Cato Said He Needed Little And Proved It

Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 13.24


24: The words of Marcus Cato who says that he lacks many things but he desires nothing


“The consul and censor Marcus Cato says that when the state and private citizens had abundant wealth, his own country home was plain and simple and that it was not even whitewashed even when he was nearly seventy-years old.  And later, he uses these words, saying: “I have no expensive building, tool or piece of clothing—nor a costly slave or maid. If there is anything to use, I use it.  If there is not, I lack it. I believe that everyone should use and enjoy what he possesses.” He adds to this: “Some complain that I lack many things; but I fault those who cannot go without.”

This plain honesty of the Tusculan man, who says that he lacks many things but still desires nothing, does more in encouraging thrift and happiness with modest possession than the treatises of those Greeks who claim to be philosophers, forming empty shadows of words, declaring that they have nothing, and still need nothing, and desire nothing when they are burning with having, needing, and desiring.”

Cato Also Did Not Have Good Looks

XXIV. Verba M. Catonis, egere se multis rebus et nihil tamen cupere dicentis

M. Cato consularis et censorius publicis iam privatisque opulentis rebus villas suas inexcultas et rudes ne tectorio quidem praelitas fuisse dicit ad annum usque aetatis suae septuagesimum. Atque ibi postea his verbis utitur: “Neque mihi” inquit “aedificatio neque vasum neque vestimentum ullum est manupretiosum neque pretiosus servus neque ancilla. Si quid est,” inquit “quod utar, utor; si non est, egeo. Suum cuique per me uti atque frui licet”. Tum deinde addit: “Vitio vertunt, quia multa egeo; at ego illis, quia nequeunt egere”. II. Haec mera veritas Tusculani hominis egere se multis rebus et nihil tamen cupere dicentis plus hercle promovet ad exhortandam parsimoniam sustinendamque inopiam quam Graecae istorum praestigiae philosophari sese dicentium umbrasque verborum inanes fingentium, qui se nihil habere et nihil tamen egere ac nihil cupere dicunt, cum et habendo et egendo et cupiendo ardeant.

3 thoughts on “Cato Said He Needed Little And Proved It

  1. Looks wise, he reminds me a little of my grandfather. Though his nose clearly wasn’t broken as many times. 😉

      1. Oh, my grandfather was a fool, I did not mean to imply that he had any wisdom (outside of boxing and generally knocking heads around) but he did look a little like that.

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