Decimus Junius Brutus Callaicus

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Decimus Junius Brutus crossing the "Lethes" (Limia River today). Reenactment performance in Galicia.
Map of Roman campaigns in the northwest of the Iberian Peninsula. The green lines and the red lines show the Cantabrian War (29-19 BC). The purple line shows Brutus' campaign (138-37 BC). The yellow line shows Caesar's campaign (62 BC).
Iberian Peninsula circa 100 BC

Decimus Junius Brutus Callaicus (or Gallaecus or Callaecus) (180 BC – 113 BC) was a consul of the Roman Republic for the year 138 BC together with Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica Serapio.[1] He was an optimate politician and a military commander in Hispania and in Illyria. He was the son of Marcus Junius Brutus (consul in 178 BC) and brother of Marcus Junius Brutus (praetor in 88 BC). He had a son also named Decimus Junius Brutus (consul in 77 BC) and his grandson was Decimus Junius Brutus Albinus.

Deciumus Iunius Brutus belonged to the optimates, a political faction which supported the interests of the aristocracy and was opposed to the plebeian tribunes (the representatives of the plebs) and populares, a political faction which championed the cause of the poor and wanted reforms to help them. During his consulship he and his colleague P. Cornelius Scipio Nasica, opposed the plebeian tribunes. The plebeian tribune Gaius Curiatus sent both consuls to prison[2] because they did not allow the plebeian tribunes to select ten men who would be exempt from military service.[3] The two consuls also opposed a proposal by the tribunes to purchase grain from abroad because the price of grain was going up. Scipio Nasica made a speech which quietened the restless plebs.[4]

Campaigns in Lusitania and southern Gallaecia

Appian (who wrongly identified Decimus Junius Brutus Callaicus as a praetor called Sextius Junius Brutus) wrote that (in 138 BC) Brutus was sent to the Roman province of Hispania Ulterior (Further Spain, in modern Andalusia in the south) to deal with many guerrilla bands which were raiding Lusitania in emulation of Viriathus, the Lusitanian chieftain who led the Lusitanian War (or Fiery War, 155-139 BC) against the Romans and who had been assassinated the year before. The guerrilla bands raided Lusitania. Lusitania was between the Rivers Durius (Douro) and Tagus. Therefore, it covered part of central Portugal and part of northern Portugal. It lay to the northwest of Hispania Ulterior.

Brutus would have been unable to pursue the gangs over an area which ranged from the Rivers Lethe (Limia) and Durius to the River Baetis (Guadalquivir). This was a vast area which extended from Gallaecia, in north-western Spain) to the edge of the Roman province of Hispania Ulterior. Therefore, Brutus attacked their towns for revenge, to destroy their homes and for plunder for his army. He destroyed everything in his path. There were women fighting with their men valiantly. Some folks fled to the mountains with their belonging and when they asked for pardon, Brutus took them as a fine. In 137 BC Brutus crossed the River Durius (the Douro) and therefore crossed into Gallaecia. The Gallaecians lived in today's Galicia (in north-western Spain) and northern Portugal. Brutus also reached the River Lethe (the Limia which flows from a source in Galicia close to today's border with Portugal and has its outlet on the coast of northern Portugal). Appian wrote that he was the first Roman who thought of crossing it. Lethe was also the name of a mythical river in the underworld. The superstitious Roman soldiers refused to cross it until Brutus crossed it himself. Brutus also crossed the Nimis (a river which has not been identified, but was probably the Minho (in Galicia, its last tract forms part of today's northern border of Portugal). He launched an assault against the Bracari (a tribe of southern Gallaecia centred on today's Braga, Portugal) because they attacked his baggage train. The fighting women killed themselves and their children when they were captured. A number of towns submitted but then rebelled. One of them was Talabriga. Brutus ordered the inhabitants to hand over the deserters, the prisoners, hostages and their weapons and to live the town. They disobeyed and he had them surrounded by soldiers to scare them and then took their horses, provisions and public money, but gave them back the town. When he completed his campaign Brutus then returned to Rome.[5]

Brutus must have moved into Lusitania from north of the River Tagus because no crossing of this river was mentioned by Appian. Therefore, he advanced from central Portugal to northern Portugal. He had the city of Olissipo (modern Lisbon) fortified. Talabriga (Marnel, near Águeda) must have been taken before the Crossing of the Durius because it is in the Centro Region of Portugal, which is to the south of this river. A fortified position was established at Vissaium (Viseu), also in the Centro region. As already noted, after devastating Lusitania Brutus also reached into southern Gallaecia.

Cividade de Terroso in the outskirts of modern Póvoa de Varzim, was one of the major cities in the heartland of the native Castro Culture in Coastal Northern Portugal (which had notable Carthaginian influence in trade and culture). The archaeological site shows clear signs of complete destruction and burning dating to the time of Decimus Junius Brutus. After the destruction the city was rebuilt using some Roman principles.[6]

Decimus Junius Brutus pacified Lusitania and southern Gallaceia. The way the Roman kept suzerainty over the peoples of this area is unclear due lack of information. It is likely that they were forced to become Roman allies like some of the Celtiberian peoples who lived further east. There were further conflicts between the Romans and the Lusitanians later. Luistania and Gallaecia were annexed into the Roman Empire later, when Augustus reorganised the Roman provinces of Hispania either before or after the Cantrabrian Wars of 29-19 BC (in Asturias and Cantabria, to the north of Gallaecia) in which he suppressed the last rebellion against the Romans in the peninsula. Lusitiania was established as a new province. Gallaecia became part of Hispania Tarraconensis, a new and larger province which replaced the province of Hispania Citerior to include central and southern Spain.

Participation in war against the Vaccaei

In 137 BC Decimus Junius Brutus also got involved in a campaign against the Vaccaei who lived to the west of the Celtiberians and not far from Lusitania. The commanders of the Roman province of Hispania Citerior (Nearer Spain, on the east coast of Spain, roughly corresponding to modern Catalonia and Valencia) were fighting in Numantine War (143-133 BC). This was a rebellion by the Celtiberians who lived to the west of Hispania Citerior. It was based on the town of Numantia, which was difficult to besiege and held out for ten years. In 137 BC the consul Marcus Aemilius Lepidus Porcina was sent to Hispania Citerior to continue the war after the Roman senate rejected a peace treaty made by the other consul for the year, Gaius Hostilius Mancinus. Aelmilius did not want to keep his army idle while he was waiting for instructions from Rome and was probably greedy for glory and booty. He falsely accused the Vaccaei of aiding the Celtiberians as an excuse for War. He ravaged the countryside and besieged Pallantia, the main city. He convinced Brutus, who was the commander of Hispania Ulterior and his brother-in-law, to join him. Messengers from the senate arrived and asked why Aemilius sought a new war. They warned him to continue the attacks on the Vaccaei. Aemilus sent them back to Rome and wrote that it would be dangerous to abandon the war. The siege lasted a long time. The Romans run short of food and were hungry. Many men and all the animals died. Aemilius and Brutus eventually had to withdraw, doing so in a very disorderly and confused manner. The Pallantines harassed their flanks and rear and killed many men. When Rome heard of this, Aemilius was recalled, stripped of his command and consulship, and fined. Brutus does not seem to have been punished.

Other facts

The ancient Roman historian Livy wrote that in 138 BC, when Decimus Junius Brutus and his consular colleague, Publius Cornelius Nasica, held the levy of the soldiers, "something happened in front of the recruits that served as an example." A man was accused before the plebeian tribunes of deserting the army in Hispania. He was sentenced, "sent under the yoke, chastised with rods, and sold for one sesterce." [7]

In 138 BC Decimus Junius Brutus founded the Roman colony of "Valentia Edetanorum," (today's Valencia) in Hispania Citerior. Valentia, which means valour, was named in honour of the valour of the Roman soldiers. Edetanorum indicated that the city was in the territory of the Edetani, an Iberian people. It was built on the site of an Iberian town. Livy said that Valentia was founded to give land to soldiers who had fought against Viriathus, the Lusitanian leader.[8]

In 136 BC the Roman Senate granted Brutus a triumph and gave him the cognomen Callaicus or Callaecus (winner against the Callaeci/Gallaeci) [9] At an unknown date he built a temple by the Circus Flaminium which is thought to have been dedicated to Hercules Callaicus.[10][11] This was one of various public buildings Callaicus built with the proceeds of the spoils of his war. All of them had insctiptions by Lucius Accius.[12] He had a colossal statue of a seated Mars erected in this temple.[13]

Brutus was the patron of Lucius Accius, the tragic poet. Accius wrote a tragedy on the tyranny of Lucius Tarquinius Superbus (the last king of Rome) and his expulsion by Lucius Junius Brutus (the founder of the Roman Republic and an ancestor of Callaecus) titled Brutus in honour of his patron.[14]

In 129 BC according to Livy, Brutus helped the consul Gaius Sempronius Tuditanus"at first fought unsuccessfully against the Iapydians [a tribe in Illyria], but the defeat was compensated by a victory won through the qualities of Decimus Junius Brutus.[15] However, according to Appian, " Sempronius Tuditanus and Tiberius Pandusa waged war with the Iapydes, who live among the Alps, and seem to have subjugated them." [16] This was the last historical record about Callaicus.

Cicero said that Callaicus had the peculiar habit of performing the libations (the pouring of a liquid as an offering to a god or spirit or in memory of the dead) for the dead in December instead of February as was customary.[17] Plutarch, explored a number of possible explanations fort this peculiarity. That since the dead were honoured at the end of the day, it may be reasonalbe to do so at the end of the year.That it might not be fitting to honour the dead at the beginning of the sowing, a time of new life. That December was dedicated to Saturn, who was a god of the underworld. Or that "Brutus deemed it proper to bestow upon the dead first-fruits" of the revelries of the festival of the Saturnalia. Plutarch also wondered whether "this statement, that Brutus alone sacrificed to the dead in this month" was wrong." For it is in December that they make offerings to Larentia and bring libations to her sepulchre." (Larentia was a mythical woman who was connected to the Lares, the spirits of ancestors who were guardian deities of the family, neighborhoods, roadways, seaways, agriculture, livestock, towns, cities and the state) [18]

According to Mastrocinque, In 122 BC he took part in the suppression of the movement led by Gaius Sempronius Gracchus.[19]

See also


  1. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  2. Cicero, On the Laws 3.20
  3. Livy, Periochae, 55.3
  4. Valerius Maximus, Memorable Deeds and Sayings in Nine Books, 3.7.3
  5. Appian, Roman History, Book 6, The Wars in Spain, 71-73
  6. Flores Gomes, José Manuel & Carneiro, Deolinda: Subtus Montis Terroso CMPV (2005), "Origens do Povoamento" pp.74-76
  7. Livy, Periochae, 55.1-2
  8. Livy, Periochae, 55.4
  9. Marcus Valerius Paterculus, Roman Histories, 11.5
  10. Famiano Nardini, F., Roma Antica Vol 3, 118, available in an English edition as Roma cristiana moderna, ISBN 9788889896044
  11. Jocelyn,H.D., Accius, Lucius, in Simon Hornblower (ed), Oxford Classical Dictionary, vol. 1, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1996, p. 3.
  12. Valerius Maximus, Factorum ac dictorum memorabilium libri IX, 8.14.2
  13. Pliny the Elder, Natural History, 36.25-6
  14. Mastrocinque, A., La cacciata di Tarquinio il Superbo. Tradizione romana e letteratura greca (prima parte), Athenaeum 61 (Jan 1, 1983): 457.
  15. Livy, Periochae, 59.20
  16. Appian, Illyrica 10
  17. Cicero, De Legibus (On the Laws), 2.54
  18. Plutarch, the Roman Questions, 34
  19. Mastrocinque, A., La cacciata di Tarquinio il Superbo. Tradizione romana e letteratura greca (prima iparte), Athenaeum 61 (Jan 1, 1983): 457.


Political offices
Preceded by Consul of the Roman Republic
with Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica Serapio
138 BCE
Succeeded by
Marcus Aemilius Lepidus Porcina and Gaius Hostilius Mancinus