Julius Caesar. Dictator and conqueror of the “barbaric” Gauls, lead an active sex life. Indeed, on long marches, his troops would sing songs about the “bald adulterer” as well as his bi-sexuality. He was known to the masses as “Every woman’s man – and every man’s woman.”
Not to fret. Having sex with both sexes was not terribly frowned upon on old Rome, although being on the receiving end too often was considered to be somewhat of a stain on a man’s honor. It was perhaps the only stain on Caesar’s image as a tireless seducer. It was said no woman, no wife, and no daughter was safe before Caesar.
Julius Caesar was a tall man (most Romans were not) and had a fashion sense. In his younger years, he was considered a handsome man. It is said he had a good sense of humor (even at his own expense). All that contributed him to being a ladies’ man. Being married never deterred him from smelling the roses.
Cato the Younger, on the other hand, was the epitome of Roman virtue, a conservative of patrician values and staunch defender of the Republic – that is, a patrician Republic. He was a sworn implacable enemy of Caesar, whom he viewed as a potential dictator but also a rabble rouser of the lower classes. Caesar did such audacious things as give away land to landless peasants as well as food and drink to the hungry while bolstering his chances of being elected Consul of the Republic.
Rome had rid itself of its last dictator, Sulla, and Cato always suspected that Caesar was conspiring with Sulla’s former troops to regain power. There had been a conspiracy to do just that, the Catiline Conspiracy, exposed by Cicero and Cato believed, without real evidence, that Caesar was also involved.
So one bright Roman morning a couple of thousand years ago, Julius Caesar enters the Senate House and mounts the speakers podium. beginning to speak of one legislative matter or another. Cato and his supports are also in the Senate that day, usually to oppose anything Caesar supported.
Suddenly a messenger enters the Senate House and hands Caesar a message, which he quickly glances at and then pushes up the sleeve of his toga.
Cato the Younger
Cato immediately rises to interrupt him demanding that he read the note to the full Senate. He suspected the note involved the Sulla plotters. Caesar tried several times to let him off the hook but to no avail.
Read it! Read it! came the cry from Cato and his supporters.
In the end, he had to read aloud the content of the note in front of the whole senate.
It was a love note from a woman proclaiming her fervent lust for Caesar in very explicit terms. Caesar read it all; every last detail.
It was signed by Servilia. Cato’s sister and Caesar’s long time mistress.
Cato was made to look the fool as the Senate burst into laughter, which when the public found out, echoed through all of Rome.
Cato the Younger would choose the losing side in the civil war between Caesar and Pompey and although pardoned by Caesar, chose not to accept and committed suicide.
After the reading of Servilia’s missive in the Senate, she too was subject to scorn and laughter – as was her son, Cato’s nephew Marcus Brutus. Yes. That Brutus. His mother had been publicly shamed.
Brutus would fight along side of Pompey and against Caesar in the civil war, yet he was spared from death and later promoted by Caesar to the office of praetor. Caesar had ordered his men that no harm should come to Brutus. Perhaps Caesar let him live only because he was Servilia’s son; or maybe it was more than that.
Brutus was torn in his allegiance to Caesar. Brutus’s family had a tradition of rejecting authoritarian powers. Ancestor Junius Brutus was credited with throwing out the last king of Rome in 509 B.C. An ancestor of Servilia had killed another tyrant. This lineage, coupled with a strong Roman interest in the Greek idea of tyrannicide, disposed Brutus to have little patience with perceived power grabbers.
Yet Brutus felt shame. His mother was shamed. His Uncle Cato killed himself rather than accept Caesar’s clemency. It was considered the honorable thing to do. Perhaps he felt obligated to do Cato honor by continuing his quest to “save” the republic from Caesar.
Was Caesar a tyrant? While his image as one is shaped by Shakespeare and historians, many believe his reputation was besmirched because of his populist politics.
WasBrutus a villain?
It is this moral dilemma that has caused debate over whether or not Brutus should be branded a villain. Plutarch’s Life of Brutus is quite sympathetic when compared to other surviving documents naming Caesar’s enemies.
Shakespeare later used Plutarch’s Brutus as one of the bases for his play Julius Caesar, where Brutus is portrayed as a tragic hero and Caesar as an unequivocal tyrant. The poet Dante, however, took a different stance: Brutus, in killing the man who spared him, was doomed to the lowest levels of hell.
During the assassination of Julius Caesar in the Roman Senate on the Ides of March, 44 BC, Caesar was fighting back his attackers, but when he saw Marcus Brutus approaching, he stopped fighting.
He did not say “Et tu, Brutus?” And you Brutus?
He said “And you too, my child?”
Was Brutus Caesar’s son? Caesar would have been 16 or so when Brutus was born. Probably not, but certainly within the realm of possibility.
It certainly is indicated he treated Brutus like a son.
Caesar never told. And neither did Servilia.