cato and his antics
I read a whole book about Cato the Younger. This is something I never imagined I would do. I can barely remember the character from HBO’s magnificent series Rome. I find that whole setting and era intriguing (~50 BC), with its Roman politics, warfare and some philosophical outputs. What’s cool is that we have some actual writings and a lot of first-hand information from that time.
What interests me about Cato is his commitment to Stoicism and morals as well as his perseverance in the toughest of circumstances.
Most importantly, he led an exemplary life according to a set of high standards. Sure, he did have a few weak stints when those standards might have bent a little, but all in all the recorded history tells a story of a remarkable man.
When commandeering a legion, he lived like a soldier, amongst his subordinates. He never let fame, fortune, or wealth rise to his head, and people loved him for it.
In the Senate, he opposed Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus, out of which Caesar was the least influential and known at the time. Later he would oppose Caesar the Emperor, and gain that title of “last citizen”, when that opposition would cost him his life.
He was exiled to a commission in Cyprus, but did that good of a job he was praised back in Rome once the gig was over. Again, during the commission, and after, he held to his standards and refused any bribery and shenanigans.
In death, he managed live by his standards and died a suicide which has then become legendary. After failing to kill himself by sword, and after being sewn together by a physician, he got to his “senses”, and as Plutarch puts it:
…plucked out his own bowels, and tearing open the wound, immediately expired.
What a way to live, and a way to go.
A lesson for leaders here. Cato rarely succumbed to physical comforts. Even when his antics were ridiculed, he was respected. Following standards and morals will generate a protective and encouraging reputation.