Just three simple words, but they were (supposedly) the last words of Julius Caesar, one of the greatest rulers Rome has ever known. They had stirred up such a huge controversy amongst historians and scholars alike for hundreds of years and up till today, there has been no conclusion to wrap up this debate. Can you imagine, a bunch of old fellas quibbling over a man who walked on the grounds of earth over 2000 years ago? A pretty ridiculous sight, if you asked me. These very words were (again supposedly) meant for Marcus Junius Brutus, the “adopted” son of Caesar. Brutus was the son of Caesar’s paramour, and it was noted that Caesar constantly took good care of Brutus and treated him like a son after sparing his life. As such, it was only morally right for Brutus to be a filial child and support his fatherly figure no matter what happened. However, instead of bringing him tea or buying him clothes like a dutiful son would, Brutus stuck a knife through Caesar.
Julius Caesar was a significant figure in the history of Rome since he played a huge role in causing the downfall of the Roman Republic, and almost single-handedly brought the Roman Empire into prominence. Having won many battles and invasions that contributed a whole lot to the expansion of the Roman Republic, Julius Caesar was declared the dictator of Rome. As a dictator, Caesar did a great job, solving social problems and political problems, showing everyone that besides being good in war, he can rule and manage the country proficiently as well.
Caesar soon became everyone’s favorite, though he failed to win his enemies over. Since he had almost everything, Caesar was seen as an eyesore to some of the senators. Having a bad histories with kings of the past, they feared that Caesar will soon declare himself the ruler and act like a tyrant, thus the Senate was determined to get rid of him.
On 15 March, 44 BC, Caesar was stabbed 23 times by the 60 conspirators led by Brutus and Cassius. By this time, any sane human would cry out ‘traitor!’, yet was Brutus really as brutal as he seemed?
Brutus was a close friend of Caesar. If he seriously had felt that Caesar’s ambitions were spiralling out of control, he could have simply talked to him like a friend would. Judging from the close relationship they had, it was obvious Caesar cherished Brutus a lot and would have most probably listened to the opinions his beloved son-like friend gave him. Caesar could have explained his actions and thoughts, yet he was not given a chance to do so. Unfortunately for him, before he even knew that Brutus was not contented with his behavior, he was assassinated without mercy. Poor Caesar died without knowing why his friend murdered him, when he was the one who spared Brutus’ life and provided him with a new chance by bringing him into the Senate. Impaling a knife into a man who saved you is the last thing anyone with a heart and conscience would have done.
Furthermore, Brutus unabashedly used his love for Rome as an excuse to cover up the cowardly act of killing his own saviour, even claiming that Caesar’s hunger for power will be the downfall of Rome. He implied that he did not hate Caesar, but simply disagreed with his actions. Nevertheless, just a little instigation from Cassius was enough for Brutus to sprout a killing intent. This simply shows that Brutus obviously did not view Caesar the same way Caesar saw him since it did not take much effort to turn Brutus against Caesar. Minimal persuasion was required for Brutus to forget all the generosity Caesar gave to him and there was absolutely no hesitation when it comes to murdering his own saviour. The least Brutus could have done was to tell Cassius to delay the plans of assassination and let him talk to Caesar first instead of steadily agreeing once he heard of Cassius’ proposal.
Of course, if we simply analyze Brutus’ actions, it is no surprise that we may instantly judge him as a traitor. After all, nobody with a sound mind would groundlessly stab someone else, lest a son would to his father. However, when Brutus was persuaded into joining the conspiracy against Caesar, there is no doubt he agreed to do so out of patriotism, not greed. Being a patrician, Brutus was taught to be noble and honourable since young, and there was absolutely no reason for Brutus to double-cross Caesar for his own gain besides for the better good of his own country. This was evident through Brutus’ own words, “I love the name of honour more than I fear death.”, which displays the extent in which Brutus values righteousness. If he did harboured treacherous intents, he would have defied his own morals on being an honourable individual. In fact, we can draw similarity from Brutus’ well-intended murder to the famous trolley problem, whereby one has an option of sacrificing a single person for the benefit of the majority. Although there is no way we can justify Brutus’ solution to this ethical dilemma, we cannot fault it either since he did it out of the love he had for his country.
In conclusion, Brutus was no superman, but neither was he a villain. He was merely akin to Robin Hood, doing what is deemed evil to support a greater good that he believes in. His idealization of Rome and poor judgement led to his agreement in joining the conspiracy against Caesar, hence on every account, he is indeed guilty of being a traitor of Caesar. However, under no circumstance was he ever a traitor to Rome since immediately after the assassination, Brutus was noted to have marched through the city, patriotically claiming “People of Rome, we are once again free!"