Cato the Younger on the downfall of the Republic

Suicide of Cato the Younger
Suicide of Cato the Younger (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I marvel at those who, believing themselves Republican, claim Cato as one of theirs. Like other figures of hallowed antiquity, Cato his is own. Yet, there is something modern in his telling of the downfall of society – or perhaps history doth repeat itself.

Do not suppose that our ancestors, from so small a commencement, raised the republic to greatness merely by force of arms. If such had been the case, we should enjoy it in a most excellent condition; for of allies and citizens, as well as arms and horses, we have a much greater abundance that they had. But there were other things which made them great, but which among us have no existence—such as industry at home, equitable government abroad, and minds impartial in council, uninfluenced by any immoral or improper feeling. Instead of such virtues, we have luxury and avarice, public distress and private superfluity: we extol wealth, and yield to indolence; no distinction is made between good men and bad; and ambition usurps the honors due to virtue. Nor is this wonderful; since you study each his individual interest, and since at home you are slaves to pleasure, and here to money or favor; and hence it happens that an attack is made on the defenseless State.

via On the Punishment of the Catiline Conspirators by Cato the Younger. Rome (218 B.C.-84 A.D.). Vol. II. Bryan, William Jennings, ed. 1906. The World’s Famous Orations.

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6 Replies to “Cato the Younger on the downfall of the Republic”

  1. All empires are alike from beginning to end in that their trajectory is much the same. They begin with belief in an ideal that sustains the empire through its founding, growth, expansion, and onto it zenith. Then, as various diffculities associated with corruption beset the empire’s eventual overreach, trust is shaken. In time, unrest precipitates decline and eventual collapse.

    Fulfillment of Ecclesiastes 10:6-8 – in terms of those God obviously intended for some humbler task holding positions of authority – is usually a good indication that a empire’s days are numbered. Their greed, corruption, and stupidity undermine public trust in the system.

    Another good indicator is too much inherited money coinciding with a decided concentration of wealth. Laws are constructed for the benefit of privileged members of society. That’s the real story behind how the United States wound up with student deferments during Vietnam and an all volunteer military after Vietnam. The proof can be found in the number of white male former draft-dodgers in high places over the past quarter century. Most of the more prominent have been flag-waving conservatives!

    At present, the undoing of the United States seems principally predicated on financial scheming and military misadventures. The former paved the road to the Great Recession. The latter adequately explains how the United States managed to squander $2,000,000,000,000, suffer over 30,000 military casualties (dead or wounded), and gain nothing of significance after invading Iraq.

    Interestingly, despite all the folderol, the United States has not won a single major military conflict since inserting “under God” into the Pledge of Allegiance! More troubling, the United States has lost its middle class – without which no country can long remain prosperous – and much of its prestige among nations.

    In time, of course, someone with succeed in installing a dictatorship. As always, they will promise to restore the country to greatness. (And, no, it’s not going to be Barack Obama!) More than likely, given the history of the United States, the dictatorship will be an amalgam of Nazi Germany’s Third Reich the purification of Spain instituted by Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. This will most likely usher in a period of faux-naif (deceptively childlike) patriotism and prosperity before what’s left of the United States eventually fails and fragments.

    Those surviving will most likely look back and realize that this period of American history was not a good time to have children or grandchildren. Even if they are unable to articulate their concerns, the public’s ability to perceive that less than propitious outcome probably explains the precipitous decline in native-born birth rates in the United States. Even if they can’t read it, people sense that illusive handwriting on the wall around their lives does not foretell a good outcome.

    1. Since this topic has apparently inspired a little interest, it might be worth expanding on how to recognize the likely dictator or a budding fascist regime. Look for the Big Cs.

      First, he will be charismatic. Like a successful politician or mega-church preacher, he will speak the language of the people. He will have shared their experiences. Quite likely, he will be a military veteran. He will be gifted at telling people what they want to hear. A younger Ronald Reagan might fit the profile.

      Second (and this is why Barack Obama will never fit the mold), the rising dictator will have special appeal to the Four Cs of the Right – Capitalists, Christians, Conservatives, and Crackpots. The capitalist will back him financially. Christians and conservatives will endorse him politically. Like the Sturmabteilung (SA, Brown Shirts), the crackpots will be the enforcers.

  2. I think that you are a pathetic and complete homophobe and I hope that you realise people are going to kill them selves because of the hurtful crap that you have posted

      1. It is possible that Matt was replying to my response to your post. He simply may not have known how to insert his post under mine. Thus, making it appear that he directed his answer toward you.

        If that is the case, I share his concerns. At the same time, history clearly shows that oblivion – even denial – is a far deadlier choice than awareness.

        One of the great lessons of the Holocaust is that it took almost a decade before the targeted Jewish populace mounted an armed opposition to Nazis atrocities. (Hitler came to power in 1933. The Nazis passed the Nuremberg Laws dispossessing
        Jews in 1935. Armed Jewish resistance began in 1942.) By mid-1942, the Einsatzgruppen (mobile Nazi death squads) had annihilated approximately 1,500,000 Jews!

        Moreover, as history clearly shows, it wasn’t just Jews and homosexuals that Nazis went after. Targets of their wrath also included Jehovah’s Witnesses, Gypsies, clergy the Nazis couldn’t co-opt, anyone opposed to Nazi ideology (especially if they had academic credentials), the mentally and physically handicapped, and anyone else not fitting into their particular brand of utopia.

        Few people either realize or are willing to admit two things: Not only was Nazi’s eugenics predicated on ideas popular in America at the time, the Nazis did very little to the Jews that the United States Army hadn’t done to Native Americans half a century earlier! That included being hauled to de facto death camps (the Rez in Native American parlance) in cattle cars.

        By the same token, few people seem to be aware that “arbeit macht frei” (“work makes (you) free”) and the Protestant work ethic are remarkable similar philosophies. That’s how America got indentured servitude, institutionalized slavery enshrined into The Constitution as originally written in 1787, and child labor twice endorsed by the Supreme Court (1918 and 1922).

        It is probably worth repeating: Although the American public has been overly warned regarding the evils of socialism, it remains largely oblivious as to the pernicious nature of fascism. In fact, Americans wouldn’t recognize fascism even after it bit them on their collective posterior!

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