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Quotes of Cato the Elder

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Cato the Elder

Cato the Elder (Marcus Porcius Cato) lived from 234-149 BCE. He was a speaker, politician, and Roman writer. A talented commander, administrator and statesman. He was called Censor (Censorius), Wise (Sapiens), Ancient (Priscus) or the Elder to distinguish him from his great-grandson. His great-grandson was Cato the Younger.

  • “Furthermore, I consider that Carthage must be destroyed”
    • latin: [Ceterum censeo Karthaginem esse delendam]
    • description: Cato the Elder, an implacable enemy of Carthage, ended all speeches in the Roman Senate with such words.
    • source: Plutarch, Marcus Cato 27, 1
  • “Well done, for when shameful lust has swollen the veins, it is suitable that young men should come down here rather than fool around with other men’s wives”
    • description: spotting a young man coming out of a brothel.
    • source: Horace, Satirae, 1.2.31-2
  • “To each his own”
    • latin: [Suum cuique]
    • description: words referring to the old Greek rule of law, which in Plato’s work “Republic”, are described as “justice is when everyone minds his own business”.
    • source: Cato the Elder, De Natura Deorum, III, 38
  • “When those folk [Greeks] give us their writings they will corrupt everything. All the more if they send their doctors here”
    • latin: [vincam nequissimum et indocile genus illorum, et hoc puta vatem dixisse: quandoque ista gens suas litteras dabit, omnia conrumpet, tum etiam magis, si medicos suos hoc mittet]
    • source: Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 29.14
  • “Between the mouth and the morsel”
    • latin: [Inter os atque offam (multa intervenire possunt)]
    • description: firstly quoted by Aristotle. In the Latin version, quoted by Gellius as a fragment of the speech of Cato the Elder.
    • source: Gellius, Noctes Atticae, XIII, 17, 1
  • “Beautiful woman is like a gilded pill – pleasing to the eyes, bitter to the lips”
  • “Moreover, I consider that Carthage should be destroyed”
    • latin: [Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam]
    • description: words of Cato the Elder, with which he ended all of his speeches in the Roman senate. Often quotes also as “Carthago delenda est”.
    • source: Florus, Epitome of Roman History I, 31
  • “Grasp the subject, the words will follow.”
    • latin: [Rem tene, verba sequentur]
    • source: Gaius Julius Victor, Ars Rhetorica
  • “All mankind rules its women, and we rule all mankind, but our women rule us”
    • description: about prevalent domination of women; source is in greek.
    • source: Plutarch, Apophthegmata regum et imperatorum
  • “Thieves who have robbed private individuals spend their lives in prison and chains, and public thieves in gold and purple”
    • latin: [Fures privatorum furtorum in nervo atque in compedibus aetatem agunt, fures publici in auro atque in purpura]
    • source: Aulus Gellius, Noctes Atticae XI, 18, 18
  • “Buy not what you want, but what you have need of; what you do not want is dear at a farthing”
    • latin: [Emas non quod opus est, sed quod necesse est. Quod non opus est, asse carum est]
    • description: a farthing was a quarter of an old British penny, so Cato meant that if you buy something you don’t want, a farthing would be too much to pay for it.
    • source: Seneka the Younger, Epistles, 94
  • “Grasp the subject, the words will follow”
    • latin: [Rem tene, verba sequentur]
    • description: suggestions for orators.
    • source: Julius Victor, Art of Rhetoric
  • “I would much rather have men ask why I have no statue, than why I have one”
    • greek: [‘μᾶλλον γὰρ,’ ἔφη, ‘βούλομαι ζητεῖσθαι, διὰ τί μου ἀνδριὰς οὐ κεῖται ἢ διὰ τί κεῖται’]
    • source: Plutarch, Cato, 19:4
  • “Wise men are more dependent on fools than fools on wise men”
    • descritpion: words given in Greek.
    • source: Plutarch, Cato the Younger, 9

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