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three pairs of lovers with space



Lucius Quinctius Flaminius (ca. 239-170 BC) was Roman consul in the year 192-191 BC, during which time he was assigned to Cisalpine Gaul and indulged in the antics with a boy courtesan that led to his disgrace. In 184 BC, despite opposition from the nobility who feared his severity, Cato the Elder was elected censor,[1] a powerful and highly revered magistrate whose duties included supervision of public morality, and Flaminius became his prime target.

Though alluded to by other writers for its legal implications, only the three accounts presented here provide any details of the story such as that a Greek love story was at its heart. The earliest, presented here first, was by the most famous historian of republican Rome, Livy, in his Books from the Foundation of the City, written between 27 and 9 BC.  The other two, very similar, were in biographies of Cato and Lucius’s distinguished brother Titus written by Plutarch at the beginning of the second century AD as two of his Parallel Lives.


Livy, Books from the Foundation of the City XXXIX 42-43 & summary

The translation is by Evan T. Sage in the Loeb Classical Library volume  CCCXIII (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1936).

[42] The censors Marcus Porcius and Lucius Valerius chose the senate amid suspense mingled with fear; they expelled seven from the senate,[2] one of whom was distinguished by both high birth and political success, Lucius Quinctius Flamininus, a man of consular rank.

Within the memory of our fathers the custom is said to have arisen that the censors should affix the nota to the names of those who are expelled from the senate. But in this case there are speeches of Cato and indeed other bitter orations against those who were either expelled from the senate or whose horses were taken from them, by far the most vehement being that against Lucius Quinctius, and if he had made this speech as an accuser before the branding rather than as censor after the branding, Lucius Quinctius could not have been kept in the senate even by his brother Titus Quinctius, had he been censor at the time.

Among other things he reproached him regarding Philippus, a Carthaginian,[3] a notorious prostitute whom he loved and whom he had attracted from Rome to his province of Gaul by the promise of great gifts.

Bacchus by Jean-Antonin Carls

This boy, says Cato, in the course of his playful jesting, used frequently to reproach the consul because just on the eve of the gladiatorial games he had been carried off from Rome, that he might sell his favours to his lover.

By chance, when they were dining and were by now heated with wine, it was announced in the dining-room that a noble Boian, accompanied by his sons, had come as a deserter; he wished, they said, to meet the consul, that he might obtain a safeguard from him personally.

Having been introduced into the tent, Cato continued, he began to address the consul through an interpreter. While he was speaking, Quinctius said to the boy, “Do you wish, since you missed the gladiatorial show, to see now this Gaul[4] dying?”

And when he nodded, although not really in earnest, the consul, at the boy's nod, seized the sword that was hanging above his head and first struck the head of the Gaul while he was speaking, and then, as the Gaul was fleeing and calling for the protection of the Roman people and of those who were present, he stabbed him through the side.

[43] Valerius Antias, as one who had never read the speech of Cato and had accepted the story as if it were nothing but a story anonymously circulated, gives another version, similar, however, in its lust and cruelty.[5]

He writes that at Placentia a notorious woman, with whom Flamininus was desperately in love, had been invited to dinner. There he was boasting to the courtesan, among other things, about his severity in the prosecution of cases and how many persons he had in chains, under sentence of death, whom he intended to behead.

Then the woman, reclining below him, said that she had never seen a person beheaded and was very anxious to behold the sight. Hereupon, he says, the generous lover, ordering one of the wretches to be brought to him, cut off his head with his sword.

This deed, whether it was performed in the manner for which the censor rebuked him, or as Valerius reports it, was savage and cruel: in the midst of drinking and feasting, where it is the custom to pour libations to the gods and to pray for blessings, as a spectacle for a shameless harlot, reclining in the bosom of a consul, a human victim sacrificed and bespattering the table with his blood!

At the end of the speech a challenge of Cato to Quinctius is reported: if he would deny this act and the other things which Cato had charged, he should defend himself by legal methods, but if he confessed it, would he think that anyone would grieve at his disgrace, since he himself, mad with drink and desire, had played with a man's blood at a feast?

[Summary] The censors Lucius Valerius Flaccus and Marcus Porcius Cato (the latter the greatest of men in the arts of both war and peace) expelled from the senate Lucius Quinctius Flamininus, the brother of Titus, on the ground that while he was holding the province of Gaul as consul, at the request of a Carthaginian, Philippus, a notorious degenerate whom he loved, he had, at a banquet, killed with his own hand a certain Gaul, or, as some say, that he had beheaded a man under sentence of death at the request of a courtesan of Placentia with whom he was desperately in love. The speech of Marcus Cato against him is extant.

[42 v] Censores M. Porcius et L. Valerius metu mixta exspectatione senatum legerunt; septem moverunt senatu, ex quibus unum insignem et nobilitate et honoribus, L. Quinctium Flamininum consularem.

[vi] patrum memoria institutum fertur ut censores motis senatu adscriberent notas. Catonis et aliae quidem acerbae orationes exstant in eos quos aut senatorio loco movit aut quibus equos ademit, [vii] longe gravissima in L. Quinctium oratio, qua si accusator ante notam, non censor post notam usus esset, retinere L. Quinctium in senatu ne frater quidem T. Quinctius, si tum censor esset, potuisset.

[viii] Inter cetera obiecit ei Philippum Poenum, carum ac nobile scortum, ab Roma in Galliam provinciam spe ingentium donorum perductum.

[ix] eum puerum, per lasciviam cum cavillaretur, exprobrare consuli saepe solitum, quod sub ipsum spectaculum gladiatorium abductus ab Roma esset, ut obsequium amatori venditaret.

[x] forte epulantibus iis, cum iam vino incaluissent, nuntiatum in convivio esse nobilem Boium cum liberis transfugam venisse; convenire consulem velle, ut ab eo fidem praesens acciperet.

[xi] introductum in tabernaculum per interpretem adloqui consulem coepisse. inter cuius sermonem Quinctius scorto “vis tu,” inquit “quoniam gladiatorium spectaculum reliquisti, iam hunc Gallum morientem videre?”

[xii] et cum is vixdum serio adnuisset, ad nutum scorti consulem stricto gladio, qui super caput pendebat, loquenti Gallo caput primum percussisse, deinde, fugienti fidemque populi Romani atque eorum qui aderant imploranti latus transfodisse.

[43 i] Valerius Antias, ut qui nec orationem Catonis legisset et fabulae tantum sine auctore editae credidisset, aliud argumentum, simile tamen et libidine et crudelitate peragit.

[ii] Placentiae famosam mulierem, cuius amore deperiret, in convivium accersitam scribit. ibi iactantem sese scorto inter cetera rettulisse quam acriter quaestiones exercuisset, et quam multos capitis damnatos in vinculis haberet, quos securi percussurus esset.

[iii] tum illam infra eum accubantem negasse unquam vidisse quemquam securi ferientem, et pervelle id videre. hic indulgentem amatorem unum ex illis miseris attrahi iussum securi percussisse.

[iv] Facinus, sive eo modo, quo censor obiecit, sive, ut Valerius tradit, commissum est, saevum atque atrox: inter pocula atque epulas, ubi libare dis dapes, ubi bene precari mos esset, ad spectaculum scorti procacis, in sinu consulis recubantis, mactatam humanam victimam esse et cruore mensam respersam.

Young Gaulish Prisoner by Hélène Bertaux, 1867

[v] in extrema oratione Catonis condicio Quinctio fertur, ut si id factum negaret ceteraque quae obiecisset, sponsione defenderet sese: sin fateretur, ignominiane sua quemquam doliturum censeret, cum ipse vino et venere amens sanguine hominis in convivio lusisset?

[Periocha] A censoribus L. Valerio Flacco et M. Porcio Catone, et belli et pacis artibus maximo, motus est senatu L. Quinctius Flamininus, T. frater, eo quod cum Galliam provinciam consul obtineret, rogatus in convivio a Poeno Philippo, quem amabat, scorto nobili, Gallum quendam sua manu occiderat sive, ut quidam tradiderunt, unum ex damnatis securi percusserat rogatus a meretrice Placentina, cuius amore deperibat. exstat oratio M. Catonis in eum.


Plutarch, Life of Titus Flaminius 18 ii – 19 iv

Titus Quinctius Flaminius (ca. 229-174 BC), the Roman general whose victories ended Macedonian domination of Greece and initiated her conquest by Rome, was the brother of Lucius.

The translation is by Bernadotte Perrin in the Loeb Classical Library volume CII (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1921), with two amendments explained in footnotes.

Titus Quinctius Flaminius on a stater struck in Greece ca. 196 BC to celebrate his liberation of the Greek cities, the first time a living Roman was depicted on a coin

The two men of his time who were most notable and had the greatest influence in the city, Scipio Africanus and Marcus Cato, were at variance with one another. Of these, Titus appointed Scipio to be Dean of the Senate, believing him to be its best and foremost man; but with Cato he came into hostile relations, owing to the following unfortunate circumstances. Titus had a brother, Lucius, who was unlike him in all other ways, and especially in his shameful addiction to pleasure and his utter contempt of decency.

This brother had as beloved[6] a boy[7] whom he loved, and took him about and kept him always in his train, whether he was commanding an army or administering a province. At some drinking party, then, this boy was playing the coquet with Lucius, and said he loved him so ardently that he had come away from a show of gladiators in order to be with him, although he had never in all his life seen a man killed; and he had done so, he said, because he cared more for his lover’s pleasure than for his own. Lucius was delighted at this, and said: “Don’t worry about that! I will give thee thy heart’s desire.”

Then ordering a man who had been condemned to death to be brought forth from his prison, and sending for a lictor, he commanded him to strike off the man’s head there in the banquet-hall. Valerius Antias, however, says it was not a lover, but a mistress whom Lucius thus sought to gratify. And Livy says that in a speech of Cato himself it is written that a Gaulish deserter had come to the door with his wife and children, and that Lucius admitted him into the banquet-hall and slew him with his own hand to gratify his lover.

This feature, however, was probably introduced by Cato to strengthen the force of his denunciation; for that it was not a deserter, but a prisoner, who was put to death, and one who had been condemned to die, is the testimony of many others, and especially of Cicero the orator in his treatise “On Old Age,” where he puts the story in the mouth of Cato himself.[8]

In view of this, when Cato became censor and was purging the senate of its unworthy members, he expelled from it Lucius Flamininus, although he was a man of consular dignity, and although his brother Titus was thought to be involved in his disgrace. Therefore the two brothers came before the people in lowly garb and bathed in tears, and made what seemed a reasonable request of their fellow citizens, namely, that Cato should state the reasons which had led him to visit a noble house with a disgrace so great.

Without any hesitation, then, Cato came forward, and standing with his colleague before Titus, asked him if he knew about the banquet. Titus said he did not, whereupon Cato related the incident and formally challenged Lucius to say whether any part of the story told was not true. But Lucius was dumb, and the people therefore saw that he had been justly disgraced, and gave Cato a splendid escort away from the rostra.

Titus, however, was so affected by the misfortune of his brother that he leagued himself with those who had long hated Cato, and after getting the upper hand in the senate, revoked and annulled all the public rentals and leases and contracts which Cato had made, besides bringing many heavy indictments against him.[9] That he acted the part of a good man or a good citizen I cannot affirm, in thus cherishing an incurable hatred against a lawful magistrate and a most excellent citizen on account of a man who, though a kinsman, was nevertheless unworthy and had suffered only what he deserved.

However, as the Roman people was once enjoying a spectacle in the theatre, and the senate, according to custom, had seats of honour in the foremost rows, Lucius was seen sitting somewhere in the rear among the poor and lowly, and excited men’s pity. The multitude could not bear the sight, but kept shouting to him to change his place, until he did change his place, and was received among their own number by the men of consular rank.[10]

Titus Quinctius Flaminius drawn by Ambroise Tardieu from a gold coin

[18 ii] Τῶν δὲ γνωριμωτάτων κατ᾿ αὐτὸν ἀνδρῶν καὶ μεγίστων ἐν τῇ πόλει διαφερομένων πρὸς ἀλλήλους, Ἀφρικανοῦ Σκηπίωνος καὶ Μάρκου Κάτωνος, τὸν μὲν προέγραψε τῆς βουλῆς, ὡς ἄριστον ἄνδρα καὶ πρῶτον, Κάτωνι δ᾿ εἰς ἔχθραν ἦλθε συμφορᾷ τοιαύτῃ χρησάμενος. ἀδελφὸς ἦν Τίτῳ Λεύκιος Φλαμινῖνος, οὔτε τὰ ἄλλα προσεοικὼς ἐκείνῳ τὴν φύσιν ἔν τε ταῖς ἡδοναῖς ἀνελεύθερος δεινῶς καὶ ὀλιγωρότατος τοῦ πρέποντος.

[iii] τούτῳ συνῆν μειρακίσκος ἐρώμενος, ὃν καὶ στρατιᾶς ἄρχων ἐπήγετο καὶ διέπων ἐπαρχίας εἶχεν ἀεὶ περὶ αὑτόν. ἐν οὖν πότῳ τινὶ θρυπτόμενος πρὸς τὸν Λεύκιον οὕτως ἔφη σφόδρα φιλεῖν αὐτόν, ὥστε θέαν μονομάχων ἀπολιπεῖν οὔπω γεγονὼς ἀνθρώπου φονευομένου θεατής, τὸ πρὸς ἐκεῖνον ἡδὺ τοῦ πρὸς αὑτὸν ἐν πλείονι λόγῳ θέμενος. ὁ δὲ Λεύκιος ἡσθεὶς “Οὐδέν,” ἔφη, “δεινόν· ἰάσομαι γὰρ ἐγώ σου τὴν ἐπιθυμίαν.”

[iv] καὶ κελεύσας ἕνα τῶν καταδίκων ἐκ τοῦ δεσμωτηρίου προαχθῆναι, καὶ τὸν ὑπηρέτην μεταπεμψάμενος, ἐν τῷ συμποσιῳ προσέταξεν ἀποκόψαι τοῦ ἀνθρώπου τὸν τράχηλον. Οὐαλλέριος δὲ Ἀντίας οὐκ ἐρωμένῳ φησίν, ἀλλ᾿ ἐρωμένῃ τοῦτο χαρίσασθαι τὸν Λεύκιον. ὁ δὲ Λίβιος ἐν λόγῳ Κάτωνος αὐτοῦ γεγράφθαι φησίν, ὡς Γαλάτην αὐτόμολον ἐλθόντα μετὰ παίδων καὶ γυναικὸς ἐπὶ τὰς θύρας δεξάμενος εἰς τὸ συμπόσιον ὁ Λεύκιος ἀπέκτεινεν ἰδίᾳ χειρὶ τῷ ἐρωμένῳ χαριζόμενος.

[v] τοῦτο μὲν οὖν εἰκὸς εἰς δείνωσιν εἰρῆσθαι τῆς κατηγορίας ὑπὸ τοῦ Κάτωνος· ὅτι δὲ οὐκ αὐτόμολος ἤν, ἀλλὰ δεσμώτης ὁ ἀναιρεθεὶς καὶ ἐκ τῶν καταδίκων, ἄλλοι τε πολλοὶ καὶ Κικέρων ὁ ῥήτωρ ἐν τῷ περὶ γήρως αὐτῷ Κάτωνι τὴν διήγησιν ἀναθεὶς εἴρηκεν.

[19 i] Ἐπὶ τούτῳ Κάτων τιμητὴς γενόμενος καὶ καθαίρων τὴν σύγκλητον ἀπήλασε τῆς βουλῆς τὸν Λεύκιον, ὑπατικοῦ μὲν ἀξιώματος ὄντα, συνατιμοῦσθαι δὲ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ δοκοῦντος αὐτῷ. διὸ καὶ προελθόντες εἰς τὸν δῆμον ἀμφότεροι ταπεινοὶ καὶ δεδακρυμένοι μέτρια δεῖσθαι τῶν πολιτῶν ἐδόκουν, ἀξιοῦντες αἰτίαν εἰπεῖν τὸν Κάτωνα καὶ λόγον, ᾧ χρησάμενος οἶκον ἔνδοξον ἀτιμίᾳ τοσαύτῃ περιβέβληκεν.

[ii] οὐδὲν οὖν ὑποστειλάμενος ὁ Κάτων προῆλθε, καὶ καταστὰς μετὰ τοῦ συνάρχοντος ἠρώτησε τὸν Τίτον εἰ γινώσκει τὸ συμπόσιον. ἀρνουμένου δὲ ἐκείνου, διηγησάμενος εἰς ὁρισμὸν προεκαλεῖτο τὸν Λεύκιον εἴ τί φησι τῶν εἰρημένων μὴ ἀληθὲς εἶναι. τοῦ δὲ Λευκίου σιωπήσαντος, ὁ μὲν δῆμος ἔγνω δικαίαν γεγονέναι τὴν ἀτιμίαν καὶ τὸν Κάτωνα προέπεμψε λαμπρῶς ἀπὸ τοῦ βήματος,

[iii] ὁ δὲ Τίτος τῇ συμφορᾷ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ περιπαθῶν συνέστη μετὰ τῶν πάλαι μισούντων τὸν Κάτωνα καὶ πάσας μὲν ἃς ἐκεῖνος ἐποιήσατο τῶν δημοσίων ἐκδόσεις καὶ μισθώσεις καὶ ὠνὰς ἠκύρωσε καὶ ἀνέλυσεν ἐν τῇ βουλῇ κρατήσας, πολλὰς δὲ καὶ μεγάλας δίκας κατ᾿ αὐτοῦ παρεσκεύασεν, οὐκ οἶδ᾿ ὅπως εὖ καὶ πολιτικῶς πρὸς ἄρχοντα νόμιμον καὶ πολίτην ἄριστον ὑπὲρ ἀνδρὸς οἰκείου μέν, ἀναξίου δὲ καὶ τὰ προσήκοντα πεπονθότος ἀνήκεστον ἔχθραν ἀράμενος.

[iv] οὐ μὴν ἀλλὰ τοῦ Ῥωμαίων ποτὲ δήμου θέαν ἔχοντος ἐν τῷ θεάτρῳ καὶ τῆς βουλῆς, ὥσπερ εἴωθε, κόσμῳ προκαθημένης, ὀφθεὶς ὁ Λεύκιος ἐπ᾿ ἐσχάτοις που καθήμενος ἀτίμως καὶ ταπεινῶς οἶκτον ἔσχε· καὶ τὸ πλῆθος οὐκ ἠνέσχετο τὴν ὄψιν, ἀλλ᾿ ἐβόων μεταβῆναι κελεύοντες, ἕως μετέβη, δεξαμένων αὐτὸν εἰς ἑαυτοὺς τῶν ὑπατικῶν.

Bust of an eminent Roman, probably Cato the Elder

 Plutarch, Life of Marcus Cato 17 i-vi

Marcus Porcius Cato “the Elder” (234-149 BC) was a fiercely conservative Roman senator and consul of markedly puritanical bent.

Observations already made in the footnotes to Plutarch’s preceding and similar passage from his Life of Flaminius are not repeated here. The translation is by Bernadotte Perrin in the Loeb Classical Library volume XLVII (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1914), with one amendment explained in a footnote.

He also expelled many members of the Senate, including Lucius Quinctius[11]. This man had been consul seven years before, and, a thing which gave him more reputation than the consulship even, was brother of the Titus Flamininus who conquered King Philip.

The reason for his expulsion was the following. There was a youth[12] who, ever since his boyhood, had been the paramour[13] of Lucius. This youth Lucius kept ever about him, and took with him on his campaigns in greater honour and power than any one of his nearest friends and kinsmen had. He was once administering the affairs of his consular province, and at a certain banquet this youth, as was his wont, reclined at his side, and began to pay his flatteries to a man who, in his cups, was too easily led about. “I love you so much,” he said, “that once, when there was a gladiatorial show at home, a thing which I had never seen, I rushed away from it to join you, although my heart was set on seeing a man slaughtered.”

“Well, for that matter,” said Lucius, “don’t lie there with any grudge against me, for I will cure it.” Thereupon he commanded that one of the men who were lying under sentence of death be brought to the banquet, and that a lictor with an axe stand by his side. Then he asked his beloved if he wished to see the man smitten. The youth said he did, and Lucius ordered the man’s head to be cut off.

This is the version which most writers give of the affair, and so Cicero has represented Cato himself as telling the story in his dialogue “On Old Age.” But Livy says the victim was a Gallic deserter, and that Lucius did not have the man slain by a lictor, but smote him with his own hand, and that this is the version of the story in a speech of Cato’s.

On the expulsion of Lucius from the Senate by Cato, his brother was greatly indignant, and appealed to the people, urging that Cato state his reasons for the expulsion. Cato did so, narrating the incident of the banquet.[14] Lucius attempted to make denial, but when Cato challenged him to a formal trial of the case with a wager of money upon it, he declined.

Then the justice of his punishment was recognized. But once when a spectacle was given in the theatre, he passed along by the senatorial seats, and took his place as far away from them as he could. Then the people took pity upon him and shouted till they had forced him to change his seat, thus rectifying, as far as was possible, and alleviating the situation.

[i] ἐξέβαλε δὲ τῆς βουλῆς ἄλλους τε συχνοὺς καὶ Λεύκιον Κοΐντιον, ὕπατον μὲν ἑπτὰ πρότερον ἐνιαυτοῖς γεγενημένον, ὃ δ᾿ ἦν αὐτῷ πρὸς δόξαν ὑπατείας μεῖζον, ἀδελφὸν Τίτου Φλαμινίνου τοῦ καταπολεμήσαντος Φίλιππον.

[ii] αἰτίαν δὲ τῆς ἐκβολῆς ἔσχε τοιαύτην. μειράκιον ἐκ τῆς παιδικῆς ὥρας ἑταιροῦν ἀνειληφὼς ὁ Λεύκιος ἀεὶ περὶ αὑτὸν εἶχε καὶ συνεπήγετο στρατηγῶν ἐπὶ τιμῆς καὶ δυνάμεως τοσαύτης, ὅσην οὐδεὶς εἶχε τῶν πρώτων παρ᾿ αὐτῷ φίλων καὶ οἰκείων. ἐτύγχανε μὲν οὖν ἡγούμενος ὑπατικῆς ἐπαρχίας· ἐν δὲ συμποσίῳ τινὶ τὸ μειράκιον, ὥσπερ εἰώθει, συγκατακείμενον ἄλλην τε κολακείαν ἐκίνει πρὸς ἄνθρωπον ἐν οἴνῳ ῥᾳδίως ἀγόμενον, καὶ φιλεῖν αὐτὸν οὕτως ἔλεγεν “ὥστ᾿,” ἔφη, “θέας οὔσης οἴκοι μονομάχων οὐ τεθεαμένος πρότερον ἐξώρμησα πρὸς σέ, καίπερ ἐπιθυμῶν ἰδεῖν ἄνθρωπον σφαττόμενον.”

[iii] ὁ δὲ Λεύκιος ἀντιφιλοφρονούμενος “Ἀλλὰ τούτου γε χάριν,” εἶπε, “μή μοι κατάκεισο λυπούμενος, ἐγὼ γὰρ ἰάσομαι.” καὶ κελεύσας ἕνα τῶν ἐπὶ θανάτῳ κατακρίτων εἰς τὸ συμπόσιον ἀχθῆναι καὶ τὸν ὑπηρέτην ἔχοντα πέλεκυν παραστῆναι, πάλιν ἠρώτησε τὸν ἐρώμενον, εἰ βούλεται τυπτόμενον θεάσασθαι. φήσαντος δὲ βούλεσθαι, προσέταξεν ἀποκόψαι τοῦ ἀνθρώπου τὸν τράχηλον.

[iv] Οἱ μὲν οὖν πλεῖστοι ταῦτα ἱστοροῦσι, καὶ ὅ γε Κικέρων αὐτὸν τὸν Κάτωνα διηγούμενον ἐν τῷ περὶ γήρως διαλόγῳ πεποίηκεν· ὁ δὲ Λίβιος αὐτόμολον εἶναί φησι Γαλάτην τὸν ἀναιρεθέντα, τὸν δὲ Λεύκιον οὐ δι᾿ ὑπηρέτου κτεῖναι τὸν ἄνθρωπον, ἀλλ᾿ αὐτὸν ἰδίᾳ χειρί, καὶ ταῦτα ἐν λόγῳ γεγράφθαι Κάτωνος.

[v] Ἐκβληθέντος οὖν τοῦ Λευκίου τῆς βουλῆς ὑπὸ τοῦ Κάτωνος, ὁ ἀδελφὸς αὐτοῦ βαρέως φέρων ἐπὶ τὸν δῆμον κατέφυγε καὶ τὴν αἰτίαν ἐκέλευεν εἰπεῖν τὸν Κάτωνα τῆς ἐκβολῆς. εἰπόντος δὲ καὶ διηγησαμένου τὸ συμπόσιον ἐπεχείρει μὲν ὁ Λεύκιος ἀρνεῖσθαι, προκαλουμένου δὲ τοῦ Κάτωνος εἰς ὁρισμὸν ἀνεδύετο.

[vi] καὶ τότε μὲν ἄξια παθεῖν κατεγνώσθη· θέας δ᾿ οὔσης ἐν θεάτρῳ τὴν ὑπατικὴν χώραν παρελθὼν καὶ πορρωτάτω που καθεσθεὶς οἶκτον ἔσχε παρὰ τῷ δήμῳ, καὶ βοῶντες ἠνάγκασαν αὐτὸν μετελθεῖν, ὡς ἦν δυνατὸν ἐπανορθούμενοι καὶ θεραπεύοντες τὸ γεγενημένον.


Spectators seated in the theatre

[1] Cato had been elected on a campaign promise to “chasten the new wave of vice and revive traditional morality” (Livy, Books from the Foundation of the City XXXIX 41).

[2] “It is in the power of the censors to expel any senator whose life is unbecoming” (Plutarch, Aemilius Paulus 38 viii).

[3] His being a Carthaginian explains how he could live so openly as the beloved Flaminius’s beloved without the talk of stuprum (outrage) that should have arisen if he had been a freeborn Roman. Philippus is an odd name for a Carthaginian, perhaps adopted for his Roman patrons.

[4] This is a pun, the Latin word “gallus” meaning both “a Gaul” and a kind of gladiator who fought in Gallic armour.

[5] Since Livy, a historian of great repute, says Cato’s speech on the matter was extant when he was writing and he reports what it said, one is surely bound to believe his foregoing story based on it, about an affair with a boy, rather than the ensuing gossip about a woman.  Nevertheless, the alternate story is important in underlining that the gender of Flaminius’s courtesan was a matter of indifference. The ignominy of his conduct lay elsewhere.

[6] Perrin’s grossly inaccurate translation of ἐρώμενος as “companion” has been amended to “beloved”.

[7] Perrin’s “young boy” has been amended to “boy”. It is strange that he should mark him out as particularly young when in fact a μειρακίσκος meant specifically an adolescent boy.

[8] Cicero, Cato the Elder on Old Age XII 42. This is a weak argument.  Livy was reporting on what he believed to be the truth with corroboration from Cato’s own speech, whereas Cicero’s Old Age was a fictional dialogue he says (I 3) he designed to express his own views. Cicero’s account is very brief, given only to exemplify the undesirable effects of lust, and does not even state the gender of Quinctius’s “courtesan”, which again underlines the irrelevance of his being a boy or woman, but means his account is not worth presenting here.

[9] These were described in Plutarch, Marcus Cato, xix. 2, and Livy, op. cit., xxxix. 44.

[10] This popular reaction is a reminder that by no means everyone shared Cato’s harsh outlook.  Later, Plutarch himself denounces him for his heartlessness in insisting on the grounds of economy on the sale for a pittance of slaves who had grown too old to work hard.

[11] Perrin’s “Quintius”, though closer to Plutarch’s rendition in Greek, has been amended to the correct Latin form.

[12] Perrin’s repeated translation of μειράκιον as “youth” has been allowed to stand, though “adolescent boy” would better convey the age range intended.  See, as an example, Herodian’s History of the Empire V 3 vii, where a boy just described as aged 14 is called a μειράκιον. Note that Livy, in his version of the story, above, calls the  μειράκιον a “puerum” (boy), not an “adulescens” (adolescent) or “iuvenis” (young male, commonly a man).

[13] The translator’s “favourite” has here been amended to “paramour”, which conveys more clearly the sexual character of their relationship implied by the Greek word ἑταιροῦν.

[14] To Plutarch’s own criticism of (Lucius) Flaminius for “his shameful addiction to pleasure and his utter contempt of decency” and Livy’s for cruel and shameless behaviour in public in that he, a consul, “had made sport of human life at a banquet, while out of his mind with wine and love,” should be added the legally clearer explanation of some ancient orators recorded by Seneca the Elder as specifying that the crime was maiestas, i.e. damaging the dignity of the Roman state by doing these things while acting as a public official (Seneca, Controversiae  IX 2). In any case, no criticism was made by anyone of his pederasty as such, as one would expect had Cato, here acting in his capacity of Censor, thought it at all reprehensible.  Significantly, the next passage in Plutarch is about Cato expelling another senator for kissing his own wife “in open day before the eyes of his daughter.”