Cicero Says Cato Learned Greek in his Old Age

Some Ciceronian inspiration to mark another year above ground. Here his speaker is Cato.

Cicero, De Senectute 8

“But you see how old age is not only not weak and lazy, but in fact is filled with work and always pursuing or finishing something—that is, it is similar in a way to the eagerness in the first part of life. And what about those who continue learning, as we see Solon too praising in his poems, how he says that he becomes old learning something else every day.

I have also done this—I who have learned Greek as an old man. I have fixed upon it so eagerly as if desiring to satisfy a long put off thirst. Now I know those things myself which you see me now using as examples. And when I heard what Socrates did with lyres—for the ancients used to learn them—I wished something like that too. But in literature, I have certainly labored.”

Sed videtis, ut senectus non modo languida atque iners non sit, verum etiam sit operosa et semper agens aliquid et moliens, tale scilicet, quale cuiusque studium in superiore vita fuit. Quid, qui etiam addiscunt aliquid, ut et Solonem versibus gloriantem videmus, qui se cotidie aliquid addiscentem dicit senem fieri. Et ego feci, qui litteras Graecas senex didici, quas quidem sic avide arripui quasi diuturnam sitim explere cupiens, ut ea ipsa mihi nota essent, quibus me nunc exemplis uti videtis. Quod cum fecisse Socraten in fidibus audirem, vellem equidem etiam illud, discebant enim fidibus antiqui, sed in litteris certe elaboravi.

The passage Cicero is referring to is below:

Solon, fr. 18

“I grow old, always learning many things.”

γηράσκω δ’ αἰεὶ πολλὰ διδασκόμενος·

And some bonus quotes

Sophocles,  fr. 65

“No one loves living as much as a man growing old”

τοῦ ζῆν γὰρ οὐδεὶς ὡς ὁ γηράσκων ἐρᾷ

Cicero, de Senectute 24

“No one is so old that he thinks he could not live another year”

nemo enim est tam senex qui se annum non putet posse vivere

 

Heracles & Geras | Attic red figure vase painting

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