Brutus (brōˈtəs) [key], in ancient Rome, a surname of the Junian gens. Lucius Junius Brutus, fl. 510 B.C., was the founder of the Roman republic. He feigned idiocy to escape death at the hands of Lucius Tarquinius Superbus (see under Tarquin). Roman historians tell how he led the Romans in expelling the Tarquins after the rape of Lucrece, how he became one of the first praetors (there were no consuls), and how he executed his sons for plotting a Tarquinian restoration. Decimus Junius Brutus Gallaecus, fl. 138 B.C., consul, consolidated the province of Farther Spain and stopped the encroaching Lusitanian tribespeople. Marcus Junius Brutus, d. c.77 B.C., was a partisan of Lepidus (d. 77 B.C.) in the struggle with Catulus (d. 60 B.C.); Pompey had him murdered. His wife Servilia was the half-sister of Cato the Younger. Their son was Marcus Junius Brutus, 85? B.C.–42 B.C. He and Caius Cassius Longinus (see under Cassius) were the principal assassins of Julius Caesar. He had sided with Pompey, but after the battle of Pharsalus, Caesar pardoned him, made him governor of Cisalpine Gaul (46 B.C.), and, in 44 B.C., urban praetor. Nevertheless, he joined Cassius in the plot against Caesar. After the murder of Caesar, Brutus went east and, in the republican cause, joined Cassius and held Macedonia with him. Late in 42 B.C., Octavian (later Augustus) and Antony arrived, and a battle was fought at Philippi. When it went against the republicans, Brutus committed suicide. Brutus' wife Portia was the daughter of Cato the Younger. Brutus had a contemporary reputation as a Stoic philosopher, and his admirers have regarded him as a second Cato, driven reluctantly to commit murder in order to save the republic. His detractors, on the other hand, have considered his friendship with the self-seeking Cassius as indicative of his true character. A lesser member of the conspiracy was Decimus Junius Brutus, d. 43 B.C., a partisan of Caesar against Pompey and a favorite of the dictator. Caesar gave him command in Gaul and appointed him to be his heir in case of Octavian's death. After Caesar's death, Brutus refused to surrender Cisalpine Gaul. In 43 B.C., Antony, to whom the senate had assigned the province, besieged Brutus at Mutina (modern Modena). He tried to escape and was killed.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.