- Lucius Junius Brutus
Lucius Junius Brutus (or Lucius Iunius Brutus) was the founder of the
Roman Republicand traditionally one of the first Consuls in 509 BC. He was the primary ancestor of the Junius family in Ancient Rome, including Marcus Junius Brutus.
Prior to the establishment of the
Roman Republic, Rome had been ruled by kings. Brutus led the revolt that overthrew the last king, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, after the rape of the noblewoman (and kinswoman of Brutus) Lucretiaat the hands of Tarquin's son Sextus Tarquinius. The account is from Livy's "Ab Urbe Condita" and deals with a point in the history of Rome prior to reliable historical records (virtually all prior records were destroyed by the Gauls when they sacked Rome under Brennus in 390 BCor 387 BC). According to Livy, Brutus had a number of grievances against the king, amongst them was the fact that Tarquin had orchestrated the murder of his brother who was a powerful senator, opposed to Tarquin's assumption of the throne.
Brutus gained the trust of Tarquin's family by feigning slow-wittedness (in Latin "brutus" translates to dullard), thereby allowing the Tarquins to underestimate him as a potential threat. He accompanied Tarquin's sons on a trip to the
Oracle of Delphi. The sons asked the oracle who would be the next ruler of Rome. The Oracle responded the next person to kiss his mother would become king. Brutus interpreted "mother" to mean the Earth, so he pretended to trip and kissed the ground. [Davies, Norman (  1998) "Europe". New York NY, Harper Perennial ISBN 0-06-097468-0 pg. 113] Upon returning to Rome, Brutus was forced to fight in one of Rome's unending wars with neighboring Italian tribes. Brutus returned to the city once he heard about the rape of Lucretia. Lucretia, believing that the rape dishonored her and her family, committed suicide by stabbing herself with a dagger after confessing all to a gathering of the extended family (including Brutus). This event proved to be the straw that broke the camel's back. According to legend, Brutus grabbed the dagger from Lucretia's breast after her death and immediately shouted for the overthrow of the Tarquins. Soon, Brutus would achieve this goal, causing Tarquin Superbus and his family to flee back to their ancestral home of Etruriain exile. In place of kings, Brutus declared power to be in the hands of the Senate, with him as one of the first two Praetors, executive officers that would later become the Roman office of Consul.
There is some confusion as to the details of Brutus' life. His consulship, for example, may have been a later embellishment to give the republican institutions greater legitimacy by associating them with the overthrower of the kings. Similarly the tale of Brutus' execution of his own sons for failing in their military duties may well have been a later invention. His consulship came to an end during a battle with the
Etruscans, who had allied themselves with the Tarquins to restore them to power in Rome.
He was said to have served his consulship along with Lucretia's widowed husband.
The Oath of Brutus
According to Livy, after the expulsion of Lucius Tarquinius Superbus: "His [Brutus'] first act was to make the people, while the state of liberty was still fresh upon their tongues, swear a solemn oath never to allow any man to be king in Rome, hoping by this means to forestall future attempts by persuasion or bribery to restore the monarchy." .de Selincourt, Aubrey (1972) "Livy: The History of Early Rome". New York, NY, The Heritage Press ISBN 0-00000-00-0, Book 2, p. 100.]
In T. Livii, Vol I, Lib II, Cap 1, A.J. Valpy, Londini (1828), p. 352 there is the following Latin version of the above:
: "Omnium primum avidum novae libertatis populum, ne postmodum flecti precibus aut donis regiis posset, jurejurando adegit, neminem Romae passuros regnare. (h) …: (h) Compulit ad decernendum addito juramento, fore ut non permitterent quenquam in posterum Romae regem esse."
The Oath of Brutus, whether factual or legendary, had a profound impact on the ancient Romans. Lucius Junius Brutus is quite prominent in English literature, and he was quite popular among British and American Whigs.
A reference to L. J. Brutus is in the following lines from Shakespeare's play "The Tragedie of Julius Cæsar", (Cassius to Marcus Brutus, Act 1, Scene 2).
: "O, you and I have heard our fathers say,: There was a Brutus once that would have brookt: Th'eternal devil to keep his state in Rome: As easily as a king."
One of the main charges of the senatorial faction that plotted against
Julius Caesarafter he had the Roman Senatedeclare him dictatorfor life, was that he was attempting to make himself a king, and a co-conspirator Cassius, enticed Brutus' direct descendant, Marcus Junius Brutus, to join the conspiracy by referring to his ancestor.
L. J. Brutus is a leading character in Shakespeare's "Rape of Lucrece", the tragedy of Coriolanus, and in
Nathaniel Lee's play (1680), "Lucius Junius Brutus; Father of his Country".
The memory of L. J. Brutus also had a profound impact on Italian patriots, including those who established the ill-fated Roman Republic in February 1849.
Brutus in art
"Lucius Junius Brutus" is an
English Restorationtragedy by Nathaniel Lee.
* [http://www.livius.org/bn-bz/brutus/brutus01.html Livius.org: Lucius Junius Brutus]
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