Marcus Junius Brutus

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Denarius of Brutus

Marcus Junius Brutus Caepio (* 85 BC ; † October 23, 42 BC ), often called Brutus for short , was a Roman politician during the late Republic and one of the murderers of Gaius Iulius Caesar .


Family and youth

The name Brutus actually means “dull-witted” in Latin , but here it is the honorary name of members of the Roman gens Iunia , going back to the mythical progenitor Lucius Junius Brutus , who, according to the legend, developed fictitious idiocy (hence the name) in his youth before persecution saved and later liberated Rome from royal rule.

Brutus' father was a senator of the same name who defended the beleaguered Mutina against Pompey during the civil war . For unknown reasons, after Sulla's death in 77 B.C. But was killed the following day by Pompey's henchman Geminius . From then on there was enmity (inimicitia) between Brutus and Pompey, who was considered to be responsible for the act.

Brutus' mother Servilia was the half-sister of Cato the Younger . She was also a mistress of Caesar; later rumors suggested that Caesar Brutus' real father might have been. However, Caesar was only fifteen years old when Brutus was born. Servilia married after the death of her husband Decimus Iunius Silanus , of whom she had three daughters. The husbands of two of his half-sisters belonged to 44 BC. BC also to the Caesar killers .

As a young man, Brutus was adopted by his uncle Quintus Servilius Caepio and added his cognomen to his name. He can possibly be identified with Quintus Servilius Caepio, to whom Iulia , Caesar's daughter, was betrothed when she was a child. However, a marriage never took place.

Instead, Brutus was first married to Claudia Pulchra, the daughter of Appius Claudius Pulcher , with whom he had a daughter and three sons. After Cato's death he settled in 45 BC. Divorced from her and married his second cousin, Cato's daughter Porcia . He wrote a pamphlet in which he praised the virtues of his late father-in-law. He and Porcia had a son named Marcus Iunius Brutus, who, however, was born in 43 BC. Died, and a daughter Iunia, who died around 44 BC. Was born and whose fate is unclear. Porcia died in 43 or 42 BC. Chr.

Brutus was raised by his uncle Cato. He had received first-class philosophical and rhetorical training and was reputed to know all Greek philosophers. He particularly adored the Platonist Antiochus of Askalon , whose brother Aristus of Askalon he took as a teacher in his house. He was in close contact with Marcus Tullius Cicero , with whom he maintained an exchange of letters and who dedicated several rhetorical and philosophical writings to him, including Brutus and Orator .

Political career

Brutus began his political career in 58 BC. As assistant to Catos when he was governor of Cyprus . During this time he enriched himself, not uncommon for a member of the nobility , by granting loans at high interest rates . During these years, maybe only 54 BC. BC, Brutus had coins minted as a mint master. 53 BC He was the quaestor of his father-in-law Appius Claudius Pulcher in Cilicia .

Like his father and later father-in-law Cato, Brutus was a staunch Republican and from his first appearance in the Senate he supported the Optimates against the First Triumvirate formed by Crassus , Pompey and Caesar . Since Pompey had Brutus' father murdered, his son had every reason to hate him anyway. Not least because of the family tradition, which can be traced back to the legendary enemy of tyrants and first consul Lucius Brutus, he also enjoyed a great reputation among those who saw the free res publica threatened. Therefore, at the urging of many senators, he finally reconciled himself publicly in 49 BC. With his old mortal enemy Pompey. After breaking with Caesar in 53 BC, he had Slowly approached the Optimates and should now lead the troops for them. When the civil war between Caesar and Pompey broke out, Brutus fought Caesar in the battle of Pharsalus .

After the defeat, Brutus asked Caesar in a letter for mercy, which he immediately granted him. Caesar tried not to kill his opponents (as Sulla and Pompey had done, for example), but rather to oblige them to show gratitude through demonstrative leniency - the later proverbial clementia Caesaris . Brutus, whose talent Caesar intended to use for himself, he even accepted into the circle of his closest confidants; he reportedly held him in high esteem and demonstratively respected his views. Above all, however, the dictator Caesar undoubtedly promised additional acceptance by counting such a prominent republican as Brutus among his friends. For his part, Brutus seems to have hoped to influence the reorganization of the republic after the end of the civil war. From 46 to 45 BC Caesar made Brutus governor of the province of Gallia cisalpina . For the year 44 BC Brutus received the praetor as praetor urbanus ; for the year 41 BC He was designated consul by Caesar.

The conspiracy against Caesar

When Caesar met himself in February 44 BC. BCE transferred the lifelong dictatorship and thus made it clear that he was not thinking of the restoration of the republic, Brutus, although he owed Caesar his life and was also a beneficiary of the regime, made another radical turn: he and other politicians had to each other now admit that Caesar was striving for permanent sole rule. Under the leadership of Brutus and his friend and brother-in-law Gaius Cassius Longinus , a group of around 80 senators and knights came together very quickly , many of them men who were considered to be Caesar's favorites, but who, like Brutus, embraced the ideal of senatorial "freedom" (libertas) over that of gratitude. The opposition ranged from proponents of ancient Roman virtues to simply dissatisfied. They agreed that the " tyrant " Caesar must be killed; Brutus' request was expressly renounced to conspire and thus take an oath not to betray the plan. He expected that with the removal of Caesar alone the "old republic " would emerge as if by itself. On the Ides of March (March 15) 44 BC BC Caesar was murdered in the last session of the Senate before his departure for the planned Parthian War . Before the meeting the rumor had arisen that Caesar wanted to be officially proclaimed king; this strengthened the assassins in their plan. According to one of Suetonius reproduced report the dying Caesar to Brutus should καὶ σὺ τέκνον; ( Ancient Greek "You too, son?"). The historicity of this scene is doubted by the vast majority of researchers, and there was also a second Brutus among the conspirators, Decimus Junius Brutus Albinus , who was a close confidante of Caesar. Brutus insisted on not killing Mark Antony , Caesar's most important follower and co-consul, and not taking any other action against the Caesarians.

Civil war

Mark Antony quickly proved to be a cold-blooded tactician Brutus was no match for. Two days after the murder, the Senate granted Caesar's amnesty to the murderers ; This was a lazy compromise, because instead of celebrating the assassins as heroes of freedom, as they expected, the Senate found on the contrary that the killing of Caesar was a crime that should not be prosecuted. Brutus and his followers were thus wrong. Before long, public opinion turned in Rome completely against the conspirators, as Mark Antony, now leader of the Caesarian party, in his famous (and Shakespeare brilliantly nachgedichteten) grave speech the testament of the dead dictator announced accordingly every inhabitant of Rome a should receive a certain sum of money. Before the angry crowd, Brutus and the other assassins had to flee Rome.

Brutus first withdrew to Campania. To avoid being charged or killed, Brutus finally fled at the end of August 44 BC. In the east. Shortly before, he had received the province of Crete as proconsul, but did not go there, but to Athens . There he devoted himself on the one hand to the study of philosophy , among other things with the Kratippos of Pergamon , who was very much appreciated by Cicero , on the other hand and above all he prepared himself for the upcoming fight against Caesar's political heirs Antonius and Octavian . He and Cassius spent the year 43, confirmed by the Senate as proconsul of Macedonia, Achaea and Illyricum, and Cassius fighting Caesarians like Dolabella in the Greek East and getting the Greek cities to finance their rearmament, sometimes by force. The city of Xanthos was besieged by Brutus and went up in flames; according to Appian , only 150 people survived, but modern research has doubts this story. Thracian princes, on the other hand, voluntarily supported Brutus and supplied him with precious metal, from which he had denarii with his own portrait struck, which celebrated the murder of Caesar on the reverse. In October 43, the Caesarians finally took power in Italy, and Brutus, Cassius and the rest were declared enemies of the state.

The decision was finally made in October 42 BC. In two battles near Philippi . On October 3, Brutus was able to defeat Octavian, but Cassius was defeated by Antonius on the other wing and committed suicide because he knew nothing of Brutus' victory and believed the war had been lost. In the second battle on October 23, Brutus' army was also decisively defeated. Brutus was initially able to escape, but was killed shortly afterwards. Octavian had Brutus' head cut off so that it would later be laid down in front of the statue of his great-uncle Caesar in Rome, but he went overboard in a storm. Mark Antony had the rest of the body cremated and Brutus' mother Servilia sent.

Historical lore

The most important source for Brutus is the biography which the Greek philosopher Plutarch dedicated to him about 150 years after his death . The historians Appian and Cassius Dio provide further information . The authenticity of a collection of Greek letters allegedly containing the correspondence between Brutus and Greek communities in the East in the years 43 and 42 - 35 letters each from Brutus and 35 replies - has long been controversial. If these letters were authentic, they would be an enormously important source; However, although important researchers such as Eduard Meyer and Matthias Gelzer have spoken out in favor of authenticity, the majority today advocate viewing the texts as a later manufacture, although the author probably had access to historiographical evidence that has been lost today ( e.g. Jürgen Deininger ). Even the two last and longest Latin letters from Brutus to Cicero are not beyond doubt in their authenticity; but research is even more divided on this point than on the Greek collection.

Brutus as a literary figure

Engraving after Rubens: Marcus Junius Brutus

Cicero often wrote about or to Brutus, for example in his writings De virtute (On virtue, not preserved) and Orator ; and he even titled the account of the history of the speakers in Rome with Brutus - Cicero retrospectively approved of Caesar's murder and even had himself congratulated for it.

The figure of Marcus Brutus appears again and again in Western literature as the protagonist of completely opposing attitudes. Depending on the author's attitude, he is seen as a courageous murderer of tyrants who puts duty above his personal feelings, and then as a vile traitor in the style of Judas .

For Dante, for example, Brutus was the prime example of shameful betrayal. In Canto 34 (verses 64–67) of the Inferno section of the Divine Comedy , he is together with Judas Iscariot and Cassius in the innermost circle of hell , where Satan constantly gnaws at him, but never completely devours him.

William Shakespeare's tragedy Julius Caesar, on the other hand, portrays him as an “honorable man” who acts in the best faith, but is driven by Cassius to do something with which Brutus does not identify. Max Frisch copied Shakespeare's Brutus in his drama The Great Wall of China insofar as he portrays him as a moral tyrant murderer - close to hubris .

In Voltaire ( La Mort de César , 1735) and Vittorio Alfieri ( Bruto secondo , 1787) finally appears Brutus as consistently positive, of moralizing character: head of the conspiracy and leader of the tyrant killer who nearly breaks the conflict between Sohnes- and civic duty before ultimately decides in favor of the freedom of Rome and against the father, who was drawn as an autocratic, albeit paternal dictator. He also appears as a Republican hero in Giacomo Leopardi's Canzone Bruto minore (1821).

Further fictional adaptations of the material are the tragedy Brutus by Joachim Wilhelm von Brawe , the radio play The Conspiracy by Walter Jens (1974) and the novels Die Iden des März by Thornton Wilder (1948, German 1949) and Death of a Leading Wolf by Dietrich Oldenburg (2007 ).

family tree

Marcus Porcius Cato Censorius
Marcus Porcius Cato Salonianus
Marcus Porcius Cato Licinianus
Marcus Livius Drusus
Marcus Porcius Cato Salonianus
Quintus Servilius Caepio
Marcus Livius Drusus
Marcus Porcius Cato Uticensis
Marcus Junius Brutus
Servilia Caepionis
Decimus Junius Silanus
Quintus Servilius Caepio
Marcus Livius Drusus Claudianus (adopted)
Marcus Porcius Cato
Porcia Catonis
Brutus (Caesar murderer)
Iunia Great
Marcus Aemilius Lepidus
Iunia Secunda
Iunia Tertia
Gaius Cassius Longinus
Descendant of Sulla and Pompey
Marcus Aemilius Lepidus
Manius Aemilius Lepidus
Aemilia Lepida


  • Marcus Tullius Cicero; Marion Giebel (ed. And transl.): Correspondence with M. Brutus. Latin / German . (Universal Library, 7745). Reclam, Stuttgart 1982, ISBN 3-15-007745-1 .
  • Marcus Tullius Cicero; Bernhard Kytzler (ed. And transl.): Brutus. Latin-German . (Tusculum Collection). 5th edition. Artemis & Winkler, Düsseldorf 2000, ISBN 3-7608-1519-7 .
  • Plutarch; Wilhelm Ax (ed. And translator): Roman hero life. Coriolan, the Gracches, Sulla, Pompey, Caesar, Cicero, Brutus . 6th edition. Kröner, Stuttgart 1959.


  • Hermann Bengtson : On the history of Brutus (= session reports of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. Philosophical-Historical Class. Born 1970, Issue 1). Bavarian Academy of Sciences, Munich 1970.
  • Maria H. Dettenhofer : Perdita Iuventus. Between the generations of Caesar and Augustus (= Vestigia . Volume 44). CH Beck, Munich 1992, ISBN 3-406-35856-X .
  • Ulrich Gotter : Marcus Iunius Brutus - or: the nemesis of the name. In: Karl-Joachim Hölkeskamp , Elke Stein-Hölkeskamp (ed.): From Romulus to Augustus. Great figures of the Roman Republic. CH Beck, Munich 2000, ISBN 3-406-46697-4 , pp. 328-339.
  • Linda Simonis: Brutus (Marcus). In: Peter von Möllendorff , Annette Simonis, Linda Simonis (ed.): Historical figures of antiquity. Reception in literature, art and music (= Der Neue Pauly . Supplements. Volume 8). Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2013, ISBN 978-3-476-02468-8 , Sp. 193-206.
  • Kathryn Tempest: Brutus. The noble conspirator. Yale University Press, New Haven / London 2017, ISBN 978-0-300-18009-1 .
  • Erik Wistrand: The policy of Brutus the Tyrannicide (= Acta Regiae Societatis Scientiarum et Litterarum Gothoburgensis. Humaniora. Volume 18). Kungl. Vetenskaps- och Vitterhets-Samhället, Göteborg 1981, ISBN 91-85252-25-5 .

Web links

Commons : Marcus Junius Brutus  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files


  1. ^ A b Edward Allen Sydenham : The Coinage of the Roman Republic. London 1952, No. 1301; Michael Crawford : Roman Republican Coinage . Cambridge 1974, No. 508/3 .
  2. ^ Titus Livius , Ab urbe condita , 1, 56.
  3. Plutarch: Pompeius 16, 3–5.
  4. ^ Plutarch : Brutus , 5.2.
  5. ^ Q. Caepio Brutus , mentioned by Marcus Tullius Cicero , Philippische Rede 10.25f.
  6. ^ Suetonius: Divus Iulius 21, 3 ; Plutarch, Caesar 14, 3 and Pompey 47, 6; Appian , Civil Wars 2, 14; Cassius Dio 38, 9, 1.
  7. Plutarch: Brutus , 2, 2.
  8. ^ Cicero: Ad Brutum .
  9. Michael Crawford : Roman republican coinage . tape 1 . Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1974, pp. 455-456 .
  10. ^ Suetonius: Caesar 82, 2.
  11. Jochen Bleicken : Augustus. A biography . Alexander Fest, Berlin 1998, p. 166.