Cato Maior de Senectute
by Marcus Tullius Cicero


Time of Composition

   In 45 Cicero experienced a great personal bereavement in the death of his daughter Tullia, and this sorrow of his later years was increased by his grief at the condition of affairs in the state, the downfall of the Republic, and the dictatorship of Caesar. These feelings were still strong when the death of Caesar, March 15, 44, gave a momentary hope that the state would be restored, a hope that was followed, however, by greater disgust and anxiety because of the power of Antonius (Mark Antony).
   It is probably to these apprehensions, which were shared by Atticus, that Cicero makes reference in section 1. Cicero appears also to approach very closely to his own sorrow when he alludes to Cato's fortitude at the time of his son's death, 12; and the hope of immortality expressed at the close, 85, is no doubt the sentiment of Cicero's own heart, though placed in the mouth of Cato. These hints, together with allusions to the Cato Maior in three letters addressed to Atticus (14, 21, 3; 16, 3, 1; 16, 11, 3) lead us to place the date a few weeks after the assassination of Caesar, i.e. in April, 44.

Form of the Work

   As in other philosophical writings, Cicero has selected for his treatise on old age the dialogue form, which was a favorite method of literary presentation of philosophical theories among the ancients. The Socratic dialogue, as found in the works of Plato, consists of a continual discussion and debate, in which the principal characters take the most important part. Cicero, however, intending to set forth his own theories with slight interruption, and yet desiring to arouse interest by the introduction of additional characters, has rather followed the Aristotelian plan, and has combined the length exposition of the principal speaker with brief and comparatively unimportant remarks on the part of the other members of the company. The dialogue purports to be a conversation held in the year 150 B.C. between Cato, then eighty-three years of age, and two young men, representatives of the new generation, who were soon to win the highest distinction in the state, Scipio Africanus the younger, about thirty-five years old, and C. Laelius the younger, about one year older.


   P. Cornelius Scipio Africanus Minor
   Gaius Laelius Sapiens
   Marcus Porcius Cato

--excerpts of the Introduction from "M. Tulli Ciceronis: Cato Maior de Senectute", ed. E. S. Shuckburgh, Macmillan Co., London, 1895.

Cato Maior De Senectute Liber Latin Text The source of this Latin text comes from M. Tulli Ciceronis: Cato Maior de Senectute, ed. E. S. Shuckburgh, Macmillan Co., London, 1895.
English Text
Translation Notes

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