Lucius Junius Brutus

Lucius Junius Brutus

Lucius Junius Brutus (or Lucius Iunius Brutus) was the founder of the Roman Republic and 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) Lucretia at 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 BC or 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 ( [1996] 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 Etruria in 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 Caesar after he had the Roman Senate declare him dictator for 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

Brutus was a hero of Republicanism during the Enlightenment and Neoclassical periods, and artists like Jacques-Louis David painted scenes of his life.

"Lucius Junius Brutus" is an English Restoration tragedy by Nathaniel Lee.


External links

* [ Lucius Junius Brutus]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Lucius Junius Brutus — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Iunius Brutus. Lucius Junius Brutus …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Marcus Junius Brutus (frere de Lucius Junius Brutus) — Marcus Junius Brutus (frère de Lucius Junius Brutus) Pour les articles homonymes, voir Iunius Brutus. Marcus Junius Brutus II est un sénateur romain semi légendaire du VIe siècle av. J. C. Fils de Marcus Junius Brutus I et de Tarquinia, la… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Marcus Junius Brutus (frère de Lucius Junius Brutus) — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Iunius Brutus. Marcus Junius Brutus II est un sénateur romain semi légendaire du VIe siècle av. J.‑C. Fils de Marcus Junius Brutus I et de Tarquinia, la fille de Tarquin l Ancien, Marcus est le frère du …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Lucius Iunius Brutus — Lucius Junius Brutus Pour les articles homonymes, voir Iunius Brutus. Buste de Lucius Junius Brutus aux Musées du Capi …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Lucius Iunius Brutus — in einer Darstellung auf einer späteren Münze. Aus Eckhel: Kurzgefasste Anfangsgründe zur alten Numismatik, Wien 1787 …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Junius Brutus — Iunius Brutus  Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différentes personnes de la Rome antique partageant un même nom. Article détaillé : Iunii. Les Iunii Bruti sont des patriciens romains membres d une branche de la gens des Iunii. Le… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Junius Brutus Callaicus — Decimus Junius Brutus Callaicus Pour les articles homonymes, voir Iunius Brutus. Decimus Junius Brutus Callaicus était un politicien et général romain du IIe siècle av. J. C. En 138 av. J. C. il est consul. Brutus mène les légions romaines… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • JUNIUS Brutus — vide Brutus; it. Caius, et Decius, et Lucius; it. Marcus …   Hofmann J. Lexicon universale

  • Brutus, Lucius Junius — ▪ legendary Roman flourished 6th century BC       a legendary figure, who is held to have ousted the despotic Etruscan king Lucius Tarquinius Superbus from Rome in 509 and then to have founded the Roman Republic. He is said to have been elected… …   Universalium

  • BRUTUS, LUCIUS JUNIUS —    the founder of Republican Rome, in the 6th century B.C.; affected idiocy (whence his name, meaning stupid); it saved his life when Tarquin the Proud put his brother to death; but when Tarquin s son committed an outrage on Lucretia, he threw… …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.