Marcus Junius Brutus the Elder

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Marcus Junius Brutus, sometimes referred to by modern historians as Marcus Junius Brutus Maior to distinguish him from his more famous son, was a tribune of the Roman Republic in 83 BC[1] and the founder of the colony in Capua.[2] He was an associate of Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, who led a reaction of the populares faction against the optimates after the death of Sulla.


He was the first husband to Servilia Caepionis, the elder half-sister of Cato the Younger. His son by Servilia is the Marcus Junius Brutus who was one of the chief assassins of Julius Caesar.

Power struggle and death

In 77 BC Brutus was placed in command of the forces in Cisalpine Gaul following the death of Lucius Cornelius Sulla who had been dictator. He allied himself with Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, who used his powers as Consul to rebuild the faction opposed to Sulla, the "populares". Lepidus raised an army, which was defeated outside Rome by Quintus Lutatius Catulus. Brutus took his own forces to Mutina, where he defended the stronghold against Pompey the Great, who had been sent by the Senate to dislodge him. He withstood Pompey's attacks for a while, but was eventually forced to surrender, after which he was allowed to retire to the town of Regium Lepidi, where he was murdered by Pompey's close ally Geminius. According to Plutarch,

For Brutus, whether he himself betrayed his army, or whether his army changed sides and betrayed him, put himself in the hands of Pompey, and receiving an escort of horsemen, retired to a little town upon the Po. Here, after a single day had passed, he was slain by Geminius, who was sent by Pompey to do the deed.[3]

Pompey forwarded to Rome the news of his surrender and execution. The senate blamed Pompey for the perfidious act.[4][5][6] John Leach in his biography of Pompey defends his subject by arguing that Brutus "presumably began to whip up further support for Lepidus (the name of the town suggests that there were hereditary clients of his there)" and so Pompey was "forced" to send Geminius to Regium Lepidi to recapture and execute him.[7]

Brutus is quoted by Cicero, who says he was well skilled in public and private law.[8]

Family tree

See also


  1. Cic. pro Quint. 20
  2. De lege agraria ii. 33, 34, 36
  3. Plutarch, Life of Pompey
  4. Plut. Pomp. 16
  5. Appian, B. C. ii. Ill
  6. Liv. Epit 90.
  7. Leach, John, Pompey the Great, Croom Helm, 1978, p.42.
  8. Cicero, Brutus 36.