Ancient Roman Quotes: Cato the Elder & Lucretius

A lot of great ancient quotes have come from Rome, including the following words spoken by Cato the Elder and Lucretius, who was known as a great Roman poet and philosopher.

Cato the Elder

Cato the Elder (234 – 149 BC) belonged to an ancient plebeian family who all served some time within the military, but not within the ranks of a higher civil office. He followed in the footsteps of his Latin relatives and took on agriculture, which he spent much of his time with when he was not participating in military pursuits. Cato the Elder would later impress Lucius Valerius Flaccus and was brought to Rome. He then took on the position of quaestor in 204 BC, aedile in 199 BC, praetor in 198 BC, and then consul in 195 BC. Some of his most prominent writings include his manual on how to run a farm (De Agri Cultura). This work would be the other form of his writing to completely survive.

Cato the Elder advised individuals on how to make more profit while tending to a farm, as he illustrates a farm that is run and staffed solely by slaves. He advised his readers to hire gangs of people to work during the olive harvest and is known for advising farmers on keeping slaves fast at work. He also gave advice to decrease the food and clothing of the slaves if they became sick, as well as sell the workers who were too old or too sick to make a difference. This piece of work would become a widely read publication by many Latin authors.

However, one of the most significant works associated with Cato is Origines (written in seven books), which tells the history of various towns in Italy , especially Rome. The entire piece is lost, but some fragments still survive, as later authors have been known to quote sections of the writing. A few words connected to Cato the Elder include:

1) “Delenda est Carthago” (Carthage must be destroyed)

2) “Rem tene; verba sequentur.” (Grasp the subject, the words will follow.)


Born Titus Lucretius Carus , Lucretius (c.94 – 55 BC) is a Roman poet and philosopher, who became known in history through his only work (an epic philosophical poem called De Rerum Natura), which translated into On the Nature of Things. A lot of other authors in ancient history respected the work of Lucretius, as seen in the commentary by Cornelius Nepos. In his “Life of Atticus,” he makes mention of Lucretius and calls him one of the greatest poets of his time. Ovid (in “Amores”) and Vitruvius (in the “De Architectura”) also showed praise for the work of Lucretius in some of their writings. Some of his words include:

1) “So much wrong could religion induce.”

2) “Nothing can be created out of nothing.”

3) “And in a short while the generations of living creatures are changed and like runners relay the torch of life.”

4) “Lovely it is, when the winds are churning up the waves on the great sea, to gaze out from the land on the great efforts of someone else.”