Flint has tutored mathematics through precalculus, science, and English and has taught college history. He has a Ph.D. from the University of Glasgow
The Tragic Villain
A great tragedy is a story where a character thinks they are making all the right decisions, but are actually making choices that will lead to their doom. Think of Darth Vader in Star Wars -- he made certain choices in order to gain security and power, but those choices only turned him into a villain. Marcus Junius Brutus had a similar life trajectory.
A Noble Family
Brutus was born in 84 B.C.E. as a descendent of the legendary Lucius Junius Brutus, a man credited with driving the last Etruscan kings from Rome and ending the monarchies forever. Memory of that event, of forever keeping kings out of Rome, was a part of Brutus's family's legacy.
In 77 B.C.E., Roman statesman Pompey killed Brutus's father. Marcus Junius Brutus was adopted by an uncle, Marcus Porcius Cato, or simply Cato the Younger. Cato instilled the philosophy of Stoicism on Brutus. As you might have guessed, Stoicism is a philosophy built around not feeling any strong emotions but instead always thinking and acting rationally. Stoicism was a popular belief at the time, and Cato was one of the most respected members.
Pompey later joined the First Triumvirate along with Julius Caesar and Marcus Licinius Crassus. The First Triumvirate was an unofficial, political alliance between the three men. Cato actively opposed this alliance, and eventually gave his life to protect the Republic.
Similar to how a young Darth Vader accepted the Jedi philosophy and fought against evil, Brutus initially followed Cato in resisting the growing power of the First Triumvirate. He believed that their power threatened the Republic and had to be stopped.
When Julius Caesar crossed the Tiber River and began a civil war against Pompey in 49 B.C.E., Brutus again tried to take the Republic's best path when he followed his adopted father and joined Pompey against Caesar. In spite of his love for his father, he followed Pompey because he believed the general would do more to protect the Republic than Caesar.
Assassination of Julius Caesar
When Julius Caesar defeated Pompey at the Battle of Pharsalus, he ordered that Brutus be taken captive. He was immediately pardoned. Accepting Julius Caesar as the victor, Brutus took an appointment as the governor of Cisalpine Gaul from 47-45 B.C.E., followed by a term as praetor in Rome.
It was then that Julius Caesar made himself Dictator for life, the King of Rome. Remembering his ancestor's role in chasing out the Etruscan kings, Brutus plotted the assassination of Caesar on the Ides of March (the 15th of March), 44 B.C.E.
Change of Heart
In the movies, after Darth Vader kills the Jedis, he accepts what he has done and becomes everything he had fought against. He becomes the evil force controlling the galaxy. Something similar happened with Brutus. Between the public's reaction and the actions of Caesar's nephew and adopted son Octavian, Brutus and his co-conspirators were driven to Greece. There they were assigned provinces.
Brutus used his distant power to acquire all of the Asian provinces, then he minted his own coins and threatened Rome itself. Unlike Vader, Brutus didn't get a second chance at redemption, though. When he was defeated by the Second Triumvirate, he killed himself.
Brutus is remembered as the most famous traitor in history; he stabbed the same man who had pardoned him and given him positions of importance. A closer look at his life, though, makes it clear that he was acting on his life experiences and in good conscience. He was a tragic figure and not a villain.
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