Verdict on Brutus

Octavian Chronicle #4, The Second Triumvirate-43 BC, tells the whole story.
In August 43 BC, after the Battle of Mutina, a terrified senate elected nineteen-year-old Octavian to the
position of consul, the highest office in the government of Rome. Shortly thereafter, Octavian put the assassins of Caesar on trial even though they had fled the country months ago. Brutus and Cassius were in the east with the rest of the assassins raising armies to come back and take military and political control of Rome. At the end of the meeting a lone senator spoke up in defense of Brutus.

Excerpt:Agrippa looked around the senate hall. Centurions were in position, side by side, all along the walls. He thought, There’ll be no assassination of a ‘Caesar’ today.

When they entered, the two new consuls, Octavian and his older cousin Pedius, were greeted by loud applause. They proceeded to their chairs atop the platform between the senators’ stone benches which rose up on either side of the hall.

Once it was quiet, Octavian stood and spoke, “There are a few matters which have to be taken care of before we get on with the usual business of our country.

“First, we’ll revoke the declaration that Dolabella is a public enemy.

“Second, we’ll declare that the murder of my father, Julius Caesar, was a crime. 

“Third, charges will be brought against all the assassins and all those involved in the plot. All of these charges will be brought today, and the cases will be heard today.”

There was silence. The senators knew that none of the accused were in Rome to defend themselves. There’d be no more cheering. They’d been outmaneuvered and defeated by a vengeful nineteen-year-old boy who now controlled their fate.

Agrippa noticed that the senators were no longer whispering to one another. Octavian, his boyhood friend was now striking fear into the hearts of these men. There was no charm in his demeanor today, only an icy, cold-blooded calmness. Octavian motioned for Lucius Cornificius to proceed.

Cornificius started by calling for a vote on the first order of business, declaring that Dolabella was no longer an enemy of the state. No objections were raised. He declared it passed.

The same was done on the vote to declare the assassination of Caesar a crime. No senator dared to raise his hand in objection.

Next, Cornificius read off the names of the accused, starting with Marcus Brutus. The list included not only those who actually carried out the assassination but also all those who were closely associated with the plot. Some of these men weren’t even in Rome on the day of the assassination. When he was done, nearly one hundred men were charged. All were found guilty of murder and sentenced to die as soon as they were caught.

Octavian stood to call the meeting to an end, but just as he did, a senator named Silicius Corona asked to speak. Octavian turned to him and said, “Go ahead.”

Silicius spoke, “I’ve listened today, with the rest of you, to the trials of men who are not here to defend themselves. I want to speak in behalf of Marcus Brutus. I was silent when the vote was taken on him. At this time, however, I’d like to say that I cast my vote for Marcus Brutus’ acquittal.”

There was a stunned silence in the hall. Agrippa thought, What a fool!

Octavian stared at Silicius and said, “Of all the people who’ve been charged here today in the murder of Caesar, Marcus Brutus is the guiltiest. I commend you for your courage to speak out, but I question your legal basis, your motives, and your judgment. It is true that Brutus wasn’t here to defend himself today, but all of you in this chamber know that Brutus was the judge, jury, and chief executioner of Caesar! There was no trial for Caesar, just the knives that took his life.”

Agrippa looked at Cornelius, who was ready to draw his sword against Silicius. He saw Octavian wave Cornelius off with a slight motion of his hand as he said, “I declare today’s session is at an end.”

Octavian gestured to Pedius, and the two of them got up and walked out of the chamber.

“I thought he was going to put Silicius to death,” said Maecenas.

“I’m sure he wanted to avoid bloodshed at the first Senate meeting,” said Agrippa.