This thesis looks at how the Roman poet Lucan uses the character of Cato to elucidate his beliefs about Fortune and Stoicism. The traditional Stoic view of Fortune views it as a force for good that allows people to improve through hardship. Lucan portrays Fortune as a purely antagonistic force that actively seeks to harm the Roman people and corrupt even good individuals like Cato. Lucan's Fortune arranges events to place Cato in a situation where it is impossible to maintain his virtue. Rather than providing him an opportunity to improve in the civil war, Fortune makes it so that whatever choice Cato makes, he becomes guilty. Brutus' dialogue with Cato in Book 2 of Pharsalia illuminates the position that Cato is in. Brutus looks to Cato as the traditional Stoic exemplar that can forge a path for virtue in civil war. However, Cato admits that joining any side in the civil war would cause him to become guilty. Fortune's support of Caesar and its dominance over contemporary events has forced Cato into this situation. Cato's desert march in Book 9 continues to show Fortune's dominance over Cato by continually denying him opportunities to gain virtue for himself. Lucan's portrayal of Fortune shows his rejection of Stoic teaching about Fortune and the ultimate futility of trying to remain virtuous in a time of civil war.
College and Department
Humanities; Comparative Arts and Letters
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Pribil, Nathaniel Brent, "Virtue Conquered by Fortune: Cato in Lucan's Pharsalia" (2017). All Theses and Dissertations. 6625.
Lucan, stoicism, Fortune, Pharsalia, Cato, Seneca the Younger