Read Rome's Last Citizen: The Life and Legacy of Cato, Mortal Enemy of Caesar by Rob Goodman Jimmy Soni Online

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The first biography of the final man to stand against Caesar—whose principles and defiance became a rallying cry for future revolutionsHe was Rome’s bravest statesman, an aristocratic soldier who slept on the ground with his troops, a Stoic philosopher and staunch defender of the sacred Roman tradition, who inspired early Christianity: This is the story of Marcus Porcius CThe first biography of the final man to stand against Caesar—whose principles and defiance became a rallying cry for future revolutionsHe was Rome’s bravest statesman, an aristocratic soldier who slept on the ground with his troops, a Stoic philosopher and staunch defender of the sacred Roman tradition, who inspired early Christianity: This is the story of Marcus Porcius Cato.Cato’s life is a gripping tale rich with resonances for our own turbulent politics. Cato grappled with homegrown terrorists, a public and private debt crisis, a yawning gap between rich and poor, and a fractious ruling class whose lives took on the dimensions of soap opera.This is the story of this uncompromising man’s formation in a time of crisis and his lifelong battle to save the Republic....

Title : Rome's Last Citizen: The Life and Legacy of Cato, Mortal Enemy of Caesar
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ISBN : 9780312681234
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 384 Pages
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Rome's Last Citizen: The Life and Legacy of Cato, Mortal Enemy of Caesar Reviews

  • Catherine Martin
    2018-10-24 20:20

    Two disclaimers: I know and like Rob Goodman (he was my student for two years) and I am a Latin teacher, so both of these factors probably made me more favorably disposed towards this book from the get-go. That said, I found this biography of Cato the Younger really informative and readable. I especially appreciated that second piece: "readable." I am tired of scholarly works that get so bogged down in specialized terminology or biographies that forget that you can make even the most fascinating life seem boring if you pile on enough irrelevant details. Rob and Jimmy have created a portrait of the man that brings him to life fully immersed in his time without assuming that you know everything there is to know about 1st century BCE Roman history or, on the other hand, assuming that you can't find Rome on the globe. This is the perfect work for a student (high school or older) with some background in Roman history, a Latin teacher who, like myself, has a solid knowledge of the period but doesn't know much about Cato, or the general reader of history who's looking for the story of a man who played a crucial role in a critical moment in Western history.If you want to read gripes about how Rob and Jimmy are not professional academics, check out the reviews on amazon.com. For my part, I would strongly recommend this biography - it's educational AND a page-turner.

  • T.J. Radcliffe
    2018-10-27 02:17

    This is an impressive work of popular history, focusing on the life and times of one of Rome's strangest politicians.Cato the Younger was the great-grandson of the famously puritanical Cato the Elder (he of "Carthago delenda est" fame, or however it goes.) Growing up in the shadow of his great ancestor's reputation, and following his own proclivities toward abstention and self-denial, he became an acolyte of Stoic philosophy and adopted a wide range of extremely eccentric behaviours, from wearing and outdated and simple toga to refusing to wear shoes. The authors liken this to a modern senator showing up in 18th century costume to a regular day's business.The real strength of the book is the careful yet lively accounts of Rome's political battles in the tumultuous decades of the late republic. This is a story we've all seen or read parts of, but it's a complex and confusing tale of shifting alliances and unfamiliar institutions. I've read a fair number of contemporary histories as well as modern accounts of the same period, and this one does an extremely good job of threading a coherent path through the chaos of events. The authors wisely skim over some of the weirder political machinations (Julius Caesar's ploy to hold office despite being pontifex maximus is given no mention) while giving fair accounts of the relevant ones, particularly Cato's strange treatment of his wife.They also draw fewer parallels to the intransigent and politically tone-deaf conservatives of the present day than they might, but that's a good decision. It lets the reader decide to what extent history is repeating itself, or perhaps merely rhyming.If you have an interest in late republican Roman history--and really, anyone who is interested in the struggles of democracy in the present day ought to be--this is an excellent book for both neophytes and relatively knowledgeable readers.

  • Edwin
    2018-10-23 19:16

    A great biography of the forgotten man of the Republic's last days. Cato didn't leave us stacks of letters and speeches like Cicero; he didn't leave us third-person editions of his diary like Caesar. The standard pop history version of the story is all about Caesar and Pompey, with some timely mentions of Cicero, and the occasional aside that there was this guy named Cato who was important at the time too--but good luck getting many details of his life and career.What I love about this biography is that the authors don't let the paucity of sources stop them from helping us get to know Cato. So instead of bemoaning all the things we don't know, they do an outstanding job of contextualizing Cato and showing the reader how he relates to all the other major players in the era--Sulla, Cicero, Crassus, Pompey, Catiline, Caesar, Clodius, etc. The ups and downs of the relationship with Cicero are a highlight, but I'd say the two most compelling, interesting sections relate to how Cato's actions led to the formation of the First Triumvirate, and then the role Cato played in Pompey's decision to fight for the Republic against Caesar a decade later. With regards to the first, the standard line is that each of the three had things they couldn't get, and so banded together to achieve their goals; what is left out is that it is Cato specifically who is standing in the way for all three. And again a decade later, Pompey's break with Caesar is often something of a black box--he goes in friendly, then Julia dies and at some point he changes sides; here, we see the role Cato played in both attacking Pompey and also bringing him over.The later discussions of Cato as a symbol after his death are also great--this is a man who seems like he was always destined to be more powerful as a symbol than as a man, and the twists and turns of how groups used Cato throughout history are fascinating, especially the 18th century tragedy that was claimed by both sides of the aisle in Britain. I'm also glad the authors resist the urge to get into discussions of contemporary politics (they imply it a bit in the introduction, but never really get into it in the text), which I think would distract attention from the real subject of this piece and inevitably oversimplify the legacy and meaning of a complex character.I find Cato a fascinating figure, the ultimate "Means Justify the Ends" guy, doing the right thing even though it leads to his destruction. It's tragic as you can see what's coming, how breaking his code in just a few places could have changed the history of the Republic--but then he wouldn't have been Cato.

  • Jane
    2018-11-12 01:16

    Fascinating biography of Cato the Younger, overlooked in our days but such a great influence on history, especially that of the U.S. No, he was not a "democrat" [not the political party but the general idea] as we understand it, but tried to hold on to the idea of "libertas" [freedom] and the Roman Republic, which were slipping away in the civil war between Caesar and Pompey, autocrats both. Rather than live under Caesar, in Utica on the African coast, he kills himself, a gruesome drawn-out death as described by Plutarch. A nugget of information I found that I had not known before--every American schoolchild knows the stirring words of Patrick Henry and Nathan Hale. No, they were not original with these men, but cribbed from Addison's Cato, a play VERY popular in the 18th century, with the theme of "death in defense of liberty". Also, the "unalienable rights" section from this play influenced the Declaration of Independence. So, who was Cato? This readable biography gives us the portrait of a stubborn man holding to his Stoic ideals, his probity and his principles, whether they agree with others' or not. All sides of the man are given, so we can reflect on him, the lessons his life teaches, and his importance through the ages. This quotation from Lucan describes him perfectly: "Victrix causa diis placuit sed victa Catoni" [The victorious cause was dear to the gods, the lost cause to Cato.]Highly recommended.

  • Campbell
    2018-11-09 02:03

    A well-written, if slightly breathless, biography of one of the key figures in the fall of the Roman Republic. I enjoyed this, against my expectations, despite it being shot through with the feel of speculation, assumption and opinion. It was coloured, I could not help but feel, rather strongly with authorial bias (mainly against Caesar).But yes, I still think Cato was a bit of a dick.Yep, Cato was a dick.

  • Vrixton Phillips
    2018-10-28 18:22

    Very enjoyable. Apparently he was also close to Sulla as a young man, which makes me wonder all the more why he hasn't gotten a mini-series about himself, or why Cato or Cicero haven't for that matter. Too much focus on Julius Caesar in popular media, if you ask me.But with things as they are [falling apart, looking less and less like the constitution matters] Cato's reputation as a morally pure authority for liberty (as far from the truth as that may be) is increasingly relevant. Even two thousand years later, the force of his personality can speak to us and inspire.

  • C.R.
    2018-11-15 02:01

    An interesting book with great potential, but wildly uneven in its pacing, unclear in its narrative, helter skelter in its topic choices, and prone to far too much remote psycho-analysis. The authors take time out to explain nuances of late Republican politics that aren't relevant and skip points that are. The citations and resources are good, the use of them not so much. Still, not bad for the first biography of the man himself in 2,000 years.

  • Yousef Damra
    2018-10-20 01:06

    In the first 4 chapters the book explores Cato's early development, and since it is impossible to do so the author explains what a typical aristocratic education would be,the changes that happened to Rome(dictators and tyrannicides,the cultural shift brought about mainly by Greek influence and the introduction of slavery after the wars with Carthage which lead to a highly dysfunctional and volatile society and army). The first few chapters also lists some notable events in the life of the Stoic philosopher including his successful defense of his families pillar in the Basilica,his meeting with the "virtual" king Pompey, and the time he was most away from his stoic principles that is when his older Brother died. Cato is praised in his time as a paradigm of virtue and is portrayed in this book as a Stoic sage.The fifth chapter documents Cato's early career as a quaestor, a treasury bureaucrat, in which he waged an anti-corruption campaign which was successful only during his reign because it was "personality-driven reform" not one with checks and balances. This chapter also portrays Cato as a champion of the disenfranchised because he singly handedly successfully persecuted the murders during the reign of the Sulla the dictator.In one of the best chaptersof the book the sixth chapter sees Cato elected tribune wherein he continues standing up for Rome's constitution which he had previously memorized along with Rome's laws. In a corruption case against Murena who was politically necessary for that stage in Rome's history to keep the empire from the glimpse of war Cato fails to persecute him only because his rival was equally impressive since after all he is now much more famous than Cato namely Cicero. But Cicero being the wise man he is knew that Rome was on the brink of collapse and was knowledgeable of one such conspiracy against Rome led by a thug,Catiline , who lost the elections twice despite the armies he had surrounding Rome. So Cicero made sure to make friends with Cato by praising him and Cato the elder at the end of the speech that have outperformed Cato's whether on merit or on the jurors bias remains uncertain. In any case a conspirator deflected,knowing the consequences of failed coup are dire [Spartacus], gave away locations of weapons and letters and Roman legions. Cicero has been granted dictatorial powers earlier and thus was able to simply execute them but not wanting to take on the blame he put the matter for a vote in the senate and all but Caesar were calling for an immediate death sentence. Cato was both enraged and suspicious and gave an exhilarating speech.The slave army "were aimless and leaderless;in Catiline's metaphor,the strong body still lacked a head. Caesar was deft enough to see the opportunity,and as the nephew of Marius,[he had the family ties]... At the right time,Caesar himself might be the populare's[slave army/other poor and out of work Italians] champion.With his words in the Senate,he was staking a powerful claim.With his dramatic,he was demonstrating that he would fight another day. So Cato was retrospectively justified in his suspicion of Caesar."Caesar was a war hero,a politician par excellence,a religious figure and have done everything right yet to Cato he was no match.The historian Sallust who was Caesar's partisan,when weighing the two said: Caesar grew eminent by generosity and munificence; Cato by the integrity of his life. Caesar was esteemed for his humanity and benevolence; austerity had given dignity to Cato. Caesar acquired renown by giving, relieving, and pardoning; Cato by bestowing nothing. In Caesar, there was a refuge for the unfortunate; in Cato, destruction for the bad. In Caesar, his easiness of temper was admired; in Cato, his firmness. Caesar, in sum, had applied himself to a life of energy and activity; intent upon the interests of his friends, he was neglectful of his own; he refused nothing to others that was worthy of acceptance, while for himself he desired great power, the command of an army, and a new war in which his talents might be displayed. But Cato’s ambition was that of temperance, discretion, and, above all, of austerity; he did not contend in splendor with the rich or in faction with the seditious, but with the brave in fortitude, with the modest in simplicity, with the temperate in abstinence; he was more desirous to be, than to appear, virtuous; and thus, the less he courted popularity, the more it pursued him.To be continued in part two. Chapter 7 recounts Pompey's failed power grab blocked by Cato. Pompey demanded to run for consulship for a second year,a sacrilege, and to make things worse he wanted to do it in abstention,meaning he can keep his legions, and to top all that he wanted a triumphant entrance. Pompey disbanded his army and requested at least a triumphant entry which he can then capitalize to run for office but his offer was rejected.Cato also rejected an alliance with Pompey through marriage,which turned out to be a major mistake in retrospect but Cato could not foresee that three enemies will soon be allies and create a monster. Cato could not conceive of allying himself with anyone for any reason other than a sincere and bloodless agreement on first principles. Rather than see his daughter as the means by which Pompey could be brought fully over into the optimates’[Cato's conservative faction] camp, Cato refused to make Porcia a “hostage” for Pompey’s good behavior...What did Cato throw away with his refusal? Nothing less than the chance to integrate Rome’s greatest political force, Pompey, into the senatorial order. By Cato’s own terms for preserving the Republic, it was an unmatched, unmissable opportunity.In another drama packed chapter called "Creating the Monster" we witness a another six month debate between Cicero and Cato. After decades of war in the east,the eastern provinces could not abide by their contracts, and so they asked for a change in the contract after it was signed. A clear violation of every principle there is. But it was something necessary,ugly nonetheless, to do in Cicero's view inorder not to alienate the rich who backed the conservatives in the Senate,like Crassus , and grow resentment in the east as Cicero would put it " “He[Cato] talks like he’s living in Plato’s Republic, not Romulus’s shit-hole.”. In any case,Cato had his way and Crassus went on to join the triumvirate.Cato contued to stand up to the power grabs by both Pompey and Caesar. As the author puts it: But at least in politics, by the rules of the game Cato had learned so well, he could keep infuriating Rome’s most powerful men with little consequence. As long as they were trapped in the Roman ethos of competition, as long as Caesar measured himself against Pompey, as long as Pompey and Crassus held to their decade-old hatred, Cato could continue to sting each in turn, one by one. What Cato failed to imagine was that the rules could ever change. Caesar,as consul now,proposed a spotless bill to redistribute untilthed land that would put the popularies, who were causing trouble and fueling Caesar, into work. The senators were willing to accept this bill but Cato swayed them to otherwise,seeing that this was just a power grab in disguise. Failing to go through the proper means, Caesar goes to the public assembly and passes the bill despite a veto from his co-consul and violating public holidays. All the senators were made to swear to uphold the bill save but Cato and two close allies of his. In the end Cato have in at Cicero's insistence or else he would be exiled and Rome needed him more than ever now. The first thing Caesar did is violating his own bill which went without resistance,despite the gadfly's arguments. The joke went that this year was the consulship of Julius and Caesar. Caesar also granted himself after the consulship 4 years and legions to go and conquer Gaul without them provoking an attack as was the tradition.Chapter 9 recounts the story of a scoundrel Clodious, a patrician who made himself a pleb, to gain power and exile the two main defenders of the Republic:Cato and Cicero.With the support of the triumvirate he sent Cato to Cyprus to revenge a personal vendetta he had with a king that refused to free Clodious and thus was ravished by the pirates as a price of his freedom. And now with the support of everyone in power and a cowardly senate without its voice Cato the father of the fatherland,Cicero, was exiled.Chapter 10 illustrates how Rome fell and all subsequent chapters are really just desperate pleas.[Rome with stood tyrants for centuries but this century was different the people wanted change because Rome itself was unjust!]. Pompey and Crassus ran for election using gladiators and even assassinations to win the election against Ahenobarbus,Cato's handpicked nominee. After much intiimidation Ahenobarbus withdrew but Cato determined to hold his feet won a lower office to try,faintly, to resist the inevitable.The election had been so gratuitously stolen from him— with physical assault and slanderous attacks and bribes and false omens and more bribes and thugs at the polls— that Cato moved immediately to turn the theft to his advantage. He would not be praetor that year. But he could play to perfection the scorned prophet, the righteous victim. No one would ever be better cast in that role. A knot of his angry supporters gathered in protest on the edge of the Field of Mars. Cato formed them into an assembly to hear his nonconcession, and the crowd swelled— full of his ejected partisans, those supporters who had stayed at the polls to the end, and onlookers who had found the day’s best free show. Cato denounced the sham of an election and railed against Caesar and the consuls. “As if inspired from heaven, he foretold to the citizens all that would happen to their city.” And he identified that fate— the fate of the Republic and its liberty— with his own. Why, he cried, have Pompey and Crassus done this to me? Because they are afraid of me.The author wonders why Cato with his significant influence failed to do anything? The answer the author suggests is that the Romans,who conquered every aggressor, became cowards.The first decision of the new unopposed consuls was to assign an army and governorship to each member of the triumvirate. Crassus would die soon.Cato and his faction would win the next election but it was a year too late.Cato proposed election reform that will end the farce called the election which included open bribery as common course and the bill went unopposed but the people in Rome rioted because they wanted free food in election season. Electoral bribery was one of the few means of Roman redistribution— informal, but highly reliable. Optimates and their sympathizers might denounce the dependency of the idle, urban multitude, but few stopped to consider the system of enslaved labor that made such dependency inevitable. The Roman people were not about to give up their bribes, and neither were the ambitious senators who tacitly encouraged them.Cato was baffled and dropped these verses of Homer When guilty mortals break the eternal laws,And judges bribed betray the righteous cause, From their deep beds [Zeus] bids the rivers rise, And opens all the flood-gates of the skies.Chapter 11 sees what Cato always fear coming true. The anarchy that would bring the monarch came. Rome had not had a government in two years and Pompey ran yet another time and won as sole consul,only after Cato lobbied for it to be reduced to this rather than outright dictatorship Pompey demanded. So basically Pompey during his career broke every Roman law and tradition.But he wasn't satisfied and allowed Caesar to run for consul from Gaul that is without disbanding his army,to avoid persecution by Cato.At the same time: Cato added another election reform, which he succeeded in pushing through the Senate. Not only would politicians have to campaign in person, they would have to do so alone. It was an attempt to make mandatory the austere kind of electioneering that had been Cato’s nearly exclusive style: no nomenclators, no networks of friends dealing out favors, no campaign apparatus at all. It may also have been another attempt to make Caesar’s life difficult. Depending on which interpretation of Pompey’s laws held when the time came, Caesar might find himself running for consul from Gaul— but legally prohibited from asking friends to canvass on his behalf. It was, at least, a fallback. But on the issue that Cato considered the single dominant problem of the day— the inhuman ambition of Julius Caesar, demagogue and war criminal— he now believed Pompey to be intolerably squishy. Pompey had proved it with his hesitant, vacillating behavior, passing laws that flatly canceled one another out, then half retreating under pressure, until no man knew where he stood. Did Pompey even know where Pompey stood?Pompey before leaving office granted himself another 5 years as a governor of Spain with an army of course.Pompey also demanded that Ceasar at least disband his army,if he could not come to Rome but Ceasar refused and now the famous civil war began,with both outcome equally unfavourable in retrospect,though one could have seen hope in Pompey. Caesar had once been a nuisance of Pompey’s own creation; then he was, at worst, a junior partner, to be suffered a consulship if he would pay the proper respect. Now, by year’s end, Pompey was heard to say that the consulship of Caesar, even a disarmed Caesar, would mean the destruction of the constitution. He had arrived at the position that Cato had held all along. That view of Caesar, his ambition and his danger, had once been largely powerless. Now it was mainstream and armed. After more than a decade of pounding away at the lonely warning bell, Cato could take no small share of the credit when the alarm was at last taken up and echoed.Chapter 12 through 14 documents the civil war,the escape of Cato and his faction to Africa, and how Cato was perceived up to the 18th century. While in Africa all but Cato and his two philosopher companions,a stoic and an Aristotelian, accepted Caesar's clemency.Cato would commit suicide after reading the Pheado,which will fail but he will go on to remove the patches that healed his wounds and die. At Caesar’s triumphs, not a word was said about Pompey. Caesar understood that he had become a universal figure, and that the political risks of “triumphing” over such a figure— rather than over an assorted collection of foreigners— were grave. But he failed to consider that Cato, partisan as he had been in life, now belonged in the same company. Humiliating death scenes of enemies were not uncommon at Roman triumphs; Pompey’s last triumph, for instance, had prominently featured the death of Mithridates. But Romans were supposed to be exempt from such shameful treatment. By broadcasting Cato’s grisly death— along with the death scenes of other defeated republicans— Caesar was branding him not only an animal, but an alien. The crowd’s response showed that it was not willing to follow Caesar that far, not after a war that had cost a hundred thousand lives and cut Rome’s population, whether by flight or battle casualties, in half.Cicero could have depicted Cato as annoying gladly who died like a beast "Instead[and putting away their rivalry which I did not include here], Cicero painted an icon. He wrote of Cato the Stoic saint, the Roman ideal, the republican martyr. He swallowed his fear of reprisal long enough to write the definitive myth of Cato, and he brought to it all the polish of Rome’s greatest prose stylist."Schoolboys through out Rome until its identity was completely wiped by Christians, fancied themselves as Catos. And the poet Lucan said that Cato was more worthy to swear by than the Gods: No guardian gods watch over us from heaven:/ Jove is no king; let ages whirl along/ In blind confusion: from his throne supreme /Shall he behold such carnage and restrain /His thunderbolts?…/ Careless of men /Are all the gods./Rather would I lead With him[Cato] his triumph through the pathless sands /And Libya’s bounds, than in Pompeius’ car /Three times ascend the Capitol.… /Rome! in him behold/ His country’s father, worthiest of thy vows; /A name by which men shall not blush to swear,/ Whom, should’st thou break the fetters from thy neck, Thou may’st in distant days decree divine.The Christians taking the idea of liberty as a joke and suicide as an offense against god, thought that Cato was either a coward or too full of pride to admit defeat. It would take 900 years until Dante and other humanists to recover his status as a hero.In the last chapter documents his influence as a revolutionary in the 18th century when in the words of Montesque "it is impossible to be tired of so agreeable a subject as ancient Rome.” Cato became a sensation after Addison's play which was part of the education of every person.A copy cat published under the pseudonym Cato calling for limited government and liberty: This Cato spoke like an eighteenth-century Englishman, but the lessons he had to offer read as if they had come down unchanged from the last days of republican Rome. “Thus it is,” Cato writes, “that liberty is almost everywhere lost: Her foes are artful, united and diligent: Her defenders are few, disunited, and inactive.” And elsewhere: “This passion for liberty in men, and their possession of it, is of that efficacy and importance, that it seems the parent of all the virtues.” This book is one of the best I have read.Cato will definitely be with me as one of my heroes and moral guides at least for the better part of my life.Cato was a real life hero and his example should be a guide to every rational person. From this book I also formed a better picture of the fall of Rome;I knew that slavery was detrimental but I did not realize that the situation in Rome was so bad that the Romans almost stoned Cato and fought against the integrity of the elections. Romans were so ashamed of who they are and what they believe that they thought the only way to improve their lot was the total and complete destruction of Rome was we know it. Rome was built with a system of checks and balances,primitive nonetheless,but withstood the assault of many tyrants.But by the time Cato was growing up Liberty was bound to be quelled and Cato was just a mad prophet who tried despairingly to save the Republic from the disgruntled populace and to preach the virtues of Liberty and Law to the populace. But in the end culture determines politics and the Romans disavowed themselves from everything Roman. But let us not forget that the Romans still held to their culture for two hundred years during Pax Rome and the reign of the 5 good emperors which saw a great deal of cultural flourishing.But that was not a right to Romans but a gift,grant,mercy,or a privilege handed out by the emperor which changed at a whip like what happened in the reigns of Nero and Constantine. In the end the Ideals that Cato preached will never die and though the light of Liberty might go extinguished for millennia,it will reignite when the people believe in Liberty.

  • Adrian Cuadros
    2018-11-05 20:01

    Really enjoyed the book and historical events, however I think the sequence of facts about Cato's life made me picture him as an uneven character with several possibilities about his true personality and motivations. I think when I finished this book I know more about the context in which he lived but I would like to know more about his values and about him in general.

  • Gustavo
    2018-11-20 00:30

    Simply put this is the best book I've read so far this year. After finishing Hillyard's “Cincinnatus and the Citizen-Servant Ideal” I was still searching for a good biography on virtuous political leadership, so I stumbled onto Rob Goodman and Jimmi Soni's life of Cato the Younger (Caesar's mortal enemy), making it in the end the best possible follow-up. The first thing that stands out from this biography is that it is extremely well written. The prose, intelligence and wit make this book definitely a page-turner (it made me even remember works from writers like David McCullough). This is hardly surprising given that both authors have ample experience as journalists (for example, Rob Goodman has written speeches for leaders in the U.S. Congress, as well as articles in the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal. Jimmy Soni, on the other hand, is the managing editor of the Huffington Post). As always, with regards to a legendary figure like Cato, one ends up usually shocked by the difference there is between the “historical” man and the legend. From Goodman and Soni's work (which is based on ample use of modern and classical sources) one gets the idea of a Cato far removed from the idea of prudence, compromise and flexibility. Instead one finds an extreme (almost fundamentalist) Stoic, a very un-political leader, ready to give up the “political possible” for moral principle. He is pictured as a very narcissistic person, who almost let the Republic fall in order to keep pure his moral integrity. Thus, from being the Republic's great defender, he unwittingly became its own worst enemy.All in all I heartily recommend this book for those interested in politics, because it essentially teaches classic patterns of political behavior that are still around us today. The monumental transformation described in this book (the passage from Republic to Empire) saw the enactment of two classic political archetypes that would play out throughout history again and again: on the one hand a privileged minority that refuses to share power with the masses (once the time for that has become ripe); on the other, another privileged minority that rhetorically takes the banner of power-sharing and of recognizing the rights of the masses, but essentially ends up becoming a populist dictatorship. Thus the “democracy” of the privileged (the old Republic) was transformed into the dictatorship of some other privileged group (the new Empire). In this sense this book has a lot to teach, making it in a sense, a warning from history.

  • Aitor García Rey
    2018-11-11 02:10

    Rome's Last Citizen is a fresh, vivid, thrilling narration of Rome's Republic last days and the vital role of Cato the Younger and his stoic principles on it. The non-academic narrative style works for the piece and not against it and makes the book the most modern take on a classic figure/context I've read in a very long time.

  • Lauren Albert
    2018-10-20 20:05

    Cato is a model for the idea that uncompromising integrity is likely to lead to uncompromising failure. One of the parts of the book I found most interesting was Goodman's concluding discussion of Cato's "afterlife" as a figure to emulate.

  • James Foster
    2018-10-25 20:15

    There was a time when Cato was a cultural icon in America. Today, most of us know that he was mentioned in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, or perhaps just that he was an old dead Roman dude. But at the time of the American revolution, and for quite a while afterwards, he was THE Roman; the model of duty before all, and of sacrifice for the ideal of one’s country, especially in the face of tyranny. Schoolboys memorized Cato’s speeches, in Latin. George Washington had his men enact a play of Cato’s life at the lowest point in their time at Valley Forge (an odd choice, since the play ends with Cato’s suicide and the loss of the Republic). The thumbnail, cartoon, sketch of Cato’s death is this. He stood for old Rome, the Republic. He worried about encroaching imperialism, especially as embodied by Pompei and Caesar. He spent his life arguing for the old ways, but it was inevitable he would lose. When Rome’s imperial destiny became obvious, he fell on his sword. (Actually, he fell on his sword. It didn’t kill him. His household sewed him up. And he tore open the wound with his bare hands so that he could die.)The reality, according to this history, was more complicated. Cato comes across in this excellent history as a bit of a showman, a show-off even. He regularly overdoes his stoicism, letting his hair grow long and wearing coarse, skimpy clothing as he walks barefoot to the Senate. He is sometimes inconsistent, such as when he works for his own family even against the better interests of Rome. He takes pleasure in his military service, and especially in the good will of the soldiers—a very non-stoic attitude. His hostile attitude to Pompei sometimes makes little sense, and neutralizes the one person who might have stopped Caesar. And Cato’s complicated, on-again off-again friend-enemy relationship with Cicero was difficult to reconcile with Cato’s principles. Even the patriotism of his self-immolation is ambiguous, at best. Nonetheless, the myth of Cato was profoundly important for the American revolution and early government.This book is my favorite kind of history. It reads like a political thriller, a series of deep character studies, and a serious reflection on how history matters. I have never been comfortable with my knowledge of ancient Rome—I’m more of a Greek at heart. But after reading this book, at least I had a better feel for the Republican crisis, and the emergence of Imperialism, in Rome. And the “big names” (Cato, Cicero, Caesar, Pompeii, Brutus, Crassus, and more) felt more like people than names by the time I was done.I found the discussion of how the Cato story affected the modern world less compelling. This was a shame, since the tension between autocracy and patriotism matters today, as it did in ancient Rome. In short, this is an excellent, enjoyable, history of Rome in general and Cato in particular. Read the book for the pleasure of it, not for any profound commentary on the modern world.

  • Betty
    2018-10-29 22:21

    A compelling biography of a fascinating historical figure and moral exemplar. The story it weaves is a tragedy, that of a heroic cause lost to the tides of revolution.Marcus Cato – interestingly, also the name of a minor antagonist in The Hunger Games, although I personally don't see the relation – was a man who defined himself purely by the strict adherence to virtue, at the cost of political pragmatism and flexibility. He eschewed wealth and luxury and opulence, and walking barefoot became his political statement. As his fellow politicians would say: "We can't all be Catos". His incorruptibility and personal integrity gave him a reputation unmatched, and an unfaltering strength, but these same virtues meant that he was unable to respond to and even, arguably, partially responsible for the downfall of the Republic he would sacrifice his life to save.The same high-minded idealism that kept him from taking or receiving bribes in a political arena where corruption was the norm also made him unwilling to wed his daughter to Pompey in a political marriage, pushing Pompey into a fatal alliance with Julius Caesar. His unwillingness to compromise on his ideals led to a pattern of obstructionism and very little reform. His unwillingness to flout the rules of seniority in Roman military ranking, even when in exile with the last of the Republic's forces, made him delegate his leadership to someone less capable and worthy than him and surely doomed the last of the Republic's forces in North Africa. At his best, Cato embodied the best of the Roman Republic, an alternate vision to the power-hungry struggles that dominated the Senate. He was ideologically pure and harked back to the ancient virtues of his Ancestors. But this same ideological purity made him unable to grapple with the realities of what he faced. The same aspects of him that were so admirable were also unbearably frustrating (especially so in hindsight).His martyrdom would make him the central figure of republicanism, carrying through even decades later into the American Civil War. His ethos continues, embodied in a line drawn from a play written about him many, many centuries later: "Give me liberty or give me death!"

  • Alvin
    2018-10-22 00:01

    This highly readable biography describes the Roman power-struggles between Caesar, Pompey, the Senate, and Cato with all the lucidity and vividness you'd expect from a book about modern politics. It provides just about the right amount of background info concerning Roman civilization and tries to offer a balanced assessment of its subject (who's been – I think – rather unjustly lionized).

  • Peter
    2018-11-12 01:06

    “Do not suppose that our ancestors, from so small a beginning, raised the Republic to greatness merely by force of arms . . . There were many other things that made them great, which we lack: industry at home; equitable government abroad; minds impartial in council, uninfluenced by any immoral or improper feeling.Instead of such virtues, we have luxury and avarice, public distress and private superfluity; we extol wealth and yield to indolence; no distinction is made between good and bad men; and ambition usurps the honors due to virtue. . . .”Soldier. Statesman. Stoic.Marcus Cato’s life is the fascinating and improbable story of a man at war with himself, his countrymen, and his way of life – sometimes all at once. Rob Goodman and Jimmy Soni do a superb job in describing the life of Marcus Porcius Cato Uticensis (“Cato the Younger”). Cato’s struggle to preserve the Roman Republic in its final days, as its government, culture, and morality decayed, is one of the more famous “lost causes” of history. He lived in times remarkably similar to ours, in a country dealing with terrorism, fiscal crises, and political corruption. As a Stoic, his personal self-discipline, austerity, and dispassion collided head-on with the vanity and dissipation of his fellow Senators and Romans. He ultimately failed in his mission to save the Republic, but his memory motivated men such as George Washington, Patrick Henry, and John Adams when they fought to establish their republic. After reading Goodman and Soni, it is interesting to consider what could have been. If Cato had been less stubborn, more willing to accept Pompey into the Roman political system, would the Roman Republic have survived? Or was the rot so entrenched that a man like Caesar was inevitable? Despite Cato’s own personal rectitude, his incorruptibility and personal force of character never sparked the widespread, popular reforms (e.g. land reform, extension of citizenship) that could have saved the way of life he fought for. He was a man of principle in a job where success meant compromise. I am a Christian who has read and studied Stoicism, and I appreciate much of the philosophy, such as its approach to pain and daily living. Historically, Cato was an appealing figure to many of the early church fathers, although they nonetheless rejected him due to his suicide (after being defeated by Caesar). While I do understand why he killed himself, I am troubled at the idea of a man who could not contemplate life after losing what was essentially a political game. Had he remained alive, he could have continued to effect change for the better. Hindsight is 20/20.

  • JS Found
    2018-11-05 22:05

    Reading this after the American government shutdown, it's hard not to think of Sen. Ted Cruz. Cato also disrupted the business of government, theatrically filibustering laws he didn't like. He also disliked change in how the government did things, preferring the old ways. Though he railed against actual abuses and corruptions--instead of a positive health care law--he did nothing to fix the wider, more endemic and systematic problems that made those abuses possible. And he didn't compromise at all, just like the Tea Party of today. The difference is that he had legitimate concerns while the Tea Party wants to abolish the government. They would be the radicals Cato would be fighting today. A Republican reader of this book would say the exact opposite.And that's one of the authors' themes. The life and legacy of Cato has been appropriated by different and contradictory groups for thousands of years. The biographers write a dramatic story of the man, fully aware and putting in ironies and tragedies, the missed opportunities, and the tyranny and destiny of character. They write of his Stoicism, an appealing philosophy that Cato could not live up to, though he, depending on which side you fall on the man, either tried his best, or, my view, used it in a very self-serving, theatrical, narcissistic manner, making a show of it so people could see what he believed in. (I tend to agree with St. Augustine.) This is a great book on Roman history if you're new to it. There's a full bibliography of classical sources covering a lot of Roman history, and modern secondary works.The biggest lesson I drew from it is that compromise and political shrewdness are much more effective in getting things done than loud standing on unwavering principle. Tell that to Sen. Cruz and the Tea Party.

  • Harold Johnson
    2018-11-15 01:04

    Just before I read this book, I read Rubicon, and after Cato I read Cicero by Anthony Everitt. Rome's Last Citizen suffered in comparison, especially in comparison to Everit's book on Cicero. First of all Cato is not an appealing historical character. He was rigid, totally inflexible except on a few occasions in which he benefitted personally, absolutely not open to compromise and thus hastened the end of the Republic. Probably nothing could have persuaded the aristocracy to change the Constitution so as to permit Rome to govern more than a city state. The needs of empire which it certainly was by that time were too great. Also the culture which produced those generals who wanted to be on top of the heap and vanquish all rivals would have still been intact. However, it makes a "what if" story possible in regard to Cato. What if he had only relinquished and been flexible enough to give Pompey, for example, the respect he craved.Secondly, Cicero is a very very appealing historical character who is quite accessible to the historian and to the modern reader as he wrote so much, in particular 900 letters he wrote have survived, the majority to his best friend from childhood in which he completely unburdened himself.Everitt's superior education shows itself in the comparison with the writing of Rob Goodman. He paints a very vivid and lively account, among many things, of the close relationships, even friendships which Ciero had with the nobility of the time, the principal actors anyway and also how the upper class lived. The author of the Cato book did not have all the material on his subject that Everitt had, but a good historian or popular writer would have included Cicero's correspondence at least in the Cato book to flesh out the times and the characters.

  • Ian Miller
    2018-10-22 18:01

    The book is a biography of Marcus Porcius Cato, a stoic, and as described on the cover, "mortal enemy of Caesar". However, it is also an account of the death of the Roman Republic, it shows why it died, and it paints Cato as the last citizen to try and prevent its death. It was also an exercise in futility. Cato stood for "what was right" at a time when corruption, bribery and the use of brute force prevailed. In principle, the law provided justice, but in practice, trials could be bought. Getting something done in the political atmosphere of Rome required a lot of support. Cato was essentially isolated because he felt virtue itself would bring all to his point of view, and when it obviously did not, he felt that he had at least tried. The book brilliantly portrays a man whose stubbornness means he must refuse to compromise, and his refusal to compromise inevitably meant that he achieved very little. Additionally, he was somewhat less than pure when it came to his own family. The book also shows how Cato's refusal to play politics led to admiration from those who were unimportant, and the inability to save Rome. The book almost ends with a quote from Lucan: the lost cause was dear to Cato. If you want to know about the end of the real Res Publica, but do not want full academic depth, the research behind this book makes it extremely desirable reading.I cannot judge the accuracy of the work, and nor, I suspect, can anyone else. The ancient sources are notorious for reflecting more the character of the author than of the subject, and in some ways, Cato the person is difficult to find in this account. Personally, I prefer this because basically we don't know, and I would rather the person be a somewhat ghostly person than a fabricated one.

  • Jeffrey Rasley
    2018-11-15 20:17

    I was not well acquainted with Cato. I was aware the Cato Institute, a Libertarian-leaning foundation, had claimed the name and that Cato was a Stoic and enemy of Julius Caesar. That's about it. So, I very much enjoyed being educated via this audiobook. It relates Roman history and politics, elucidates Stoic philosophy, and describes the effect of Cato through history as an inspirational character. Unfortunately, Goodman is forced to rely heavily on Plutarch to such an extent I began to wonder wehter I should have just read Plutarch's Life of Cato. But, if Goodman is to be believed, Plutarch is the best source of information about the life of Cato. Goodman is convinced that Plutarch's two sources were contemporaries of Cato, and that's as good as it gets, because most all of the original sources have been lost. The information is presented as an enjoyable and instructive synthesis of story and historical research. The Product Description of the book quotes a Daily Beast reviewer, which, I think, accurately describes the intent and accomplishment of the book -- "A truly outstanding piece of work. What most impresses me is the book's ability to reach through the confusing dynastic politics of the late Roman Republic to present social realities in a way intelligible to the modern reader. Rome's Last Citizen entertainingly restores to life the stoic Roman who inspired George Washington, Patrick Henry and Nathan Hale. This is more than a biography: it is a study of how a reputation lasted through the centuries from the end of one republic to the start of another." Indeed.

  • Matt
    2018-11-03 20:30

    Great biography of the legendary stoic. Also proves an excellent overview of the personalities and nuances surrounding the fall of the Roman Republic.

  • Steven Kaminski
    2018-11-03 23:01

    All societies come and go. All nations come and go. Many could argue that America is falling apart now too. But this book looks at Rome and particular the life of Cato the Younger who rose to power in Roman politics. And in many ways when Cato died...the Republic died with him. Because he was the last voice from inside the Empire who was willing to stand up for the institutions that we claim to cherish but in many ways despise.- Cato was very much the creator of the filibuster. He was the first guy (at least that we know of) who would rally the populace and other lawmakers to kill bad ideas or slow them to a point where they could be dropped. This made him in many ways an absolutist. This was his downfall but also why he is very much remembered today.- His father was very much the same mold as him imparting many of his ideals. His uncle Marcus Drusus was a legislator for the people who in his advocacy was such a threat he was stabbed to death in his own home.- Cato the Elder was in many ways a crank and a traditionalist but his son was actually the reverse...a stoic. His embrace of stoicism would lead him to live his life simply, dress simply, despise pomp and wealth which gained him many admirers by leading in example.- The revolt of Spartacus led to almost 100,000 slaves running riot through the city. Cato volunteered as a minor officer and this led him to fame and the backing to run for a military post. Because he lived exactly like his soldiers he was respected.- After military service he went on to be a quaestor and was rigid with the execution of the public finances. This led to a remarkable turnaround where the populace dealing with him started to believe in government because he was incorruptible. He was seen as broadly fair applying the law to everyone. It got him in many ways elevated to the Senate.- Cato served in the Senate with Cicero, Pompey and Julius Caesar. Both Caesar and Pompey tried to make alliances with him separately but he rebuffed them both. Pompey and Caesar then went on to make an alliance that would eventually lead to absolute power shared between them both and the Senate in a sense being swept away.- Cato continued to assert himself but because Caesar by that time had absolute authority he quietly sent his lieutenants to get rid of Cato. When he fell the institutions of Rome were finally swept away.A telling lesson...

  • Anna Mock
    2018-10-22 22:01

    I really, really enjoyed this book! So much that I read it in 3 days... and for me that is fast, considering I have an extremely busy load already. However, the final chapter was just as disappointing as the rest of the book was fascinating. I loved the book because I felt it tried to show Cato as a real human being, with good points and bad points. Just human. But a principled human who believed in something far bigger than himself and strove for virtue and goodness, even if he personally fell short, like all humans do. But in the final chapter, wherein the author tries to show the relevance of Cato's virtues and principles of freedom to the U.S. Revolutionary War and to George Washington in particular, the author mostly shows his lack of studying actual primary sources. Or at least he makes it look as if he has never read the primary sources by his lack of understanding of George Washington's character and motivations. Phrases such as a constitution "founded on slavery" show that this author has more of a point to prove instead of an understanding of the founding fathers, the constitution, and the principles of liberty and justice. His understanding of that entire historical era is lacking truth, and seems more so a political commentary, which in my opinion, jades his entire work. I wish I had never read the last chapter. I greatly appreciate people being honest about faults and failures, as well as virtues and successes. (I'm not trying to defend any of the founders faults.) And I felt the chapters focusing on Cato did that. But once the author moved into U.S. history and George Washington, it seemed he tried to only show faults - or at least spin "faults" into a history he doesn't or refuses to understand on a factual and primary level basis. I may be completely wrong, because I assume authors do a lot of research before writing books they wish to publish as fact. But I can't help state my opinion that his last chapter has more to do with his own politics and less to do with unsullied facts and truth. If he knew his personal politics would be hard to restrain in that subject matter, he should have just not written the last chapter at all.

  • Adam Orford
    2018-11-01 19:17

    I read this after reading Goodman and Soni's second book, on Claude Shannon. The presentation was not as polished in this first team effort, but the subject just as interesting.I have to admit I knew Cato only through HBO's Rome series, where, evidently, he was played by an actor much older than he really was during the events portrayed. All the same I couldn't get Karl Johnson's irascible scowl out of my head as I followed from Rome to Utica and points between. Strange to learn of history through drama, but then again perhaps not so strange, since George Washington et al. knew him through a play. Which is part of the point.I don't know that this book adds anything to Cato scholarship, other than a clear telling of the tale, but that is certainly enough. Bookended by too-brief investigations of how later generations remembered him, the main narrative is built around those details of the late days of the Roman Republic that Cato himself participated in, objected to, and ultimately was right about - while also capturing the inherent tension in his principled stand against a corrupt political system, in defense of another."[W]hat was the Republic without Cato? It was Pompey and Crassus ambitiously racing to massacre an army of slaves. It was the quaestor Marcellus striking the debts of senators with a stroke of a pen. It was Cicero laughing his way through corruption trials. It was Catiline’s men strangled in a basement cell. It was Metellus Celer going to jail to stop a land reform. It was Scaurus draining his province of silver. It was Gabinius marching on Egypt for ten thousand talents. It was Clodius’s body burning with the Senate House. But the Republic also produced, as it collapsed, the man who cemented the myth of the Republic—who sanctified it into something worth dying and killing for."

  • Charles Gonzalez
    2018-11-06 21:25

    I have to admit that I was prepared for disappointment from this book. A biography about Cato by two unknown first time authors did not seem like a good bet. Reviews on other platforms were not encouraging. Nevertheless I started and have just finished what I can say is one of the best biographies that I have read. I have a solid foundation on the Roman Republic and Caesar so much of the historical territory was familiar to me. What set the story apart was Messrs Goodman and Soni ability to make Cato and his contemporaries come alive. While I would not share Howard Finamen’s comparisons to Gibbon, I gave it 5 stars because it met my standard as a book that bears a second reading, engaged me totally and lifted me to a greater understanding of its subject. As a result I am off to a reading of Epictetus and Addison’s Cato. It’s hard to believe that two young journalists with little or no scholastic training in things Roman would produce such a high quality work of historical and philosophical investigation and analysis. I can’t be but a little envious of their accomplishment.

  • Fate's Lady
    2018-10-25 22:30

    For the most part this was an interesting biography, although the way the authors sometimes seemed to stray off topic to go in depth into the details of irrelevant or barely relevant politics of Cato's time. I think my enjoyment of the book was also tainted by my increasing disgust with the subject. Cato was a hyper-conservative whose obsession with "correct" behavior and ideology led to his direct suffering more than once. While it is possible to admire his principles, the way he did things like refusing a vital military command (which possibly cost the Republic their last chance at victory against Caesar) because precedence said it should go to a less skilled but higher ranking man leaves me feeling that he was prideful, smug, and had a stick up his ass so long it was probably protruding from the top of his head. His moralistic, self-important superiority complex seems to drip from the page, even though the authors were not really criticising him. Cato is the epitome of one who would cut off his nose to spite his face, just as long as he got to rub someone else's nose in it.

  • Gina
    2018-11-10 19:05

    This book is brilliant. It's a compelling biography of Cato that also provides interesting background on Sulla, Caesar, Pompey, Brutus, and other key figures in Roman history. The book reviews stoicism and philosophy along with the history of Rome in Cato's time. The storytelling is gripping and makes history come alive. The book raises important questions about what constitutes tyranny, what is a just democracy, and what does it mean to be a good citizen. Fans of history writers like Mike Dash, David McCullough, or Erik Larson will love this book. Fans of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar will gain a new appreciation for the play after learning the historical context of the characters and the embellishments and differences between biography and historical fiction. This book would also make a great gift for fans of history. I know I'll be buying a few copies to gift to friends and family!

  • Joe Newell
    2018-11-08 23:29

    As a story its just way too slow. Cato was an amazing historical figure but the book is a snoozer.

  • Millie
    2018-11-19 02:23

    This book was superb. Seriously, I cannot rate it enough!

  • mixal
    2018-11-09 23:30

    Honestly, tries to be objective way too hard and hence it's boring. They do speculate about some political issues etc., but I didn't want to read about that.