Reform or Die

02.01.13

Cato's Bloody Example

Barry Strauss reviews Rob Goodman and Jimmy Soni's Rome's Last Citizen for City Journal. The similarities between Cato's world and our own are striking. (David's book club review of Rome's Last Citizen here.) 

Ancient Rome was a republic: a mixed government combining popular assemblies, powerful magistrates who operated as virtual kings for their year in office, and an aristocratic senate. The Roman republic indirectly inspired America’s constitutional separation of powers. By Cato’s day, though, Rome’s government was out of joint, bitterly divided between populists and oligarchs. ...

Soldiers can take courage from Cato’s example. Politicians should ponder it with care. His life offers a lesson in particular for conservatives about the need for tactical compromise to save what’s best of an old order. For how long should one stand on principle when tectonic shifts rumble below?