What is Cato the Elder known for?
Cato the Elder, also known as Cato the Censor (234-149 BC), was a Roman statesman, soldier, and writer, renowned for his conservative and anti-Hellenic policies, his military service, and his writings.
Political Influence and Censorship
Cato is known for his time as Censor, one of the highest offices in the Roman Republic, which he held from 184 BC. The Censor was responsible for maintaining the census, supervising public morality, and overseeing certain aspects of the government’s finances. Cato used his position to champion old Roman virtues and traditions and resist the cultural influences of Greece, which was seen as morally corrupt.
Cato served in the Second Punic War and fought against Hannibal at the Battle of Cannae. He also led the successful Roman invasion of the Iberian Peninsula.
Cato the Elder was the first Latin prose writer of importance. He authored “Origines,” the first Roman history written in Latin. His other notable work, “De Agri Cultura,” is a practical handbook dealing with agricultural practices.
Opposition to Carthage
Perhaps his most persistent legacy is his vehement opposition to Carthage, Rome’s chief rival power at the time. He is famous for ending all his speeches, regardless of their topic, with the phrase “Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam,” which means “Furthermore, I consider that Carthage must be destroyed.” His relentless advocacy is believed to have influenced the initiation of the Third Punic War (149–146 BC), which ultimately led to the destruction of Carthage.
Personal Discipline and Stoic Lifestyle
He was also known for his strict personal discipline, frugality, and simple, traditional lifestyle, which he advocated as a model of Roman virtues.
More on Cato the Elder
- Cato was born into a plebeian family in a small Italian town. Despite his modest beginnings, he rose through the ranks of the Roman military and political system, ultimately becoming one of Rome’s most influential statesmen.
- Here is what you need to know:
- As a Censor, Cato was known for his efforts to preserve old Roman customs and resist Hellenization. He also introduced a tax on luxury goods to discourage what he saw as decadent Greek influences.
- Despite his conservative stance, he advocated for the construction of public works and supported the building of roads, sewers, and aqueducts to improve the infrastructure of Rome.
- Although Cato advocated for Carthage’s destruction throughout his political career, he did not live to see it happen. He died in 149 BC, a few years before the Third Punic War resulted in Carthage’s defeat in 146 BC.
Overall, Cato the Elder’s influence has shaped the cultural, political, and military aspects of the Roman Republic. His writings, speeches, and his staunch stand on maintaining traditional Roman values have left a lasting impact on the way we perceive this period in history.