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

. October 2012. 384p. 978-0-31268-812-4. 26.99.
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. This argument falls flat whenever it relies on modern terms and framing, because it results in anachronisms in the depiction of Cato. Nonetheless, 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 Colossus) are inclined to view Cato as a hypocrite, using his virtue and stoicism as another tack to rise in the high-stakes world of late Republican 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.
VERDICT The biographical elements, rather than the references to current politics, will be of great interest to generalists fascinated by this period in Roman history and wanting more than the typical Caesarian or Pompeian perspectives. As such, recommended.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.


Get connected. Join our global community of more than 200,000 librarians and educators.

Get access to 8000+ annual reviews of books, ebooks, and more

As low as $13.50/month