Cato's Monostichs

LTM Edition and Translation

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Elementary Readers Index



Incipiunt dicta Marci Catonis ad filium suum.

Here begin Marcus Cato's sayings to his son.

Cum anima adverterem quam plurimos graviter in via morum errare, succurrendum opinioni eorum et consulendum famae existimavi, maxime ut gloriose viverent et honorem contingerent. Nunc te, fili carissime, docebo, quo pacto morem animi tui componas. Igitur praecepta mea ita legito, ut intellegas; legere enim et non intelligere neglegere est.

Since I noticed that almost everyone makes serious mistakes when it comes to matters of character, I felt obliged to offer some correction for these ways of thinking and to show some concern for their reputations, above all so that they might live impressive lives and attain respectability. Now, dearest son, I will teach you how to form your character well. So read my instructions in such a way as to understand them; for to read and to miss the point amounts to "miss-reading."

1. Itaque deo supplica.

  1. And so make a humble prayer to God.

2. Parentes ama.

  2. Have affection for your parents.

3. Cognatos cole.

  3. Treat your relatives well.

4. Magistrum metue.

  4. Respect your teacher.

5. Datum serva.

  5. Hold on to what has been given to you.

6. Foro parce.

  6. Do not spend much time out in public.

7. Cum bonis ambula.

  7. Associate with those who are respectable.

8. Antequam voceris, ne accesseris.

  8. Do not go before you are called.

9. Mundus esto.

  9. Be neat.

10. Saluta libenter.

  10. Greet people gladly.

11. Maiori concede; minori parce.

  11. Give in to those who are older than you are; go easy on those who are younger.

12. Rem tuam custodi.

  12. Watch over what belongs to you.

13. Verecundiam serva.

  13. Keep your sense of shame.

14. Diligentiam adhibe.

  14. Apply yourself.

15. Libros lege; quae legeris, memento.

  15. Read books; keep in mind what you have read.

16. Familiam cura.

  16. Take care of your own.

17. Blandus esto.

  17. Be pleasant.

18. Irascere ob rem gravem.

  18. Get angry when you have a good reason.

19. Neminem riseris.

  19. Do not ridicule anyone.

20. Mutuum da.

  20. [Be willing to] lend.

21. Cui des, videto.

  21. Pay attention to the one to whom you are giving.

22. In iudicio adesto.

  22. [Be ready to] give support [to someone] in court.

23. Ad praetorium stato.

  23. Support your leadership.

24. Convivare raro.

  24. Party seldom.

25. Quod satis est, dormi.

  25. Get an adequate amount of sleep.

26. Iusiurandum serva.

  26. Keep your solemn word.

27. Vino tempera.

  27. Drink moderately.

28. Pugna pro patria.

  28. Fight for your country.

29. Nihil temere credideris.

  29. Do not be too quick to believe.

30. Tute consule.

  30. Give safe advice.

31. Meretricem fuge.

  31. Keep away from prostitutes.

32. Litteras disce.

  32. Get an education.

33. Nihil mentire.

  33. Do not lie at all.

34. Bono benefacito.

  34. Do good to the good.

35. Maledicus ne esto.

  35. Do not use abusive speech.

36. Existimationem retine.

  36. Stick to your own assessment.

37. Aequum iudica.

  37. Decide what is fair.

38. Parentem patienter vince.

  38. Win over your parents with patience.

39. Beneficii accepti esto memor.

  39. Do not forget a favor that you have received.

40. Miserum noli ridere.

  40. Do not ridicule a person suffering a misfortune.

41. Consultus esto.

  41. Be very good at what you do.

42. Virtute utere.

  42. Put your strengths to good use.

43. Iracundiam rege.

  43. Control your rage.

44. Trocho lude; aleam fuge.

  44. Play with the hoop; avoid gambling.

45. Nihil arbitrii virium feceris.

  45. Do not let a judgment of strength determine what you do.

46. Minorem non contempseris.

  46. Do not scorn a younger person.

47. Alienum noli concupisci.

  47. Do not itch for what belongs to someone else.

48. Coniugem ama; liberos erudi.

  48. Have affection for your spouse. Train your children.

49. Patere legem, quam ipse tuleris.

  49. Follow the rules that you yourself have made.

50. Pauca in convivio loquere.

  50. Say little at a party.

51. Illud stude agere, quod iustum est.

  51. Be eager to do what is right.

52. Libenter amorem ferto.

  52. Be glad to have feelings of affection.

53. Minime iudica.

  53. Do not judge.





Note on the Text

Textual readings for the monostichs vary. What is presented here is partly indebted to Wayland Johnson Chase's presentation in The Distichs of Cato: a Famous Medieval Textbook (1922). Dr. Clarence Miller of Saint Louis University has kindly offered me expert advice.   © 2004 adaptation, translation, and web-presentation by Claude Pavur, S.J., Saint Louis University. This material is being made freely available for non-commercial academic use. Web-translation last revised: July 18, 2009. The pdf files may reflect an earlier version of the translation.




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