Cato's birth, youth, and the offices that he held, I.----His consulship in Hither Spain; his severity as censor, II.----His eulogy; his studies and writings, III.
I. CATO,244 born in the municipal town of Tusculum,245 resided, when a very young man, and before he turned his attention to the attainment of office, in the territory of the Sabines, because he had an estate there which had been left him by his father. It was at the persuasion of Lucius Valerius Flaccus, whom he had for a colleague in his consulate and censorship, that he removed, as Marcus Perperna Censorius was accustomed to relate, to Rome, and proceeded to employ himself in the forum. He served his first campaign at the age of seventeen, in the consulship of Quintus Fabius Maximus and Marcus Claudius Marcellus. He was military tribune in Sicily. When he returned from thence, he attached himself to the staff of Caius Claudius Nero, and his service was thought of great value in the battle near Sena, in which Hasdrubal, the brother of Hannibal, fell.
As quaestor, he happened to be under the consul, Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus, with whom he did not live according to the intimate connexion of his office; for he was at variance with him during his whole life. He was made aedile of the commons 246 with Caius Helvius. As praetor he had the province of Sardinia, from which, when he was returning from Africa some time before in the character of quaestor, he had brought Quintus Ennius, the poet, an act which we value not less than the noblest triumph that Sardinia could have afforded.
II. He held the consulship with Lucius Valerius Flaccus, and had by lot Hither Spain for his province, from which he gained a triumph. As he stayed there a long time, Publius Scipio Africanus, when consul for the second time, wanted to remove him from his province, and to succeed him himself, but was unable, through the senate, to effect that object, even though he then possessed the greatest authority in the state; for the government was then conducted, not with regard for personal influence, but according to justice. Being displeased with the senate on this account, Scipio, after his consulship was ended, remained in the city as a private person.247
Cato, being made censor with the Flaccus above mentioned, exercised that office with severity; for he inflicted penalties on many noblemen, and introduced many new regulations into his edict,248 by means of which luxury, which was even then beginning to germinate, might be repressed. For about eighty years,249 from his youth to the end of his life, he never ceased to incur enmity in behalf of the commonwealth. Though attacked by many,250 he not only suffered no loss of character, but increased in reputation for virtue as long as he lived.
III. In all his pursuits he gave proofs of singular intelligence and industry; for he was a skilful agriculturist, well-informed in political affairs, experienced in the law, an eminent, commander, a respectable orator. He was also much devoted to literature, and though he had entered on the study of it at an advanced age, yet he made such progress in it, that you could not easily discover anything, either in Grecian or Italian history, that was unknown to him. From his youth he composed speeches. In his old age he began to write his Histories, of which there are ten books. The first contains the acts of the kings of Rome; the second and third show from whence each Italian state had its rise, for which reason he seems to have called the whole body of them Origines; in the fourth is related the first Carthaginian war; in the fifth the second; and all these subjects are treated in a summary way. Other wars he has narrated in a similar manner, down to the praetorship of Lucius Galba, who spoiled the Lusitanians. The leaders in these wars, however, he has not named, but has stated the facts without the names. In the same books he has given an account of whatever seemed remarkable in Italy and Spain; and there are shown in them much labour and industry, and much learning.
Text and notes from Lives of Eminent Commanders (From the second book of Cornelius Nepos)