On Old Age (Cato Maior de Senectute)


Cato Maior de Senectute is a short essay written by Marcus Tullius Cicero in the year 44 BC. It's protagonist, Cato, explains to two young men how growing old is actually a blessing, not a curse. It is an extremely well-written story and an example of Cicero's exceptional skills in prose. A must read for the old, but even more importantly for the young. Cicero explains that to be healthy and comfortable at old age you must start the process in youth. Four main fears of growing old are addressed:

  1. It takes away from an active life
  2. It weakens the body
  3. It deprives us of almost all sensual pleasures
  4. It is not far from death

Each point is masterfully explained as a blessing. For example, old age may weaken the body, but it strengthens the mind. What is more important? Body or mind? Her is a quote directly from the essay:

And as much as we should care for our bodies, we should pay even more attention to our minds and spirits. For they, like lamps of oil, will grow dim with time if not replenished.

Masterfully put! Another great quote from the essay is as follows:

Old age has no extravagant banquets, no tables piled high, no wine cups filled again and again, but it also has no drunkenness, no indigestion, and no sleepless nights!

My Rating

This was my introduction to Cicero's writings. I had known about the man and his life, but never read his works (I was trying to learn Latin so I could read his actual words). I loved this essay, and though it seems common sense, it is filled with wisdom. I rate it a 4.2/5. I would, and will, read it again.

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