Cato Maior de senectute

Title: Cato Maior de senectute
Work type: Cicero - I - Works

Philosophical work in dialogue form, dedicated to Titus Pomponius Atticus (Cato 1-3; Att. 14,21,3; 16,3,1; 16,11,3), generally considered composed in the first months of 44 BC.
[Fausto Pagnotta – trans. Tom Frazel]

Keywords: Éditions - Edizioni - Editions, Philosophie - Filosofia - Philosophy, Politique - Politica - Politics
Historical references:

Philosophical work in dialogue form,
dedicated to Titus Pomponius Atticus (Cato 1-3; Att. 14,21,3; 16,3,1; 16,11,3), generally considered composed in
the first months of 44 BC, certainly the terminus
ante quem
is 11 May 44 BC, the date of Att. 14,21,3 where Cicero writes Legendus mihi saepius est “Cato maior? ad te missus. The
dialogue is set in the house of M. Porcius Cato the
Censor in the year 150 BC, where Cato, eighty-four, holds a conversation on old
age in the presence of the young men P. Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus
and C. Laelius. In the dedication to Atticus (Cato 1-3) Cicero attributes to the
dialogue a consolatory function, of relief from the common weight of the years
and from the anguish of life. In the idealization of the image of Cato the enthusiast
for the values of humanitas
Cicero represents features of his own personality. Right from the beginning Cato
asserts that complaining about old age is foolish because it depends on nature
and man cannot naturae repugnare (Cato 5). The acquaintance and the
exercise of virtue in every age, along with the knowledge of a life well spent,
are more effective remedies for a good old age (Cato 9). Old age seems to be the worst carrier of unhappiness
because it removes us from public occupations, renders the body weaker, removes
every pleasure, and is the door to death (Cato
15). For each of these reasons Cato develops refutations. First of all he asserts
that it is not true that the old do not have more occupations, since we must be
dedicated with own consilium
to our fellow citizens and in particular to the education of the youth (Cato 16-26, 28-29). Because they are
subject to nature, it is therefore useless to complain about the physical forces,
however, thanks to moderate physical exercise and temperance in customs, they can
be preserved (Cato 34). In old age
the faculties of talent remain instead in good condition, if exercised (Cato 38). The fact that old age removes pleasures,
for Cato represents a praeclarum munus aetatis since he is free from the juvenile
breathlessness caused by voluptatis avidae libidines (Cato
39), dangerous for himself and his native land. It is necessary to dedicate
himself rather to those pleasures from which usefulness is drawn joined to the
benefit for the mind, hence the praise of agriculture in the contemplation of
the cycle of seeds, birth and growth of vines that then give precious fruits (Cato 52-53). All this is seen in eminent
personalities from Roman history, for example, L. Quintus Cincinnatus and M’. Curius Dentatus who alternated political
activity and agriculture (Cato 55-61).
There is a clear analogy between the sapientia necessary to cultivate the affairs of state and
that one necessary to cultivate the fields, both needing prudentia and temperantia. Cato at last refutes
the fear of death (Cato 66-85)
arguing that it, common to every age, is natural in old age, while it is a
violent event in youth (Cato 71). He
speaks against suicide, citing the authority of Pythagoras, since is against
nature and against the Gods (Cato
73). Finally, Cato expresses his devotion to the conception of the immortality
of the soul as a prize reserved to those who they have passed a virtuous life individually
and for their native land (Cato
77-85), bringing benefit to humanity, a clear allusion of Cicero’s to the Somnium Scipionis. [Fausto Pagnotta – trans. Tom Frazel]