Cato the Political Idealist (Cicero’s Letters to Atticus, 2.1.8)

“You don’t love Cato more than I do. But, though he has the best intentions and is quite the patriot, he nevertheless on occasion does some harm to the republic, because he speaks as though he lived in Plato’s Republic, and not among the dregs of Romulus.”

nam Catonem nostrum non tu amas plus quam ego; sed tamen ille optimo animo utens et summa fide nocet interdum rei publicae; dicit enim tamquam in Platonis πολιτείᾳ , non tamquam in Romuli faece sententiam.

2 thoughts on “Cato the Political Idealist (Cicero’s Letters to Atticus, 2.1.8)

  1. This is such a great, loving put down. In all my haste to hate Cicero, I keep forgetting how clever he is…But perhaps this is disingenuous too, given Cicero’s own flirtations with Plato?

  2. I think that most people who study Classics at a modern university are exposed to a certain disdain for Cicero which does seem to be rather fashionable, perhaps because the current (not entirely untrue) narrative is that he was a vain, self-important man who enjoyed one brief moment of political power, only to slip into the shadows of bigger players after about 60 B.C. I have begun to view him as something more of a tragic figure; he realistically could have become the Republic’s first citizen, were it not for the shift away from constitutional limits of power toward a system of military adventurers eager to broaden the scope of their personal influence.

    Reading his letters has really helped to improve my opinion of him, though I have gotten through only a small portion. You can expect that there will be some more Cicero posts coming soon!

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