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Historical Views of Brutus, Cassius, and Antony

Page history last edited by user7 15 years ago

 Ancient Roman experts Lawrence McGonigle and Ryan Swick present...  


Historical Views of Brutus,

                     Cassius, and Antony 



Although commonly known names, not much information about these three men is mainstream

in today's society. Brutus, Cassius, and Antony all went down in history for altering the Republic of Rome and ultimately changing the world... but what did they really do, and what were they like?


To understand more about them, lets take a look at the conspirators first.


Marcus Junius Brutus :



           A bust of Brutus                                             'Death of Caesar' by Vincenzo Camuccini




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.


                                                                    "You too, my child?"



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. 



The map above shows the location of the conspirators and triumvirates armies at Philippi. Cassius was quickly defeated by Antony, but Brutus was successful in taking over Octavian's camp. Unaware of Brutus' victory, Cassius ordered his servant to take his life. 


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.


Gaius Cassius Longinus :

          Bust of Cassius                            Cassius, at Brutus' tent             Coins depicting Cassius; his legacy



Gaius Cassius Longinus (< 85 BC – October, 42 BC) was a Roman senator, the prime mover in the conspiracy against Julius Caesar, and the brother in-law of Marcus Junius Brutus.


Conflict with Julius Caesar:

As a politician and General, Cassius had always sided with the Great Pompey instead of Julius Caesar. When civil war erupted in 49 BC, Cassius went against Caesar and was later pardoned, along with Brutus, after the Battle of Pharsalus. Caesar brought Cassius into his inner circle despite their past, and made him a Tribune of the Plebs- a title given to ten elected Romans that served as the voice of the people. On top of this, Cassius was made a legate, which was a commander of an army. Although Caesar always viewed Cassius as a friend, Cassius was sure to be weary and collected around him. There seemed to be much distrust on Cassius' part.


Role in the Conspiracy Against Caesar:

Cassius is well known as the leader of the plot against Julius Caesar. Although there was always tension between Cassius and Caesar, Cassius only turned against him after a series of events in the time before the conspiracy was born. Starting in 48 BC, Cassius spent the next two years out of office, and Caesar did not promote or re-assign him to any position. During this time, it is said that he had begun tighting his relationship with Cicero, another lead conspirator-to-be. In 44 BC, Caesar assigned him the praetor of the Syrian province, while Brutus, with less experience, was assigned "Praetor Urbanus". Those close to Cassius are documented having said that it deeply offended him. Cassius build the conspiracy on the idea of tyrannicide, known as the murder of a tyrant. All those involved were persuaded into believing that they were liberators of Rome, and called themselves the Latin word Liberatores. One of Cassius' greatest known feats was involving his brother-in-law and close friend to Caesar, Brutus, in the plot. Cassius' conspiracy had succeeded on March 15, 44 BC... but the victory was short-lived.


The Death of Cassius at the Battle of Philippi:

Cassius and Brutus had individual gather two separate, but united armies loyal to the Republic to fight off Mark Antony and Octavian after the assassination of Caesar. The Senate had also split from Antony and was true to Cassius, and declared him Governor. Cassius' army was moving on to claim Egypt, but Brutus was faltered by the formation of the Second Triumvirate, and requested his friend's help. Quickly coming to his aid, Cassius planned to fight alongside Brutus. As previously discussed, the four armies clashed at Philippi. Cassius was one of the most superior and strategic minds of that time, and took the weaker flank at the Battle of Philippi to protect Brutus' rear and side. Mark Antony, most likely realizing this, marched against Cassius and had Octavian, the weaker General, attack Brutus. Cassius was soon overrun at his base, and not seeing Brutus' army since they were pursuing Octavian, thought that Brutus was defeated and quite possibly dead.


In dispear and defeat, he ordered his servant to kill him. He was mourned by Brutus as "the Last of the Romans", and buried in Thasos, an island in Greece.

And so ended the conspirators. 


Marcus Antonius :

                       A bust                               Antony portraying the wounds of Caesar


Marcus Antonius (c. January 14, 83 BC–August 1, 30 BC), known in English as Mark Antony, was a Roman politician and General. He was an important supporter and the best friend of Gaius Julius Caesar as a military commander and administrator. After Caesar's assassination, Antony formed an official political alliance with Octavian (Augustus) and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, known to historians today as the Second Triumvirate.


Early Life:

Antony was born in Rome, around 83 BC. His father was Marcus Antonius Creticus. His mother, Julia Antonia, was the first cousin of Julius Caesar. His father died at a young age, leaving him and his brothers, Gaius Antonius and Lucius Antonius in the care of his mother.


Antony's early life was characterized by a lack of parental guidance. According to historians like Plutarch, he spent his teenage years wandering the streets of Rome with his brothers and friends; they lived wild life... often visiting gambling houses, drinking too much, and involving themselves in scandalous love affairs. He was engulfed in debt as well.


After this period of recklessness, Antony fled to Greece to escape his creditors and to study rhetoric, or persuasive speech and grammar. After a short time spent in attendance with the philosophers at Athens, he was summoned by Aulus Gabinius, proconsul of Syria, to take part in the campaigns in Judea, and in support of King Ptolemy XII Auletes in Egypt. In the following campaign, he demonstrated his talents as a cavalry commander and distinguished himself with bravery and courage.


Antony: Supporter of Caesar:

In 54 BC, Antony became a member of the staff of Caesar's armies in Gaul and early Germany. He again proved to be a competent military leader in the Gallic Wars, but his personality caused instability wherever he was. Antony and Caesar were said to be best of friends as well as being close relatives. Antony made himself available to assist Caesar in carrying out his military campaigns whenever he was needed.


When Caesar became dictator for a second time, Antony was made Master of the Horse, the dictator's right hand man, and he remained in Italy as the peninsula's administrator in 47 BC, while Caesar was fighting the last Pompeians, those loyal to the late Pompey, who had taken refuge in Rome's province of Africa.


But while Caesar was gone Antony's skills as an administrator were a poor match for his generalship, and he seized the opportunity of indulging in extravagant excesses. In 46 BC, he was said to have been offended because Caesar insisted on a payment for the property of Pompey which Antony had purchased. Conflict existed, and like other occasions, Antony resorted to violence. Hundreds of citizens were killed between their units and Rome itself fell to chaos. The two men did not see each other directly for two years.


Whatever conflicts there was, Antony was faithful to Caesar at all times. On February 15, 44 BC, during the Lupercal festival, Antony publicly offered Caesar a diadem. This was an event mixed in meaning: a diadem was a symbol of a king, and in refusing it, Caesar demonstrated that he did not intend to assume the throne.


Antony's association with the Conspiracy of Julius Caesar:


                                The Roman Forums (present day); the meeting place for Senate affairs 


On March 14, 44 BC, Antony was alarmed when a Senator named Casca told him the Gods would strike down Caesar. On the following day, the Ides of March, he went down to warn the dictator but the “liberators” reached Caesar first and was assassinated on March 15, 44 BC. In the turmoil that surrounded the event, Antony escaped Rome dressed as a slave; fearing that the dictator's assassination would be the start of a bloodbath among his supporters. When this did not occur, he soon returned to Rome, discussing a truce with the assassins' faction. For a while, Antony, as consul (a representative of a government), seemed to pursue peace and an end to the political tension. Following a speech by Cicero in the Senate, an amnesty was agreed for the assassins. 


After the Death of Caesar:

The day of Caesar's funeral had come. As Caesar's ever-present second in command, consul and cousin, Antony was the best choice to give the eulogy. In his speech, he made accusations of murder and vowed a permanent rift with the conspirators. Using the rhetorical skills that he learned in Athens, Antony grabbed the toga from Caesar's body to show the crowd the stab wounds, pointing at each and naming the attacker, publicly shaming them. During the eulogy he also read Caesar's will, which left most of his property to the people of Rome, demonstrating that contrary to the conspirator's assumptions, Caesar had no intention of forming a royal dynasty. Public opinion changed and that night, the mass of Rome attacked the assassins' houses, torches and clubs in hand, forcing them to flee for their lives.


           History or Fictionary?

Historians such as the famous Plutarch have been recording the historical accounts on the lives of men such as Marcus Junius Brutus, Gaius Cassius Longinus, and Marcus Antonius for centuries. However, these accounts differ slightly from those portrayed in William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. Here is an outline of some of the major differences between the two sets of accounts:



-Shakespeare makes Caesar's triumph take place on the day of Lupercalia instead of six months earlier.



-For greater dramatic effect, Shakespeare made the Capitol the location of Caesar's death and not the Curia Pompeiana (Theatre of Pompey).



-Caesar's murder, the funeral, Antony's public speech, the reading of the will and Octavius' arrival all take place on the same day in the play. However, historically, the assassination took place on March 15 (The Ides of March), the will was published three days later on March 18, the funeral took place on March 20, and Octavius arrived only in May.



-He (Shakespeare) combined the two Battles of Phillipi although historically, there was a twenty day interval between them.



-Shakespeare gives Caesar's last words as "Et tu, Brute? Then fall, Caesar!" ("Even you, Brutus? Then fall, Caesar!" in English). Plutarch believes that Caesar said nothing, pulling his toga over his head when he saw Brutus among the conspirators. However, Suetonius, another historian, reports his last words as "Even you too, child?" before falling to the ground dead.




It is believed that Shakespeare took a different course from these historical facts in order to reduce time and compress the facts so that the play could be staged more easily. The tragic force is condensed into a few scenes for heightened effect.


    Requiescat in pace, Caesar  




Marcus Junius Brutus: 



-http://www.imdb.com/media/rm575444992/ch0027714: interesting image of Brutus titled: Julius Caesar!


Gaius Cassius Longinus:




Marcus Antonius: 





External Links


Roman Political Terms- http://www.vroma.org/~bmcmanus/romangvt.html 

Eye-witness Account of Caesar's Assassination- http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/caesar2.htm

Conspirators and Actors (Shakespeare)- http://www.novelguide.com/JuliusCaesar/characterprofiles.html

The Roman Military- http://library.thinkquest.org/26602/war.htm

The Roman Empire Information Website-  http://www.roman-empire.net/

For detailed information on Caesar and his legacy, visit our classmates page @ http://rodriguez10-8.pbworks.com/Life-and-Times-of-Julius-Caesar



Comments (1)

user7 said

at 7:55 pm on Apr 30, 2009

oh my god, you guys have the best wiki by far...!

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