Marcus Junius Brutus



Marcus Junius Brutus, (85–42 BC), more commonly known in history as Brutus, was a Roman senator and dear friend to Julius Caesar. Brutus inevitably became a lead conspirator in the assassination against his friend and ruler Julius Caesar in an attempt to rid Rome of tyranny.

Early Life:

Marcus Junius Brutus was the son of Marcus Junius Brutus the Elder and Servilia Caepionis. Not much is known about Brutus’ father, and some historians even propose Caesar was his real father, since his mother was used to be one of Caesar’s mistresses. This is most likely not true, since Caesar would have been only 15 (born c. 100 BC) when Brutus was born. Brutus was adopted by his uncle Quintus Servilius Caepio when he was a young man, and they remained close friends and father-and-son like.During this stage of his life, Brutus began his political career when he became an assistant to Cato, his father-in-law. He quickly enriched himself by lending out money to desperate people at very high interest rates.

Political Career: 

Civil war in Rome broke out in the year 49 BC, between the two leaders Pompey and Caesar. Brutus followed Pompey in war, even though he was a past enemy. During the well known Battle of Pharsalus, the victor Caesar ordered his men to take Brutus into custody if he agreed to sumbit, and if he did not, that they should leave him to his own devices. A while after the battle, Brutus sent Caesar a letter saying that he apologized and was now a pursuer of democracy. Caesar immediately forgave him, and allowed him into his close circle. They became friends, and Caesar actually adopted him at one point. Soon after, Caesar granted Brutus the position of governor in Gaul, since he had to leave for Africa during a conquest. Brutus had started his career and was well known by this time.

Four years later, Caesar nominated Brutus to serve the renowned position of praetor, which means commander of an army and, in this case, magistrate in the Senate for the following year. That year would be the year Brutus plotted against Caesar- 44 BC.

Conspiracy against Julius Caesar:

In and around 44 BC, many Roman senators began fearing Caesar’s growing power, even more so after he was appointed dictator for life in February. Many senators loyal to the Republic of Rome rather than its leader began to plot against him. It was believed that Caesar would follow the tyrannical path of the dictator Sulla before him. Brutus was pressured by other senators to join in the conspiracy against Caesar in both the play by William Shakespeare and in history, along with finding anonymous letters favoring him as a peaceful, democratic ruler. However, in history, Brutus also felt obligated by his loyalty to Cato and Portia, who were former legatus’, or ambassadors, to the late Pompey. Finally around March of the year 44 BC, Brutus decided to move against Caesar for the good of Rome and its people. Portia was the only woman privy to the details of the conspiracy. 

The Death of Julius Caesar:

On the Ides of March, the conspirators lead primerally by Cassius, planned to draw Caesar from his home to the Senate. Known for his wit and cunnery, the assassins elected the conspirator Decius to report to Caesar.

That morning, Caesar’s wife, Calphurnia, awoke with the remembrance of a terrible nightmare. The evening before, she envisioned a giant statue of her husband seething with crimson blood, and a few familiar yet faceless men bathing their arms and bodies in it. Quickly she warned Caesar that he should stay in the safety of his home, but he was resentless in giving in to her superstition. Finally he agreed, and shortly after Decius entered his house.

When Decius heard of Calphurnia’s dream, he changed the tides by sharing his “positive” view of it, to entice Caesar to the Capitol building. He said that the flowing blood symbolized the life force and energy that Caesar gives to Rome, and that the Empire would not be able to function without him.

Agreeing with Decius’ view, Caesar left for the Capitol with the Senate. When the session had begun, the senators begged Caesar to revoke a exile punishment cast upon a brother of the conspirator Tillius Cimber. As they kneeled around him, the conspirators closer, Cimber grabbed his tunic. Casca charged from behind with a concealed dagger, and lunged for where the back of Caesar’s heart would be, but missed his mark. Caesar grabbed him in defense, while Casca screamed “Help, brother!” in Greek. Hearing this, the conspirators attacked, almost seventy in number, along with Brutus.

Witnesses such as Plutarch said that Caesar said nothing, while others said that he uttered ” Et Tu, Brute” once he saw his friend strike him. However, it is clear that Caesar gave up his struggle and covered his face with his toga once he saw his beloved Brutus among his enemies.

The Fall of Marcus Junius Brutus:

After the assassination was completed, things turned for the worse in Rome. Antony had rallied the plebeians to avenge Caesar, and most conspirators either fled or were killed. Brutus, Cassius and their armies held out at Philippi. The Battle of Philippi was the final battle in the wars of the second triumvirate between the forces of Mark Antony and Octavian against the forces of Brutus and Cassius in 42 BC, at Philippi in Macedonia. Civil war was declared to avenge Caesar’s murder. 

Brutus, robbed of his best strategic mind, decided to attempt to hold his position with the goal of wearing down the enemy. For three weeks, Brutus maintained his position while Antony flanked across the marsh, as seen in the drawing above. Finally the battle came to close quarters, and Brutus’ men were quickly defeated with nowhere to run. Having no place to take a last stand, Brutus committed suicide and his army dispersed.



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