Marcus Porcius Cato the Elder

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Fantasy portrait of Marcus Porcius Cato in a modern engraving

Marcus Porcius Cato Censorius , called Cato the Elder , also Cato the Censor (* 234 BC in Tusculum , † 149 BC in Rome ), was a Roman general , historian , writer and statesman . Although a homo novus himself , he is considered a prime example of a Roman conservative and pater familias .


Marcus Porcius Cato was born as a Roman citizen in the rural town ( municipality ) Tusculum . His father was a knight ( eques ) . Around 217 BC Cato became a soldier. In the Roman army he met the influential Lucius Valerius Flaccus and was already 214 BC. BC military tribune .

204 BC Cato was elected quaestor with the support of his friend Lucius Valerius Flaccus . Cato served as quaestor under Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus . 199 BC Cato was elected aedile and thus had responsibility within the city of Rome itself for the first time . During his time as aedile, he had popular games organized. A year later, in 198 BC He became praetor and then governor of Sardinia .

In 195 BC BC Cato and his friend Lucius Valerius Flaccus were elected consuls . This enabled the homo novus Cato to rise to the nobility . As consul , he commanded Roman troops in Spain successfully in the fight against insurgent tribes; he was granted a triumphal procession . He ended his military career in 191 BC. With a command in the war against the Seleucids Antiochus III . 184 BC In BC Cato and Flaccus were finally elected to the office of the two censors , a sign of the high esteem they enjoyed among many.

In this office Cato showed a particular severity through anti-luxury measures in the tax assessment ( census ) as well as in the lectio senatus and the mustering of knights . This earned him the nickname Censorius . Because he showed no restraint in political feuds, especially issues in the People's Assembly and in the Senate , he was sometimes exposed to great hostility from his opponents. He was indicted 44 times in politically motivated trials but acquitted each time. After his time as a censor, Cato held no further political offices in Rome. However, he continued to be one of the most powerful senators.

As a senator, Cato was an opponent of wars that primarily served to enrich the Roman armies and their generals. In 167 he made an energetic plea that Rhodes , which had provided Rome with a pretext for an attack by acting ineptly in the Perseus War , was spared. In his final years, however, he was a staunch supporter of the destruction of Carthage . He is said to have ended each of his speeches in the Senate with the words Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam , in English: Incidentally, I am of the opinion that Carthage must be destroyed (since the verb censere is also a technical term in the public language, the sentence could also be translated as Incidentally, I am making the request that Carthage must be destroyed ). In antiquity, however, the sentence has only been passed down through Plutarch (* around 45; † around 125 AD), that is, only over 200 years after the death of Catos. If Cato used this sentence at all, its wording is also questionable: Plutarch only transmitted it in Greek. The authenticity of the sentence is therefore questionable. In the last year of Cato's life, the Third Punic War actually broke out, as a result of which Carthage was completely destroyed.

Cato was married twice, his first wife being Licinia . Long after Licinia's death, Cato married Salonia , the daughter of a freedman, in old age . With both women Cato each had a son, Marcus Porcius Cato Licinianus and Marcus Porcius Cato Salonianus .

The Dorsa Cato on the earth's moon is named after him.

family tree

Marcus Porcius Cato Censorius
Marcus Porcius Cato Salonianus
Marcus Porcius Cato Licinianus
Marcus Livius Drusus
Marcus Porcius Cato Salonianus
Quintus Servilius Caepio
Marcus Livius Drusus
Marcus Porcius Cato Uticensis
Marcus Junius Brutus
Servilia Caepionis
Decimus Junius Silanus
Quintus Servilius Caepio
Marcus Livius Drusus Claudianus (adopted)
Marcus Porcius Cato
Porcia Catonis
Brutus (Caesar murderer)
Iunia Great
Marcus Aemilius Lepidus
Iunia Secunda
Iunia Tertia
Gaius Cassius Longinus
Descendant of Sulla and Pompey
Marcus Aemilius Lepidus
Manius Aemilius Lepidus
Aemilia Lepida


In addition to the ceterum censeo (see above), numerous sentences are known from Cato:

Therefore, in the 3rd century AD, a collection of verses, the so-called dicta Catonis , was circulated under Cato's name. The authenticity of many sentences is controversial, their language quite simple and undemanding, but nonetheless (or precisely because of this) the dicta were very popular and became a standard work of the Middle Ages: as a textbook for Latin lessons, as a template for stylistic exercises, as a valued guide for everyone Life situations. Like hardly any other work, the dicta encouraged a wealth of translations into numerous European national languages.


  • Origines : Historical work from the beginnings of Rome to its time, shouldhave an educational effectthrough examples ( exempla ).
  • De agri cultura (approx. 150 BC): Treatise on agriculture, committed to the ideals of the old Italian peasantry, but at the same time strictly oriented towards profitability and profitability. Cato's most famous work is the oldest fully preserved Latin prose writing and his only fully preserved work.

Cicero gives a number of more than 150 speeches for Cato, 80 of which have survived in fragments, including: De re militari , De lege ad pontifices auguresque spectanti , Praecepta ad filium , Historia Romana litteris magnis conscripta , Carmen de moribus , Apophthegmata .


  • Marcus Tullius Cicero : Cato maior de senectute . Latin-German = Cato the Elder on old age. Published by Harald Merklin, Stuttgart 1998.
  • Titus Livius : Roman History. Latin and German, Josef Feix, Hans-Jürgen Hillen (Eds.), 11 volumes, Munich a. a. 1987-1999.
  • Cornelius Nepos : Short Biographies and Fragments. Translated by H. Färber, Munich 1952.
  • Plutarch : Great Greeks and Romans. Introduced and translated by Konrat Ziegler . 6 volumes, Zurich a. a. 1954-1965.
  • Otto Schönberger (Ed.): M. Porci Catonis scripta quae manserunt omnia. Marcus Porcius Cato: From farming, fragments. All writings preserved, Latin-German. Munich 1980 (including the biographies written by Cornelius Nepos and Plutarch).
  • Gaius Sallustius Crispus: works. Latin-German by Werner Eisenhut and Josef Lindauer . Darmstadt 1985.


  • Michael von Albrecht : Master of Roman prose. From Cato to Apuleius. Interpretations. 3rd supplemented edition. Francke, Tübingen et al. 1995, ISBN 3-8252-1844-9 , ( UTB 1844).
  • Alan E. Astin: Cato the Censor. Clarendon Press, Oxford 1978, ISBN 0-19-814809-7 .
  • Jochen Bleicken : History of the Roman Republic. 5th edition. Oldenbourg, Munich a. a. 1999, ISBN 3-486-49665-4 , ( Oldenbourg floor plan of the story 29).
  • Dieter Flach : Introduction to Roman historiography. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1985, ISBN 3-534-08334-2 .
  • Andres Furger: By the way, I am of the opinion ... The Roman politician and farmer Marcus Cato on olive oil and wine. Verlag Philipp von Zabern, Mainz 2005, ISBN 3-8053-3523-7 .
  • Hans-Joachim Gehrke : Marcus Porcius Cato Censorius - a picture of a Roman. In: Karl-Joachim Hölkeskamp , Elke Stein-Hölkeskamp (eds.): From Romulus to Augustus. Great figures of the Roman Republic. Beck, Munich 2000, ISBN 3-406-46697-4 , pp. 147-158.
  • Sander M. Goldberg: Epic in Republican Rome. Oxford University Press, New York NY u. a. 1995, ISBN 0-19-509372-0 .
  • Ulrich Gotter : Cato's Origines: The Historian and His Enemies. In: Andrew Feldherr (Ed.): The Cambridge Companion to the Roman Historians. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2009, pp. 108-122.
  • Erich S. Gruen : Culture and National Identity in Republican Rome. Cornell University Press, Ithaka NY 1992, ISBN 0-8014-2759-2 , ( Cornell studies in classical philology - The Townsend lectures 52).
  • Werner Suerbaum : M. Porcius Cato (Censorius). In: Werner Suerbaum (Ed.): The archaic literature. From the beginnings to Sulla's death (= Handbook of Ancient Latin Literature , Volume 1). CH Beck, Munich 2002, ISBN 3-406-48134-5 , pp. 380-418
  • Martin Jehne : Cato and the preservation of the traditional res publica. On the tension between mos maiorum and Greek culture in the second century BC Chr. In: Gregor Vogt-Spira et al. (Ed.): Reception and identity. Rome's cultural confrontation with Greece as a European paradigm. Steiner, Stuttgart 1999, ISBN 3-515-07059-1 , pp. 115-134.
  • Dietmar Kienast : Cato the censor. His personality and his time. L 'Erma di Bretschneider, Rome 1973, ( Studia historica 122).
  • Wilhelm Kierdorf : Roman historiography of the republican time. Winter, Heidelberg 2003, ISBN 3-8253-1520-7 .
  • Andreas Mehl : Roman historiography. Basics and developments. An introduction. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart et al. 2001, ISBN 3-17-015253-X .
  • Ferdinand Peter Moog: Marcus Porcius Cato Censorius. In: Werner E. Gerabek , Bernhard D. Haage, Gundolf Keil , Wolfgang Wegner (Hrsgg.): Enzyklopädie Medizingeschichte. De Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2005, ISBN 3-11-015714-4 , p. 890 f.
  • Uwe Walter : Memoria and res publica. On the culture of history in republican Rome. Verlag Antike, Frankfurt am Main 2004, ISBN 3-938032-00-6 , ( Studies on Ancient History 1), (At the same time: Cologne, Univ., Habil.-Schr., 2002).
  • Hartmut Wulfram: Ex uno plures. Three studies on the posthumous personality image of old Cato. Verlag Antike, Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-938032-30-5 .

Web links

Wikisource: Marcus Porcius Cato  - Sources and full texts (Latin)
Commons : Cato the Elder  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Seneca: epistulae morales ad Lucilium 87.9; Pliny: naturalis historiae praef. 30; Tacitus: annales 3.66.1.
  2. Pliny: naturalis historiae 7:11.