What would you do if you thought your country was
on the path to tyranny?
If you saw one man gaining too much power,
would you try to stop him?
Even if that man was one of your closest friends and allies?
These were the questions haunting Roman
Senator Marcus Junius Brutus in 44 BCE,
the year Julius Caesar would be assassinated.
对布鲁图斯来说 反对不受监督的权力 不仅是政治问题
Opposing unchecked power wasn’t just a political matter for Brutus;
it was a personal one.
He claimed descent from Lucius Junius Brutus,
who had helped overthrow the tyrannical king known as Tarquin the Proud.
Instead of seizing power himself,
the elder Brutus led the people in a rousing oath
to never again allow a king to rule.
Rome became a republic
based on the principle that no one man should hold too much power. Now,
four and a half centuries later, this principle was threatened.
Julius Ceasar’s rise to the powerful position of consul
had been dramatic.
Years of military triumphs had made him the wealthiest man in Rome.
And after defeating his rival Pompey the Great
in a bitter civil war,
his power was at its peak.
His victories and initiatives, such as distributing lands to the poor,
had made him popular with the public,
and many senators vied for his favor by showering him with honors.
Statues were built, temples were dedicated,
and a whole month was renamed, still called July today.
More importantly, the title of dictator,
meant to grant temporary emergency powers in wartime,
had been bestowed upon Caesar several times in succession.
And in 44 BCE, he was made dictator perpetuo,
dictator for a potentially unlimited term.
All of this was too much for the senators
who feared a return to the
monarchy their ancestors had fought to abolish,
as well as those whose own power and ambition
were impeded by Caesar’s rule.
A group of conspirators calling themselves the liberators
began to secretly discuss plans for assassination.
Leading them were the senator Gaius Cassius Longinus
and his friend and brother-in-law, Brutus.
Joining the conspiracy was not an easy choice for Brutus.
Even though Brutus had sided with Pompey
in the ill-fated civil war,
Caesar had personally intervened to save his life,
not only pardoning him but even accepting him
as a close advisor
and elevating him to important posts.
Brutus was hesitant to conspire
against the man who had treated him like a son,
but in the end,
Cassius’s insistence and Brutus’s own fear of Caesar’s ambitions won out.
The moment they had been waiting forcame on March 15.
At a senate meeting
held shortly before Caesar was to depart
on his next military campaign,
as many as 60 conspirators surrounded him,
unsheathing daggers from their togas and stabbing at him from all sides.
正如故事中所说的那样 凯撒奋力挣扎 直到看见布鲁图斯
As the story goes, Caesar struggled fiercely until he saw Brutus.
Despite the famous line,”Et tu, Brute?”written by Shakespeare,
we don’t know Caesar’s actual dying words.
Some ancient sources claim he said nothing,
while others record the phrase,”And you, child?”,
fueling speculation that Brutus may haveactually been Caesar’s illegitimate son.
But all agree that when Caesar saw Brutus among his attackers,
he covered his face and gave up the fight,
falling to the ground after being stabbed 23 times.
Unfortunately for Brutus,
he and the other conspirators had underestimated Caesar’s popularity
among the Roman public,
many of whom saw him as an effective leader,
and the senate as a corrupt aristocracy.
Within moments of Caesar’s assassination, Rome was in a state of panic.
Most of the other senators had fled,
while the assassins barricaded themselves on the Capitoline Hill.
Mark Antony, Caesar’s friend and co-counsel,
was swift to seize the upper hand,
delivering a passionate speech at Caesar’s funeral days later
that whipped the crowd into a frenzyof grief and anger.
As a result, the liberators were forced out of Rome.
The ensuing power vacuum led to a series of civil wars,
在这期间 布鲁图斯面对注定的败局 选择了自杀
during which Brutus, facing certain defeat, took his own life.
Ironically, the ultimate result
would be the opposite of what the conspirators had hoped to accomplish:
the end of the Republic and the concentration
of power under the office of Emperor.
Opinions over the assassination of Caesar were divided from the start
and have remained so.
As for Brutus himself, few historical figures have inspired such a conflicting legacy.
In Dante’s”Inferno,” he was placed in the very center of Hell
and eternally chewed by Satan himselffor his crime of betrayal.
But Swift’s”Gulliver’s Travels”
described him as one of the most virtuous and benevolent people to have lived.
The interpretation of Brutus as eithera selfless fighter against dictatorship
or an opportunistic traitor
has shifted with the tides of history and politics.
But even today, over 2000 years later,
questions about the price of liberty,
the conflict between personal loyalties and universal ideals,
and unintended consequences remain more relevant than ever.