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Disticha Catonis, 14th century

Identifier: MS 181/ff. 1r-8r


The Disticha Catonis (or Dicta Catonis, 'The Sayings of Cato') are a collection of Latin proverbs and moral sayings written in couples of hexameters. The sayings are ascribed by the manuscripts to 'Cato' and both famous ancient Roman characters named Cato are possible candidates for the fictitious authority behind their moral content: Cato the Elder (234 - 149 BC) was widely known for holding the censorship and being a strenuous critic of his peers' behaviour; Cato the Younger (95 - 46 BC) famously opposed Julius Caesar's bid for power and was portrayed as a champion of liberty and moral conduct in the Middle Ages. The origins of the collection and its dating, however, are debated by scholars, with suggestions which range from the first to the third century AD. The text became very popular in the Middle Ages and it was used as a textbook.

Preface: the text begins on f. 1r, but the ink is faded. Catherine Borland reports the beginning of the text as Cum animadverterem quam plurimis graviter in via morum errare; it ends on f. 1v with the words libenter ferto amorem.

Book one: begins on f. 1v with the words Si deus est animuns nobis ut carmina dicunt; it ends on f. 3r with the words semper tibi proximus esto.

Book two: begins on f. 3r with the words Teluris si forte velis cognoscere cultus; it ends on f. 4v with the words per sompnum cernit id ipsum.

Book three: begins on f. 5r with the words Hoc quicunque velis carmen cognoscere lector; it ends on f. 6r with the words Nec matrem offendas dum vis bonus esse parenti.

Book four: begins on f. 6r with the words Securam quicunque cupis; it ends on f. 8r with the words Hoc brevitas sensus fecit coniugere binos.

Explicit: the conclusive formula Explicit hic cato dans castigamina nato / Versibus ecce bonis cecinit documenta catonis appears at the bottom on f. 8r.


  • Creation: 14th century


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open to all. The manuscripts can be consulted in the Centre for Research Collections, Edinburgh University Main Library.


8 folios

Repository Details

Part of the University of Edinburgh Library Heritage Collections Repository

Centre for Research Collections
University of Edinburgh Main Library
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