Marcus Junius Brutus was an opponent of Julius Caesar during the civil war between Caesar and Pompey. He then became a beneficiary of Caesar's famous clemency, before changing his mind and taking part in the famous assassination of Caesar on the Ides of March. After the assassination he was outmanoeuvred by Caesar's supporters in Italy – first by Antony and then by Octavian, forced into exile in the East, and eventually defeated in battle by Antony and Octavian. He was thus a major player in the events that led to the final fall of the Roman Republic, although he is perhaps now best know for Shakespeare’s version of Caesar's final words 'Et Tu Brute?'.
Having recently read some rather one-sided biographies of figures from this period, it is rather nice to be able to be report that this biography is much more balanced. Brutus is portrayed as having high moral standards and being a staunch supporter of the Republic, but also as rather incompetent (in common with most of his fellow Liberators). They simply didn't have a plan for what to do after Caesar's death,and let affairs drift, quickly losing control of events. Unsurprisingly Caesar's allies weren't so passive, and Mark Antony quickly took over (if not for long). Brutus and his associates also don't appear to have considered the possibility that the population of Rome might have been hostile to them, and the city soon became too dangerous for them. Amongst other things this book provides an object lesson in how not to conduct a coup!
A fair amount of the book focuses on Cicero's view of events, hardly surprising as his speeches and letters provide some of the best evidence for the crucial period between the death of Caesar and his own execution – the period in which the best chance to restore the Republic was lost, and Octavian first emerged as a major power. After we lose Cicero as a source we have less information on our subject's motives, but it is still possible to trace his activities in some detail.
This is an excellent biography of this key figure in the final days of the Roman Republic, proving that it is possible to write a full length biography of a Roman of this period without becoming biased in favour of your subject.
1 - Background and Early Life
2 - Early Career
3 - The Battle of Pharsalus
4 - Cato: Death of the Ultimate Republican
5 - Prelude to Conspiracy
6 - Conspiracy
7 - Assassination: Liberty Recovered
8 - Assassination Aftermath: The Rise and Fall of the Liberators
9 - Liberty Lost: Countdown to the End of the Republic
10 - Prelude to Civil War
11 - Civil War in the West
12 - Civil War in the East
13 - Philippi
14 - The End: Death and Legacy
Author: Kirsty Corrigan
Publisher: Pen & Sword