Cato the elder Younger

Why is Cato the younger always portrayed in popular culture as a really old man he was younger than Caesar and much younger than Cicero and Pompey yet is frequently portrayed as older than all the above yet he may not have reached 50. In the HBO series Rome the actor playing him is clearly much older than either Pompey, Caesar or Cicero or indeed any other important Roman political figure shown. In the Conn Igguldon young adult novels following Caesar and Brutus he’s one of Sulla’s senior supporters and again older than Pompey much less Caesar (mind as previusly mentioned in these books that play particularly…..loose…with the facts he is also a machiavellian hedonist killed by Pompey in revenge for the murder of his daughter before Caesar’s praetorship……I still don’t know where to start with all that) and in a tv miniseries about Caesar that came out in the very early 2000’s he is a senatorial leader played by Christopher Walken at the time of Sulla’s march on Rome. In reality at this time Cato was STILL A CHILD not a man in his 40’s/50’s! Cato the younger indeed……

Cato the Younger elder

I think in part it’s because we associate Cato with oligarchy, austerity, stubborness and conservatisim, he is the cantakerous stubborn old man bordering on senility who just can’t stomach no more change god’s dang it! These young fashionable playboys like Catilina and Caesar (both of whom were older than Cato, especially Catilina) are scandalous, well in my day etc. And of course when we think of arch conservative’s especially oligarchs we think of old established politicians. But Cato wasn’t an old rich Republican senior statesman, no Romney or Bush but a tea-party demagogue his stubboreness and uncompromising conservativisim driven by youthful fanaticisim rather than senility or simply the hardening that often comes with age. Of course this is reading into things but considering how destructive an influence Cato turned out to be perhaps a reminder of the dangers of youthful fanaticisim wouldn’t be out of place here. Now if you’ll excuse me I’m off to write letters to the editor about the moral decline of our time. Now in my day!……….

Cato the Younger Younger

Triumvirate versus dictatorship: Julius Caesar, Augustus Caesar, Assasination and the outlet factor

Sup peeps, How’s it hanging? Today I’m here to talk to you about why Julius Caesar was assasinated and Augustus Caesar was not, well we all know that the straw men audience in my head scoff in their hypothetical hubris: it’s because Augustus Caesar cloaked his power like a sneaky fox but Julius paraded it like a pompous fool, no wonder they knifed him!

Well while I have no doubts whatsoever that Augustan massaging of political realities for the benefit of the senatorial class helped his regime to endure what I wish to discuss is an aspect of the often overlooked factor of their particular circumstances. Simply put Julius is often criticised for not being his nephew with scant thought given to what at least should be a blindingly obvious fact: He couldn’t be, among other things he likely didn’t have the time. Nor was Augustus always the respectful soft touch from the shadows sought of guy: Before Princeps Augustus there was Triumvir Octavianus a man who ruled through naked imperium and military might only limited by his absentee colleagues. This Octavian dealt with opposition summarily and brutally and did not cloak his power. If Caesar doing the same inevitably lead to his violent death, why not the future Augustus? Especially when the triumviral part of his career lasted for about a decade?

Before the Rubicon Caesar was essentially just another late Roman Republican strongman, albeit one of the most powerful their had been. He ruled over multiple provinces with a formiddable army but had not been in Rome for more than a decade and held no authority there or in most of Italy. It is only after the onset of civil war, by which time Julius Caesar was middle aged that that changed and Caesar’s tenure as a Roman ruler with the powers of Dictator was not long, but it was by the time of his death near absolute. To put it plainly Caesar’s office held no time limit nor did he have any colleagues either de jure or de facto and protracted military opposition to him had repeatedly failed. His Imperium was absolute, he had no rivals nor did significant alterior powerbases remain within the Roman world. Simply put if by 44BC you as a Roman senator found being under the rule of Caesar intolerable (even more so if you weren’t SUPER keen on Pompey’s sons, eh Cassius?) it would seem that only two options presented themselves to you: suicide or assasination. Cato had already chosen the former and we know that Brutus and Cassius et al would choose the latter despite the extreme risk and drastic nature of such an action.

But what if Sextus Pompey were much more powerful, or Caesar had a colleague more to your liking with whom his relationship was one of mutual rivalry and mistrust who ruled the East independently of Caesar and was keen to host like minded members of Rome’s elite. Perhaps joining either man would be preferable to the risk of an assasination plot? perhaps your preffered candidate if you were but patient would ultimately triumph and Caesar would topple from power, afterall this uneasy peace cannot last forever.

Or perhaps you realise with despair that thier all insufferable tyrants and killing Caesar would just mean exchanging one for another and you further realise Caesar’s colleague to the East may not care for the man personally but they are officially at least allies and at times useful to each other, whatever his actual feelings he’s unlikely to reward his assasin, indeed you may end up like the Egyptian’s who presented Caesar with Pompey’s head: sacrificed for the reputation of the victor…..

No assasination does not seem like such a smart move anymore, not unless we can get all of them, and their almost never in the same place. best (and safer) to back the lesser of the evils available to us or wait it out, aftertall even should this despicable tyrant somehow prevail over better men, even should we have to wait for more than 10 years for the right time Rome will never get used to Autocracy, never forget the crimes of earlier years, the origins of this so-called Caesar. Welcome to Triumviral period Rome.

newsflash: states aren’t people

Read an article a while back that referred to states having “natural life cycles” yes all political institutions have a beginning, middle and end and I’m sure there’s an average length of time for a state to exist but then when dealing with any finite duration there is always a begining, middle and end but this talk of life cycles or natural cycles usually implies some kind of inevitable in-built use by date and average. many states don’t survive for a century, fewer still make 500 years, a select few like Rome, which is used in said article as an example of state’s having such a cycle manage to endure for more than a millenium. If states were people and the average life expectancy was say 80, Rome would probably shuffle off it’s mortal coil long after it’s 400th birthday, I shouldn’t have to tell you that thats not how people work. You may think I’m taking this too literally and quite likely for the reference that triggered this rant I am but many people seriously believe that there is some kind of consistent and anthropomorphic lifecycle for states and institutions, probably with a midlife crisis in there somewhere where they buy a motorcycle/invade Persia…..ok maybe that part happens……

FYI: They don’t work like F*cking seasons or days either.

Triumphal arch of Septimius Severus: "See I told you Rome's still got it. up yours Alexander!"
Triumphal arch of Septimius Severus. “See I told you Rome’s still got it. up yours Alexander!”