Cato the Censor

(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

0111205839-Cato_C.jpg Cato the Censor (Library of Congress) Published by Salem Press, Inc.


One of the most influential statesmen, orators, and Latin prose writers in second century b.c.e. Rome, Cato (KAY-toh) the Censor was born to a plebeian family. He espoused the moral traditions (mos maiorum) and conservative values of the hardworking farmers and military men he considered the cornerstone of Roman greatness. As military tribune in the Second Punic War (218-201 b.c.e.), he impressed the patrician Lucius Valerius Flaccus, with whom he began his political career, culminating in the consulship (195 b.c.e.) and censorship (184 b.c.e.), which both men shared. As censor, his harsh attacks against offenders of traditional Roman moral values were remembered for generations and earned him the name Censorius (“the Censor”). Cato was an outspoken opponent of the trend toward adopting Greek practices in Rome and continually attacked the Scipio family, the leading philhellenes of the day.

Cato was the first important writer of Latin prose, and he aided the development of Latin poetry by bringing the poet Quintus Ennius to Rome (203 b.c.e.). He wrote the first history of Rome in Latin, the Origines (lost work, 168-149 b.c.e.), published at least 150 of his speeches, wrote the treatise De agricultura (c. 160 b.c.e.; On Agriculture, 1913), and issued other works on military science, law, medicine, and rhetoric, including an encyclopedia for his son. A book of his pithy maxims was compiled after his death.


After his death, Cato became the archetype of the traditional,...

(The entire section is 652 words.)