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Marcus Junius Brutus
Brutus was the son of Decimus Junius Brutus, a relatively unimportant politician, and Servilia Caepionis, half-sister of Cato the younger and mistress of Julius Caesar. Some sources refer to the possibility of Caesar being his real father, but this is probably gossip because Caesar was 15 years old at the time of Brutus' birth and the affair with his mother started some ten years after. Brutus' uncle Quintus Servilius Caepio adopted him when he was a young man and Brutus added his cognomen to his own name. His political career started when he became an assistant to Cato, during his governorship of Cyprus. During this time, he enriched himself by loaning money to desperate people at high rates of interest. From his first appearance in the senate, Brutus aligned with the Optimates (the conservative faction) against the First Triumvirate of Marcus Licinius Crassus, Pompey, and Julius Caesar. He had every reason to hate Pompey, who had his father murdered in 77 BC, during the proscriptions by Sulla.
When civil war broke out in 49 BC between Pompey and Caesar, Brutus followed his old enemy and present leader of the Optimates, Pompey. After the disaster of the Battle of Pharsalus, Brutus wrote Caesar with apologies and Caesar immediately forgave him. Caesar accepted him into his inner circle and made him governor of Gaul when he left for Africa in pursuit of Cato and Metellus Scipio. In the next year (45 BC), Caesar nominated him to be a praetor.
Caesar's assassination and its aftermath
A conservative by nature, Brutus never concealed his convictions. He married Porcia Catones who was his first cousin and a daughter of Cato, and wrote a text praising his deceased father-in-law's qualities. Caesar was very fond of him and respected his opinions. However, Brutus, like many other senators, was not satisfied with the state of the Republic. Caesar had been made dictator for life and was approving legislation to concentrate power in his own hands. Together with his friend and brother-in-law Cassius and other men, Brutus started to conspire against Caesar. On the Ides of March (March 15; see Roman calendar) of 44 BC, a group of senators including Brutus murdered Caesar on the steps of Pompey's Theater. In Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar," the dictator directed his famous last words at him: Tu quoque, Brute, fili mi ("You, too, Brutus, my son?") or Et tu, Brute ("And (even) you, Brutus?"). Suetonius stated that Caesar said, in Greek, "kai\ su\, te/knon?" ("Even you, my child?") (De Vita Caesarum Liber I Divus Iulius, LXXXII).
The conspirators received a temporary amnesty from Mark Antony who, upon Caesar's death, became the head of state. However, the city itself was against them, because most of the population loved Caesar dearly. Antony decided to make use of the circumstances and, on March 20 spoke angrily against the assassins during Caesar's funeral eulogy. Since Rome no longer saw them as saviours of the Republic and they were facing treason charges, Brutus and his fellow conspirators fled to the East.
In Athens, Brutus dedicated himself to the study of philosophy and, no less importantly, to the raising of funds and levying of soldiers to form legions. Antony and Caesar's adopted son Octavian were certain to come after him and Cassius searching for revenge. The armies of Antony and Octavian appeared in the summer of 42 BC. On October 3, the First Battle of Philippi did not produce a decisive result. Brutus' men defeated Octavian, but Antony defeated Cassius. Cassius then committed suicide without knowing of his ally's victory. Both armies regrouped and fought the Second Battle of Philippi on October 23. According to Plutarch and Suetonius, Brutus was afflicted by dreams of Caesar and other omens foretelling his defeat and his spirits were very low. This time Octavian and Antony were the uncontested winners. Brutus managed to escape but did not travel very far. His friends urged him to escape once more, but he replied with one of his most famous quotes: Escape, yes, but this time with the hands, not with the feet. After saying this, he committed suicide.
- 85 BC – born in Rome
- 58 BC – assistant to Cato, governor of Cyprus
- 53 BC – quaestorship in Cilicia
- 49 BC – follows Pompey to Greece, during the civil war against Caesar
- 48 BC – pardoned by Caesar
- 46 BC – governor of Gaul
- 45 BC – praetor
- 44 BC – murders Caesar with other senators; goes to Athens
- 42 BC –
- October 3 - First Battle of Philippi – defeated Octavianus, but Antonius defeated Cassius, who committed suicide
- October 23 - Second Battle of Philippi – his army was decisively defeated; Brutus escaped, but committed suicide soon after. However according to the play of Julius Caesar, he whispered to his two men Citus and Dardanius to kill him. They refused but he convinced them to get the job done.
Later Evaluations of Brutus
- Dante considered Brutus to be the epitome of shameful betrayal, and in his Inferno section of the Divine Comedy (Inferno, XXXIV, 64-67), portrayed Brutus being chewed, but never consumed, by Satan, along with Judas Iscariot and Cassius at the very lowest level of Hell.
- Shakespeare has Mark Antony describe Brutus as "the noblest Roman of them all" in the final scene of Julius Caesar. In modern productions of this play he is commonly portrayed as honourably motivated and his action tyrannicide rather than murder.
- Caesar's famous last words directed to Brutus You too, my son..., led to suggestions that Brutus was Caesar's illegitimate son. Indeed, his mother Servilia Caepionis was the most famous of Caesar's mistresses. However, she was also older than he was. At the time of Brutus' birth, Caesar was only 15 years old.
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