Lucius Junius Brutus (6th century BC) first Roman consul
Lucius Junius Brutus, son of Tarquinia, was child of a royal family. His uncle Tarquinius Superbus ('the proud') was king of Rome in the second half of the 6th century BC, exercising a true tyranny and killing a number of Roman aristocrats. Among them Brutus' brother, whilst Lucius Junius (also written as Iunius on occasions) managed to survive by pretending to be stupid. Since fool is translated in Latin as Brutus, he thereby deserved his nickname.
The importance of Brutus on the Roman stage started when a snake was found in the royal palace. Tarquinius Superbus decided to send his two sons, Titus and Arruns, to the famous oracle in Delphi to ask for the meaning of this bad omen. Cousin Brutus is asked to join the two. Typically, none of the ancient historians (for instance Livius and Dionysus of Halikarnassos) tell us the answer on this question, but the three also asked who would rule Rome next, and the reply was "The first one of you to kiss your mother". The brothers rushed home as soon as they could, but Brutus understood the true meaning of the message. He pretended to trip, and his lips brushed the ground: the earth was their mother.
The Rape of Lucretia then ended the monarchy and started the long lasting and prosperous Roman Republic. It all started when the king's son Sextus Tarquinius raped a woman named Lucretia. Feeling dishonoured, she sent for her husband Collatinus and her father, who arrived with Brutus on the stage of the crime. The disgraced woman stabbed herself in front of them, which made her husband enraged with the Tarquinii. Brutus again proved here he wasn't an idiot at all, as he used Collatinus' rage cunningly. He let the influential and revenge-driven Collatinus swear that he would do anything to overthrow the Tarquinii monarchy. Brutus then showed Lucretia's body to the Roman people, who angrily agreed with Brutus' proposition to renounce the monarchy forever.
After the expulsion of the Tarquinii in 510, Brutus was elected the first consul in the newly established Republic. His fellow consul was Collatinus. Then the public opinion turned against Collatinus, as people were convinced that a member of the Tarquinii-family would always long back for the monarchy. He was put under severe pressure, finally abdicating and going into exile.
Brutus however was known for his unwavering devotion to the Republic. He even had his own sons assassinated for conspiring against the state. Young aristocrats, among them the two sons of Brutus, worked together with the Tarquinii clan, who secretly had an armed force outside Rome. Brutus found out about the conspiracy and ordered to execute the whole group, including his own sons. This legendary ending was painted by Jacques-Louis David in 1789 under the title Lictors Bring to Brutus the Bodies of his Sons.
Brutus was killed eventually in a man-to-man combat with Tarquinni-leader Arruns. They stabbed each other to death with their spears.