Marcus Cato, Literary and Cultural Critic

Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 11.8

“Marcus Cato is reported to have criticized Aulus Albinus rightly and efficiently. Albinus wrote a Roman history in the Greek language during the consulship of Lucius Lucullus [151 BCE].

In the introduction to his history he wrote something of the following sentiment: no one ought to seek to fault him if anything presented in the book was inaccurate or written inelegantly; “For”, he writes “I am a Roman man born in Latium and the Greek language is most foreign to me.”

For this, then, he sought a favor, freedom from a poor evaluation, if he made any mistake. When Marcus Cato read this, he said “Aulus, you are certainly no minor dilettante, since you prefer to apologize for a mistake rather than avoiding it. We ought to seek forgiveness when we have made a mistake accidentally or have wronged someone without choice. But tell me—who compelled you to do this thing you’re doing, the thing you ask to be forgiven before you do it?” This story is recorded in the thirteenth book of Cornelius Nepos’ On Illustrious Men.”

Iuste venusteque admodum reprehendisse dicitur Aulum Albinum M. Cato. 2 Albinus, qui cum L. Lucullo consul fuit, res Romanas oratione Graeca scriptitavit. 3 In eius historiae principio scriptum est ad hanc sententiam: neminem suscensere sibi convenire, si quid in his libris parum composite aut minus eleganter scriptum foret; “nam sum” inquit “homo Romanus natus in Latio, Graeca oratio a nobis alienissima est”, ideoque veniam gratiamque malae existimationis, si quid esset erratum, postulavit. 4 Ea cum legisset M. Cato: “Ne tu,” inquit “Aule, nimium nugator es, cum maluisti culpam deprecari, quam culpa vacare. Nam petere veniam solemus, aut cum inprudentes erravimus aut cum compulsi peccavimus. Tibi,” inquit “oro te, quis perpulit, ut id committeres, quod, Priusquam faceres, peteres, ut ignosceretur?” 5 Scriptum hoc est in libro Corneli Nepotis de inlustribus viris XIII.

 

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