The Dicts of Cato

Marcus Porcius Cato was a Roman Republican statesman who lived 234–149 BC. However, though the proverbs are generally labeled as the Old English Dicts of Cato, they often include local proverbs as well as proverbs from the Alfredian Boethius and the Book of Deuteronomy. Furthermore, the proverbs were most likely composed during the 3rd or 4th century AD, long after Cato himself had died.

The dicts were a popular text in medieval classrooms, used to teach grammar, rhetoric and metrics, and several Middle English translations exist showing its continued use.

There are three surviving 12th century copies of the Old English dicts: British Museum MS. Cotton Vespasian D.XIV, British Museum MS. Cotton Julius A.II, and Trinity College Cambridge MS. R.9.17. The following is a transcription from f.43r of Trinity College Cambridge MS. R.9.17, a manuscript which also includes other educational texts such as Ælfric's Grammar.

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