Lucius Junius Brutus in Wikipedia
Lucius Junius Brutus was the founder of the Roman Republic and traditionally one of the first consuls in 509 BC. He was claimed as an
ancestor of the Roman gens Junia, including Marcus Junius Brutus, the most famous of Caesar's assassins.
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.
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. 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, and her father, Spurius Lucretius Tricipitinus). 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 Tarquinius 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.
Brutus and Lucretia's widowed husband, Lucius Tarquinius Collatinus, were elected as the first consuls of Rome (509 BC). Brutus' first
acts during his consulship, according to Livy, included administering an oath to the people of Rome to never again accept a king in Rome
(see below) and replenishing the number of senators to 300 from the principal men of the equites. The new consuls also created a new
office of rex sacrorum to carry out the religious duties that had previously been performed by the kings.
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. Brutus's death is romantically described by Livy during the battle. Arruns Tarquinius, the king's son, challenged Brutus from
across the battlefield on horseback. Charging at one another, without any thought to their own defense, both were impaled upon one
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.
The Oath of Brutus -
According to Livy, after the expulsion of Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, Brutus' first act was to have the people swear an oath never to
allow any man again to be king in Rome.
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.
Brutus in Literature and Art -
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.
In The Mikado, Nanki-poo refers to his father as "the Lucius Junius Brutus of his race".
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 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.