Rome’s Last Citizen: The Life and Legacy of Cato, Mortal Enemy of Caesar

Rob Goodman and Jimmy Soni. St. Martin’s/Dunne, $26.99 (368p) ISBN 978-0-312-68123-4
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Brave, self-sacrificing, and successful as a military commander, the great Roman statesman Cato (95–46 B.C.E.) also engaged in all-night drinking bouts and served as the public face of Stoicism—a philosophy regarded as contrary to Roman identity in his time. He is perhaps most famous for committing suicide rather than serve Caesar and betray his beloved Republic. In their sometimes compelling but more frequently lackluster biography, Goodman (a former Capitol Hill speechwriter) and Soni (the Huffington Post’s managing editor) use the very few sources we have to trace Cato’s life, from his early military service and his attempts to curtail electoral bribery in 54 B.C.E. to his scandalous divorce from and remarriage to Marcia, and his suicide. Cato’s vision for the Republic, say the authors, rested on the myth of a simpler and purer past. Cato failed to restore that past, however, for he possessed a shallow view of the present. Besides their lackluster prose, Goodman and Soni aren’t fully convincing in their effort to show either that Cato, rather than Pompey, was Caesar’s true nemesis, or that Cato’s legacy is instructive for our times. Agent: Laura Yorke, Carol Mann Agency. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 07/09/2012
Release date: 10/16/2012
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