Anno Urbis - The Roman Empire Online

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MARCUS PORCIUS CATO (B.C. 234-149), known in history as the elder Cato, was the type of Roman produced by the most vigorous days of the Republic. Born at Tusculum on the narrow acres which his peasant forefathers had tilled in the intervals of military service, he commenced advocate at the country assizes, followed his fortunes to Rome and there became a leader of the metropolitan bar. He saw gallant military service in Spain and in Greece, commanded an army, held all the curule offices of state and ended a contentious life in the Senate denouncing Carthage and the degeneracy of the times.

He was an upstanding man, but as coarse as he was vigorous in mind and in body. Roman literature is full of anecdotes about him and his wise and witty sayings.

Unlike many men who have devoted a toilsome youth to agricultural labour, when he attained fame and fortune he maintained his interest in his farm, and wrote his De re rustica in green old age. It tells what sort of farm manager he himself was, or wanted to be thought to be, and, though a mere collection of random notes, sets forth more shrewd common sense and agricultural experience than it is possible to pack into the same number of English words. It remains today of much more than antiquarian interest.

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