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

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  839 ratings  ·  90 reviews
The first biography of the final man to stand against Caesar—whose principles and defiance became a rallying cry for future revolutions

He 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 C
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published October 16th 2012 by Thomas Dunne Books
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Richard Tullberg Biographical and all the issues with the sources and what we actually know is well discussed in the last chapters

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Catherine Martin
May 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
T.J. Radcliffe
Jan 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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 wearin
Jun 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
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
Feb 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
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.
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 deat ...more
Vrixton Phillips
Mar 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 thous
Dec 30, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: the-library
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. ...more
Yousef Damra
Aug 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Sep 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
A balanced, readable biography of Cato.

The authors ably describe Cato’s struggle against corruption, his elitism, his hard drinking, his military acumen and his inability to master the political arts. They also use Cato’s life to provide insight into the republic’s fall, and describe how Cato inspired later historical figures. They describe Cato’s refusal to compromise, his belief that virtue was enough, and how these attitudes left him isolated and unable to achieve as much as he wanted.

The nar
Nov 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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 defini
Adrian Cuadros
Sep 02, 2017 rated it liked it
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. ...more
Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: life, history, biography
A balanced and extremely readable account of Cato's life, contrasting the man with the Stoic legend. The book is very approachable even if your knowledge of Ancient Rome is rusty at best. That period of history is really intriguing and I certainly came out of my reading interested in (re-)learning more about a few of the historical figures that show up through the book. ...more
Aitor García Rey
Aug 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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. ...more
James Foster
Oct 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
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 l ...more
Jan 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good book, providing a complete biography of Cato the Younger, Caesar’s nemesis and a person mythologized as the last true Roman of the Republic. The author presents the work both as a unique perspective on the decades of the various civil conflicts which ended Republican Rome and as an explainer on why Cato has held a special place in western thought from the Middle Ages to the present. He points out that Cato is the only person to 1) appear as a main character in Dante’s Divine Comedy, 2) be ...more
Rory Lynch
Nov 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oof, this book was a slog, but the story is tells is so good.

I went through fascinating phases. I started this book, obviously, as everyone does, admiring Cato. Rome's Iron Man, the Republic of One, Stoic in life and in death. As I read, I grew increasingly horrified in his actions. His absolute obstinance and inability to compromise directly lead to the rise of Ceasar and the Roman Empire; the exact thing he struggled to prevent. In his death, he redeemed himself through his Stoic and determin
Dec 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
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). ...more
Connor Livingston
If a story about one man who lived long ago in a far away country can bring the reader to heartache and near tears, then one of two things has occurred. A) That man’s life was extraordinary beyond all measures. Or B) the author’s eloquence is beyond reproach. Both occur in this moving biography of the inimitable Marcus Cato.
Al Berry
Sep 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
A solid biography on Cato the Younger; a man who fought for his ideals; often handicapping himself in order to do so.

One of the most interesting things I learned was that his daughter Porcia married Brutus. Definitely explains Brutus turning on Caesar; even more so in antiquity than today, blood is thicker than water.

Apr 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
“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; an
Anna Mock
Dec 02, 2017 rated it liked it
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 ...more
JS Found
Jan 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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 a ...more
Harold Johnson
May 05, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
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 Constitut
Ian Miller
Jun 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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. Getti ...more
Jeffrey Rasley
Apr 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
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 w ...more
Sep 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Great biography of the legendary stoic. Also proves an excellent overview of the personalities and nuances surrounding the fall of the Roman Republic.
Lino  Matteo
May 20, 2021 rated it really liked it
Cato is one of Rome’s most famous statesman. While his family was plebian, or commoners, he lived the life of an aristocratic politician who hankered for the purity and hardships of the past. As a soldier he marched with his troops, ate with his troops and slept on the ground with his troops. He was a Stoic philosopher. He was a staunch defender of sacred Roman tradition. Welcome to the story of Marcus Porcius Cato.

This book tells a tale them echoes in our own turbulent politics. While Cato was
Ty Bradley
Jan 25, 2021 rated it really liked it
In this account of Julius Caesars most principled enemy, Rob Goodman not only delves into the character and motivations of Cato the Younger, but also creates an exciting narrative around this whole period of Roman history. While the books main topic is Cato, Goodman does not neglect to describe the personalities of the other great politicians of the last decades of the Roman Republic. Cato's uncompromising idealism is contrasted with the flexibility of Cicero and the opportunism of Caesar, Pompe ...more
Steven Kaminski
May 16, 2017 rated it liked it
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
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