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

Written by Jimmy Soni Rob Goodman
Review by Ann Pedtke

Biographies abound for the colorful personalities of the Late Roman Republic: Caesar and Cleopatra, Pompey and Cicero. But one of the most influential figures of the period – in politics, in philosophy, on the military front – is often relegated to the sidelines. Cato is frequently dismissed as a stodgy old republican, a hopelessly rigid stoic who wastes time on high-minded protests in defense of impossible ideals. Yet Cato left a legacy that continued to fuel idealistic causes long after his death, from the remaking of Rome under Augustus to the American Revolution almost eighteen centuries later.

With Rome’s Last Citizen, Rob Goodman and Jimmy Soni bring Cato out of the shadows. Digging deep to find personal letters and other echoes of Cato’s voice, the authors reveal the complex man – competent yet fallible, impassioned yet sometimes uncertain – who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to avert the fall of the republic as Caesar’s Civil War unfolded.

Goodman and Soni hail from the world of journalism and political speechwriting, and thus write with a verve not always found in academic biographies. While this book can’t succeed entirely in making Cato a likeable character, it at least reveals the fully human man behind the mask.