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Marcus Porcius Cato (Cato the Elder)

Marcus Porcius Cato (Cato the Elder)

234–149 b.c.e.

Statesman, writer


Old-Fashioned. Born into a relatively modest family and a veteran of the Second Punic War (218–201 B.C.E.), Marcus Porcius Cato, or Cato the Elder, was one of the most important political and cultural figures of his age. (He is called “the Elder” in contrast to his great-grandson of the same name, famous for his opposition to Caesar.) His political career culminated in the consulship in 195 B.C.E. and the censorship in 184 B.C.E. Even after leaving office, he remained an influential figure in the Senate for decades; most notably he brought about the Third Punic War in the year of his death (149 B.C.E.). His reputation was as an “old-fashioned” moralist and strident nationalist, though at least the latter was partly a matter of public posturing. Cato was also the first significant writer of Latin literary prose. He published more than a hundred of his speeches (he may have been the first Roman to do so), a history of Rome, and a treatise on agriculture.


Alan E. Astin, Cato the Censor (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978).

Ward W. Briggs, “Cato the Elder,” in Ancient Roman Writers, Dictionary of Literary Biography, volume 211, edited by Briggs (Columbia, S.C.: Bruccoli Clark Layman / Detroit: Gale Group, 1999), pp. 35–40.

Howard Hayes Scullard, Roman Politics 220–150 B.C. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1951).

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