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Rome's Last Citizen: The Life and Legacy of Cato, Mortal Enemy of Caesar Kindle Edition
"Cato, history's most famous foe of authoritarian power, was the pivotal political man of Rome; an inspiration to our Founding Fathers; and a cautionary figure for our times. He loved Roman republicanism, but saw himself as too principled for the mere politics that might have saved it. His life and lessons are urgently relevant in the harshly divided America—and world—of today. With erudition and verve, Rob Goodman and Jimmy Soni turn their life of Cato into the most modern of biographies, a blend of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and Game Change."—Howard Fineman, Editorial Director of The Huffington Post Media Group, NBC and MSNBC News Analyst, and New York Times bestselling author of The Thirteen American Arguments
"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."—David Frum, DailyBeast columnist, former White House speech writer, and New York Times bestselling author of The Right Man
Marcus Porcius Cato: aristocrat who walked barefoot and slept on the ground with his troops, political heavyweight who cultivated the image of a Stoic philosopher, a hardnosed defender of tradition who presented himself as a man out of the sacred Roman past—and the last man standing when Rome's Republic fell to tyranny. His blood feud with Caesar began in the chamber of the Senate, played out on the battlefields of a world war, and ended when he took his own life rather than live under a dictator.
Centuries of thinkers, writers, and artists have drawn inspiration from Cato's Stoic courage. Saint Augustine and the early Christians were moved and challenged by his example. Dante, in his Divine Comedy, chose Cato to preside over the souls who arrive in Purgatory. George Washington so revered him that he staged a play on Cato's life to revive the spirit of his troops at Valley Forge. Now, in Rome's Last Citizen, Rob Goodman and Jimmy Soni deliver the first modern biography of this stirring figure.
Cato's life is a gripping tale that resonates deeply with our own turbulent times. He grappled with terrorists, a debt crisis, endemic political corruption, and a huge gulf between the elites and those they governed. In many ways, Cato was the ultimate man of principle—he even chose suicide rather than be used by Caesar as a political pawn. But Cato was also a political failure: his stubbornness sealed his and Rome's defeat, and his lonely end casts a shadow on the recurring hope that a singular leader can transcend the dirty business of politics.
Rome's Last Citizen is a timeless story of an uncompromising man in a time of crisis and his lifelong battle to save the Republic.
- ASIN : B0085UD4A0
- Publisher : Thomas Dunne Books; Reprint edition (October 16, 2012)
- Publication date : October 16, 2012
- Language : English
- File size : 1575 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Sticky notes : On Kindle Scribe
- Print length : 381 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: #697,337 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
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Reviewed in the United States on June 12, 2019
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The first point is no longer true, thanks to Rob Goodman (speech writer for House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Senator Chris Dodd) and Jimmy Soni, (managing editor of The Huffington Post) and their new biography: Rome's Last Citizen - The Life and Legacy of Cato, Mortal Enemy of Caesar.
First of all, this book is a excellent introduction to Stoicism. Stoicism is a livable philosophy and Cato lived it closer to the ideal than anyone else, repeatedly putting his life and reputation on the line for these principles. If he was wrong, he would suffer for it. Knowing this, he adopted a strategy of opposites: shun personal ambition, create greater opposition, be even harder on yourself. Be ashamed only of what is truly shameful. He turned his failures in war and politics into his greatest advantages and made a majority of one, the sole force to protect the Roman Republic from the competing ambitions of Caesar and Pompey.
And then there is his suicide: meticulously executed (as a Stoic would), it had the reverse effect that suicide is supposed to have. No scorn, no pity, but a symbolic death of the republic and final rebuke of Caesar, effectively accomplishing everything his life could not.
History oscillates on Cato: At times forgetting him, at others, holding him up as the Stoic ideal, the aspiration of philosophers and revolutionaries off and on for 2,000 years - Seneca, Dante, the early Christians (most people like to draw more of a distinction here than really exists), George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine. Instead of condemning him to hell for his suicide, as Augustine did, Dante placed him as the guard over purgatory, a position he was well suited to. General George Washington staged a viewing of the Joseph Addison play, Cato, for his troops at Valley Forge, just prior to the biggest battle of the revolutionary war.The similarities between Cato and Thomas Paine are so obvious that they can only be the one imitating the other. Weak men and politicians everywhere have used the phrase, "We can't all be Catos!" to excuse their own moral failures. It seems we may again be in one of these later times, looking to Cato for our inspiration.
This book completely changed my view of Stoicism, first by giving flesh to many of the ideas I've been thinking about, and second by putting Stoicism into the context of the world it grew up in. It also helped me to understand the power dynamics of men like Pompey and Caesar, and the divisions that eventually lead to Rome's collapse. In our own times, with Pompeys and Caesars of our own, I found Cato to be incredibly applicable.
It is exclusivity, obscurity and singularity that made Cato so great. He was the exact opposite of the dynamic leader, ruling by popular majority. He contrasted this in every way, winning affection by despising it and using obscurity to his advantage. Simultaneously he was his own lost cause and his own salvation. For those interested in such a figure, I whole-heartedly recommend this book.
I'm no Cato scholar, so I can't speak to the accuracy or nuances of his history compared with any other historian -- but as far as an extremely insightful and entertaining read, Rob Goodman captured exactly what I was hoping for. Not only did he give me a detailed perspective of Cato's life, he also filled it in with the legacy of Cato down through the ages. I could feel my mind exploding as I uncovered the juicy details that Plutarch only brushed upon -- I wanted more, and here I found it. Cato as the man, Cato as the politician, Cato as the Stoic, Cato as the paragon of virtue, Cato as a real flawed character, Cato in his own time and Cato as we have demonized and idealized him since. Dante asked, "What man on earth was more worthy to signify God than Cato?" I ask: what man on earth was more mythologized over and over again to fit and inform the zeitgeist of the times?
While I love the historic Cato with all his flaws and contradictions, I can't help but feel a special affinity to the Cato of the revolutionary war -- the Cato of George Washington. How could this Cato not inspire dedication to Stoic virtue and gentle enlightenment? I found myself, like George Washington wanting to BE this Cato. This Cato, unlike Seneca or Epictetus, comes with a special weight of actually having lived his Stoic virtues as a politician, inspiring us to this special possibility. Who doesn't love the story of the virtuous standing up to the tyrant -- and though he loses his life actually wins? Cato, Jesus, Socrates, we love them all! For it tells us there is something greater to die for, and something greater to live for. What would the revolution war be if we didn't have this mythologized Cato? Would its possibility still be a possibility? Though a majority of people now days don't even know who Cato was, I can't help but think how we as a people in this post-revolutionary era have both been created in his image and he created in ours.
Rob Goodman is not only brilliant in bringing all the pieces of Cato to perspective but brilliant in bringing this superb history to a modern audience in a simple and necessary way. I'm with Seneca on this one -- "Choose Cato" and there is no better way to start than here with Rob Goodman's book.