History's Most Famous Assassin

April 22, 2018 Topic: History Region: Europe Tags: CaesarBrutusMurderAssassinPolitics

History's Most Famous Assassin

We may never know exactly what turned Brutus from one of Caesar’s most favored subordinates into a leading conspirator against him.

From almost the moment of Caesar’s death at their hands, the fortunes of his slayers began to tank. Successively outmaneuvered by first Marc Antony and then Octavian, they were driven from Rome and forced into a bloody, pointless civil war that ended in their defeat at the Battle of Philippi. In the aftermath, Brutus committed suicide rather than face the humiliation of surrender and almost certain execution.

“In all,” Tempest concludes, “Brutus emerges as a human being possessing some of the most admirable virtues, and a concomitant share of corresponding vices.”

“At times, he could seem arrogant, outspoken or rude—or, to put it another way, he was confident, candid and frank. It is easy to view him as demanding and humorless, or more positively as a man of purpose and gravity. He made his money by questionable means . . . We can criticize his side-switching and lack of constancy, or see a shrewd political player. . . . It is easy to mock his military failures or otherwise appreciate them as a sign of his magnanimity . . . But if at the end of this study there are questions that cannot be answered, we should be grateful that we can get so close as to be perplexed by a man of whom Cicero said: ‘You have a marvelous reputation for incredible virtues, which though they look disparate are harmonized by your prudence.’ . . . Even to those whom he knew in life, Brutus was an enigma.”

An enigma, or, perhaps, an outright contradiction.

Aram Bakshian Jr. served as an aide to Presidents Nixon, Ford and Reagan, and has written extensively on politics, history, gastronomy and the arts for American and overseas publications.

Image: The Assassination of Julius Caesar. Wikimedia Commons