Coinage of Marcus Junius Brutus (photos courtesy of Classical Numismatic Group)
|Denarius of Brutus, 54 BC, with Liberty on the obverse, probably indicating his strong republican position, ten years before the assassination of Caesar. Crawford 433/1.||Denarius of Brutus as Quintus Caepio Brutus, 42 BC. Crawford 502/2.|
|Denarius of Brutus, identifying himself with Gaius Servilius Ahala (another famous tyrannicide/savior of Rome) in 54 BC, Crawford 433/2.||Military mint denarius of Brutus (Lentulus Spinther moneyer) in Smyrna after the assassination of Caesar. Simpulum between sacrificial axe and knife. Crawford 500/7.|
|85 BC||Born in Rome to Marcus Junius Brutus and Servilia Caepionis|
|58 BC||Assistant to Cato, governor of Cyprus|
|49 BC||Sided with Pompey in Greece during the civil war against Caesar|
|48 BC||Pardoned by Julius Caesar|
|March 15, 44 BC||Party to the murder of Julius Caesar|
|October 23, 42 BC||Defeated by Octavian's troops at Philippi, then committed suicide|
Plutarch on Brutus' lineage:
Marcus Brutus was descended from that Junius Brutus to whom the ancient Romans erected a statue of brass in the capitol among the images of their kings with a drawn sword in his hand, in remembrance of his courage and resolution in expelling the Tarquins and destroying the monarchy. But that ancient Brutus was of a severe and inflexible nature, like steel of too hard a temper, and having never had his character softened by study and thought, he let himself be so far transported with his rage and hatred against tyrants, that, for conspiring with them, he proceeded to the execution even of his own sons. But this Brutus, whose life we now write, having to the goodness of his disposition added the improvements of learning and the study of philosophy, and having stirred up his natural parts, of themselves grave and gentle, by applying himself to business and public affairs, seems to have been of a temper exactly framed for virtue; insomuch that they who were most his enemies upon account of his conspiracy against Caesar, if in that whole affair there was any honorable or generous part, referred it wholly to Brutus, and laid whatever was barbarous and cruel to the charge of Cassius, Brutus's connection and familiar friend, but not his equal in honesty and pureness of purpose. His mother, Servilia, was of the family of Servilius Ahala, who, when Spurius Maelius worked the people into a rebellion and designed to make himself king, taking a dagger under his arm, went forth into the marketplace, and, upon presence of having some private business with him, came up close to him, and, as he bent his head to hear what he had to say, struck him with his dagger and slew him. And thus much, as concerns his descent by the mother's side, is confessed by all; but as for his father's family, they who for Caesar's murder bore any hatred or ill-will to Brutus say that he came not from that Brutus who expelled the Tarquins, there being none of his race left after the execution of his two sons; but that his ancestor was a plebeian, son of one Brutus, a steward, and only rose in the latest times to office or dignity in the commonwealth. But Posidonius the philosopher writes that it is true indeed what the history relates, that two of the sons of Brutus who were of men's estate were put to death, but that a third, yet an infant, was left alive, from whom the family was propagated down to Marcus Brutus; and further, that there were several famous persons of this house in his time whose looks very much resembled the statue of Junius Brutus. [...]
Cato the philosopher was brother to Servilia, the mother of Brutus, and he it was whom of all the Romans his nephew most admired and studied to imitate, and he afterwards married his daughter Porcia. Of all the sects of the Greek philosophers, though there was none of which he had not been a hearer and in which he had not made some proficiency, yet he chiefly esteemed the Platonists; and, not much approving of the modern and middle Academy, as it is called, he applied himself to the study of the ancient. He was all his lifetime a great admirer of Antiochus of the city of Ascalon, and took his brother Aristus into his own house for his friend and companion, a man for his learning inferior indeed to many of the philosophers, but for the evenness of his temper and steadiness of his conduct equal to the best. As for Empylus, of whom he himself and his friends often make mention in their epistles, as one that lived with Brutus, he was a rhetorician, and has left behind him a short but well-written history of the death of Caesar, entitled Brutus.
Plutarch on the death of Brutus
Now Brutus guessing that not many of his men were slain in the fight, Statyllius undertook to dash through the enemy (for there was no other way), and to see what was become of their camp; and promised, if he found all things there safe, to hold up a torch for a signal, and then return. The torch was held up, for Statyllius got safe to the camp; but when after a long time he did not return, Brutus said, "If Statyllius be alive, he will come back." But it happened that in his return he fell into the enemy's hands, and was slain.
The night now being far spent, Brutus, as he was sitting, leaned his head towards his servant Clitus and spoke to him; he answered him not, but fell a weeping. After that, he drew aside his armor-bearer, Dardanus, and had some discourse with him in private. At last, speaking to Volumnius in Greek, he reminded him of their common studies and former discipline, and begged that he would take hold of his sword with him, and help him to thrust it through him. Volumnius put away his request, and several others did the like; and someone saying, that there was no staying there, but they needs must fly, Brutus, rising up, said, "Yes, indeed, we must fly, but not with our feet, but with our hands." Then giving each of them his right hand, with a countenance full of pleasure, he said, that he found an infinite satisfaction in this, that none of his friends had been false to him; that as for fortune, he was angry with that only for his country's sake; as for himself, he thought himself much more happy than they who had overcome, not only as he had been a little time ago, but even now in his present condition; since he was leaving behind him such a reputation of his virtue as none of the conquerors with all their arms and riches should ever be able to acquire, no more than they could hinder posterity from believing and saying, that, being unjust and wicked men, they had destroyed the just and the good, and usurped a power to which they had no right. After this, having exhorted and entreated all about him to provide for their own safety, he withdrew from them with two or three only of his peculiar friends; Strato was one of these, with whom he had contracted an acquaintance when they studied rhetoric together. Him he placed next to himself, and, taking hold of the hilt of his sword and directing it with both his hands, he fell upon it, and killed himself. But others say, that not he himself, but Strato, at the earnest entreaty of Brutus, turning aside his head, held the sword, upon which he violently throwing himself, it pierced his breast, and he immediately died. This same Strato, Messala, a friend of Brutus, being, after reconciled to Caesar, brought to him once at his leisure, and with tears in his eyes said, "This, O Caesar, is the man that did the last friendly office to my beloved Brutus." Upon which Caesar received him kindly; and had good use of him in his labors and his battles at Actium, being one of the Greeks that proved their bravery in his service. It is reported of Messala himself, that, when Caesar once gave him this commendation, that though he was his fiercest enemy at Philippi in the cause of Brutus, yet he had shown himself his most entire friend in the fight of Actium, he answered, "You have always found me, Caesar, on the best and justest side."
Brutus's dead body was found by Antony, who commanded the richest purple mantle that he had to be thrown over it, and afterwards the mantle being stolen, he found the thief, and had him put to death. He sent the ashes of Brutus to his mother Servilia.
Museo Nazionale Romano, Palazzo Massimo inv. 215 (Terme 215)
B. M. Felletti Maj, Museo Nazionale Romano, I Ritratti (1953) 61 f. Nr. 100 Abb. 100
Fittschen / Zanker, Kat. Röm. Portraits in den Capitolin. Mus. I (1985) Nr. 19 Anm. 3.5