Caesar’s Surprise Love Letter Humiliates Cato in Front of the Senate

Here’s a funny little story from ancient Rome. This is according to the Roman writer Plutarch:

Julius Caesar was arguing with Cato the Younger in the senate. The argument was about Caesar’s involvement in the famous Catiline conspiracy.

The Roman Senate

In the middle of this, a messenger entered the Senate to deliver a little note to Caesar. Now, Cato, thinking this secret note was proof of Caesar’s involvement in the conspiracy, demanded that Caesar read the note aloud.

So Caesar just handed the note to Cato to read for himself. And it turned out the note was actually a love letter from Cato’s sister, who was madly in love with Caesar.


Cato, in embarrassment and frustration, threw the note back to Caesar and said “keep it, you drunk.”

Julius Caesar
Cato the Younger

Here is the actual excerpt from Plutarch’s The Life of Cato the Younger:

Now, since we must not pass over even the slight tokens of character when we are delineating as it were a likeness of the soul, the story goes that on this occasion, when Caesar was eagerly engaged in a great struggle with Cato and the attention of the senate was fixed upon the two men, a little note was brought in from outside to Caesar. Cato tried to fix suspicion upon the matter and alleged that it had something to do with the conspiracy,25 and bade him read the writing aloud. Then Caesar handed the note to Cato, who stood near him. But when Cato had read the note, which was an unchaste letter from his sister Servilia to Caesar, with whom she was passionately and guiltily in love, he threw it to Caesar, saying, “Take it, thou sot,” and then resumed his speech.

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