Cato the Elder was a traditionalist, conservative, praetor, consul, and he was governor in Spain. The Romans had enacted the Oppian Law during the Second Punic War, which limited the amount of gold women could possess and restricted their dress. In 195 B.C., an attempt was made to repeal the law, and women demonstrated in the streets. According to the Roman historian Livy, Cato spoke against repeal and against the women. His words reflect a traditional male Roman attitude toward women.
Cato the Elder became censor in 184 B.C and he spoke against Greek culture and foreign cults. He even introduced a decree to expel all Greek philosophers from Rome. Ironically, Cato was Greek himself and even sent his son to study in Athens. Cato knew that Greek culture was largely becoming a necessity for Roman political life.
Cato the Elder also had an antiquarian interest. Cato wrote in a language that the Romans were not speaking everyday and he promoted the loss of knowledge. He believed in a plain style, not the flowery language the Romans were used to. The topics ranged from the origin of Roman society to cult rituals. He was a nationalist who invented a new form of writing called encyclopedia form. He was also innovative, being the first to publish his speeches. He had quite a high regard for himself. In Cato’s manual On Agriculture, he explains the proper purification of landed estates. Any error of the purification resulted in the repetition of the entire ritual.
Cato the Elder pushed for war against Carthage and in 153-152 B.C. he began creating hysteria in the Senate. He was afraid that Carthage would acquire too much independence and he wanted to fight. Cato also hated great military families and was opposed to all the great generals. One year later, the Senate agreed with Cato's desire for war. Romans give Carthaginians rules to follow. They had to destroy their own city and move ten miles inland and they were seen as bad allies. This results in the Third Carthaginian War. When the Carthaginians break their treaty with Rome by attacking one of Rome’s North African allies, the Romans declare war. The Third Punic War was led by Scipio Aemilianos Africanus who led the Roman forces against Carthage for the last time. Carthage was destroyed and made a province called Africa.
Cato the Elder is remembered for proclaiming that,
Wise men profit more from fools than fools from wise men; for the wise men shun the mistakes of fools, but fools do not imitate the successes of the wise.
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