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L. Iunius Brutus. A celebrated Roman, the author, according to the Roman legends, of the great revolution which drove Tarquin the Proud from his throne, and which substituted the consular for the regal government. He was the son of Marcus Iunius and of Tarquinia, the second daughter of Tarquin. While yet young in years, he saw his father and brother slain by the order of Tarquin, and having no means of avenging them, and fearing the same fate to himself, he affected a stupid air, in order not to appear at all formidable in the eyes of a suspicious and cruel tyrant. This artifice proved successful, and he so far deceived Tarquin and the other members of the royal family that they gave him, in derision, the surname of Brutus, as indicative of his supposed mental imbecility. At length, when Lucretia had been outraged by Sextus Tarquinius, Brutus, amid the indignation that pervaded all orders, threw off the mask, and suatching the dagger from the bosom of the victim, swore upon it eternal exile to the family of Tarquin. Wearied out with the tyranny of this monarch, and exasperated by the spectacle of the funeral solemnities of Lucretia, the people abolished royalty, and confided the chief authority to the Senate and two magistrates, named at first praetors, but subsequently consuls. Brutus and the husband of Lucretia were first invested with this important office. They signalized their entrance upon its duties by making all the people take a solemn oath never again to have a king of Rome. Efforts, nevertheless, were soon made in favour of the Tarquins: an ambassador sent from Etruria, under the pretext of procuring a restoration of the property of Tarquin and his family, formed a secret plot for the overthrow of the new government; and the sons of Brutus became

Lucius Iunius Brutus. (Vatican Museum.)

connected with the conspiracy. A discovery having been made, the sons of the consul and their accomplices were tried, condemned, and executed by the orders of the father, although the people were willing that he should pardon them. From this time, Brutus sought only to die himself, and, some months after, a battle between the Romans and the troops of Tarquin enabled him to gratify his wish. He encountered, in the fight, Aruns, the son of the exiled monarch; and with so much impetuosity did they rush to the attack that both fell dead on the spot, pierced to the heart each by the weapon of the other. The corpse of Brutus was carried to Rome in triumph.

Coin representing the Children of Brutus led to death by Lictors.

The consul Valerius pronounced a funeral eulogy over it, a statue of bronze was raised to the memory of the deceased in the Capitol, and the Roman women wore mourning for an entire year.


D. Iunius Brutus, master of the horse a.u.c. 418, and consul a.u.c. 429 (Liv.viii. 12, 29).


D. Iunius Brutus, consul a.u.c. 615, obtained a triumph for his successes in Spain.


M. Iunius Brutus, father of the Brutus who was concerned in the assassination of Caesar. He embraced the party of Marius, and was overcome by Pompey. After the death of Sulla , and the renewal of hostilities, he was besieged in Mutina by Pompey, who compelled him to surrender after a long resistance, and caused him to be put to death. He was brother-in-law to Cato by his wife Servilia. Brutus was an able lawyer, and wrote on the Civil Wars (Cic. Brut. 62; id. Or. ii. 32; id. Pro Cluent. 51).


Marcus Iunius Brutus, son of the preceding, was by the mother's side nephew of M. Cato (Uticensis). He accompanied his uncle to Cyprus, a.u.c. 695, where the latter was sent by Clodius to annex that island to the Roman Empire. It appears, however, that he did not copy the example of Cato 's integrity; for, having become the creditor of the citizens of Salamis to a large amount, he employed one Scaptius, a man of infamous character, to enforce the payment of the debt, together with an interest four times exceeding the rate allowed by law (Ad Att. v. 21). When Cicero governed the province of Cilicia, to which Cyprus seems to have been annexed, Brutus wrote to him, and was supported by Atticus in his request, entreating him to give Scaptius a commission as an officer of the Roman government, and to allow him to employ a military force to exact from the Salaminians the usurious interest which he illegally demanded. Cicero was too upright a magistrate to comply with such requests, but they were so agreeable to the practice of the times that he continued to live on intimate terms with the man who could prefer them; and the literary tastes of Brutus were a recommendation which he could not resist; so that he appears soon to have forgotten the affair of Scaptius, and to have spoken and thought of Brutus with great regard. They both, indeed, were of the same party in politics, and Brutus actively exerted himself in the service of Pompey, although his own father had been put to death by the orders of that commander. Being taken prisoner in the battle of Pharsalia, he received his life from the conqueror. Before Caesar set out for Africa to carry on war against Scipio and Iuba, he conferred on Brutus the government of Cisalpine Gaul, and in that province Brutus accordingly remained, and was actually holding an office under Caesar while his uncle Cato was maintaining the contest in Africa and committed suicide rather than fall alive into the hands of the enemy. His character, however, seems to have been greatly improved since his treatment of the Salaminians, for he is said to have governed Cisalpine Gaul with great integrity and humanity. In the year B.C. 45 he returned to Rome, but afterwards set out to meet Caesar on his return from Spain, and, in an interview which he had with him at Nicaea, pleaded the cause of Deiotarus, tetrarch of Galatia, with such warmth and freedom that Caesar was struck by it, and was reminded of what he used frequently to say of Brutus—that what his inclinations might be made a very great difference; but that, whatever they were, they would be nothing lukewarm. It was about this time also that Brutus divorced his first wife, Appia, daughter of Appius Claudius, and married the famous Porcia, his cousin, the daughter of Cato. Soon after, he received another mark of Caesar's favour, in being appointed praetor urbanus, B.C. 44; and he was holding that office when he resolved to become the assassin of the man whose government he had twice acknowledged by consenting to act in a public station under it. He was led into the conspiracy, it is said, by Cassius, who sought at first by writing, and afterwards by means of his wife Iunia, the sister of Brutus, to obtain his consent to become an accomplice; and Plutarch informs us that when the attack was made on Caesar in the Senate-house, the latter resisted and endeavoured to escape, until he saw the dagger of

Marcus Iunius Brutus.

Brutus pointed against him, when he covered his head with his robe and resigned himself to his fate. See Caesar.

After the assassination of Caesar, the conspirators endeavoured to stir up the feelings of the people in favour of liberty; but Antony, by reading the will of the dictator, excited against them so violent a storm of odium that they were compelled to flee from the city. Brutus retired to Athens, and used every exertion to raise a party there among the Roman nobility. Obtaining possession, at the same time, of a large sum of the public money, he was enabled to bring to his standard many of the old soldiers of Pompey who were scattered about Thessaly. His forces daily increasing, he soon saw himself surrounded by a considerable army, and Hortensius, the governor of Macedonia, aiding him, Brutus became master in this way of all Greece and Macedonia. He went now to Asia and joined Cassius, whose efforts had been equally successful. In Rome, on the other hand, the triumvirs were all-powerful; the conspirators had been condemned, and the people had taken up arms against them. Brutus and Cassius returned to Europe to oppose the triumvirs, and Octavius and Antony met them on the plains of Philippi. In this memorable conflict Brutus commanded the right wing of the republican army, and defeated the division of the enemy opposed to him, and would in all probability have gained the day if, instead of pursuing the fugitives, he had brought reinforcements to his left wing, commanded by Cassius, which was hard pressed and eventually beaten by Antony. Cassius, upon this, believing everything lost, slew himself in despair. Brutus bitterly deplored his fate, styling him, with tears of the sincerest sorrow, “the last of the Romans.” On the following day, induced by the ardour of the soldiers, Brutus again drew up his forces in line of battle, but no action took place, and he then took possession of an advantageous post, where it was difficult for an attack to be made upon him. His true policy was to have remained in this state, without hazarding an engagement, for his opponents were distressed for provisions, and the fleet that was bringing them supplies had been totally defeated by the vessels of Brutus. The condition of things, however, was unknown to the latter, and, after an interval of twenty days, he hazarded a second battle. Where he himself fought in person, he was still successful; but the rest of his force was soon overcome, and the conflict ended in a total defeat of the republican army. Escaping with only a few friends, he passed the night in a cave, and, as he saw his cause irretrievably ruined, ordered Strato, one of his attendants, to kill him. Strato refused for a long time to perform the painful office; but, seeing Brutus resolved, he turned away his face, and held his sword while Brutus fell upon it. He died in the forty-third year of his age, B.C. 42.

A great deal of false glamour has been thrown around the character of Brutus. That he was a stern and consistent patriot throughout the whole of his career, the sketch which we have given of his movements prior to the assassination of Caesar most clearly disproves. Why hold office under one who was trampling upon the liberties of his country? Why require so much solicitation before engaging in the conspiracy? Was he not aware that Caesar was a usurper?—this would show a miserable want of penetration. Or if he preferred security to danger, where was the Roman patriot in this? The truth is that Brutus, notwithstanding all that has been said of him, was but a tardy patriot. His motives towards the close of his career were no doubt pure enough, but he ought to have had nothing to do with Caesar from the moment when that general began to act with treason towards his country. As a student and man of letters, the character of Brutus appears to more advantage than as a patriot. He was remarkable for literary application, usually rising with this view long before day, and it is said that on the evening previous to a battle, while his army was in a state of anxious suspense and alarm, he calmly occupied himself in his tent with writing an abridgment of the history of Polybius. One of the most singular circumstances in the life of Brutus is that of the so-called apparition which, it was said, appeared to him on one occasion in his tent at midnight. “Who art thou?” inquired Brutus. “Thy evil genius,” replied the phantom; “we shall meet again at Philippi.” And so it happened. The spirit reappeared on the eve of the second battle of Philippi—a story that reminds one of the Bodach Glas in Waverley. See Plutarch's life of Brutus.

hide References (3 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (3):
    • Cicero, For Aulus Cluentius, 51
    • Cicero, On Oratory, 2.32
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 8, 12
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