News

Cato the Younger

Cato the Younger


Cato the Younger - History

For George Washington and the entire revolutionary generation, Cato was Liberty—the last man standing when Rome’s Republic fell. For centuries of philosophers and theologians, Cato was the Good Suicide—the most principled, most persuasive exception to the rule against self-slaughter. For Julius Caesar, the dictator who famously pardoned every opponent, Cato was the only man he could never forgive.

George Washington and his peers studied Cato’s life in the form of the most popular play of that era: Cato: A Tragedy in Five Acts, by Joseph Addison. The great men of the day quoted this play about Cato in public statements and in private correspondence. When Benjamin Franklin opened his private diary, he was greeted with lines from the play that he had chosen as a motto. John and Abigail Adams quoted Cato to one another in their love letters. When Patrick Henry dared King George to give him liberty or death, he was cribbing from Cato. When Nathan Hale regretted that he had only one life to give for his country—seconds before the British army hanged him for high treason—he was poaching words straight from Cato.

George Washington, John Adams, and Samuel Adams were all honored in their time as “the American Cato”—and in revolutionary America, there was little higher praise. And when Washington wrote to a pre-turncoat Benedict Arnold that “it is not in the power of any man to command success but you have done more—you have deserved it,” he, too, lifted the words from Addison’s Cato.

Through two millennia, Cato was mimicked, studied, despised, feared, revered. In his own day, he was a soldier and an aristocrat, a senator and a Stoic. The last in a family line of prominent statesmen, Cato spent a lifetime in the public eye as the standard-bearer of Rome’s optimates, traditionalists who saw themselves as the defenders of Rome’s ancient constitution, the preservers of the centuries-old system of government that propelled Rome’s growth from muddy city to mighty empire.

Cato made a career out of purity, out of his refusal to give an inch in the face of pressure to compromise and deal. His was a powerful and lasting political type: the man who achieves and wields power by disdaining power, the politician above politics. It was an approach designed to elicit one of two things from his enemies: either total surrender or (in Cato’s eyes) a kind of moral capitulation. This strategy of all-or-nothing ended in crushing defeat. No one did more than Cato to rage against his Republic’s fall. Yet few did more, in the last accounting, to bring that fall to pass.

History remembers Cato as Julius Caesar’s most formidable, infuriating enemy—at times the leader of the opposition, at times an opposition party unto himself, but always Caesar’s equal in eloquence, in conviction, and in force of character, a man equally capable of a full-volume dawn-to-dusk speech before Rome’s Senate and of a 30-day trek through North Africa’s sands, on foot.

Cato’s name has faded in our time in a way that Caesar’s has not. Perhaps that is the cost of his political defeat perhaps his virtues are out of style. More likely, he is forgotten because he left behind very little that was concrete. He reached the heights of Roman politics, but he didn’t pen epics celebrating his own accomplishments, as Cicero did. He was a brave, self-sacrificing, successful military commander, but he didn’t send home gripping third-person histories of his exploits, as Caesar did. His name was proverbial in his own time, but he didn’t engrave that name on monuments. He studied and practiced philosophy with focused intensity, turning himself into the model of the unflinching Stoic ideal, but he preferred that his philosophy be lived, not written. In fact, the only writing of Cato’s that survives is a single, short letter.

Cato was certainly a self-promoter, but the only form of promotion he valued was example, the conspicuous conduct of his life—righteous in his friends’ eyes, self-righteous in his enemies’. Cato’s Rome teemed with imported wealth Cato chose to wear the simple, outmoded clothing of Rome’s mythical founders and to go barefoot in sun and cold. Powerful men gifted themselves villas and vineyards Cato preferred a life of monkish frugality. Roman politics was well-oiled with bribes, strategic marriages, and under-the-table favors Cato’s vote famously had no price. These gestures were all, in their own way, a deliberate message to his fellow citizens, a warning that they had gone fatally soft. It is the kind of message that is remembered, but rarely heeded.

NOTABLE WORKS & SUGGESTED READINGS

Cato did not pen an autobiography, nor leave behind an extensive set of essays or journals. While Cato the Younger was an evergreen subject for a wide range of historians, biographers, and moralists in the Roman world, the most detailed classical treatment of his life comes from Plutarch. Plutarch was a Greek biographer, magistrate, and priest of Apollo, who took the Roman name Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus. He flourished during the reign of the Emperor Trajan and is best known today for his Parallel Lives of eminent Greeks and Romans, a collection that includes his life of Cato.

There is good reason to believe that Plutarch’s biography is founded on eyewitness accounts of Cato’s life. Joseph Michael Conant (The Younger Cato: A Critical Life with Special Reference to Plutarch’s Biography) makes a strong case that Plutarch worked largely from two sources, now lost. One of these was likely Cicero’s Cato, which dealt with some of the most important events in Cato’s political life, from the perspective of man who saw many of them first-hand. The other was a life of Cato by Thrasea Paetus, the Stoic senator condemned by Nero this work, in turn, was based on the memoirs of Munatius Rufus, Cato’s Stoic companion. The two most important sources for Plutarch’s biography, then, appear to have been written by men who knew Cato intimately: a political ally and a close personal friend. Because Plutarch’s life seems to originate in first-hand accounts, and because it contains such a wealth of detail, it is fair to agree with the classicist Robert J. Goar’s judgment: Plutarch “brings us as close to the historical Cato as it is possible for us to come.”

For more than 2,000 years, there was no full-length biography of Cato outside of Plutarch’s work. In 2011, Jimmy Soni and Rob Goodman endeavored to write one. The result, Rome’s Last Citizen: The Life and Legacy of Cato, Mortal Enemy of Cesar, is the best volume, to date, that covers the end-to-end life of Cato.

They were inspired by numerous book in which Cato is a central figure, including Rubicon by Tom Holland. If you have even a passing interest in the history of Rome—or you think you might—pick up Rubicon. It is gripping and thoughtful you’ll never for a minute believe that you’re reading ancient history.

3 Stoic exercises from Cato

1) Use pain as a teacher

Cato walked around ancient Rome in unusual clothing—with a goal of getting people to laugh at him. He learned to eat a poor man’s bread and live without luxuries—even though he was a Roman aristocrat. He would walk bareheaded in the rain, shoe-less in the cold.

Cato was training himself. Small difficulties, endured with forbearance and patience, could shape his character. All of Cato’s practice paid off. Seneca , the great imperial Stoic, relates a telling story. Visiting the public baths one day, Cato was shoved and struck. Once the fight was broken up, he simply refused to accept an apology from the offender: “I don’t even remember being hit.”

2) Embrace high standards

The Stoics taught Cato that there were no shades of gray. There was no more-or-less good, no more-or-less bad. Whether you were a foot underwater or a fathom, you were still drowning. All virtues were one and the same virtue, all vices the same vice.

It is the kind of austere scheme that seems unreasonable to live by and almost entirely impossible for the flux of war and politics. But Cato made it work. He refused political compromise in every form, to the point that bribe-takers turned his name into an aphorism: “What do you expect of us? We can’t all be Catos.”

He demanded the same of his friends, his family, and his soldiers. He was infuriating to his enemies, and he could seem crazy to his allies. And yes, sometimes he took his adherence to principle down absurd, blind alleys. But he also built an impossible, almost inhuman standard that brought him unshakable authority. By default, he became Rome’s arbiter of right and wrong. When Cato spoke, people sat up straighter. When he was carted off to jail by Julius Caesar, the entire Senate joined him in sympathy, forcing Caesar to let Cato go.

Many in Cato’s day spent their fortunes and slaughtered armies in pursuit of that kind of authority. But it can’t be bought or fought for—it’s the charisma of character. His countrymen couldn’t all be Catos, but they could join whichever uncompromising side of the argument Cato was on.

3) Put fear in its proper place

On election day during a consequential race, Cato and his brother-in-law were ambushed while walking to the polls. The torchbearer at the head of Cato’s party collapsed with a groan—stabbed to death. They were surrounded by shadows swinging swords. The assailants wounded each member of the party until all had fled but Cato and his brother-in-law. They held their ground, Cato gripping a wound that poured blood from his arm.

For Cato, the ambush was a reminder that if the front-runners were willing to perpetrate such crimes on the way to power, then one could only imagine what they would do once they arrived. It was all the more important that he stand in front of the Roman people, show off his wounds, and announce that he would stand for liberty as long as he had life in him. But his brother-in-law didn’t have the stomach for it. He apologized, left, and barricaded himself inside his home.

Cato, meanwhile, walked unguarded and alone to the polls.

Fear can only enter the mind with our consent, Cato had been taught. Choose not to be afraid, and fear simply vanishes. To the untrained observer, Cato’s physical courage was reckless. But in fact, it was among the most practiced aspects of Cato’s self-presentation. And it was this long meditation on the absurdity of fear—on its near-total insignificance but for our own belief in it—that enabled him to press forward where others gave in.

Cato Quotes

Bitter are the roots of study, but how sweet their fruit. – Cato

A honest man is seldom a vagrant. – Cato

Consider in silence whatever any one says: speech both conceals and reveals the inner soul of man. – Cato

Flee sloth for the indolence of the soul is the decay of the body. – Cato

I will begin to speak, when I have that to say which had not better be unsaid. – Cato

In doing nothing men learn to do evil. – Cato


Tag: Cato the Younger

Ever since the overthrow of the Roman Monarchy in 509BC, Rome governed itself as a Republic. The government was headed by two consuls, annually elected by the citizens and advised by a Senate. The Republic operated on the principle of a separation of powers with checks and balances, and a strong aversion to the concentration of power. Except in times of national emergency, no single individual was allowed to wield absolute power over his fellow citizens.

A series of civil wars and other events took place during the first century BC, ending the Republican period and leaving in its wake an Imperium, best remembered for its conga line of dictators.

Lucius Sergius Catilina was a Roman Senator during this period, best remembered for his attempt to overthrow the Republic. In particular the power of the aristocratic Senate. He seems to have been an unsavory character, having murdered first his brother in law and later his wife and son, before being tried for adultery with a vestal virgin.

The first of two conspiracies bearing his name began in 65BC. Catilina was supposed to have conspired to murder a number of Senators on their entering office, and making himself, Consul. He may or may not have been involved at this stage, but he certainly would be for the second.

In 63BC, Catilina and a group of heavily indebted aristocrats concocted a plan with a number of disaffected veterans, to overthrow the Republic. On the night of October 18, Crassus brought letters to Consul Marcus Tullius Cicero warning of the plot. Cicero read the letters in the Senate the following day, later giving a series of four speeches: the Catiline Orations, considered by many to be his best political oratory.

In his last speech, delivered in the Temple of Concordia on December 5, 63BC, Cicero established a basis for other speakers to take up the cause. As Consul, Cicero was not allowed to voice an opinion on the execution of conspirators, but this speech laid the groundwork for others to do so, primarily Cato the Younger.

The actual Senate debates are lost to history, leaving only Cicero’s four orations, but there was considerable resistance in the Senate to executing the conspirators. They were, after all, fellow aristocrats.

Armed forces of the conspirators were ambushed at the Milvian Bridge, where the Via Flaminia crosses the Tiber River. The rest were executed by the end of December. Cicero’s actions had saved the Republic. For now.

At one point during this period, then-Senator Julius Caesar stepped to the rostrum to have his say. He was handed a paper and, reading it, stuck the note in his toga and resumed his speech. Cato, Caesar’s implacable foe, stood in the senate and demanded that Caesar read the note. It’s nothing, replied the future emperor, but Cato thought he had caught the hated Caesar red handed. “I demand you read that note”, he said, or words to that effect. He wouldn’t let it go. Finally, Caesar relented. With an actor’s timing, he pulled out the note and read it to a hushed senate.

It turned out to be a love letter, a graphic one, wherein Servilia Caepionis described in detail what she wanted to do with Caesar when she got him alone. As if the scene wasn’t bad enough, Servilia just happened to be Cato’s half-sister.

Here’s where the story becomes Very interesting. Caesar was a well-known lady’s man.

The Emperor’s dying words are supposed to have been “Et tu, Brute?”, as Brutus plunged the dagger in. “And you, Brutus?” But that’s not what he said

By the time of his assassination, he had carried on with Servilia for years. Servilia Caepionis had a son, called Marcus Brutus. He was 41 on the 15th of March, 44BC. The “Ides of March”. Caesar was 56. The Emperor’s dying words are supposed to have been “Et tu, Brute?”, as Brutus plunged the dagger in. “And you, Brutus?” But that’s not what he said. Those words were put in his mouth 1,643 years later, by William Shakespeare.

Eyewitness accounts to Caesar’s last words are lost to history, but more contemporary sources recorded his dying words as “Kai su, Teknon?” In Greek, it means “And you, my child?”

I’m not convinced that Brutus murdered his father on the Ides of March, in fact I believe it to be unlikely. Still, it makes you wonder…


Writing

Cato was one of the first Roman authors to write in Latin. He helped solidify the status of Latin as the literary language of Rome. In 160 BC, he wrote a manual on running a farm, called On Agriculture. He later wrote another manual, called On Soldiery. He wrote the historical work Origins, composed of seven books. In it, he talked about the historical development of Italian towns. He wrote down his political speeches and put them together in a collection. He also wrote poetry and short sayings.


Filibustering the civil rights movement

Rather than die out, however, filibusters ballooned in the 20th century—and were used more systematically than ever before to block civil rights legislation. As Columbia University political science professor Gregory Wawro testified in a 2010 Senate hearing, “it is undeniable that such reforms became the first type of legislation where filibusters were perennially anticipated.”

Intent on keeping the white supremacist status quo of the Jim Crow era, Southern senators formed a minority faction powerful enough to prevent cloture. They successfully filibustered several bills that would have made lynching a federal crime as well as those that would have outlawed the poll taxes that kept Black people from voting.


Let's Get Our Filibuster History Right

Sinema&rsquos statement is not historically accurate.

New York magazine&rsquos Jonathan Chait, a filibuster critic, charged Sinema with pushing &ldquoa version of this fake history&rdquo as part of an &ldquoextraordinarily effective propaganda campaign&rdquo by filibuster proponents. He countered, &ldquoThe filibuster emerged in the 19th century not by any design, but &hellip due to an interpretation of Senate rules which held that they omitted any process for ending debate. The first filibuster did not happen until 1837, and it was the result of exploiting this confusing rules glitch.&rdquo

Chait&rsquos statement is not historically accurate.

In his anti-filibuster book, &ldquo Kill Switch ,&rdquo former Senate aide Adam Jentleson declared that &ldquoSouthern senators&rdquo&mdash both antebellum pro-slavery and post-Reconstruction segregationist senators &mdash &ldquoinvented the filibuster,&rdquo and stated that &ldquo[i]n the eighty-seven years between the end of Reconstruction and 1964, the only bills that were stopped by filibusters were civil rights bills.&rdquo

Jentleson&rsquos statement is not historically accurate either.

Getting our filibuster story straight is difficult because the history is murky and everyone trying to tell the story has an angle. This includes me, but I shall do my best.

Let&rsquos start at the beginning. The filibuster wasn&rsquot invented by Southern senators. It wasn&rsquot even invented in America. The credit should go to the senators of the Roman republic. Actually, one in particular.

The Romans had all sorts of obstructionist tactics, as historian Adam Lebovitz has detailed. One was obnuntiatio, breaking up a legislative session because of a bad omen, which could be done disingenuously. Plutarch wrote of an episode in which &ldquoPompey lyingly declared that he heard thunder, and most shamefully dissolved the assembly, since it was customary to regard such things as inauspicious, and not to ratify anything after a sign from heaven had been given.&rdquo

Another was talking until nightfall when meetings ended, which was not called &ldquofilibuster&rdquo but diem consumere, to consume the day. Cato the Younger was the most famous practitioner of diem consumere. His biographers Rob Goodman and Jimmy Soni go as far as to state, &ldquoThe history of the filibuster &hellip essentially starts with Cato.&rdquo

Cato&rsquos stemwinders &mdash he could &ldquospeak at the top of his lungs for hours&rdquo &mdash were wielded for populist ends. He waged a successful six-month campaign to prevent Rome&rsquos private tax collectors from jacking up their rates. He prevented Pompey, a general, from steering precious land to his troops. And spotting a threat to the Republic itself, with just a one-day talkathon, Cato denied Julius Caesar the ability to have a military parade in his honor while also running for political office.

Caesar would soon seize autocratic power, and Cato would commit suicide rather than live under Caesar&rsquos rule. Goodman and Soni argue Cato&rsquos obstructionism &mdash however high-minded &mdash was a contributing factor to the Roman Republic&rsquos collapse. America&rsquos Founding Fathers, however, idolized Cato. George Washington&rsquos soldiers staged a play about Cato at Valley Forge. Patrick Henry&rsquos famous quote, &ldquoGive me liberty or give me death,&rdquo is derived from a line in that play.

Filibuster critics correctly note that the tactic was not established in the Constitution nor was it codified in the initial congressional rules. But if the Founders feared the emergence of a Cato in their republican experiment, they could have explicitly banned diem consumere. They didn&rsquot.

Granted, Thomas Jefferson wrote a rules manual that informally guided the early Senate, and he instructed, &ldquoNo one is to speak impertinently or beside the question, superfluously or tediously.&rdquo However, legal scholars Catherine Fisk and Erwin Chemerinsky inform us that &ldquosuch debate occurred&rdquo anyway. They also note, &ldquoIt is not clear &hellip whether extended debate with dilatory intent was considered an established practice at this point, or &hellip the bad habit of a few persons.&rdquo Still, if the first congressional majorities believed that dilatory tactics were meant to be banned, they would have tightened up the rules at the first sign of violation.

Chait, citing work by filibuster historian Sarah Binder, placed the first American filibuster in 1837 &mdash when the Whigs tried to stop the expunging of Andrew Jackson&rsquos censure from the congressional record. But Fisk and Chemerinsky determined that &ldquothe strategic use of delay in debate is as old as the Senate itself,&rdquo and they found the &ldquofirst recorded episode of dilatory debate&rdquo occurred in 1790 &ldquowhen senators from Virginia and South Carolina filibustered to prevent the location of the first Congress in Philadelphia.&rdquo One senator who favored the Philadelphia bill recounted, &ldquoThe design of the Virginians and the Carolina gentleman was to talk away the time, so that we could not get the bill passed.&rdquo

Chait&rsquos mention of filibusterers &ldquoexploiting this confusing rules glitch&rdquo is a reference to Binder&rsquos argument that, in 1805, Vice President Aaron Burr inadvertently opened the door to filibustering when he recommended cleaning up the Senate rulebook and removing unnecessary provisions including the &ldquoprevious question motion.&rdquo In Binder&rsquos telling, &ldquotoday, we know that a simple majority in the House can use the [previous question] rule to cut off debate. But in 1805, neither chamber used the rule that way.&rdquo So the Senate got rid of it, not realizing its absence would allow senators to filibuster in the future.

But another filibuster historian, Gregory Koger, recently debunked the Burr origin story. He noted that in much of the 19 th century the House had filibusters &mdash more than the Senate in fact &mdash even though it kept the &ldquoprevious question motion&rdquo on the books.

What&rsquos confusing is that the &ldquoprevious question motion&rdquo was interpreted differently by the House at different times. It wasn&rsquot initially used to cut off debate. Then in 1811 it was, but in subsequent years it wasn&rsquot routinely used in that fashion. Not until the late 19 th century were House procedures broadly and comprehensively reformed to greatly empower the majority and quash dilatory tactics.

The House history of the &ldquoprevious question motion&rdquo speaks to Koger&rsquos main point: &ldquothe meaning of rules is determined by legislative majorities, even if this means completely reversing the traditional interpretation of a term.&rdquo In other words, any majority can interpret the rules however they want, whenever they want.

Chait looks to the Burr story to argue the filibuster &ldquoemerged accidentally&rdquo because &ldquonobody ever would create a system like this on purpose.&rdquo But Koger counters that &ldquoSenators have always had the power to determine what their rules mean, so they have always been able to limit or eliminate filibustering if a majority of the Senate is ready to vote for reform.&rdquo

Remember, in the past decade, narrow Senate majorities have limited the filibuster, deploying the so-called &ldquonuclear option&rdquo to eliminate the filibuster for judicial and executive branch appointments. Koger concludes, &ldquo[I]f a bare majority can end the filibuster now, then this has always been true, and there is no proof that their path to success would be easier if they had a [previous question] motion. For advocates of Senate reform, this poses an awkward truth: the Senate filibuster has persisted to this point because lots of senators have supported it.&rdquo

Case in point: When senators grew tired of the 20 th century talking filibusters, they didn&rsquot abandon the parliamentary tool, they reformed it.

Filibusters gummed up the floor, preventing any other work from getting done. So, as Binder explained this year in The Washington Post , &ldquoMajority leader Mike Mansfield (D-Mont.) in 1970 suggested that the Senate invent a second &lsquoshift&rsquo or &lsquotrack&rsquo of legislation. When a filibuster blocked the first track, Mansfield simply asked unanimous consent of all 100 senators to set aside the filibustered measure and move onto a new bill on a different &lsquotrack.&rsquo Mansfield&rsquos change did not require the Senate to make a formal change in its rules. All he really did was ask for consent to start tracking. Party leaders on both sides of the aisle thought tracking would help them make the floor schedule more predictable.&rdquo

The two-track system is the current system. It is a system that allows for easily executed &ldquosilent&rdquo filibusters. It is a system created on purpose.

In Jentleson&rsquos story, the senators who supported the filibuster were racists. Of course, there&rsquos no disputing that for decades Southern segregationists weaponized the filibuster to protect racist Jim Crow laws. But Jentleson overstates the case when he claims that &ldquobetween the end of Reconstruction and 1964, the only bills that were stopped by filibusters were civil rights bills.&rdquo Binder and Steven Smith, in their 1996 book &ldquoPolitics or Principle? Filibustering in the United States Senate,&rdquo identified &ldquotwenty-six measures&rdquo proposed between Reconstruction and 1994 &ldquothat would directly change public law&rdquo that were &ldquoclearly killed because of the ability of a minority of senators to prevent action.&rdquo Only nine of those 26 were related to civil rights. And before 1949, &ldquothe number of non-civil rights measures blocked by filibuster [was] about as large as the number of civil rights measures killed by filibuster.&rdquo

Jentleson and others (including Barack Obama) want to claim that the filibuster is defined by Jim Crow to argue that it has &ldquomainly served to empower a minority of predominantly white conservatives.&rdquo But the filibuster is a tactic with no inherent ideological disposition. Cato used it against the authoritarians and plutocrats of his time. As the Civil War neared its close, the Radical Republicans (aided by Democrats) launched a successful filibuster thwarting President Lincoln&rsquos plan to admit the government of Louisiana back in the Union, because Louisiana had not yet given Blacks the vote. In this century, President George W. Bush began his second term with a major push to partially privatize Social Security, but when the Senate Democratic minority made clear it had the votes for a filibuster, Bush had no choice but to stand down.

Just as supporters should not pretend that the filibuster was created to produce bipartisan harmony, critics should not pretend that the filibuster is both a historical accident and a linchpin of systemic racism. Let&rsquos tell the true story of the filibuster, not a pat story that serves the ideological purpose of one side of the debate, but the messy convoluted story that reminds us democracy has always been difficult to maintain.


Contents

As a military tribune, Cato was sent to Macedon in 67 BC at the age of 28. He was given command of a legion. He led his men from the front, sharing their work, food, and sleeping quarters. He was strict in discipline and punishment but was popular with his legionaries. When in Macedon, he got the news that his brother Caepio was dying in Thrace. He set off to see him but his brother died before he arrived. Cato was overwhelmed by grief and, for once, he spared no expense to organize lavish funeral ceremonies.

Quaestor Edit

On his return to Rome in 65 BC, Cato was elected to the position of quaestor. One of his first moves was to prosecute former quaestors for misusing funds and dishonesty. Cato also prosecuted Sulla's informers, who had acted as head-hunters during Sulla's dictatorship. Cato did this even when the men were well connected politically. At the end of the year, Cato stepped down from his quaestorship amid popular acclaim, but he never ceased to keep an eye on the treasury, always looking for irregularities.

As senator, Cato was scrupulous and determined. He never missed a session of the Senate and publicly criticized those who did so. From the beginning, he aligned himself with the Optimates, the conservative faction of the Senate. Many of the Optimates at this time had been Sulla's personal friends, whom Cato had despised since his youth, yet Cato attempted to make his name by returning his faction to its pure republican roots.

Tribune of the plebs Edit

In 63 BC, he was elected tribune of the plebs for the following year. He helped the consul, Cicero, deal with the Catiline conspiracy. Lucius Sergius Catilina, a noble patrician, led a rebellion against the state, raising an army in Etruria.

When Cicero discovered a plot against the consuls and other magistrates in Rome, he arrested the conspirators. Cicero proposed to execute them without trial (which was not lawful). In the Senate's discussion, Julius Caesar agreed the conspirators were guilty, but argued for distributing them among Italian cities "for safekeeping". In contrast, Cato argued that capital punishment was necessary to deter treason: it was folly to wait for the test of the conspirators' guilt. Convinced by Cato's argument, the Senate approved Cicero's proposal, and the conspirators were executed. Most of Catilina's army quit the field, much as Cato had predicted.

Cato against Caesar Edit

Cato was a supporter of Pompey, and continued the fight after Pompey was dead. The anti-Caesar forces, known as the Optimates (roughly, the "Good Guys") were reinforced by forces from local rulers. They numbered about eight legions (40.000 men) plus sixty elephants. Caesar defeated the Optimates at the Battle of Thapsus in modern Tunisia, North Africa. Cato did not actually take part in the battle, which was led by a colleague, and committed suicide after the defeat. Roughly 10,000 enemy soldiers wanted to surrender to Caesar, but were instead slaughtered by Caesar's army. This was unusual for Caesar, who was known as a merciful victor. No explanation of this is known.


Cato the Younger: life and death at the end of the Roman republic

Fred Drogula has produced a welcome addition to scholarship on the late Roman republic: the first full scholarly biography of Cato the Younger in English.[1] As Drogula’s book shows, Cato warrants a biography alongside those of more famous contemporaries thanks to his influence on events of the last two decades of the republic, despite never reaching the consulship or celebrating a triumph. Not all readers will agree with Drogula’s assessment of Cato’s role in precipitating the end of the republic or his rejection of Cato’s Stoicism, but Drogula’s thorough survey offers much of value for anyone interested in Cato or late republican politics.

The book adopts a chronological format, beginning with Cato’s family background (especially Cato the Elder), early life, and character, then following Cato’s political career. All the key episodes are discussed: Cato’s efforts as quaestor to reform the administration of the treasury his rise to prominence when, as tribune-elect, he persuaded the senate to execute the Catilinarian conspirators (and, Drogula argues, attempted to have Caesar executed along with them) his opposition to Pompey and Caesar his mission to liquidate the property of the king of Cyprus, which was both a means for Clodius to remove Cato from Rome and an opportunity for Cato to advance his political career (as well as, Drogula suggests, to practice some modest embezzlement) his anti-corruption activities as praetor in 54 BCE (though see below) his support for Pompey’s sole consulship in 52 and unsuccessful campaign for the consulship of 51 his role in the civil war and suicide at Utica.

Along the way, Drogula seeks to explain Cato’s eccentric habits (such as not wearing shoes and tunic) and his precocious emergence as a leader of the optimates, both of which he attributes to Cato’s self-fashioning as Rome’s foremost representative of the mos maiorum (‘the customs of the ancestors’), and not to any Stoic influence (see further below). Drogula also argues that Cato’s animosity towards Caesar was more likely due to a personal feud than anticipation that Caesar would aim at tyranny, although, in the absence of clear evidence for such a feud, Drogula is obliged to hypothesize that Cato may simply have hated Caesar for his intelligence, talent, wit, and popularity with women (p. 79).

Another theme is how Cato’s inflexibility and obstructionism helped to destroy the republic he claimed to defend. In this respect, Drogula’s Cato is a traditional one, but less principled.[2] It was regrettable, Drogula argues, that the optimatesconverged around Cato, since his obstructionism led to the alliance between Pompey and Caesar later, it was Cato’s efforts to drive a wedge between the two that set Rome on the path to civil war, even though Cato himself never wanted that outcome. Drogula’s Cato emerges ultimately as recklessly provocative and rather dim-witted (cf. pp. 24–5), albeit less bloodthirsty than his hard-line allies. Caesar, by contrast, receives a favourable appraisal as a might-have-been optimate who marched on Rome to defend the ‘strong traditional values’ of personal honour and dignitas (p. 269).

The question of responsibility for the civil war will likely be debated as long as Roman history is studied. Perhaps the most controversial aspect of Drogula’s book, however, is his rejection of the traditional picture of ‘Cato the Stoic’, the topic of the epilogue. It was only after Cato’s death, Drogula argues, that his devotion to mos maiorum was reinterpreted as Stoic virtue, beginning with Cicero’s Cato. Drogula concludes that Cato would have resented this transformation: ‘he was not a sage of Greek philosophy, but a stern champion of ancient Roman custom’ (p. 314).

Drogula is right (and certainly not the first) to note how the ‘Stoic martyr’ tradition has distorted or distracted from the historical Cato. However, recovering ‘the real Cato’ (p. 296) should not mean dispensing with ‘Cato the Stoic’ altogether. One difficulty with Drogula’s argument is that it takes inadequate account of the ample and explicit testimony to Cato’s Stoicism, not only in posthumous sources, but also in the contemporary evidence from Cicero, written during Cato’s lifetime. In Paradoxa Stoicorum, for example, Cicero pronounces Cato a ‘perfect Stoic’ (perfectus… Stoicus, pr.2), who incorporated Stoic ideas into his speeches but was nonetheless an effective orator. Drogula counters that ‘[Cicero’s] main point is that Cato does not speak like a Stoic—his behavior does not reflect his philosophical study’ (p. 297). Yet, to say that Cato did not speak like a Stoic makes little sense unless Cato was a Stoic (and could be expected to speak like one).[3] Moreover, Cicero has just stated that Cato used philosophical arguments when giving opinions in the senate what was ‘un-Stoic’ about his oratory was that (unlike most Stoics) he succeeded in making these arguments acceptable even to the people.[4] In other words, Cato’s behaviour as a politician did reflect his Stoicism, as Cicero elsewhere says explicitly: not only in Pro Murena (where his lampoon of Cato’s Stoicism forms part of his defence strategy)[5] but also in a letter to Cato himself, where Cicero claims that he and Cato have brought philosophy ‘into the forum and into public life’.[6]

A further difficulty is that Drogula’s case against Cato’s Stoicism proceeds from a misleadingly narrow concept of what it was to be ‘a Stoic’. Being ‘a Stoic’ did not necessarily mean being ‘a philosopher’, however one defines that term. Being a Stoic also does not equate to being a sage. Seneca depicted Cato as that vanishingly rare creature, the true sapiens,[7]but it is unlikely that Cato would have characterised himself as such. Stoic philosophy was concerned above all with prokoptontes—‘progressors’ in virtue in the real world—rather than the perfect wisdom of the sage. Thus, Cato’s grief at his brother’s death or the fate of his city was not a ‘rejection’ of Stoic apatheia (pp. 37, 285) but merely evidence that Cato was not (yet) a sage. And it was quite possible to engage with Stoic ideas in significant ways without being a sage (or indeed a Stoic at all, as in the case of Cicero).[8] In fact, Drogula acknowledges that Cato had some interest in Stoic philosophy, that he made use of it in his prosecution of Murena, and even that ‘the ideas of the Stoics probably influenced Cato’s thinking’ (p. 54), yet he limits his discussion to aspects of Cato’s persona that were not Stoic, without exploring those that might have been, or the larger question of what it meant to be Stoic in late republican Rome.[9] As such, the book seems a missed opportunity to evaluate how Stoicism and Roman tradition combined in Cato the politician.

Instead, Drogula’s insistence on mos maiorum seems to substitute one legend for another—and an often ill-fitting one. Drogula is repeatedly obliged to explain Cato’s actions and behaviours as evidence of the flexibility of custom or of Cato’s interpretation (see, e.g., pp. 174–5 on Cato’s decision to divorce Marcia). Drogula also observes that Cato’s obstructionist tactics were in conflict with the mos maiorum but resembled those of popular tribunes, as did his grain law. Meanwhile, Cato’s principles fade in and out: in places Cato appears motivated by opposition to corruption or considerations of good faith, but elsewhere acts simply to defend the traditional ability of the nobility to control elections. No single framework, it seems, can explain Cato. Drogula sets out much of the evidence, but does not always fully explore its implications.

Drogula writes lucidly and strikes a sensible balance between the needs of more and less experienced readers, supplying background information where needed (and a helpful glossary). The introduction and epilogue discuss the ancient sources on Cato it would have been useful if Drogula had also situated the book within the landscape of modern scholarship (instead, p. 6 n. 2 simply lists some scholars who have been ‘challenged’ by the biases of the ancient sources). Editing and production is of a high standard, with two stemmata, a selection of maps and illustrations, and a general index. A few minor corrections are noted below, but neither these nor Drogula’s problematic rejection of Cato’s Stoicism should deter readers from this very readable biography and the important questions it poses about the end of the Roman republic.

•p. 184: Afranius did not move that there should be no accusations against the praetors-elect. Since the elections for 55 were held after the start of the year, the magistrates elected would normally enter office immediately and become immune from prosecution. The (unsuccessful) proposal that they should remain private citizens for 60 days (Cic. QFr. 2.8.3) was intended to facilitate prosecution.
• pp. 197–205: Drogula discusses the events of 54 out of sequence, which obscures the connections between the scandalous pact between the consuls and the consular candidates, Cato’s attempt to introduce a ‘silent process’ against the candidates, and the continued delay in holding elections. Moreover, Cato’s umpiring of the tribunician elections and the exposure of the pact occurred before the silent process was proposed, not afterwards.[10] In addition, the discussion of bribery on p. 202 seems to overlook the existence of the lex Tullia de ambitu and Drogula’s suggestion that Cato avoided the senate meeting on 1 October contradicts his earlier statement that Cato was seriously unwell in September–October.
• pp. 208–9: The senatus consultum de provinciis of 53 was not designed to prevent consuls from influencing their own provincial assignments the lex Sempronia already had that effect. There is no indication that a bill was put to the assembly in 53.
• pp. 251–2: The technical qualifications for a triumph did not apply to a supplication, and Bibulus’ claim to the latter was probably stronger than Cicero allows.[11]
• Some less important points: On p. 14, Drogula seems to conflate the lex Oppia and the lex Voconia. On p. 21, Salonia, the second wife of Cato the Elder, is described both as ‘the daughter of one of his scribes’ and ‘said to have been the daughter of one of his clerks’. At p. 106, Hortensius might have been surprised to learn that he had ‘more or less retired’ from politics in 61–60. The discussion of Cato’s proposal to hand Caesar over to the German tribes in 55 BCE (pp. 199–200) sits strangely in the middle of the narrative of 54.

[1] Previous studies include a full biography in German by R. Fehrle ([1983] Cato Uticensis, Darmstadt) and a popular biography by R. Goodman and J. Soni ([2012] Rome’s Last Citizen, New York).

[2] Compare, e.g., Cicero’s quip that Cato spoke as if he lived in Plato’s Republic (Att. 2.1.8), or T. Mommsen’s portrait of ‘Der Don Quixote der Aristokratie’ ([1922] Römische Geschichte, 13 th edn, Berlin, 3.166–7).

[3] Cic. Brut. 118 makes the same point and is dismissed by Drogula in the same way (p. 297).

[4] Cic. Par. Sto. pr.1–2. See further R. Stem (2005) ‘The first eloquent Stoic: Cicero on Cato the Younger’, CJ 101,37–49.

[5] Cicero (Mur. 62) states that Cato embraced Stoicism ‘not for the sake of discussion, like most people, but truly as a way of living’ (neque disputandi causa, ut magna pars, sed ita vivendi). Moreover, Cicero’s strategy presupposes that Cato was associated with Stoicism and used Stoic ideas in his prosecution speech (as Drogula acknowledges, p. 63).

[6] Cic. Fam. 15.4.16 (in forum atque in rem publicam). Furthermore, Cato was not the only Stoic among Roman politicians P. Rutilius Rufus, in particular, might have been a worthwhile comparison.

[7] Sen. Const. 2.1 see, e.g., Long & Sedley 61N and Cic. de Or. 3.65 on the rarity of the true sage.

[8] It is curious that Drogula (p. 226) refers to ‘Stoics such as Cicero’ (in fact a follower of the Academy) yet denies that label to Cato.

[9] On the question of the relevance of philosophy in Roman politics, see (e.g.) M. T. Griffin and J. Barnes (eds) (1989) Philosophia Togata, Oxford.

[10] See G. V. Sumner (1982) ‘The coitio of 54 BC’, HSCP 86, 133–9.

[11] See K. Morrell (2017) Pompey, Cato, and the Governance of the Roman Empire, Oxford, 197–200.


Marcus Porcius Cato the Elder

Marcus Porcius Cato (234-149 B.C.), known as Cato the Elder and Cato the Censor, was a Roman soldier, statesman, orator, and author. His stern morality in office as well as in his private life became proverbial.

Cato called "the Elder" to distinguish him from his equally famous greatgrandson, Cato the Younger, was born in Tusculum in the Sabine mountains. After growing up in the sturdy discipline of farm life, Cato, from the age of 17, participated in the Second Punic War, distinguished himself in various battles, and served as military tribune in Sicily. After gaining considerable fame for his oratorical ability in court, he was the first of his family to run for public office. Elected quaestor in 204 B.C., he was assigned to the proconsul Publius Cornelius Scipio (Africanus Major) during the war in Africa. On his return he met the poet Quintus Ennius in Sardinia and brought him to Rome.

In 199 Cato became plebeian aedile, and in the following year praetor in Sardinia, where he proceeded sternly against moneylenders. He won the consulship in 195 together with his patrician friend and supporter Lucius Valerius Flaccus. Before his departure for the province of Spain he opposed the repeal of the Appian Law against feminine luxury. As proconsul, in the following year he successfully quelled the rebellion of the Spanish tribes, settled Roman administration, and concerned himself with the Roman profit from the Spanish iron and silver mines. Returning to Rome later in 194, he celebrated a triumph.

In the war against the Syrian king Antiochus III, Cato served once more as military tribune under Manlius Acilius Glabrio, consul of 191 B.C. During his travels in Greece, Cato acquired his anti-Hellenic attitude. After brilliant operations at Thermopylae he was sent to Rome to report the victory, and soon afterward he began a series of accusations directed against the progressive and pro-Hellenic wing of the Senate, which centered on Scipio Africanus. His indefatigable attacks upon what he considered the demoralizing effects of foreign influences and his attempt to steer back to the "good old Roman ways" led to his becoming censor in 184.

Having reached the culmination of his career at the age of 50, Cato gave full scope to his doctrines of social regeneration. As censor, he introduced taxes on luxuries and revised rigorously the enrollment of the Senate and the equestrian order. On the other hand, he spent lavishly on public works such as the sewerage system and built the first Roman market hall, the Basilica Porcia, next to the Senate house. Through the sternness of his censorship he made so many enemies that he had to defend himself in court to the end of his life in at least 44 trials. He pursued a vigorous anti-Carthaginian policy after he returned from an embassy to Carthage, where he witnessed to his great dismay the economic recovery of Rome's former enemy. He died in 149 B.C. at the age of 85, 3 years before the final destruction of Carthage.

As an author, though following in his Origines (Foundation Stories) the Hellenistic foundation stories of Italian cities, Cato was the first Roman historian to write in Latin, thereby inspiring national historiography in Rome. He did not hesitate to include his own speeches (of which Cicero knew more than 150), and fragments of 80 are still preserved. Not a detractor of his own praises, he refused to include the names of other generals in his work. His didactic prose work De agricultura (On Farming) provides a mine of information on the changing conditions from small land-holdings to capitalistic farming in Campania. It is also an invaluable source book for ancient customs, social conditions, superstitions, prayer formulas, and archaic Latin prose.

Cato was undoubtedly one of the most colorful characters of the Roman Republic, and his name became synonymous with the strict old Roman morality for generations to come.


Let’s Get Our Filibuster History Right

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema last week claimed the Senate filibuster “was created to bring together members of different parties to find compromise and coalition.”

Sinema’s statement is not historically accurate.

New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait, a filibuster critic, charged Sinema with pushing “a version of this fake history” as part of an “extraordinarily effective propaganda campaign” by filibuster proponents. He countered, “The filibuster emerged in the 19th century not by any design, but … due to an interpretation of Senate rules which held that they omitted any process for ending debate. The first filibuster did not happen until 1837, and it was the result of exploiting this confusing rules glitch.”

Chait’s statement is not historically accurate.

In his anti-filibuster book, “Kill Switch,” former Senate aide Adam Jentleson declared that “Southern senators” — both antebellum pro-slavery and post-Reconstruction segregationist senators — “invented the filibuster,” and stated that “[i]n the eighty-seven years between the end of Reconstruction and 1964, the only bills that were stopped by filibusters were civil rights bills.”

Jentleson’s statement is not historically accurate either.

Getting our filibuster story straight is difficult because the history is murky and everyone trying to tell the story has an angle. This includes me, but I shall do my best.

Let’s start at the beginning. The filibuster wasn’t invented by Southern senators. It wasn’t even invented in America. The credit should go to the senators of the Roman republic. Actually, one in particular.

The Romans had all sorts of obstructionist tactics, as historian Adam Lebovitz has detailed. One was obnuntiatio, breaking up a legislative session because of a bad omen, which could be done disingenuously. Plutarch wrote of an episode in which “Pompey lyingly declared that he heard thunder, and most shamefully dissolved the assembly, since it was customary to regard such things as inauspicious, and not to ratify anything after a sign from heaven had been given.”

Another was talking until nightfall when meetings ended, which was not called “filibuster” but diem consumere, to consume the day. Cato the Younger was the most famous practitioner of diem consumere. His biographers Rob Goodman and Jimmy Soni go as far as to state, “The history of the filibuster … essentially starts with Cato.”

Cato’s stemwinders — he could “speak at the top of his lungs for hours” — were wielded for populist ends. He waged a successful six-month campaign to prevent Rome’s private tax collectors from jacking up their rates. He prevented Pompey, a general, from steering precious land to his troops. And spotting a threat to the Republic itself, with just a one-day talkathon, Cato denied Julius Caesar the ability to have a military parade in his honor while also running for political office.

Caesar would soon seize autocratic power, and Cato would commit suicide rather than live under Caesar’s rule. Goodman and Soni argue Cato’s obstructionism — however high-minded — was a contributing factor to the Roman Republic’s collapse. America’s Founding Fathers, however, idolized Cato. George Washington’s soldiers staged a play about Cato at Valley Forge. Patrick Henry’s famous quote, “Give me liberty or give me death,” is derived from a line in that play.

Filibuster critics correctly note that the tactic was not established in the Constitution nor was it codified in the initial congressional rules. But if the Founders feared the emergence of a Cato in their republican experiment, they could have explicitly banned diem consumere. They didn’t.

Granted, Thomas Jefferson wrote a rules manual that informally guided the early Senate, and he instructed, “No one is to speak impertinently or beside the question, superfluously or tediously.” However, legal scholars Catherine Fisk and Erwin Chemerinsky inform us that “such debate occurred” anyway. They also note, “It is not clear … whether extended debate with dilatory intent was considered an established practice at this point, or … the bad habit of a few persons.” Still, if the first congressional majorities believed that dilatory tactics were meant to be banned, they would have tightened up the rules at the first sign of violation.

Chait, citing work by filibuster historian Sarah Binder, placed the first American filibuster in 1837 — when the Whigs tried to stop the expunging of Andrew Jackson’s censure from the congressional record. But Fisk and Chemerinsky determined that “the strategic use of delay in debate is as old as the Senate itself,” and they found the “first recorded episode of dilatory debate” occurred in 1790 “when senators from Virginia and South Carolina filibustered to prevent the location of the first Congress in Philadelphia.” One senator who favored the Philadelphia bill recounted, “The design of the Virginians and the Carolina gentleman was to talk away the time, so that we could not get the bill passed.”

Chait’s mention of filibusterers “exploiting this confusing rules glitch” is a reference to Binder’s argument that, in 1805, Vice President Aaron Burr inadvertently opened the door to filibustering when he recommended cleaning up the Senate rulebook and removing unnecessary provisions including the “previous question motion.” In Binder’s telling, “today, we know that a simple majority in the House can use the [previous question] rule to cut off debate. But in 1805, neither chamber used the rule that way.” So the Senate got rid of it, not realizing its absence would allow senators to filibuster in the future.

But another filibuster historian, Gregory Koger, recently debunked the Burr origin story. He noted that in much of the 19th century the House had filibusters — more than the Senate in fact — even though it kept the “previous question motion” on the books.

What’s confusing is that the “previous question motion” was interpreted differently by the House at different times. It wasn’t initially used to cut off debate. Then in 1811 it was, but in subsequent years it wasn’t routinely used in that fashion. Not until the late 19th century were House procedures broadly and comprehensively reformed to greatly empower the majority and quash dilatory tactics.

The House history of the “previous question motion” speaks to Koger’s main point: “the meaning of rules is determined by legislative majorities, even if this means completely reversing the traditional interpretation of a term.” In other words, any majority can interpret the rules however they want, whenever they want.

Chait looks to the Burr story to argue the filibuster “emerged accidentally” because “nobody ever would create a system like this on purpose.” But Koger counters that “Senators have always had the power to determine what their rules mean, so they have always been able to limit or eliminate filibustering if a majority of the Senate is ready to vote for reform.”

Remember, in the past decade, narrow Senate majorities have limited the filibuster, deploying the so-called “nuclear option” to eliminate the filibuster for judicial and executive branch appointments. Koger concludes, “[I]f a bare majority can end the filibuster now, then this has always been true, and there is no proof that their path to success would be easier if they had a [previous question] motion. For advocates of Senate reform, this poses an awkward truth: the Senate filibuster has persisted to this point because lots of senators have supported it.”

Case in point: When senators grew tired of the 20th century talking filibusters, they didn’t abandon the parliamentary tool, they reformed it.

Filibusters gummed up the floor, preventing any other work from getting done. So, as Binder explained this year in The Washington Post, “Majority leader Mike Mansfield (D-Mont.) in 1970 suggested that the Senate invent a second ‘shift’ or ‘track’ of legislation. When a filibuster blocked the first track, Mansfield simply asked unanimous consent of all 100 senators to set aside the filibustered measure and move onto a new bill on a different ‘track.’ Mansfield’s change did not require the Senate to make a formal change in its rules. All he really did was ask for consent to start tracking. Party leaders on both sides of the aisle thought tracking would help them make the floor schedule more predictable.”

The two-track system is the current system. It is a system that allows for easily executed “silent” filibusters. It is a system created on purpose.

In Jentleson’s story, the senators who supported the filibuster were racists. Of course, there’s no disputing that for decades Southern segregationists weaponized the filibuster to protect racist Jim Crow laws. But Jentleson overstates the case when he claims that “between the end of Reconstruction and 1964, the only bills that were stopped by filibusters were civil rights bills.” Binder and Steven Smith, in their 1996 book “Politics or Principle? Filibustering in the United States Senate,” identified “twenty-six measures” proposed between Reconstruction and 1994 “that would directly change public law” that were “clearly killed because of the ability of a minority of senators to prevent action.” Only nine of those 26 were related to civil rights. And before 1949, “the number of non-civil rights measures blocked by filibuster [was] about as large as the number of civil rights measures killed by filibuster.”

Jentleson and others (including Barack Obama) want to claim that the filibuster is defined by Jim Crow to argue that it has “mainly served to empower a minority of predominantly white conservatives.” But the filibuster is a tactic with no inherent ideological disposition. Cato used it against the authoritarians and plutocrats of his time. As the Civil War neared its close, the Radical Republicans (aided by Democrats) launched a successful filibuster thwarting President Lincoln’s plan to admit the government of Louisiana back in the Union, because Louisiana had not yet given Blacks the vote. In this century, President George W. Bush began his second term with a major push to partially privatize Social Security, but when the Senate Democratic minority made clear it had the votes for a filibuster, Bush had no choice but to stand down.

Just as supporters should not pretend that the filibuster was created to produce bipartisan harmony, critics should not pretend that the filibuster is both a historical accident and a linchpin of systemic racism. Let’s tell the true story of the filibuster, not a pat story that serves the ideological purpose of one side of the debate, but the messy convoluted story that reminds us democracy has always been difficult to maintain.

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

Bill Scher is a contributing editor to Politico Magazine, co-host of the Bloggingheads.tv show “The DMZ,” and host of the podcast “New Books in Politics.” He can be reached at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @BillScher.

The Daily Wire is one of America’s fastest-growing conservative media companies and counter-cultural outlets for news, opinion, and entertainment. Get inside access to The Daily Wire by becoming a member.


Watch the video: Big Fat Nutrition Policy. Nina Teicholz (January 2022).