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the life and character of M. Cato of Utica [ ] - Joseph Addison, Cato: A Tragedy and Selected Essays 
Cato: A Tragedy and Selected Essays, ed. by Christine Dunn Henderson and Mark E. Yellin, with a Foreword by Forrest McDonald (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2004).
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the life and character of M. Cato of Utica[ ]
This Gentleman was the Great Grandson of M. Portius Cato Major, who by his Virtue and Excellence gain’d a wonderful Reputation and Authority amongst the Romans, and transmitted a Grandeur and Nobility to his Family, which to that Time it wanted; and which his famous Descendant, of whom I am here treating, by the signal Probity of his Life, and Glory of his Death, as it were studied to preserve and keep alive to all Posterity.
This Cato Uticensis was born in the 659th Year from the Building of Rome, when C. Caldus and L. Domitius Ahenobarbus were Consuls; for he kill’d himself in the 48th Year of his Age, which was the 707th Year from the Building of the City, when the Great Julius Caesar was the third Time Consul, with Marcus Aemilius Lepidus.
Our young Cato was, by the Loss of both his Parents, left an Orphan, and was bred up in the House of Livius Drusus, his Uncle by the Mother’s side. He from his very Infancy discover’d those Seeds of Virtue in his Disposition, which naturally produce the Harvest of his After-Sentiments and Actions: The Accent and Delivery of his Words, the Frame of his Countenance, and even the very Diversions of his Childhood, were concurring Testimonies of a firm and inflexible Temper, that could neither easily be carried away with youthful Levities, or sway’d by more ungentle Passions. I shall not here trace him thro’ all his growing Years, but only give an Instance from Plutarch, how early those Principles, and that Love of Liberty for his Country, were rooted in his Breast; to which he Religiously adhered thro’ all his Life, and to which he set the Seal of his Approbation in his memorable Death: Being now almost Fourteen Years old, and carried by his Tutor Sarpedo to Sylla’s House, who was then Dictator, and who had formerly had a Friendship with Cato’s Father, the young Gentleman saw the Heads of Great Men brought thither, who had fell under the Dictator’s Displeasure, and observing that all the Standers by sigh’d in secret at the Repetitions of Cruelty, he turns to his Master, and with an Air of indignant Resolution asks him, Why does no body kill this Man? The Master replying, Because they all fear him, Child, more than they hate him: Why then (says Cato again) do you not give me a Sword that I may stab him, and free my Country from this Slavery?
He seem’d indeed design’d by Fate a Pattern of Integrity, in Opposition to the general Corruption of the Times; for he thought the only Way to be honest, was to run counter to the Age, and not be ashamed of his own Singularities, but his Contemporaries Vices: He was a Man (says Velleius Paterculus) that was the very Picture of Virtue, and in all his Faculties more allied to the Purity of the Gods than the Frailties of Man; who never did a good Action; in an Ostentation of Honesty, but because he could not recede from the Sentiments of Honour which were ingrafted in his Breast, and only thought such Proceedings had Reason on their Side which were founded on Justice.
Being now one and twenty Years Old, the Gladiator’s War broke out in Italy, which was rais’d and fomented by one Sparticus a Thracian, who had perswaded seventy of his Fellow Swordsmen, it would be much more Honourable for them to fight for their own Liberty, than the Diversion of Rome: Lucius Gellius, the Consul, was chosen Praetor of the Army to subdue the Rebels, and Cato entered himself a Voluntier under that General, for the love that he bore to his Brother Caepio, who had the Command of a thousand Foot under the Consul. Cato soon met the Advancement he had so good a Title to; and was himself sent a Tribune into Macedon, to Rubrius, Praetor there, at whose Camp he no sooner arrived, but he was honoured with the Charge of one of the Roman Legions, where he endeared himself extreamly to the Soldiers, by always taking a part in what he commanded them; and by being in his Apparel, Diet, and Labour, more like a Common Soldier than their Officer: And when the time of his Service in the Army was expired, he received at his Departure not only the Prayers and Praises, but the Tears and Embraces of the Soldiers, who spread their Garments at his Feet, and kissed his Hands as he pass’d; which was an Honour rarely confer’d by the Romans on any of their Generals.
Cato, ere he would return Home, resolving to travel over Asia, and observe the Customs and Strength of the several Provinces, was met by Pompey at Ephesus, who would not receive him sitting, but rose to Embrace and Welcome him as one of the noblest Persons of Rome, and said many Things in Commendation of his Virtue both in his Presence and after he was gone away: Thence proceeding to pay his Respects to Old Deiotarus, King of Galatia, he had the Offers of immense Presents from that Monarch, which he could neither be persuaded himself to receive, nor suffer a Distribution of them to be made amongst his Followers.
On his Return to Rome, he spent much time in Philosophical Arguments with Athenodorus, sometimes at his own House, and othertimes in publick Disputations at the Forum to oblige his Friends: And when it came to his Turn to make suit for the Questorship, he would not be prevailed on to make his Applications, ’till he had fully informed himself in all the Ordinances belonging to the Duty and Authority of the Office: Thus instructed, he entered on this first Step to Civil Preferment, and fill’d the Place with such Sufficiency, and deserv’d Applause, that ’twas universally said, Cato had made the Office of a Questor equal to the Dignity of a Consul.
Cato, after he had laid down his Power, yet did not throw off his Care of the Treasury, but at the Expence of five Talents, had the Books containing Accounts of the Revenues, from Sylla’s time to his own, transcrib’d for him, and kept the same always by him: Nay, so diligent and laborious was he for the Good of the Commonwealth, that he was generally observed to be the first Man that came to, and the last that retired from the Senate House.
Being now in the One and Thirtieth Year of his Age, he was sollicited by his Friends to stand up for a Tribuneship of the People; which he resolutely declined, till he found Metellus Nepos was pushing for that Office, who was an Instrument employ’d by Pompey to get a Decree to pass in the Senate, that that General should presently be call’d into Italy with all his Forces for the Preservation of the City. Cato, who was apprised of the Measures this rash Agent meant to take, thought it was no time of Retirement for him; but that he must go and prevent Metellus in his Designs, or bravely die in Defence of his Country’s Liberty: He was back’d with the Interest of Persons of the best Quality, who perceived that he exposed himself to this dangerous Honour only for the Service of Rome, and was declared one of the Tribunes.
The beginning of this Year (which was the 690th from the Building of the City) threatned Rome with the most dangerous Conspiracy that ever was formed against the Safety of so potent a State, to wit, that of Cataline and his profligate Accomplices: In the detecting of which most horrid Combination, our Cato was not only Serviceable to the Consul Cicero, but when detected, the principal Instrument and Promoter of the Malefactor’s Punishments: For when this Subject came under the Debate of the Senate, Julius Caesar (who with Marcus Crassus was suspected as private Abetters of Cataline’s black Purpose) in a plausible and elegant Oration perswaded Mercy, and disapprov’d that the Criminals should die: He told the Senators, “That in Affairs of Moment, where Men are ask’d their Sentence, they ought to be free from the Influences of Passion, for that the Mind must err in its Judgment that was either prejudiced by Hate or Anger, or byass’d by Affection or Pity: That the foul Fact of the Conspirators should not weigh more with the Senate than their own Dignity, or they be more Indulgent to their Resentments than their Honours: That if Punishments could be found to equal the Crimes of the Conspirators, he should Approve the utmost Severities; but if the Greatness of their Guilt exceeded all Invention, he thought it fit they should so proceed, as their Laws in such Cases provided: That no Sentence could be Cruel against such Delinquents, but that it was abhorring from their State, since to a Citizen of Rome, offending, their Laws gave Exile, and not Death: That Syllanus (the designed Consul, and who spoke before Caesar) could not advise Execution, for fear of the Traytors, when the Diligence of the worthy Cicero had detected and prevented Danger; and if he meant it for a Punishment, Caesar thought Death was the End of Evils, and rather a Release from Pain, than a Torment: as it dissolved all Griefs, and beyond it were neither Care nor Joy. That therefore his Opinion was, that the Criminal should have their Estates confiscated to the publick Treasury, and their Persons confined in the Free Towns distant from Rome, and divided from each other; that they should have no Privilege of Appealing either to the Senate or People to have their Doom reversed or mitigated, and that whoever should presume to move it, the Senate should determine of them as Enemies to the Peace and Safety of the Roman State.”
When Caeser had harangued the House in a long Oration to this Effect, won over Syllanus to a more candid Interpretation of his Sentence, and inclined the Majority of the Senators to Votes of Clemency: Cato with much Warmth rose up and reply’d to Caesar’s Arguments. “Owned his Sentence was far different from the precedent One; that they disputed on the Kinds of Punishments, and sate consulting what they should decree against those, of whom they rather should beware: That such a Conspiracy was not like those Common Facts, which the Laws may Prosecute when they are Committed; but that if it was not provided against and prevented ere it happen’d, it would not wait their Judgment when it was happen’d; but when a City was taken, the vanquished Party had no Redress left. That they were not debating now on the Subject of Tribute and Customs, or the Injuries of their Allies, but on no less important a Theme than the hazard of their Lives and Liberties: That he had often been heard there, complaining either of the Licentiousness or Avarice of his Fellow-Citizens; and had procured himself many Enemies thereby; for that as he could not indulge himself in the committing of any Enormities, so he did not easily pardon a vicious Liberty in others; which seasonable Invectives of his, if they had Slighted, it was because Plenty and Prosperity made ’em Negligent; but now it was not the Case in Dispute, whether their Lives and Manners were conformable to the Rules of Honour or how the Empire might be Enlarg’d; but whether their Properties should continue their own, or become the Spoil of Invaders: That they had now even forgot the True Names of Things. That to give away Another’s Effects, was esteem’d Liberality, and an Hardiness in Ill Actions, was term’d Fortitude; to such a low Ebb of Virtue was the Common-Wealth reduc’d: That Gaius Caesar had very well and subtilly discours’d of Life and Death, as if he thought those Things a Fable, which were deliver’d them of Hell and Furies; and of ill Men going separate from Good to filthy dark and ugly Places That therefore Caesar would have the Paricides live, but far from Rome, and imprison’d in the small Free Towns, least there they might have Rescue. As if Men fit for such Attempts, were only to be found in the City, and not dispers’d throughout Italy? or that their audacious Proceedings would not have most Scope, where it found least Resistance? That Caesar’s Counsel was vain if he thought them dangerous; which if he did not, but alone remain’d unfrighted, where all others were terrified, it should give Cato and the Senate cause more to fear him: That the Fathers look’d about one at another, doubting what to do; with Faces, as they trusted to the Gods to save them; but that they are not Wishings and womanish Prayers can draw the Immortal’s Aid; but Vigilance, Counsel, Action, which they never forsake: That they had the Traytors in their Houses, yet stood fearing what to do with them: He thought, if they were so inclin’d to Softness, they should e’en let the Conspirators loose and furnish ’em with Arms; that their Mercy might turn their Misery! That as their Crimes had already been qualified by some, who pleaded, that they were great Men and had offended but through Ambition: He thought also, the Senate should spare the Honour of the Criminals, if they themselves had ever spar’d it, or their Fame, or Modesty, or the Gods, or Men; but that as Things then stood, Necessity and the Preservation of the City call’d aloud for speedy Punishment which ought to be inflicted, More Majorum. This Speech of Cato’s, delivered and received with all the Authority of so Great a Man, turn’d the House again, and it was decreed the Conspirators should be put to Death. I doubt not but the Readers will Pardon me for transcribing the Orator’s Sentiments so fully, since therein is seen the Strength of his Reasoning and Austerity of his Manners; since therein are painted the most lively Strokes of his Temper, and the true Image of his honest Mind.
Soon as the Traitors were disposed of at home, and Cataline worsted by Petreius abroad, and that Rome began to breath again, the Oppressions of such Imminent Danger being removed: Cato made use of the Power of his Tribuneship to secure the Health of the City, and prevent the poisonous Effects of Metellus’s Designs, in calling Pompey home with an Army, which he was sure would Strike at the Liberty of his Country, and Invest the Absolute Power of the State in that Victorious and Experienc’d General; wherefore after a warm Debate with Metellus in the Senate on that Head, he concluded boldly, That while he liv’d, Pompey should never come arm’d into the City. But tho’ Cato set all his Power against the Interests of Pompey, and stood up for the Maintaining the Laws, and Defending the Properties of Rome, yet Force prevailed over honest but impotent Opposition, and the City embroil’d with continual Heats and Factions, lay expos’d to the sinister Designs of those Ambitious Citizens, who were forming Combinations against her Liberty: Yet however the Party of Tyranny strengthened it self, Cato’s undaunted Spirit resisted their Proceedings even to the hazard of his Life, being one time paulted with Sticks and Stones by the Faction, and afterwards imprisoned by Caesar; but the Groans of the Senate, and the Universal Sadness of the People made Caesar asham’d of the Action; and he privately sent one of the Tribunes to take Cato out of the Prison. So zealously did this worthy Patriot labour to Prop the Ruins of his sinking City, and divert that Slavery which now like a Deluge began to overflow and swallow up all the Rights and very Being of a Free State: for Rome had tasted but four Years Respite from Cataline’s Invasion, when Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus entred into a firm but fatal Combination, ratify’d with mutual Oaths and Promises, That nothing should be done in the Common-wealth against any of their Interests or Approbations. But this Union, which they Disguis’d under the Name of Friendship, was in Effect no other thing than each Man’s Private Ambition; and the Consequences prov’d, that as this League, according to the Opinion of Cato, ruined the Foundations of the Roman Liberty, so their Proceedings were but Preludes to a Civil War.
Now was Rome either Aw’d or Debauch’d to a Compliance with these powerful Triumvirs; Offices, Provinces, and Governments were Engrossed between them; and each to heighten his own Power, contributed to strengthen and establish his Candidate’s Interest. Cato, when a Law was Propos’d, concerning the Provinces and Legions for Caesar, apply’d to Pompey, and told him, He did not consider now that he took Caesar upon his own Shoulders, who would shortly grow too weighty for him: and at length, when he would neither be able to lay down the Burthen, nor yet to bear it any longer, he would fall with it upon the Common-wealth; and then he would remember Cato’s Advice, which was no less Advantageous to Pompey than it was just and honest in it self.
While thus for near eight Years all Matters were carried in the Common-wealth by the compacted Artifice and Grandure of three Men, and even the meanest Elections in the Civil Power obtained with Canvasing and Intreague, with Struglings and Hostilities, Crassus at length was cut off, with a mighty Slaughter of his Forces, in the Parthian Wars; and the Death of this Triumvir, who, while he liv’d, was as a Check upon the other two, left them now an open Field for their Ambition and Emulation to work in: ’Twas now Caesar and Pompey began to grow Jealous of each others Growth and Designs, and Caesar’s Exploits and Victories over the fierce Gauls and Germans, made his Conquering Powers formidable to Rome: Caesar’s Immense Riches were an Eye-sore to Pompey, says Lucius Florus, and Pompey’s Dignity grated Caesar. One could not bear an Equal, the other a Superior; and they both laboured for the Mastery, as if so great an Empire could not satisfie the Ambition of Two such Grandees at once. When News was brought that Caesar had pass’d the Rubicon, taken Ariminum, and was coming on with his Army towards Rome; Pompey and all Men cast their Eyes on Cato, who had alone foreseen Caesar’s Intentions: Cato then told them, If you had believed me, or regarded my Advice, you would not now have been reduced to stand in fear of one Man, and also to put all your Hopes in one Man alone. Pompey too late confessed, that Cato indeed had spoke most like a Prophet, and that himself had acted too much like a Friend to Caesar. Disturbances and Dissentions daily encreas’d in Rome, and the City was fill’d with Murthers and Quarrels; Pompey was look’d upon as the fittest Person to redress all, and Cato advised the Senate to put all into his Hands, saying, That those who could raise up great Evils, could best allay them; and thereupon Marcellus the Consul took a Sword, which he carried publickly to Pompey, accosting him in these Terms, I Command you in the Name of the Senate, that you Assist the Republick with the Troops now under your Command, and speedily Levy more. Pompey, finding he had not sufficient Forces, and that those he could Raise were not very Resolute, forsook the City; and Cato followed him.
For tho’ he had an equal Aversion for the Heads of both Parties, as being jealous, where-ever the Fate of the Civil War confer’d the Conquest, the Victor would be likely to invade the Republick; yet being the greatest Assertor of Liberty the Roman State had now left, and Pompey being invested with a Command by the Senate in Defence of the City, Cato imbark’d with him; thinking it the highest Dishonour, says Lucan, to live in Ease and Security while his Labouring Country was in Danger; and professing that he would stick by Rome and her Cause to its last Gasp, as a Parent follows the Corpse of a Deceas’d Child. And from the Time of the Civil War’s breaking out, ’tis said he never cut his Hair or shaved his Beard, never wore a Garland, or was seen to smile, but wore a constant Sadness, Grief, and Dejection on his Looks and Gesture for the Calamities of his Country, and he continually bore the same Habit to the last, which-ever Party had Misfortune or Success. No body that reads the Eloquent Description of this Great Man’s Behaviour in Lucan, can be sufficiently enamour’d of his Virtues, or sufficiently admire him who was ingaged in a War, yet not prompted to Action by any private Piques, or byass’d by a Favourite-Faction; but studying the rigid Precepts of his Philosophy, labouring to know himself, and grieving for the Calamities of his Fellow-Creatures. To find him believing that he owed his Life to his Country, and that he was not born for himself but the Publick. To behold his Temperance, that accounted every thing a Banquet that but appeas’d his Hunger, every House a Palace that secured him from the Inclemencies of Weather, and every Vesture a Robe of State that was Proof against the Inconveniences of Cold and Rain; that thought the Increase of Kind, was the chief End of Marriage; that was a Father and Husband to his City, a Courter of Justice and Maintainer of severe Honesty; good to All, and in All; and one that never let Pleasure and Levity creep into the Annals of his Nobler and more Elevated Actions.
Cicero for some Time stood Neuter in this War; and when at last he came to find Pompey in his Camp, Cato remonstrated to him, That he ought to have preserved the Neutrality, which he at first made Profession of; and that the Inconstancy of his Proceeding was unworthy of a Man that was so well acquainted with the Maxims of true Philosophy: Cicero was so confounded with the Authority of this Reprimand, that he took the first Opportunity of Retiring, and never came up to the Battel of Pharsalia. Cato had the Government of Sicily allotted to him, and pass’d over to Syracuse: And when Advice was brought him of Pompey’s unhappy Conduct, and quitting of Italy, he broke out into this pathetick Exclamation, How dark and uncertain is the Will of Heaven! Pompey, when he did nothing wisely nor honestly, was always successful, and now that he would preserve his Country, and defend her Liberty, he is altogether unfortunate. He counsell’d Pompey to delay the War to a Treaty, and no way hazard an utter Overthrow: His gentle Laws, that no Roman City should be sack’d, nor Citizen kill’d in cold Blood, won Pompey all Italy, and his Courtesie at Rhodes, all Asia.
When Pompey had obtained a signal Advantage over Caesar’s Men, in a Conflict at Dyrrachium, and all were rejoic’d, and magnified the Success, Cato bewail’d his Country, and curs’d that Fatal Ambition, which made so many brave Romans murther one another.
When Pompey followed Caesar into Thessaly, he durst not Trust Cato with the Command at Sea; because he knew he fought not against one Tyrant, but against Tyranny it self; that if he succeeded not, Cato would be faithful to his Misfortunes; but if he conquer’d, then Cato would be too faithful to the Interest of the Republick.
After the Pharsalian Defeat, Cato went into the Island of Corsira, where he found Cicero who had not been in the Battel; and many Senators who had escaped thither from it, amongst whom was the Eldest Son of Pompey. Cato, who always was for governing himself according to the Prescription of the Law, offered the Command of his Forces to Cicero, who had been Consul; but he refusing the Charge, incens’d Pompey’s Son and all the young Gentlemen of his Party to such a Degree, that drawing their Swords upon him, they call’d him Traytor; and had not Cato’s Authority interpos’d to appease their unruly Anger, they had certainly slain him: Cicero escapes immediately to Brundusium, excuses the Choice he had made of an Unfortunate Party, and reconciles himself to Caesar. But Cato, understanding that Pompey was fled towards Aegypt, resolved to hasten after him; and having taken all his Men aboard set sail; but first to those that were not willing to accompany him, he gave free Liberty to depart. Coming to the Coast of Africk, they met with Sextus Pompey’s Younger Son, who saluted ’em with the disagreeable News of his Father’s Murther in Aegypt: The Soldiers were all excessively griev’d for the Loss of their admir’d General, and unanimously declared, that after Pompey they would follow no other Leader but Cato: Cato, in Compassion to the worth of Persons, who had given many Testimonies of their Fidelity, and whom he could not for shame leave in a Desart Country, amidst so many Difficulties, took upon him the Command of the Forces, which amounted to the Number of near ten thousand Men; and march’d towards the City of Cyrene, which presently received him: And here he design’d to have Winter’d; but being inform’d that Scipio (Pompey’s Father-in-Law) was received by King Juba, and that Appius Varus, whom Pompey had left Governor of Lybia, had joyned them with his Forces, Cato resolved to march towards them by Land. From Cyrene therefore he goes forward towards the Desarts of Lybia; after having furnished himself with Provisions, and got together a great many Asses to carry Water, and also some of those sort of Men, who by Sucking cure the Wounds made by the Bites of Serpents, who very much abound in those Desarts: They journied on for seven Days together; and here the Constancy of Cato is not a little to be admired, who marched always on Foot at the Head of his Troops; always drinking the last, nor that neither, till all the rest of his Army had undergone the extreamest Thirst, and were running to quench it at the Wells which they found in those Desarts: And ever after the Battel of Pharsalia he used to sit at Table, and added this to his other Ways of Mourning that he never lay down (as it was the Custom of the Romans) but to Sleep. At last he arrived at Scipio and Juba’s Camp, where the Insolence of that King of the Barbarians was very disgustful to him, and where the Affairs of Scipio and Varus went very ill, by reason of their Dissentions and Quarrels among themselves, and their Submissions and Flatteries to King Juba: But Cato in his Wisdom found means to pull down the haughty Spirit of that Monarch, and reconcile him and the jarring Generals to one another.
All the Army were ambitious of having Cato to be their Leader; and Scipio and Varus giving Way to the Soldiers Desires, offer’d him the Command: But Cato declined it absolutely, saying, He would not infringe those Laws, for the Defence whereof he had involv’d himself in Civil War, that he being but Pro-praetor ought not to Command in the Presence of a Pro-consul; besides that, the People would take it as a good Omen to see a Scipio Command in Africk, and that the very Name would give Courage to the Soldiers.
Scipio then taking upon him the Command of the Army, resolv’d to put the Inhabitants of Utica to the Sword, and to raze the City, for having taken part with Caesar; but Cato exclaim’d and protested against this Hostile Reprisal, and with much difficulty delivered that City, of which he afterwards took upon himself the Government, least it should fall into Caesar’s Hands.
Cato knowing it was a strong Place, and would be of great Consequence to either Party, improved the Fortifications, brought in great Stores of Corn, repaired the Walls, erected Towers, and made deep Trenches and Outworks round the Town; and was so Indulgent to the Inhabitants, that he took care no Injury should be done, nor Affront offer’d them by the Romans: Cato, who from this City sent great Quantities of Arms to the Camp; with mighty Tenderness advised Scipio, By no means to hazard a Battel with Caesar, who was a Man not only experienc’d in War, but encourag’d with his Successes: that ’twere better to tire him out with Delays, and as his Passions cool’d his Strength would lessen: Scipio, whose fierce Rashness would misconstrue Cato’s Cautions for Cowardice retorted, That as Cato was safe himself within Trenches, so he ought not to hinder them from making use of their Courage when Occasion offer’d: This ungrateful Reply of Scipio’s made Cato repent he had yielded the Command of the Forces to him, and he told his Friends, That if contrary to his Expectations Caesar should be o’erthrown, for his part he would not stay at Rome, but retire from the Cruelty and Inhumanity of Scipio, who had already given out fierce and proud Threats against many.
And here permit me, for a while to leave our Hero employed in the strict Care of his Government, making the City a Magazine for the Camp, studying the best Arts of Defence all Day, and groaning for the Miseries of his Country by Night; while I take a View of Caesar’s Measures after his Pharsalian Conquest, and the Celerity and Vastness of those Successes that forced Cato to shut his Eyes against the Victor, and make his Retreat to the friendly Arms of Death, ne Tyrannum Videret; least those sacred Opticks which were only bless’d with Scenes of Roman Liberty should be blasted with the Sight of Rome’s Inslaver.
Caesar, who had made this Remark on Pompey’s Conduct at Dyrrachium, that he had been lost without redress could Pompey have known how to have made use of the Victory, took care not to slip into the same Error himself upon Pompey’s Overthrow, but cry’d out to his Soldiers, That they ought to pursue their Advantage, make themselves Masters of the Enemies Camp, and not amuse themselves with the Plunder, but compleat the Conquest. Pompey, whose Forces were entirely cut off, or surrendered to the Victor, accompanied with a small Number of Friends, retired from Larissa to the Sea-side, and was reduced to seek for a Retreat in a poor Fisherman’s Cabbin. Caesar, who made a close Pursuit, obliged Pompey to go on Board a small Bark, who was so infatuated with his Misfortune that he could not think of laying hold of those Advantages which he had by Sea, where he had a Powerful and Victorious Army; but hearing that Caesar was upon his March, he stay’d for no Body, but set Sail towards Lesbos: After many Deliberations with his Friends, he resolved to retire into Aegypt, where the Young King Ptolomy’s Council advise, that they ought to invite him to shore and kill him; as the sure means to obtain Caesar’s Friendship, and never hereafter to be afraid of Pompey. Thus this great Man lost his Life miserably by the Instigation and Hands of three or four Villains. Caesar, who knew all his Enemies Hopes were wrapped up in the Person of Pompey, with his usual Diligence embarkes his Forces, soon lands at Alexandria, where he was entertain’d with the News of Pompey’s Death, and presented with his Head: The mournful Spectacle drew Tears from his Eyes, and perswaded him to revenge Pompey’s Death. Caesar, who found fresh Marks every Day of the Aegyptians untoward Intentions to him from the Insolence of the King’s Eunuchs, was provok’d to take his Revenge; and being likewise caught by the admirable Charms of Cleopatra, declared, That he being the first Magistrate of Rome, was resolved to enquire into the Difference between the King and his Sister: Not to trace the Grounds of these Proceedings, which are obvious to all Knowers of the Roman History, let it suffice, that a short War ensued: Caesar with the Assistance of Mithridates of Pergama defeated the Aegyptians, and establish’d Cleopatra Queen of Aegypt jointly with her younger Brother Ptolemy: Thus every where Victorious, Caesar departed with his Sixth Legion from Aegypt to go into Syria; But that Province being at Peace, he leaves his Kinsman Sextus Caesar there with one Legion, embarkes for Cilicia, pursues Pharnaces to Cappadocia, and defeats him at Ziela, a City of Pontus, with a great Slaughter. Thence, giving some necessary Orders to the Neighbouring Provinces, he embarks and goes into Italy with a Diligence that put all the World in Admiration. Caesar made but a short Stay at Rome, received many of Pompey’s Party, who came to meet him, with wonderful Moderation; appeased the Mutinous Insolence of the Tenth Legion; re-established Quiet in the City, and leaving Mark Antony to Command there, march’d by great Journies into Sicily; and thence, even when the Winds were contrary, set Sail for Afric, so Impatient was he to root up the last Reliques of the Civil War. Scipio and Juba were Entrench’d in two several Camps near the City of Thapsus, whither Caesar March’d directly to attack them, and after a bloody Engagement totally overthrew their Powers, and obliged Scipio to fall on his own Sword, and Juba to seek a Death from the Hand of one of his Slaves: The Consequences of this Battel were so great, that all that Part of Afric submitted to Caesar, except the City of Utica; the Reduction whereof was the only Task now remained for his Arms, and the Attempt whereof naturally brings me back to the Connection of Cato’s Story.
It was not long before Cato was inform’d of Scipio’s Defeat, by some of the Cavalry that had escaped the dreadful Slaughter, and who offer’d him their Service, if he would retreat with them from the hot Pursuit of the Enemy; but Cato then told them, he design’d to hold out the Siege of Utica. But the Faintness and Irresolution of the Townsmen, who were aw’d with the Apprehensions of Caesar’s vast Fortune, made him forego that Resolution; and he in vain attempted to pacifie their Frights, by telling them, That Scipio’s Loss was nothing near so great as it was represented, and that it was common to have Disasters enlarged by Report, that listen’d to Fear more than Truth. Cato had establish’d a kind of Senate in Utica, which he had compos’d of 300 Romans of good Quality; these Gentlemen he summon’d upon this threatening Juncture, and address’d himself to them with a wonderful Calmness and Resolution, in the following Manner: He advis’d ’em principally neither to divide their Numbers nor Counsels; for that while they continued their Union, Caesar would be afraid of their Opposition, and would the sooner pardon them, if they were reduc’d to the Misfortune of submitting themselves to his Mercy: Begg’d them to fix on what Measures they meant to take, and that for his part he should not mislike whatever they determined; that if they were intirely dishearten’d by the ill Success of their Cause, he would impute their Change to the Necessity of the Times; but if they had Resolutions to brave Misfortunes, and Lives to hazard in the Defence of Liberty, he should stand in Admiration of their noble Courage, and would be himself their Captain and Companion, to push the Fortune of their Cause and Country to the uttermost. Much more he said to them in the most animating Terms that the Hope of prevailing and hearty Sincerity of his Soul for the Interest of Rome could dictate: And while he was present, his Auditors were fill’d with a Noble Fire, that seem’d to inspire them to the Daring even of Impossibilities; but that Couragious Heat soon relax’d, and gave Way to the viler Counsels of preserving their Persons with their Effects. Cato at length finding his Authority was too weak to subdue their Cowardice, chang’d his Thoughts of Defence for others more agreeable to his Character, and those Opinions of Philosophy he had all along profess’d. News being brought that Caesar was in his March with all his Army towards Utica, he gave out his Orders with admirable Prudence and Resolution, and assisted many of his Friends to save themselves by Sea, others he advis’d to rely on Caesar’s Goodness, and gave this Charge and Exhortation to his Children, never to intermeddle with the Affairs of the Republick, telling them, the Corruptions of the Times would not permit them to act therein uprightly, as Cato’s Sons ought; and that for them to grow servile Observers of the Time, they could not act like honest Men.
At Night several of his particular Friends were at Supper with him, and amongst the rest some Philosophers: After Supper the Company fell into grave and learned Discourse, and it running mostly upon Philosophy, Cato advanced that Stoical Maxim, That the Virtuous only were happy and free, but wicked Men always miserable and in Slavery: Demetrius the Peripatetick, who made one of the Guests, would not easily allow this Paradox, and Cato defended the Subject with so much Warmth and Passion, that his Friends could not but suspect he had something more than ordinary in his Mind; and their Fears were increased by this Circumstance, that when Lucius Caesar proffer’d to fall on his Knees before his victorious Kinsman to beg Cato’s Life, Cato would not be brought to permit it, saying, He would not owe his Life to the Power of a Tyrant. Soon after Cato retir’d to Bed, and embraced his Sons and the whole Company with such unusual Tenderness, that their Suspicions were redoubled by it, and they caused his Sword to be privately convey’d away, which at other Time he was used to have by him.
He took up Plato’s Book of the Soul, and having read a little while, look’d for his Sword; missing it he call’d for one of his Slaves, and without the least Disorder, bid him fetch it; but not being obey’d, he grew in Anger, and struck the Slave with such force that he hurt his own Hand, crying out, He was betray’d, and should be delivered to the Enemy naked and unarmed.
The Noise immediately brought his Sons and Friends into the Chamber, on whom looking sternly, he ask’d them, If they had observ’d him to have lost his common Sense? And why they did not try to perswade him by Reasons, without obliging him by Force to follow other Opinions than those he had already learnt? That a Man Resolv’d, had no need of the help of a Sword, nor could miss of a way to Death; but might stifle himself, or beat out his Brains against the Walls. At this Discourse his Sons wept, and left the Room, but the Friends and Philosophers staying behind, he renew’d his Discourse, and ask’d them, If they were ordered to stay and stare on him like Mutes, and wait upon him for his Guard; That if they had good Reasons to convince him, that having nothing else to rely on, it would not be unworthy of him to beg his Life of the Enemy; to make him renounce all those Maxims which he had hiterto maintain’d, why did they not proceed to their Proofs? If they were not thus prepared, he bid them be gone, and tell his Sons they ought not to think of perswading him by Force, to a Thing which they could not pretend to convince him of by Reason.
After this the Company retir’d, and his Sword was sent him back by a Young Slave; he examining the Point, and finding it for his Purpose, laid it by, saying, Now I am Master of my self. He betook him again to the same Treatise of Plato, and having read it over twice, fell into so profound a Sleep that he was heard into his Anti-chamber. As soon as the Day appear’d, Cato snatch’d up his Sword, and thrust himself thro’ the Breast; but the Hurt of his Hand had so weaken’d the Blow, that he did not Dye immediately; but, staggering, fell upon his Bed, and threw down a Table, on which he had drawn some Figures of Geometry; the Noise whereof made his Slaves rush in, who with their Cries alarm’d all his Sons and Friends.
They found him with his Bowels out of his Body, and were so confounded with their Grief, that they beheld him without being able to assist him: His Eyes were yet open, and his Physician laying him upon his Bed, put up his Bowels which were not hurt, and clos’d up the Wound. But Cato, recovering his Spirits, and transported with Fury, thrust back the Physician, rent open the Wound, and tearing his Bowels expired before their Eyes.
Thus died this great Man in the eight and fortieth Year of his Age, and was honourably buried near the Sea-side by the Uticans; and there, in Plutarch’s Time, was to be seen an Image of him, holding a drawn Sword in his Hand: Utica was presently surrendred to Caesar, who being informed how Cato had slain himself, cry’d out, That Cato had envied him the Glory of saving his Life; and it is for that Reason, says he, that I envy his Death.
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[1. ]Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius Scipio (95–46 b.c.) was allied with Pompey in opposing Caesar. Governor of Syria from 49–48 b.c., he also commanded the center at Pharsalus and fled to Africa after the battle. After his defeat at Thapsus, he fled to the sea, then killed himself to avoid capture.
[[ ]]Lewis Theobald (1688–1744) was a prominent Shakespearean commentator and classical scholar in the early eighteenth century. The popularity of Addison’s Cato prompted him to produce two works: a new English translation of Plato’s Phaedo and the following essay on the life of Cato the Younger.