Cato the Censor

(234–149 B.C.)

Cato the Censor


The eighty-year-old Cato surprised his friends by setting himself the task of studying Greek. Asked how he could contemplate such a lengthy course of study at his advanced age, he replied that it was the youngest age he had left.

Biographical Note: 

Cato the Censor was a Roman statesman, orator, writer, and defender of conservative Roman Republican ideas. Cato was born into a wealthy family of Roman landholders during the early Republican period on a farm in the city of Tusculum, southeast of present–day Rome. His early farm upbringing resulted in a lifelong interest in agriculture and the writing of his De Agri Cultura in 160 BC, which is the oldest Latin literary encyclopedia in existence today. Later Romans looked on him as embodying the integrity, discipline, and incorruptible independence that were the chief virtues of the Roman Republic.

Cato was born Marcus Porcius Priscus but, due to his abilities as a skillful orator, he became known as Marcus Porcius Cato. The Romans called an experienced or skillful man Catus. The Latin word catus means sharp intellect.

Principally known as Cato the Elder, he was also known as Cato the Censor for his monitoring of the behavior of public officials and his desire to extricate any Greek influence or capitalist ideas and to return to conservative Roman conduct and morality.