Brutus was the adopted son of Julius Caesar. However he participated in the collective murder of the dictator, and then went on to try to take power in the Roman Empire. In the end, he lost to Caesar's heir, Octavius.

This story is told in William Shakespeare's play, Julius Caesar, where Brutus is effectively the tragic hero of the play - he admires Caesar, yet kills him because he would rather save Rome than his friend. However, due to idealistic rather than efficient management of the situation, an empire is finally set up in Rome.

Brutus was also a pseudonym used by the "anti-federalists" early in the history of the United States. The "anti-federalists" as their name implies wanted a less centralized government where individual states would have more power.

Rather than publish opinions under their own name, the framers of the constitution sent essays anonymously to local newspapers to convince the public that their way was better. Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, most famously, published under the pen name "Publius" what became the "Federalist" (commonly called "the Federalist Papers") later with John Jay.

Another Brutus is allegedly the founder and eponym of the kingdom of Britain. Supposedly descended from Trojan royalty, what we know about this Brutus of Britain comes from the medieval Welsh historians Nennius (8th century) and Geoffrey of Monmouth (12th century). Since Nennius offers at least 4 different accounts, and Geoffrey of Monmouth made up most of what he didn't take from Nennius, it can safely be said that not much is known about Brutus. Therefore, I offer the competing rumours.

Geoffrey of Monmouth says that Brutus was the son of Silvius who was in turn the son of Ascanius, the son of Aeneas, hero of the Aeneid. Ascanius and Aeneas had fled to Italy following the fall of Troy. When Silvius's wife was pregnant, Ascanius called a seer to predict the sex of the child, but the seer predicted something far more specific: the child would kill both his parents, travel through many countries in exile, and finally achieve greatness.

A number of versions of Brutus's lineage exist in Nennius: he is either Aeneas's grandson or great-grandson. Brutus's father is one of: Ascanius, Silvius the son of Ascanius, or a different Sylvius born to Aeneas's second wife Lavinia.

The following family tree shows what is generally agreed of Brutus's ancestry (although some sources differ about Anchises's parentage); feel free to draw Brutus in beneath Aeneas or Ascanius wherever you like.

          Assaracus
              |
      Themis=Capys
            |    
         Anchises   Latinus
            |          |
Creusa===Aeneas=====Lavinia
       |         
   Ascanius   

After Brutus's birth, the legends recombine: Brutus accidentally killed or wounded his father with an arrow, and was expelled from Italy. It was prophecied that Brutus would found a new kingdom in territory previously inhabited by giants; en route he freed a group of Trojans enslaved in Greece and spent a while in the islands of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Then he travelled in Gaul, founding Turones (modern-day Tours, in France), before crossing the English Channel.

When he got to Britain (then called Albion) he slew the giants who lived there, with the aid of the Trojan warrior Corineus. According to Geoffrey of Monmouth, the king of the giants was Gogmagog, son of Laodamas, who was descended from the original giant-king called Albion. The big funny-shaped island off the coast of Belgium was henceforth known as Britain in his honour, and Brutus became the first normal-sized non-giant King of Britain.

Some sources say Brutus ruled for 23 years from 1149 BC or 1103 BC; his date of death is sometimes given as 1091 BC. He reportedly had three sons: Locrinus, Camber, and Albanactus. Locrinus succeeded him, and may have ruled for 10 years. Among his descendents, according to Geoffrey of Monmouth, were King Leir (the supposed basis of Shakespeare's King Lear) and King Coel (of the nursery rhyme Old King Cole, which is probably more historically sound than anything else you'll read here).

But wait! Nennius offers another quite different lineage for Brutus or Bruttus:

                                 Alanus
                                   |
              |--------------------|-----------------------|
              |                    |                       |
          Hiscion                Armenon                 Neugio
              |                    |                       |
   |----|-----|----|      |---|----|----|------|      |----|---|    
   |    |     |    |      |   |    |    |      |      |    |   | 
Francus | Alamanus |   Gothus | Cibidus | Longobardus |  Saxo  |    
        |          |          |         |             |        | 
     Romanus    BRUTTUS   Valagothus  Burgundus    Vandalus Boganus

In the above tree, Francus is the ancestor of the French, Romanus of the Romans, and so on (I can't figure out who Boganus sired - maybe the Bulgars?).

You may want to know who Alanus is descended from. Since you ask: Adam begat Seth begat Enos begat Cainan begat Malalehel begat Jared begat Enoch begat Mathusalem begat Lamech begat Noah begat Japheth began Joham began Jobath begat Bath begat Hisrau begat Esraa begat Ra begat Aber begat Ooth begat Ethec begat Aurthack begat Ecthactus begat Mair begat Semion begat Boibus begat Thoi begat Ogomuin begat Fethuir begat Alanus. (Some of those spellings seem uncertain, but they are taken from Nennius.)

In the next paragraph of his history, Nennius states that Alanus was the son of Rhea Silvia, daughter of Numa Pompilius, son of Ascanius.

It is unsurpising that modern historians are almost unanimous in saying: BRUTUS DID NOT EXIST.


Sources:

  • Nennius, Historia Brittonum, 8th century AD, http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/nennius-full.html
  • Geoffrey of Monmouth. History of the Kings of Britain. Translated by Aaron Thompson. 1999. http://www.yorku.ca/inpar/geoffrey_thompson.pdf
  • Wikipedia, "Brutus of Britain", http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brutus_of_Britain (Accessed April 23, 2004)
  • "Legendary British Kings", Britannia.com, http://www.britannia.com/history/resource/britons.html (Accessed April 23, 2004)
  • "Geoffrey of Monmouth", Britannia.com, http://www.britannia.com/history/geofmon.html (Accessed April 23, 2004)
  • "Regnal Chronologies", 2004, http://www.hostkingdom.net/Britain.html

Do you ever start on a write-up and then really wish you hadn't?

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