Much of what we know about Cato comes from Plutarch’s ‘Life of Cato’. There he is painted as having been an exceptionally bright child, mature beyond his years and, even at a young age, steadfast and immovable in his convictions. As a young man, Cato devoted himself to studying Stoic philosophy and went about cultivating himself to become a great Stoic citizen. This involved, to outward appearances at any rate, living in a very modest way, wearing the plainest of clothing and subjecting himself to the rain and cold in order to create a tolerance for discomfort. He also gained a reputation for being exceedingly honest and for possessing an unshakeable resolve. And he came from a very wealthy family which would have enabled him to live in dissolute luxury had he been so inclined.


His first recorded run-in with  Caesar was in 59 BC when, by now 36 years old and a Senator, he attempted to block Caesar’s bid for Consulship of Rome. According to Plutarch, Caesar wanted to hold a triumph (a public spectacle celebrating victories) while also running for the consulship in absentia. It was illegal to either stand for the Consulship in absentia without the Senate’s permission or to come into the city before holding a Triumph if one had been voted (it had). It was thought that the Senate would grant the request, but Cato opposed the motion. And to prevent the Senate from voting on the matter, Cato filibustered on the Senate floor until nightfall. Caesar was thus faced with the problem of having to choose whether or to give up the Triumph and run for Consul, or stage the Triumph and abandon the idea of being a Consul for at least another year. He abandoned the Triunph.


Cato