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Reconsidering Cato - Cato the elder s "auctoritas" in literature from Antiquity to modernity

Grant number: 12/00924-5
Support type:Scholarships in Brazil - Post-Doctorate
Effective date (Start): October 01, 2012
Effective date (End): September 30, 2015
Field of knowledge:Linguistics, Literature and Arts - Literature - Classical Literatures
Principal Investigator:Marcos Martinho dos Santos
Grantee:Martin Tobias Dinter
Home Institution: Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas (FFLCH). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil


The historical figure of Cato the Elder has been examined in detail; what has not received sufficient attention though is the literary image of Cato (Agache, 1980; Astin 1978). My proposal suggests reconsidering the authority figure of Cato in Western literature, focusing not so much on who Cato really was from a historical perspective, but rather on how he was perceived by later writers. I shall thus study Cato's auctoritas that lead him to become the single most frequently employed moral exemplum in Latin literature in different ages (Humm, 1998). I intend to show how his stern views were adapted in Antiquity to serve many a writer to lend force to his point of view (Girot, 1980; Jones, 1970; Alfonsi, 1954; Hache, 1938). In the same way, I intend to show how the Middle Ages and the Renaissance looked back to Cato: the former, associating him with a moralising collection of sayings, the Disticha Catonis, and the latter - with Petrarca as most prominent example -, seeing Cato as the main exemplum for Roman mores (Classen, 2007; Grafton, 2000; Grafton / Most, 1997). This fresh perspective will inform my book length study on Cato, contributing to the studies on the literary fortune of Cato.