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Rome's Last Citizen: The Life and Legacy of Cato, Mortal Enemy of Caesar Paperback – February 18, 2014
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Cato the Younger, who famously committed suicide in 46 BCE rather than submit to Julius Caesar, symbolized republican liberty to both contemporaries like Cicero, who wrote a lost panegyric, and American patriots like George Washington, who staged Addison’s Cato at Valley Forge. Suspecting that the actual Cato might not completely sustain the idealized version, Goodman and Soni set the Stoic senator amid the convulsions of the late Roman Republic. Summarizing Cato as “a lifelong project of calculated anachronism,” they show him upholding strict adherence to Rome’s constitution, inveighing against money’s corruption of elections and trials, and setting an example of probity in his management of the state treasury and the province of Cyrus. But in an era of populist tumult and riots in the Forum, Cato’s republican rectitude resulted in serial political defeats. It’s in private that Cato seems less perfect and more real as Goodman and Soni speculate about, for example, Cato’s divorce and remarriage to the same woman. Written in flowing, nonacademic prose, this biography suits the never-waning popular interest in the dramas of ancient Roman history. --Gilbert Taylor --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“Effectively the first-ever modern biography of Cato. The writing is excellent, the stories unforgettable, and the lessons practical.” ―Tim Ferriss on FourHourWorkWeek.com
“[This] wise and lively book offers two lessons: first, knowing modern politics can yield insight into study of the ancient world; and second, Rome still has lessons to teach us today.” ―City Journal
“The authors succeed brilliantly in bringing this fascinating statesman to life.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“In a rare modern biography of Marcus Cato the Younger, a rival of both Caesar and Pompey, Goodman, formerly a Democratic speechwriter, and Soni (managing editor, Huffington Post) argue that understanding Cato and the many legends surrounding him will help readers understand both the current American political climate and contemporary notions of freedom...there are great moments here: Cato, struggling in Utica after the defeats at Pharsalus and Thapsus, is revealed in all his flawed humanity. Where others (e.g. Adrian Goldsworthy in Caesar: Life of a Colussus) are inclined to view Cato as a hypocrite, using his virture and stoicism as another tack to rise in the high-stakes world of late Republic Rome power politics, Goodman and Soni take a more nuanced approach, broaching many questions, never answering firmly. This makes for a more revealing portrait of a real man and demonstrates just how much a symbol Cato has become.” ―Library Journal
“Written in flowing, nonacademic prose, this biography suits the never-waning popular interest in the dramas of ancient Roman history.” ―Booklist
“This well-paced and dramatic book narrates the controversial life and political and moral legacy of Marcus Porcius Cato…They [the authors] give their account depth by closely grounding it in the ancient sources, and their experience in and knowledge of modern politics adds special value to their assessments of Cato… indeed frankly describing his flaws as a politician and a man….As the opening discussion shows and the main narrative confirms, there is indeed a lot worth thinking about in deciding what should be the lessons to draw from Cato's life and legacy.” ―History Book Club
“Well-crafted retelling of the life of Cato” ―The New American
“Goodman and Soni's examination of Cato the Younger--the Roman reactionary, Stoic, and enemy of Caesar--is the story of a harsh man in a violent age. With his pronounced British accent, Derek Perkins is a surprising choice for narration as this book seems directed at an American audience. But his voice is strong, and he sets the pace like someone leading a brisk, invigorating jog. The slightly cynical, skeptical edge of his tone fits the text, which refuses to take Cato at his own saintly face value or to respect the turbulent "banana republic" of Rome. His edgy take fits both Cato's troubled republic and (despite the accent) our own, which is part of the book's point. Perkins's vigorous performance helps keep this an absorbing program.” ―AudioFile (starred review)
“When the Roman Republic finally fell, the last man standing was Cato, staunch defender of old Rome's venerable legacy and enemy of Caesar's new world order. Thanks to Goodman and Soni, this rare creature--a politician of honor willing to die for his principles--steps out of the shadows into history again. Illuminating and timely!” ―Adrienne Mayor, Stanford University, National Book Award finalist for The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome's Deadliest Enemy
“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, 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
“Cato's life always had epic dimensions in his own mind. His principled, gory suicide made him a symbol of liberty for two thousand years, the model for George Washington and many others. Jimmy Soni and Rob Goodman have somehow given us a life of Cato that is neither hero-worshiping nor debunking. Instead, this handsomely written biography is vividly intelligent and valuably reflective. It is a very fine treatment of a life worth knowing, and a valuable meditation on how a life becomes a myth.” ―Jedediah Purdy, professor of law at Duke University, author of For Common Things: Irony, Trust, and Commitment in America Today and Being America: Liberty, Commerce and Violence in an American World
“Cato, an icon to the founding fathers, has become a neglected figure. In their spirited new biography--the first since Plutarch!--Rob Goodman and Jimmy Soni give us his story, and explain why this Roman statesman meant so much to our political forbearers.” ―Jacob Weisberg, chairman and editor-in-chief of the Slate Group and New York Times bestselling author of The Bush Tragedy
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.