Weekend quote – Plutarch on Cato the elder


September 27, 2013
Yossi Sheriff

1st quote

His bodily habit, since he was addicted from the very first to labour with his own hands, a temperate mode of life, and military duties, was very serviceable, and disposed alike to vigour and health.

He tells us that he never wore clothing worth more than a hundred drachmas;
that he drank, even when he was praetor or consul, the same wine as his slaves;
that as for fish and meats, he would buy thirty asses’ worth for his dinner from the public stalls, and even this for the city’s sake, that he might not live on bread alone, but strengthen his body for military service;
that he once fell heir to an embroidered Babylonian robe, but sold it at once;
that not a single one of his cottages had plastered walls;
that he never paid more than fifteen hundred drachmas for a slave, since he did not want them to be delicately beautiful, but sturdy workers, such as grooms and herdsmen, and these he thought it his duty to sell when they got oldish, instead of feeding them when they were useless;
and that in general, he thought nothing cheap that one could do without, but that what one did not need, even if it cost but a penny, was dear;
also that he bought lands where crops were raised and cattle herded, not those where lawns were sprinkled and paths swept.

On the march, he carried his own armour on foot, while a single attendant followed in charge of his camp utensils. With this man, it is said, he was never wroth, and never scolded him when he served up a meal, nay, he actually took hold himself and assisted in most of such preparations, provided he was free from his military duties.

Water was what he drank on his campaigns, except that once in a while, in a raging thirst, he would call for vinegar, or, when his strength was failing, would add a little wine.

2nd quote

Cato the Elder