1. L. Junius
Brutus, was elected consul in B. C. 509, according to the chronology of the Fasti, upon the expulsion of the Tarquins from Rome. His story, the greater part of which belongs to poetry, ran as follows: The sister of king Tarquin the Proud, married M. Brutes, a man of great wealth, who died leaving two sons under age. Of these the elder was killed by Tarquin, who coveted their possessions; the younger escaped his brother's fate only by feigning idiocy, whence he received the surname of Brutus.
After a while, Tarquin became alarmed by the prodigy of a serpent crawling from the altar in the royal palace, and accordingly sent his two sons, Titus and Aruns, to consult the oracle at Delphi. They took with them their cousin Brutus, who propitiated the priestess with the gift of a golden stick enclosed in a hollow staff.
After executing the king's commission, the youths asked the priestess who was to reign at Rome after Tarquin, and the reply was, " He who first kisses his mother." Thereupon the sons of Tarquin agreed to draw lots, which of them should first kiss their mother upon arriving at Rome; but Brutus, who better understood the meaning of the oracle, stumbled upon the ground as they quitted the temple, and kissed the earth, mother of then all. Soon after followed the rape of Lucretia; and Brutus accompanied the unfortunate father to Rome, when his daughter sent for him to the camp at Ardea. Brutus was present at her death, and the moment had now come for avenging his own and his country's wrongs.
In the capacity of Tribunus Celerum, which office he then held, and which bore the same relation to the royal power as that of the Magister Equitum did to the dictatorship, he summoned the people, obtained the banishment of the Tarquins, and was elected consul with L. Tarquinius Collatinus in the comitia centuriata. Resolved to maintain the freedom of the infant republic, he loved his country better than his children, and accordingly put to death his two sons, when they were detected in a conspiracy with several other of the young Roman nobles, for the purpose of restoring the Tarquins.
He moreover compelled his colleague, L. Tarquinius Collatinus, to resign his consulship and leave the city, that none of the hated family might remain in Rome. And when the people of Veii and Tarquinii attempted to bring Tarquin back by force of arms, Brutus marched against them, and, fighting with Aruns, the son of Tarquin, he and Aruns both fell, pierced by each other's spears.
The matrons mourned for Brutus a year, and a bronze statue was erected to him on the capitol, with a drawn sword in his hand. (Liv. 1.56
; Dionys. A. R. 4.67
; Macrob. 2.16; Dion. Cass. 42.45; Plut. Brut. 1
The contradictions and chronological impossibilities in this account have been pointed out by Niebuhr. (i. p. 511.) Thus, for instance, the last Tarquin is said to have reigned only twenty-five years, and yet Brutus is represented as a child at the beginning of his reign, and the father of young men at the close of it. Again, the tale of his idiocy is irreconcileable with his holding the responsible office of Tribunus Celerum.
That he did hold this office seems to be an historical fact (Pompon. de Orig. Juris, Dig. 1
. tit. 2. s. 2.15) ; and the story of his idiocy probably arose from his surname, which may, however, as we have seen, have had a very different meaning originally.