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Cato Marcus Porcius Major

Cato, Marcus Porcius (Major), often spoken of as Cato Major, to distinguish him from his great-grandson, and known also as Censor, Priscus, and Sapiens, was born at Tusculum in 234 B.C. He came of a good old plebeian stock, and was trained to agriculture and to military service. He fought under Fabius against Hannibal at Tarentum (209) and distinguished himself at the battle of the Metaurus (207). In the intervals of war he so lived on his farm, once the property of Curius Dentatus. as to earn from his neighbours the nickname of the Wise. L. Valerius Flaccus induced him to migrate to Rome, where he was elected successively queestor (204), aedile (199), praetor (198), and consul (195). In 202 he took part in the final defeat of Hannibal, at Zama, and in 194 he gained a triumph for the subjection of Spain. Three years later he co-operated, as military tribune, with M'. Acilius Glabrio in crushing Antiochus, and wresting Greece from the domination of the East. He now devoted himself to civil affairs, and to a noble, if rather narrow-minded, struggle against the changes in character, manners, and religion that the extension of the empire was quickly bringing about. He fearlessly assailed the weak points in the careers of such successful soldiers as Acilius Glabrio, Fulvius Nobilior, and Minucius Thermus, and stimulated the prosecution of the two Scipios. Elected censor in 184, he made unflinching use of his power in weeding out from the ranks of the senators and knights all who did not come up to his high standard of honour and duty, not scrupling to strike out so eminent a personage as L. Quinctius Flamininus. He advocated minute sumptuary legislation, opposed the spread of luxury amongst women as well as men, and denounced the introduction of licentious rites. He acted up to his principles with rigid consistency. His life and his household were regulated in every detail, and even his wife held a position little better than that of of slave. It must not be supposed that his attacks on the rising generation provoked no retaliation. He had to bear many hard blows in return, and at the age of 81 was forced to defend himself against a capital charge. Sturdy to the last, one of his final public acts was to urge his countrymen into the third Punic war with the famous cry "Delenda est Carthago!" and almost immediately before his death in 149 B.C. he appeared to prosecute Sergius Galba for his treacherous slaughter of the Lusitanians. Of his 150 collected speeches none remain, but his treatise De Re Rustica contains valuable information, and the fragments of his Origines supply a few details as to Roman history. His Apophthegmata have wholly perished. Notwithstanding his hatred of everything foreign, he learned Greek at the age of 80.