Images of Cato the Elder
The historical figure of Cato the Elder has been examined in detail; what has not received sufficient attention, however, is the literary image of Cato, the portrait he paints of himself in his writings as well as that his many biographers – Cicero, Nepos, and Plutarch – are painting of him. Which traces of his character, which key events of his life are transferred into Roman cultural memory? Which of them go on to form ‘memory islands’ floating in the ocean of Western cultural memory in the Middle Ages and Renaissance?
In this talk I shall briefly analyze Cato’s self-portrait in his biographical writings and his speeches and the authorial voice he projects in his work de agricultura that lead him to become the single most frequently employed moral exemplum in Latin literature. We shall then sample Cato’s reception in the works of Juvenal and Martial as well as a number of medieval writers. This will lead me to identifying a typology of ‘memory islands’, that is constitutive memories that inform our image of Cato the Elder.
Respondent: Dr. Markus Stachon (Bonn)