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Marcus Junius Brutus

Updated on November 1, 2009

Marcus Junius Brutus (85 - 42 B.C.) was a Roman statesman and scholar. He has been idealized and immortalized by Shakespeare in Julius Caesar, but his real character remains strangely paradoxical. Cicero was among his teachers and warmest admirers. He was a devotee of Platonism and Stoicism and produced philosophical tracts, works of history, and an elegant correspondence with Cicero. Brutus was an intellectual and an idealist. But for all his good qualities, he was stuffy, aloof, and self-righteous. In the 50's B.C. he served on the island of Cyprus and lent funds to the Cypriotes, enabling them to pay their taxes. In return he charged exorbitant interest rates and even authorized the use of force to extort the interest. Brutus and Caesar. When war between Caesar and Pompey wracked Italy in 49, Brutus was in a dilemma as to where his allegiance should lie. Although Pompey had killed Brutus' own father almost 30 years before, Brutus was influenced by Marcus Porcius Cato, his uncle, who was an unyielding enemy of Caesar. Brutus consequently joined the Pompeians and fought for them until 48, when, after the Battle of Pharsalus, he surrendered and was pardoned by Caesar. Caesar made him governor of Cisalpine Gaul in 46 and urban praetor in 44.

But Brutus' loyalty to Caesar wavered. The martyrdom of Cato in 46 must have had an impact on Brutus. He wrote a eulogy of Cato and in 45 married Cato's orphaned daughter, Porcia. Men reminded Brutus that his distant ancestor Lucius Brutus had slain the last Roman king and instituted the Roman republic; here was an example to be emulated. When Cassius organized his conspiracy against Caesar, he persuaded Brutus to join the conspirators. Besides being one of the actual assassins, Brutus gave the conspiracy its coherence, its prestige, and its symbol. Over Cassius' objections, he insisted that only Caesar be killed. Naively, he hoped the elimination of the dictator would bring the old republic back.

Death of Caesar by Vincenzo Camuccini
Death of Caesar by Vincenzo Camuccini

Brutus and the Triumvirs

Within a few months of Caesar's death in 44, Brutus felt obliged to go to Greece and Macedon in order to gather support. In 43 a new ruling clique was formed in Italy around Caesar's lieutenants Antony and Lepidus and Caesar's adoptive heir, Octavian. They were determined to avenge the dictator's death. Brutus wavered again and may still have expected a reconciliation. Antony had been Brutus' friend; Lepidus was his relative. Moreover, Brutus broke with Antony's enemy Cicero through a bitter interchange of letters. Perhaps Brutus hoped for a deal with the triumvirs; he had compromised his principles before. But events moved too rapidly. Brutus joined forces with Cassius, who had brought troops from the East. Together they engaged the armies of Antony and Octavian at Philippi in Thrace in October 42. Brutus was successful, but Cassius, tasting defeat, committed suicide. A second battle ensued, ending in Brutus' own defeat and suicide.


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      Kat 6 years ago

      thanks for this awesome hub. i got an A+ in my assignmnet

    • AJHargrove profile image

      AJHargrove 8 years ago from USA

      Interesting take on Brutus. Most contemporary scholars are more generous, while modern ones tend to tear apart his character.