Rome’s Last Citizen: The Life and Legacy of Cato, Mortal Enemy of Caesar
by Rob Goodman and Jimmy Soni
Finished: October 15, 2017. Rating: 7/10
Feel like the world is crumbling? Read this. Because when the world crumbled around Cato the Younger, he stood strong. When Julius Caesar marched on Rome and usurped Rome’s republic with his dictatorship, Cato fought him every step of the way.
Cato is the uncompromising soldier, aristocrat, senator, and Stoic. He is the man whom the Founding Fathers turned to for guidance during the Revolutionary War. George Washington put on the play Cato: A Tragedy to motivate his troops, John Adams quoted Cato in letters to his wife, and Benjamin Franklin cited and praised Cato in the famous Poor Richard’s Almanac.
Cato’s life teaches us how to stand strong even against overwhelming odds, and his death teaches how to stay strong even when defeat is certain.
The Founding Fathers turned to Cato for guidance when obstacles felt overwhelming. We should do the same. Here are some brief accounts of Cato’s honor you can use for inspiration:
- “Cato’s Rome teemed with imported wealth; Cato chose to wear the simple, outmoded clothing of Rome’s mythical founders and to go barefoot in sun and cold.”
- “Powerful men gifted themselves villas and vineyards; Cato preferred a life of monkish frugality.”
- “Roman politics was well-oiled with bribes, strategic marriages, and under-the-table favors; Cato’s vote famously had no price.”
- Cato never backed down nor compromised his principles: “Cato made a career out of purity, out of his refusal to give an inch in the face of pressure to compromise and deal.”
- “Once elected quaestor, Cato . . . summarily fired all clerks and assistants whom he judged unfit for office or guilty of corruption. It was the kind of wholesale housecleaning that made headlines—and drew out the long knives of the career clerks. . . . Cato, though, was oblivious to any backlash. What was there to know besides the fact that the law had been broken?”
- As a legionary commander, rather than rely on corporal punishment for discipline, he led by example, “sleeping on the ground with his troops, eating the same meager food, wearing the same clothes, digging ditches beside them, and joining them on the march, always on foot.”
If you need to draw strength to fight against the wrong you see in life, Rome’s Last Citizen is your watering hole.