As everyone was consumed with eagerness to hear what he had to say, Scipio began as follows:
My first point is taken from old Cato. As you know, I was especially fond of him and admired him greatly. On the recommendation of my two fathers* and, even more so, because of my own interest, I devoted myself to him, heart and soul, from my early days. I could never hear enough of his talk--so rich was the man's political experience, which he had acquired during his long and distinguished career in peace and war. Equally impressive were his temperate way of speaking, his combination of seriousness and humour, his tremendous zest for obtaining and providing information, and the close correspondence between his preaching and his practice.
Cato used to say that our constitution was superior to others, because in their case there had usually been one individual who had equipped his state with laws and institutions, for example, Minos of Crete, Lycurgus of Sparta, and the men who had brought about a succession of changes at Athens ( Theseus, Draco, Solon, Cleisthenes, and many others) until finally, when it lay fainting and prostrate, it was revived by that learned man, Demetrius of Phalerum. Our own constitution, on the other hand, had been established not by one man's ability but by that of many, not in the course of one man's life but over several ages and generations. He used to say that no genius of such magnitude* had ever existed that he could be sure of overlooking nothing; and that no collection of able people at a single point of time could have sufficient foresight to take account of everything; there had to be practical experience over a long period of history.
Accordingly in my discourse I shall go back, as Cato used to do, to the 'origin'* of the Roman people (I gladly borrow his actual word). Moreover, it will be easier to carry out my plan if I describe for you the birth, growth, and maturity of our state,