Book Reviews on Caesar and Cato #2

by Pearl Matibe

“Caesar and Cato, the Road to Empire” by Brian Igoe

The reader needs not have an intimate history of classical Rome because it’s mostly provided here – quite skillfully done.  Brian Igoe restores to life the Roman personalities of Marcus Porcius Cato the accomplished political man and son of a Senator and Caesar the military man who claimed he “perfected” the Roman Army - two thoroughly intriguing, impressive and intense figures in history; both well-educated, polished and skillful public speakers for their political arena.

What a portrayal of the lives and legacies of two great men in history!

The reader discovers from the beginning, Cato’s family history growing up without parents from a young age and developed stubbornness with dialogue that brings the story to life.  As well we learn of Caesar’s progression through his military career.  It’s a wonderful account of what happened many millennia ago making this book an amazing accomplishment more so because it still has relevance in the 21st century.  The story itself resonates with today’s troubled world and is still true today - it’s a revelation of the gap between the elites and the people they govern.

Igoe reveals an empire of epic proportions. One thing I found most useful is I gained a fresh understating of the tremendous size of the Roman Empire and the bedrock of authority that laid the foundations of our modern world.  Igoe shows how it stretched from Britain, to Egypt.  Astonishingly, as compared to modern day United States its territory was as far as the U.S. East Coast is from its West Coast.   To protect, provide for and preserve as enormous a territory as this for hundreds of years must have been quite an undertaking in an age without the internet and present-day transportation.  This will add to the readers’ enjoyment of “perspective” as it did for me.  Absolutely fascinating!

Throughout the book there is a magnificent mixture of present-day English colloquialism which is refreshing, engaging and keeps you glued to the text.  This makes this an excellent read.  The Caesar and Cato, the Road to Empire is told directly through the eyes and thoughts of Cato & Caesar.  This gives the reader the perspective of being in the character’s head making the reader part of what the character sees, thinks and feels.  Igoe creates an intimate, immediacy and connection with the reader as emotions happen in the moment.  This creates an inherent believability for the reader.  Incredibly authentic.  It’s certainly an excellent narration of the lengthy conflict between Cato the stoic politician and speaker and Caesar the soldier.

What the author does well is develop an intimate character study that is a wonderful revelation of Caesar and Cato’s motivations and actions.  I enjoyed get to know their “minds.”

Igoe cleverly uses figurative language and literary devices to enhance the mood and atmosphere of many scenes in the book including his use of anadiplosis.  One example of anaphora: “… To rob the governed, to steal from them, to oppress them!” helps express the concept of Caesar’s speech, emphasizing his points and making this more memorable for the reader.  Other rhetorical devices used superbly include: “…Others might keep fit to play sports. I played them to keep fit.”  The character dialogue delightfully brings the reader into the moment making them authentic.

My favorite is the remarkable imagery in descriptions of scenery and illustrations of the culture of the day.  I love the book cover’s columned courtyard, sculptures and garden typical of the classical Roman open courtyard within the house.  It certainly brings the period to life.

A readers’ interest and enthusiasm for Rome will grow with reading Caesar and Cato, the Road to Empire.  This was for me truly, an enjoyable interpretation of the culture of the day and the various pillars of power, government and military structure.

I highly recommend Caesar and Cato, the Road to Empire  as today’s reader will easily grasp the context of classical Rome and how events impacted Caesar and Cato’s lives – extremely relevant lessons for today’s modern turbulent times: as Brian Igoe explains  “…present troubles…”