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Was Marcus Junius Brutus “a man of honor”?

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Marcus Junius Brutus
Marcus Junius Brutus

Marcus Junius Brutus is best known for being one of the killers of Julius Caesar. In the historical tradition, he is considered a defender of the Roman republic and republican values. It turns out, however, that he treated these values ​​freely and selectively, depending on whether they actually served his interests.

Before 50 BCE he lent money to the people of the Cypriot city of Salamis at a very high, as we would say today, interest, charging borrowers with 48% interest! At that time, the permissible interest under Roman law was only 12% of the amount borrowed. It is also worth adding that senators were forbidden to engage in business, and for patricians it was a disgrace on honor.

Brutus, acting through his equites agents, has broken the law twice. In 50 BCE the proconsul of Cilicia was Marcus Tullius Cicero, and he was also responsible for the affairs of Cyprus. He refused to collect such high percentages against the agreed 12%. Marcus Junius then persuaded the senators to vote in his favor, forcing Cicero to collect interest. It was then that Cicero learned that one of his friends, i.e. Brutus, was behind the high-interest rates. So Shakespeare was right to describe Brutus with undisguised irony in Antony’s speech on Caesar’s corpse as “a man of honor”.

Author: Izabela Henning (translated from Polish: Jakub Jasiński)

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