Review Tempest 2017, Brutus. The Noble Conspirator, forthcoming Classical Review, long version.


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Review Tempest 2017, Brutus. The Noble Conspirator, forthcoming Classical Review, long version.
  Tempest (K.)  Brutus. The Noble Conspirator . Pp. xviii + 314, maps, pls. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2017. Cased, £25, US$28.50. ISBN: 978-0-300-18009-1. Recent years have seen a revival of interest in the civil war period from the death of Caesar onwards, including a growing interest in evidence from the other side (of the civil war) (K.Welch,  Magnus Pius  [2012]; a forthcoming book by Welch on Marcus Antonius; and a forthcoming volume entitled The Alternative Augustan Age , edited by K. Morrell, J. Osgood & K. Welch, etc.). This well written and accessible book, containing 8 chapters, an introduction and a conclusion, as well as two appendices, is part of this trend. This is not a book presenting new material and new approaches, but one that tries to understand how Brutus was perceived. The preface states that the book takes an integrated approach to the topic, combining biography with historiography and literary analyses (xi). But be warned, this is not a historiographical book. The introduction introduces the evidence. Brutus is mainly of interest to our sources due to his participation in killing Caesar. T. sadly restates the old dictum  – problematic as it is – that the details in the evidence vary because the majority of the evidence was written long after the assassination of Caesar (3). Imperial historiographers drew on Republican sources in their writing about the past. At the outset of chapter 1,  Becoming Brutus , the famous EID[ES] Mar[TIAE] coin is connected to Brutus and Cassius’ claim to have liberated Rome from the tyranny of Caesar (16). We must remember, however, that even though we find versions of this used by Cicero ( Phil . 3.5;  Rep . 2.46), it also appears in Caesar (  B Civ . 1.22.5) and Augustus (  RG  1.1). Brutus was born into a period of civil war, his father being killed in factional fighting (20-24, 17-20 on Lucius Junius Brutus). The end goal of the young Roman – indeed of any Roman – was personal advancement and the continuation of the family name (29). On page 31 we are introduced to optimates  and  populares . The need for a new approach to factional politics, as advocated by Steel, would have been a welcome addition to the discussion ( The End of the Roman Republic 146 to 44 BC   [2013], esp. p. 236; critique of optimates  vs.  populares , see M.A.   Robb,  Beyond Populares and Optimates  [2010]; H. Mouritsen, Politics in the Roman Republic [2017], esp. pp. 112-123). Chapter 2,  Independent Operator  , focuses on the early political political progress of Brutus, hampered by the domination of Pompeius and Caesar in the 50s and the outbreak of the civil war after Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon in 49 BCE (33). Brutus’ uncle, Cato, was the Senate’s champion and “a challenge to those who wished to play a different political game” (39). The question arises of who played a different political game, Cato or his adversaries? The chapter emphasises that Brutus was a champion of liberty and an enemy of tyrants (54). As already mentioned, all Roman politician of the era would claim something similar. They were all outspoken defenders of the  res publica , whatever kind of state we are talking about. In contrast to the classic treatment by Syme—who in a Tacitean vein saw all the protagonists as opportunists and their ideological claims as mere “political catchwords” ( The  Roman Revolution  [1939], pp.149-161) – recent contributions have given more weight to ideological claims and their justifications. But although these factors played their part, opportunistic self-interest must have remained a key determinant. Chapter 3, The Politics of War  , outlines the gradual tension between Pompeius and Caesar. Pompeius, or so it is argued, could at the outbreak of the civil war claim to represent the res publica  (58). We are in fact witnessing the struggle between two dynasts and their followers. Brutus chose to side with Pompeius (60), clearly ignoring  his early and deeply problematic career. After the end of the civil war, Brutus was pardoned as part of Caesar’s “programme of clementia ” (63). On page 67 there is talk of Brutus, the republican, defecting to Caesar. But in keeping with the dynast idea, changing sides at the opportune moment could mean survival (F. Christia,  Alliance Formation in Civil Wars  [2012]; Cato is a notable exception (70-71)). This is followed by a description of Brutus potentially dissociating himself from the lost cause of the “Pompeians” (75). The great difficulty is whether “Pompeians” suggests followers of the dynast Pompeius Magnus – as I would claim – or “republicans”, whatever that means. It does not follow that Pompeius’ followers were not partly republicans – perhaps even to a large extent – but this tells us too little about politics of the Late Republic. Whatever approach we prefer, the concept of “dynasts”, as used by Cassius Dio (52.1.1 etc.), seems in many ways a good starting point, as it is central to the description of the period by one of our main sources (cf. App.  B Civ . 2.17; 2.19). The connection between dynasts and their supporters, as indeed the connections amongst the dynasts themselves, was often and unsurprisingly loosely defined.   Dio (56.37.1, “Tiberius’ eulogy”) includes Brutus in a “list” of dynasts: “This then was the beginning of Augustus’ political life, and this is likewise the beginning of my account of him. Soon afterwards, seeing that the largest and best element of the people and of the senate was in accord with him, but that Lepidus and Antonius, Sextus, Brutus, and Cassius were resorting to factious machinations.” Chapter 4, Thinking About Tyrannicide , focuses on post-(civil)war issues, including “instances of behaviour [Caesar’s] that went against the grain of traditional sensibilities” (80). This one might claim was a defining feature of the Late Republic from Marius onwards. The title of dictator  perpetuo  is rightly emphasised as the symbol of what Caesar had already become (82). In such a political climate, Brutus accepted appointments from the dictator (rather than election by the people; rightly so, page 92). In the end a conspiracy was the outcome (97-100). Chapter 5,  After the  Assassination , describes a Rome in panic and fear (106-110). On page 108 we are at the core of the story: Lepidus had a legion at his disposal and   the outstanding question, was how would Antonius react to the crisis? By not confiscating Caesar’s property and revoking his decrees the assassins let the “tactical advantage slip to the other side” (108). This may be right from a political point of view, but it is, militarily speaking, wrong. The conspirators had no soldiers in or around Rome. At the same time the assassins had misread the sentiments of the people (109), and Antonius and Lepidus had the support of Caesar’s veterans (112). This is, according to T, balanced by hope of military aid from Sextus Pompeius. This scenario is however highly questionable; Sextus made a deal with Lepidus in 44 BCE, to avoid civil war; and later at Mutina made a deal with the triumvirs. More importantly, the assassins could rely on the provinces of Macedonia, Bithynia-Pontus and Syria, as well as Decimus Brutus in Gaul (112-113). This reconstruction, however, fails to understand the military situation facing the assassins. Long term strategy is fine (113), but only if you survive (“They may have been powerless in the short term, then, but they were not utterly helpless” (113)). The “amateurish” narrative thus stands. An effective plan B may have worked, but they could never have known this when they killed Caesar. Plan A according to T. was to establish peace and consequently they had not planned a coup d’état (113). Again, even if this worked for a while they could not have known this. They would have been hopelessly unprepared had Rome turned into a battleground. The amnesty (and ratification of Caesar’s acta ) is seen as a compromise in a heated  environment (114), but surely the amnesty is the biggest surprise of all. Antonius (perhaps) hoped to make an alliance with the slayers of the tyrant, who themselves were trying to survive. But surely this would never last. The arrival of Young Caesar did not help much in creating a lasting peace. In the end the liberators left Rome (116-117) because they lacked the basic currency of the Late Republic: money and soldiers (certainly they had none close by). Having said that, they survived and could now take up provincial commands, which again changed the balance of power. T. sums up: “In fact, the decision to spare him [Antonius] may have been the one thing that saved the Liberators’ lives” (122). This of course we cannot know, but if we look at what happened, they all acted like dynasts. Chapter 6,  Reviving Republicanism , might preferably have been called The Road to War  . Antonius failed to stick to the amnesty agreement (145). We may ask why? Because he, unsurprisingly, did what he thought best for Antonius. As for the assassins, what was next? T. rightly points out that they had not shared a united vision of what was to happen after the assassination. In the end what united them was the war against the triumvirs. T. emphasises that Brutus still hoped to avoid war (146), but this was ultimately never his decision. Brutus did not go to Crete, his designated province, but secured Macedonia, Illyricum and Greece (147). This was civil war whether declared or not. Civil war was certainly closing in on Italy. Cicero decided to rely on Young Caesar (156; = his soldiers; 151-154, Cicero’s Comeback  ). The battle of Mutina follows. T. fails to emphasise just how strange the alliance of Cicero and Young Caesar at Mutina was. The balance of power is evident: Caesar’s assassins and Caesar’s heir were on the same side, this time opposing Antonius, with Caesar’s veterans fighting on opposing sides. The focus had shifted towards a mutual enemy, an alliance against the strongest faction: Antonius (cf. Cass. Dio 45.14.1-3). The Senate had a role to play in this development: after Mutina honours were given to the winning side (162), but Decimus Brutus was singled out as the main victor and awarded a (civil war) triumph (in clear breach of conventions) by the Senate. During the summer the Senate addressed the soldiers of Young Caesar without consulting him first (Vell. Pat. 2.62.5; Cass. Dio 46.41.2). The main issue with this part of the book is T.’s extreme reliance on Cicero as evidence, a man who manifestly failed to comprehend the political situation. The forming of an alliance between Lepidus and Antonius – surely unsurprising ( contra  T., page 163-165; “treachery of Lepidus” (164)) – comes next, followed by Young Caesar’s actions in Rome, including the lex Pedia  (169). Ideological alignments were rapidly restored. The triumvirate with its assignment of constituting the res  publica , including the ending of the civil war, was hardly a “veiled ploy” (170; T. wrongly talks of restoring), as making war on the assassins was in essence their assignment (C.H. Lange,  Res Publica Constituta  [2009]). Cicero’s warmongering had helped create the triumvirate (accepted by T, page 172). Chapter 7,  Brutus’ Last Fight  , focuses on Philippi. T. rightly emphasises that much of our evidence is the product of an “intense desire to make sense of it all” (174). T. then reproduces the old and mistaken idea that Augustus tried to bury the past (175). There is little doubt that he tried to shape the memory of Philippi (as page 175), as they all did. Importantly, ending the civil war was part of the assignment of the triumvirs, and this is visible in the  Res Gestae . T. is dissatisfied with the sentence “men who killed my father” (  RG  2), but none of the enemies are mentioned by name in the  Res Gestae . Civil war, however, remains in focus: his foreign and civil    war battles and clementia  are mentioned in chapter 3, the triumvirate is mentioned in chapter 1.4, and the ending of the civil war is prominently mentioned in chapter 34.1 (the second mention of bellum civile ). Following on from this, coins are discussed as an expression of a united republican response (179). This is wrong. The chief theme of the coinage of Sextus Pompeius’ coinage is his family – his father and brother – and the ties of  pietas  between them, and linked motifs like the Neptune cult (  RRC   511). The coinage of Sextus makes no reference to libertas  or to the Ides of March. Looking at Sextus’ operations in 42-40 BCE, were he a dedicated ‘republican’, we might have expected positive action in support first of Brutus and Cassius, and later of L. Antonius. There was none. On page 181 T. suggests – with Appian – that the liberators and self-professed defenders of the res publica  were remembered for the “shocking and aggressive assault of the Greek East”. They may have been liberators to their own accord – assassins to others – but they behaved as dynasts! They all did what they thought right and best for themselves, trying to survive and, unsurprisngly, to win! That said, T. is not (only) apologetic is her treatment of Brutus (185-191). As for the battle at Philippi, T. is right to emphasise that nothing was predictable in battle. The chapter ends with a comparison between Brutus and Antonius, underlining that it was Young Caesar who wanted the head of Brutus (208-209), ignoring that it was Antonus who wanted the head of Cicero. Nobody is sympathetic in civil war and society is confronted by a general state of chaos. Chapter 8 focuses on the  Death and Legend   of Brutus, followed by a conclusion. Brutus, according to T, wanted to avoid civil war at any cost (236), but the fact remains that by killing Caesar he initiated another round of the civil war. One question remains unanswered: why is this different from the other political motivated murders of the Late Republic? T. has written a fine book about Brutus, focusing on Brutus, the enigma (237). One issue, however, with the biographical take on Brutus is the lack of a chapter explaining the crises of the Late Republic. This volume will undoubtedly be a standard reference point in the foreseeable future. It is however this reviewer’s hope that this book might be taken as a starting point for reflection of the categories we use in describing the political upheaval of the period. Aalborg University, Denmark C.H. Lange  
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