What Makes A Roman Essay

1671 words - 7 pages

What Makes a Roman
Cato imposes a great honor upon Juba, the Numidian prince, by declaring him to be a fellow Roman. Caesar, however, continues to be referred to as Roman, despite Cato’s hatred of him. The despotism displayed by Caesar in his conquests does not, even in the remotest sense embody the Roman ideals that Cato holds so dear. Caesar, however, is continually referred to as a Roman tyrant. After one reads or experiences the play Cato, one may find themselves asking, “if Juba becomes a Roman through his virtue, why doesn’t Caesar stop being a Roman through his vice?” The answer to this question, however, lies in what the true definition of a “Roman” is. Juba and ...view middle of the document...

Bid him do this, and Cato is his friend. (Addison, 24)
These are demands, however, that Caesar would never comply with. After all, Caesar is sending a messenger to bribe Cato. Caesar had even stated that he “would rather be the first man in a barbarian village, than the second man in Rome” (Thompson). Caesar does not respect the Roman ideals of honor and justice and liberty, which is why Cato will never respect him in return, and refuses to see him as a true Roman.
Cato considers Caesar to be the epitome of every crime and vice capable of a person. When Juba is distressed over the deception of Syphax, Cato comforts him by turning the blame on the traitors themselves, and dismissing any blame that Juba is feeling for himself. “Alas, young Prince, Falsehood and fraud shoot up in every soil, The product of all climes—Rome has its Caesars” (Addison, 48). To Cato, Caesar should not even be considered to be a man, but instead as a living example of everything ignoble in the world.
Cato’s definition of a Roman is someone who embodies the so-called Roman ideals; honor, justice, temperance, truth, bravery, and love. These virtues, like those endorsed by philosophers such as Plato, Cicero, and Socrates, can be seen as the essential values that make up the good life. A good life is one that is honorable and just and those that live good lives, and those that live around those that live good lives, are generally happy. Socrates, as most of the great philosophers of that time did, place a great importance on the value of justice. “Justice is in the most beautiful class of all: the class of things we choose to have for their own sake and for the sake of their consequences” (Plato, 33). Cato places justice above all else in importance. He knows that the just thing to do is to stand up against Caesar in the slight chance that they might be able to spare some of their fellow countrymen from his tyranny.
During the time of Caesar’s conquest, it could be difficult to find those that led virtuous lives. Caesar’s rule encouraged bribery and dishonesty among the people of Rome to the point at which it became very difficult for one to know who one’s true friends were. Juba’s own general, Syphax, conspires with Cato’s fellow senator, Sempronius, to overthrow Cato in the name of Caesar. Syphax, when conspiring with Sempronius on how to win over Juba, laments over his steadfast loyalty to Cato. “He’s lost, Sempronius; all his thought are full of Cato’s virtues—But I’ll try once more… if yet I can subdue those stubborn principles of faith, honor, and I know not what, that have corrupted his Numidian temper and struck th’ infection into all his soul” (Addison, 13). Syphax acknowledges that Cato is fighting against Caesar with these important principles in mind, and yet the traitors completely disregard the importance of such virtues.
In the name of Caesar, both men deceived the others into believing that...

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