votes. The
party of Pompeius and Crassus fearing this, laid an ambuscade for
Domitius as he was going down to the Campus Martius early in the
morning, by torch-light. First of all the man who was lighting
Domitius and standing close by him was struck and fell down dead; and
after him others also being wounded, there was a general flight of all
except Cato and Domitius; for Cato held Domitius though he himself was
wounded in the arm, and urged him to stay and so long as there was
breath in them, not to give up the struggle for liberty against the
tyrants who showed how they would use their power, by making their
way to it through such acts of wrong.

XLII. Domitius, however, did not face the danger, but fled to his
house, upon which Pompeius and Crassus,[722] were elected. Yet Cato
did not give up the contest, but came forward as a candidate for a
prætorship, because he wished to have a strong position in his
struggles with them and not to be himself a private man while he was
opposing those who were in office. Pompeius and Crassus being afraid
of this, and considering that the prætorship by reason of Cato would
become a match for the consulship, in the first place on a sudden and
without the knowledge of many of the body, summoned the Senate, and
got a vote passed that those who were elected prætors should enter on
office forthwith and should not let the time fixed by law intervene,
during which time prosecutions were allowed of those who had bribed
the people. In the next place, now that they had by the vote of the
Senate made bribery free from all responsibility, they brought forward
their own tools and friends as candidates for the prætorship,
themselves giving the bribe-money, and themselves standing by while
the voting was going on. But when the merit and good name of Cato were
getting the superiority even over all this, the many for very shame
considering it a great crime by their votes to sell Cato, whom it were
even honourable to purchase for the state as prætor, and the tribe
which was first called voted for him, Pompeius all at once, falsely
saying he had heard thunder, dissolved the assembly, for it was the
custom of the Romans to view such tokens as inauspicious, and not to
ratify anything when there had been signs from heaven. Thereafter, by
employing excessive bribery and driving all the honest folks from the
Campus they brought about by violence that Vatinius should be elected
prætor instead of Cato. Upon this it is said that those who had given
their votes thus illegally and dishonestly, forthwith skulked away;
and a certain tribune forming on the spot a meeting of those who were
assembling together and expressing their dissatisfaction, Cato came
before them, and as if inspired by the gods, foretold everything that
would happen to the state, and urged the citizens to oppose Pompeius
and Crassus as being privy to such measures and engaging in a course
of policy, on account of which they feared Cato lest, if he were
prætor, he should get the advantage over them. And finally as he went
home, he was attended by such a crowd as not even all the prætors
together, who were elected, had to accompany them.

XLIII. When Caius Trebonius[723] drew up a law for the division of the
provinces between the consuls, to the effect that one of them should
have the government of Iberia and Libya, and the other Syria and
Egypt, to attack and carry on war against whom they pleased with naval
and military forces, the rest despairing of all opposition and
hindrance even desisted from speaking against the measure, and when
Cato got up on the Rostra before the question was put to the vote, and
expressed a wish to speak, he with difficulty obtained leave to speak
for two hours.[724] After Cato had occupied this time with much
speaking, and alleging of arguments and prophetic warnings, they would
not let him speak longer, but an officer went up and pulled him down
while he was still keeping his place on the Rostra. But inasmuch as he
continued to cry out from the place where he was standing below, and
had persons to listen to him and join in his dissatisfaction, the
officer again laid hold of him and taking him away, put him out of the
Forum. But scarcely was he let loose when he returned and made his way
to the Rostra with loud shouts, urging the citizens to aid him. This
being repeated several times, Trebonius in a passion ordered him to be
led to prison, and the crowd followed listening to him talking as he
went along, so that Trebonius was afraid and let him go. In this
manner Cato took up all that day: but on the following days by
terrifying some of the citizens and gaining over others by favours and
by bribes, and with armed men preventing Aquilius[725] one of the
tribunes from coming out of the senate house, and by ejecting from the
Forum Cato himself, who called out that there had been thunder, and by
wounding no small number, and even killing some, they forcibly carried
the law, in consequence of which many persons in passion crowded
together and pelted the statues of Pompeius. Cato, however, who came
up to them stopped this; and further, when a law was proposed
respecting the provinces and armies of Cæsar, Cato no longer addressed
himself to the people, but turning to Pompeius himself he adjured and
forewarned him, that he did not see that he was now taking up Cæsar on
his shoulders, but that when he began to feel the weight of his burden
and to be mastered by it, having neither power to rid himself of it
nor strength to bear it, he would fall with it upon the state, and
then he would remember Cato's advice and see that it concerned no less
the interests of Pompeius than honour and justice. Though Pompeius
heard this often, he cared not for it and let it pass, not believing
there would be any change in Cæsar, because he trusted in his own good
fortune and power.

XLIV. For the following year Cato was chosen prætor,[726] but he was
considered not to add so much dignity and honour to the office by his
good administration, as to detract from it and bring it into disrepute
by often going to the Rostra without his shoes and his tunic, and in
this attire presiding at trials of men of rank in matters of life and
death. Some also say that even after dinner, when he had drunk wine,
he would transact business; but this at least is untruly said. The
people being now corrupted by the bribery of those who were ambitious
of office, and the majority being accustomed to receive money for
their votes as if in the way of a regular trade, Cato wishing to
eradicate completely this disease in the state, persuaded the Senate
to make a decree, that if those who were elected magistrates should
have none ready to accuse them, they should themselves be compelled to
come forward before a sworn court and give an account of their
election. The candidates for magistracies were vexed at this, and
still more vexed were the mass who received the bribe-money.
Accordingly in the morning when Cato had gone to the tribunal, the
people in a body pressing upon him, cried out, abused him, and pelted
him so that every person fled from the tribunal, and Cato himself
being shoved from his place by the crowd and carried along with it,
with difficulty laid hold of the Rostra. Thereupon getting up, by the
boldness and firmness of his demeanour, Cato forthwith mastered the
tumult, and stopped the shouting, and after saying what was suitable
to the occasion and being listened to with perfect quiet, he put an
end to the disturbance. When the Senate were bestowing praise upon
him, he said, "But I cannot praise you, who left a prætor in danger
and did not come to his help." But of the candidates for magistracies
every man felt himself in a difficult position, being afraid to give
bribes himself, and being afraid that he should lose the office if
another did it. Accordingly it was agreed among them that they should
come together to one place, and each lay down one hundred and
twenty-five thousand drachmæ of silver, and all should then seek the
office in a right and just way, and that he who broke the terms and
employed bribery, should lose his money. Having agreed to these terms
they chose Cato as depositary and umpire and witness, and bringing the
money, they offered to place it with him; and they had the terms of
the agreement drawn up before him, but Cato took sureties instead of
the money, and would not receive the money itself. When the day for
the election came, Cato taking his place by the presiding tribune and
watching the vote, discovered that one of those who had entered into
the engagement, was playing foul, and he ordered him to pay the money
to the rest. But they, commending his uprightness and admiring it,
waived the penalty, considering that they had sufficient satisfaction
from the wrong-doer; but Cato offended all the rest and got very great
odium from this, it being as if he assumed to himself the power of the
Senate and of the courts of justice and of the magistrates. For the
opinion and the credit of no one virtue makes people more envious than
that of justice,[727] because both æpower and credit among the many
follow it chiefly. For people do not merely honour the just, as they
do the brave, nor do they admire them, as they do the wise, but they
even love the just, and have confidence in them and give them credit.
But as to the brave and wise, they fear the one, and give no credit to
the other; and besides this, they think that the brave and the wise
excel by nature rather than by their own will; and with respect to
courage and wisdom, they consider the one to be a certain sharpness,
and the other a firmness of soul; but inasmuch as any man who chooses,
has it in his power to be just, they have most abhorrence of injustice
as badness that is without excuse.

XLV. Wherefore all the great were enemies of Cato, as being reproved
by his conduct: and as Pompeius viewed Cato's reputation even as a
nullification of his own power, he was continually setting persons on
to abuse him, among whom Clodius also was one, the demagogue, who had
again insensibly attached himself to Pompeius, and was crying out
against Cato on the ground that he had appropriated to his own
purposes much money in Cyprus, and was hostile to Pompeius because
Pompeius had rejected a marriage with Cato's daughter. Cato replied
that he had brought to the city from Cyprus, without the aid of a
single horse or soldier, more money than Pompeius had brought back
from so many wars and triumphs after disturbing the habitable world,
and that he never chose Pompeius to make a marriage alliance with, not
because he considered Pompeius unworthy, but because he saw the
difference between his polity and that of Pompeius. "For my part,"
continued Cato, "I declined a province when it was offered to me after
my prætorship, but Pompeius has got some provinces, and he also offers
some to others; and now, last of all, he has lent to Cæsar a force of
six thousand legionary soldiers for Gaul, which neither did Cæsar ask
of you, nor did Pompeius give with your assent; but forces to such an
amount and arms and horses are gifts from private persons and things
of mutual exchange. And being called Imperator and governor he has
given up to others the armies and the provinces, and he himself sits
down close to the city raising commotions at the elections and
contriving disturbances, from which it is manifest that he is
intriguing to get by means of anarchy a monarchy for himself."

XLVI. In this fashion Cato defended himself against Pompeius. But
Marcus Favonius, an intimate friend and admirer of Cato, just as
Apollodorus[728] of Phalerum is said to have been of Socrates of old,
being a passionate man and one who was violently moved by his
principles, did not with any temper or moderation, but intemperately
attack Pompeius, like a man under the influence of drink and somewhat
mad. Favonius was a candidate for the ædileship and was losing his
election, when Cato, who was present, observed that the voting tablets
were written in one hand, and so proved the knavery, and by appealing
to the tribunes stopped the return. Afterwards when Favonius was made
ædile, Cato both administered the other duties of the ædileship, and
superintended the exhibitions in the theatre, giving to the actors not
crowns of gold, but as is the fashion of Olympia, crowns of wild
olive, and instead of costly presents, giving to the Greeks, turnips
and lettuces and radishes and parsley;[729] and to the Romans, earthen
jars of wine, and hogs' flesh, and figs and gourds, and bundles of
wood, at the thrift of which gifts some laughed, but others treated
the matter in a respectful way, seeing the austere and serious
countenance of Cato imperceptibly assuming a pleasant expression.
Finally, Favonius, mingling with, the crowd and sitting among the
spectators, applauded Cato, and called out to him to give to those who
were distinguishing themselves, and to honour them, and he urged the
spectators to the same effect, inasmuch as he had surrendered all his
authority to Cato. Now in the other theatre, Curio, the colleague of
Favonius, was conducting the celebration in splendid style, but still
the people left him to go to the other place, and they readily joined
in the amusement of Favonius playing a private part and Cato the part
of the superintendent of the exhibitions. And Cato did this to
disparage the thing and to show that when a man is in sport he should
use sportive ways, and accompany it with unpretending kindness rather
than with much preparation and great cost, bestowing great care and
trouble on things of no value.

XLVII. Now when Scipio and Hypsæus and Milo[730] were candidates for
the consulship, and were employing not merely those wrongful ways that
were now familiar and had become usual in matters political, the
giving of gifts and bribery, but were plainly pushing on through arms
and slaughter to civil war, in their daring and madness, and some
persons were urging Pompeius to preside over the comitia, Cato at
first opposed this and said, that the laws should not owe their
maintenance to Pompeius, but that Pompeius should owe his security to
the laws. However, when there had been an anarchy for some time, and
three armies were occupying the Forum daily, and the mischief had well
nigh become past checking, he determined in favour of putting affairs
in the hands of Pompeius before the extreme necessity arrived, by the
voluntary favour of the Senate, and by employing the most moderate of
unconstitutional means as a healing measure for the settlement of what
was most important, to bring on the monarchy rather than to let the
civil dissensions result in a monarchy. Accordingly Bibulus, who was
a friend of Cato, proposed that they ought to elect Pompeius sole
consul, for that either matters would be put into a good condition by
his settlement of them, or that the state would be enslaved by the
best man in it. Cato rose and spoke in favour of the proposal, which
nobody could have expected, and recommended any government as better
than no government; and he added, that he expected that Pompeius would
manage present affairs best, and would protect the state with which he



Online Library46 PlutarchPlutarch's Lives Volume III → online text (page 51 of 55)