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Gaius Paulinus Maximus

Cato's Love Triangle.

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After divorcing his first wife for infidelity Cato the Younger married Marcia, the daughter of L. Marcius Philippus, consul in 56, and "a woman of excellent reputation, about whom there was the most abundant talk." Plutarch's description of her suggests that she was somewhat more mature than many Roman brides, though she had not previously been married. There is little material on Marcia, though she also was deeply concerned over Cato's personal safety, and Appian says that Cato was extremely fond of her. She had borne Cato three children, and there is not the slightest indication that they were not happily married, when suddenly Cato divorced her.


He divorced her because his close friend Hortensius had asked him for his own wife's hand in marriage! At first Hortensius had wanted to marry Cato's daughter Porcia, but she was already happily married to Bibulus with two young sons and the fact the he was at least forty years older than Porcia made the situation even more out of the question so old Hortensius changed his attention to his good buddys missus and Cato being the good guy that he was gave his wife to Hortensius.


Strabo says that Cato gave Marcia in marriage to Hortensius "according to an old custom of the Romans"


Does anybody know what this old custom was???


Oh by the way, after Hortensius died, Cato took Marcia back as if he had merely loaned her!!

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I'd raised this topic in an earlier post. An excellent article on the same topic can be found HERE.


As with many topics in history, it's helpful to pay attention to the timeline. When Marcia was returning to Cato's household, Cato was leaving Italy for war. Rather than there being anything particularly salacious about the event, it's actually very boring. Cato's children with Marcia needed looking after while Cato was gone, and Marcia looked after them in his absence.


Did Cato's enemies figure out how to spin this into fodder for scandal? Of course. In fact, the Romans were awfully good at spinning facts to make their political opponents look foolish and to make themselves look like... oh i don't know... maybe the descendent of Venus?

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