Cato the elder

Marcus Porcius was a Roman statesman, surnamed the Censor , the Wise, the Ancient, or the Elder, to distinguish him from Cato the Younger (his great-grandson).He came of an ancient Plebeian family who all were noted for some military service but not for the discharge of the higher civil offices. He was strain, after the manner of his Latin forefathers, to agriculture, to which he devoted himself when not engaged in military service. He was brought to Rome, and successively held the offices of Cursus Honorum: Tribune (214 BC), Quaestor (204 BC), Aedile (199 BC), Praetor (198 BC), Consul (195 BC) together with his old patron, and finally Censor (184 BC).

His ancestors for three generations had been named Marcus Porcius, and it is said by Plutarch that at first he was known by the additional cognomen Priscus, but was afterwards called Cato—a word indicating that practical wisdom which is the result of natural sagacity, combined with experience of civil and political affairs. However, it may well be doubted whether Priscus, like Major, were not merely an epithet used to distinguish him from the later Cato of Utica, and there is no precise information as to the date when he first received the title of Cato, which may have been given in childhood as a symbol of distinction. The qualities implied in the word Cato were acknowledged by the plainer and less outdated title of Sapiens, by which he was so well known in his old age, that Cicero says, it became his virtual cognomen. From the number and eloquence of his speeches, he was styled orator, but Cato the Censor and Cato the Elder are now his most common, as well as his most characteristic names, since he carried out the office of Censor with extraordinary standing, and was the only Cato who ever accomplished it.

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