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Cato the Elder

Cato the Elder (kāˈtō) [key] or Cato the Censor, Lat. Cato Major or Cato Censorius, 234–149 B.C., Roman statesman and moralist, whose full name was Marcus Porcius Cato. He fought in the Second Punic War and later served as quaestor (204), aedile (199), praetor (198), consul (195), and censor (184). He was renowned for his devotion to the old Roman ideals—simplicity of life, honesty, and unflinching courage. He inveighed against extravagance and new customs, but his policy was not aimed at repression but rather at reform and the rebuilding of Roman life. He sought to restrict seats in the senate to the worthy and undertook much building, including the repair of the city sewers. He was sent on an official visit to Carthage in his old age. Upon his return he expressed stern disapproval of Carthaginian ways and told the senate to destroy Carthage. He thus helped to bring on the Third Punic War, in which Carthage was destroyed. Probably his detestation of luxury and cultivated ways inspired the deep hatred that he had for the Scipio family. He himself deliberately affected a rustic appearance and rustic manners. However, he complacently accepted class division and treated his servants harshly. He wrote many works, most of which are now lost. Probably the most influential was his history of early Rome. His De agri cultura or De re rustica, translated as On Farming, is a practical treatise that offers valuable information on agricultural methods and country life in his day.

See A. E. Astin, Cato the Censor (1978).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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