Insightful biography of Cato (95 B.C.–46 B.C.), enemy of Julius Caesar.
Goodman and Huffington Post managing editor Soni write not from the viewpoint of academic historians, but rather as students of the classics who want to pass on the rich history of Rome from the time of Sulla to the death of Caesar. They carefully cite all the classic works that the non-Latin reading public may have missed. Plutarch’s biography of Cato is the most detailed, but the authors diligently temper his didactic history with facts gleaned from a wealth of sources. Cato devoted his life to stoicism even though his grandfather fought to ban the rigid Hellenic philosophy. During Cato’s time, Rome suffered from homegrown terrorism, a debt crisis, multiple foreign wars and a widening economic gap. He raged against corruption brought on by wealth and empire and desperately fought for limited government. Most particularly, he fought against both Pompey and Caesar in their struggles to control Rome. He disliked Pompey, but his greatest fear, soon to be realized, was the reign of Caesar. Few of Cato’s writings survive, so his legend comes largely from the near-deification by those who began to write about him after his disturbing suicide. Cicero, who both knew and fought with Cato, was the first to laud his political legacy; from there it never stopped. Virgil, Caesar, Seneca and Augustine wrote about Cato. Dante paid him the ultimate compliment in making Cato one of only four pagans who escaped hell in the Divine Comedy. Joseph Addison’s Cato, A Tragedy was required reading throughout the 18th century, and George Washington carried it with him and had it staged at Valley Forge.
The authors succeed brilliantly in bringing this fascinating statesman to life.