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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: January ::
Who Was the Historical Decius Brutus?
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0171  Thursday, 27 January 2005

[1]     From:   Norman Hinton <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 26 Jan 2005 11:33:29 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0151 Who Was the Historical Decius Brutus?

[2]     From:   Alan Jones <
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 >
        Date:   Wednesday, 26 Jan 2005 22:48:12 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0151 Who Was the Historical Decius Brutus?

[3]     From:   Cheryl Newton <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 26 Jan 2005 21:56:41 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0151 Who Was the Historical Decius Brutus?

[4]     From:   John Ramsay <
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        Date:   Thursday, 27 Jan 2005 03:37:12 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0151 Who Was the Historical Decius Brutus?


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Norman Hinton <
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 >
Date:           Wednesday, 26 Jan 2005 11:33:29 -0600
Subject: 16.0151 Who Was the Historical Decius Brutus?
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0151 Who Was the Historical Decius Brutus?

See the Oxford Classical Dictionary, under

Iunius Brutus Albinus, Decimus

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Alan Jones <
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Date:           Wednesday, 26 Jan 2005 22:48:12 -0000
Subject: 16.0151 Who Was the Historical Decius Brutus?
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0151 Who Was the Historical Decius Brutus?

Philip Weller <
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 >

 >I'm working on an online edition of Julius Caesar, and wonder if
 >Shakespeare could have known anything about Decius Brutus except what he
 >read in North's Plutarch.
 >
 >Also, I've Googled and Yahooed, but can't find anything about the
 >historical Decius Brutus, so I'm hoping that someone on the list could
 >refer me to a book that would provide some information about this
 >person, especially why he shares a name with Marcus Brutus.

Decius, in "Julius Caesar", is an error for Decimus. North has Decius:
see "Lives", Caesar, LXIV. I haven't found a copy of Plutarch in Greek
to check. The Oxford Classical Dictionary cites for its entry on this
person Cicero, Caesar, Velleius, Appian and Cassius Dio, in some or all
of which I assume the name is given in the Decimus form. Cicero and
Caesar were read in schools (though what and how much?) but the other
authors were probably not. My guess is that S stuck to North's version,
on which much else in the play is clearly based, and wasn't aware of any
other spelling or source, being more interested in delineating character
and motive and in creating a classically symmetrical structure than in
checking that every detail was historically correct.

Decimus Junius Brutus Albinus was a co-conspirator of Marcus Junius
Brutus, the "hero" of Shakespeare's play, and was eventually killed
while escaping from Antony's forces in a campaign that preceded the
battle of Philippi in which Cassius and M. Junius Brutus committed
suicide. His name implies that he was of the same family and gens as
Marcus Brutus, whose own putative father was also "Decimus". The Junii
were one of the great gentes of Rome, and the Republic owed its
existence (in legend, anyway) to the first Marcus Junius, who by
pretending idiocy ("brutus" means mindless, stupid) was tolerated as a
harmless fool at court where he gathered information vital to the
rebellion that overthrew the monarchy. The nickname Brutus, originally
so offensive, became a mark of honour for the family. Both of the play's
Brutus characters can be assumed to be inspired by the family name in
attempting to prevent the birth of a new, Caesarian, monarchy.

Online, try Wikipedia and the encyclopedia at Bartleby and doubtless
Britannica, for more about the Junius Brutus family and the two related
conspirators.

Alan Jones

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Cheryl Newton <
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 >
Date:           Wednesday, 26 Jan 2005 21:56:41 -0500
Subject: 16.0151 Who Was the Historical Decius Brutus?
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0151 Who Was the Historical Decius Brutus?

 >I'm working on an online edition of Julius Caesar, and wonder if
 >Shakespeare could have known anything about Decius Brutus except what he
 >read in North's Plutarch.
 >
 >Sincerely,
 >Philip Weller

Hi.  You took me back a few decades.  In my sophomore year of high
school, I was intrigued that Shakespeare presented Marcus Brutus as a
tragic hero, & Dante put him in the lowest cicrle of hell.  For years I
pieced together bits about him. Shakespeare appears to be closer to the
mark.

I doubt that anything survives about Decimus, since the more famous
Marcus is little known.  (His step son wrote a book about him, referred
to by Plutarch, but long gone.)

The only thing I could find in my papers was a brief reference in The
Illustrated Columbia Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition, 1963:

     ~ A lesser member of the conspiracy was Decius Junius Brutus d. 43BC, a
partisan of Caesar against Pompey and a favorite of the dictator.  Caesar
gave him command in Gaul and appointed him to be his heir in case of
Octavian's death.  After Caesar's death, Brutus refused to surrender
Cisalpine Gaul. In 43BC Antony, to whom the Senate had assigned this
province, beseiged Brutus at Mutina (modern Modena).  He tried to escape &
was killed. ~

Very likely Shakespeare would have known about Decimus, probably more
that we know today.  His depiction of Marcus is almost straight out of
Plutarch, so he had access to original sources. Incidentally, young
Marcus was on Pompey's side during the civil war, so there was division
in the family.  Not surprising; I think Pompey killed Marcus's father.

Caesar's friendliness toward the entire Brutus family is said to have
stemmed from a long term & passionate affair with Servilia, Marcus's
mother.  Some sources even suggest Caesar was Marcus's true father.

Are you ready to share your online edition yet?  I look forward to it!
I think this play is one that is too much ignored except at a high
school level.

Cheryl

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Ramsay <
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 >
Date:           Thursday, 27 Jan 2005 03:37:12 -0500
Subject: 16.0151 Who Was the Historical Decius Brutus?
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0151 Who Was the Historical Decius Brutus?

Philip Weller <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >

 >I'm working on an online edition of Julius Caesar, and wonder if
 >Shakespeare could have known anything about Decius Brutus except what he
 >read in North's Plutarch.
 >
 >Also, I've Googled and Yahooed, but can't find anything about the
 >historical Decius Brutus, so I'm hoping that someone on the list could
 >refer me to a book that would provide some information about this
 >person, especially why he shares a name with Marcus Brutus.
 >
 >Sincerely,
 >Philip Weller Shakespeare Navigators http://www.clicknotes.com

I did a followup on the conspirators year ago.

Only sources the local library had were 'The Oxford Classical
Dictionary' and the 'Cambridge Ancient History.'

(They're not in the library anymore.)

What I recall was that his actual name was Decimus Brutus.

Don't know why WS shortened the name but no doubt there will be a flood
of reasons given by Shaksper list members -:)

Also D. Brutus was loyal to Caesar until Caesar rewarded his loyalty by
seducing D. Brutus' wife.

And a web search for Decimus Brutus rather than Decius will yield results.

John Ramsay

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