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The Story of Rome by  Mary Macgregor

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BRUTUS SPEAKS TO THE CITIZENS

[399] WHEN the terrible deed was done, Brutus wished to tell those senators, who had known nothing of the plot, why it had been necessary to murder the Dictator.

But they, horrified with the murder, and dismayed that they had been unable to aid Cæsar, were in no mood to listen to the conspirators. They fled indeed from the Senate-house, not knowing what fate awaited them, and too sad perhaps to greatly care.

Not far from the Senate-house they met Mark Antony, Cæsar's most faithful friend, who had been purposely kept away from the meeting. They told him what had befallen Cæsar, and he and many others of Cæsar's friends hid themselves, lest the conspirators should wish to murder them also. But they need not have feared, for it was Cæsar's life alone that had been doomed.

As the senators had not stayed to listen to their explanations, the conspirators now determined to tell the people that Cæsar was dead.

So they marched through the streets crying that the tyrant had been killed, and bidding all those who loved the Republic to join them.

But the citizens turned away, with scarcely concealed horror, and hurrying into their shops and houses, shut the doors.

They had seen Cæsar that very morning. It could not be true that he was indeed dead, as Brutus said. In awed whispers they spoke of him to one another, and many [400] wept, for now they forgot their suspicions, and remembered only that they had loved Cæsar, and that he had been their friend.

The next day, when the people assembled in the Forum, Brutus spoke to them. He told them, not of the dead Cæsar's faults, but of the Republic and its needs, and the people listened in silence.

But when Brutus sat down, another of the conspirators began to speak, accusing Cæsar of one crime after another. This was more than the people could bear. The interruptions grew louder and more threatening every moment, until at length the conspirators, fearing that a riot would take place, fled to the Capitol for safety.

On the following morning the Senate met, and Antony, caring no longer to hide, was seen walking through the streets toward the Senate-house. The people feared for his safety, because he had been the friend of Cæsar, and begged him to beware, lest he too was murdered. But he lifted his toga that they might see that he was clad in armour.

Even to meet the Senate, the conspirators did not venture to leave the Capitol, but they sent Cicero to be their spokesman.

Cicero's eloquence may have moved the senators. In any case, Mark Antony, who was one of the Consuls, agreed that the conspirators should be received in peace.

It was also arranged that Cæsar should be given a public funeral.

Antony was now content. As Consul, he would speak at Cæsar's funeral, and he did not doubt his power to rouse the passions of the people against the murderers of his friend. Cassius foresaw what Antony would do, and tried to stir the fears of Brutus. But in this he failed.

As the Senate had agreed to receive the conspirators, and as the people were in the meantime pacified, they now ventured to leave the Capitol, and even to enter the Forum.

[401] When the funeral day arrived, before Antony brought the body of his friend into the Forum, Brutus spoke once again to the assembled citizens, seeking this time to tell them why he had had anything to do with the murder of Cæsar whom he had loved. Here are his words, as Shakespeare tells them to us:—


"Romans, countrymen, and lovers! hear me for my cause, and be silent that you may hear. If there be any in this assembly, any dear friend of Cæsar's, to him I say, that Brutus' love to Cæsar was no less than his. If then that friend demand why Brutus rose against Cæsar, this is my answer:—Not that I love Cæsar less, but that I loved Rome more.


"As Cæsar loved me, I weep for him; as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was valiant, I honour him: but, as he was ambitious, I slew him. There is tears for his love; joy for his fortune; honour for his valour; and death for his ambition."


With these and many other words Brutus so pleased the people, that it did not seem likely that they would care to listen to what Antony had to say.

"Live Brutus, live Brutus!" shouted the crowds, well content for the moment with the defence which he had made.


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