Zonaras 7.11 Part III: Brutus’ Feigned Stupidity

Tarquinius wages war; Lucius Junius Brutus disguises his intelligence:

Finding himself short of funds on account of the construction of the aforementioned shrine, Tarquinius waged war against Ardea. From this war, he not only failed to get hold of any money, but also lose his throne; indeed, there had even been certain portents clearly indicating his coming deposition. In his garden, vultures had snatched away some newborn eagles, and in the banquet hall, where he was entertaining some friends, a huge snake appeared and fell upon him and his dinner guests. On this account, he sent his sons Titus and Arruns to Delphi. There, Apollo prophesied that he would fall from the throne when a dog had a human voice, and so Tarquinius was buoyed up by good hopes, thinking that such a thing could never come to pass.

There was also a Lucius Junius, the son of Tarquinius’ sister, whose father and brother Tarquinius had murdered. Lucius, fearing for his own safety, pretended to be a fool as a guarantee of his safety, and was thus called ‘Brutus’ (stupid). The custom among the Latins is to use these kinds of epithets for the nobles. While playing the fool, he was taken along as a pet by the Tarquin brothers for this journey. Yet, when there, he said that he would erect a statue to the god. This was a stick which appeared to have no use, and this earned him no small degree of mockery; but this stick was like an image of his own dissemblance, for he had hollowed it out and filled it with gold, signifying that he had kept his sharp mind safe and respectable by disguising it with the apparent disgrace of stupidity. When the sons of Tarquinius asked which of the two would inherit their father’s throne, the god responded that the one who first kissed his mother would hold power. Brutus, understanding this oracle, fell as though by accident and kissed the ground, rightly judging that this was the mother of all.

Sebastiano Ricci, “Brutus embrassant la terre”

Δεηθεὶς δὲ χρημάτων εἰς τὴν οἰκοδομὴν τοῦ ναοῦ ὁ Ταρκύνιος ᾿Αρδεάταις ἐπήνεγκε πόλεμον· ὅθεν οὔτε χρήματα προσεκτήσατο καὶ τῆς βασιλείας ἐξέπεσε. γεγόνασι δ’ αὐτῷ καὶ σημεῖά τινα δηλωτικὰ τῆς ἐκπτώσεως. ἔκ τε γὰρ τοῦ κήπου αὐτοῦ γῦπες νεοσσοὺς ἐξήλασαν ἀετῶν, καὶ ἐξ ἀνδρῶνος, ἐν ᾧ συνειστιᾶτο φίλοις, ὄφις μέγας ἐπιφανεὶς αὐτόντε καὶ τοὺς συσσίτους ἐξέβαλε. διά τοι ταῦτα ἐς Δελφοὺς Τίτον τε καὶ ᾿Αρροῦντα τοὺς υἱοὺς ἔπεμψε. τοῦ δὲ ᾿Απόλλωνος χρήσαντος τότε τῆς ἀρχῆς ἐκπεσεῖσθαι αὐτὸν ὅτε κύων φωνῇ ἀνθρωπίνῃ χρήσαιτο, ἀγαθαῖς ἐλπίσιν ᾐώρητο, μὴ οἰηθείς ποτε γενέσθαι τὸ μάντευμα.

῏Ην δὲ Λούκιος ᾿Ιούνιος ἀδελφῆς τοῦ Ταρκυνίου υἱός, οὗ τὸν πατέρα καὶ τὸν ἀδελφὸν ὁ Ταρκύνιος ἔκτεινεν. οὗτος οὖν καὶ περὶ ἑαυτῷ δεδοικὼς μωρίαν προσεποιήσατο, ταύτην ἑαυτοῦ προστησάμενος σώτειραν· διὸ καὶ Βροῦτος ἐπεκλήθη· τοὺς γὰρ εὐήθεις οὕτω τοῖς Λατίνοις ἔθος καλεῖν. πλαττόμενος οὖν τὸν μωραίνοντα, τοῖς τοῦ Ταρκυνίου παισὶν εἰς Δελφοὺς ἀπιοῦσι συμπαρελήφθη ὡς ἄθυρμα. ὁ δὲ καὶ ἀνάθημα φέρειν ἔλεγε τῷ θεῷ· τὸ δ’ ἦν βάκτρον τι μηδὲν ἐκ τοῦ φαινομένου ἔχον χρηστόν, ὅθεν καὶ ἐπὶ τούτῳ ὠφλίσκανε γέλωτα. τὸ δ’ ἦν οἷον εἰκών τις τῆς κατ’ αὐτὸν προσποιήσεως· κοιλάνας γὰρ αὐτὸ λάθρᾳ χρυσίον ἐνέχεεν, ἐνδεικνύμενος δι’ αὐτοῦ ὡς καὶ τὸ φρόνημα αὐτῷ τῷ τῆς μωρίας ἀτίμῳ σῷον καὶ ἔντιμον κατακρύπτεται. ἐρομένων δὲ τῶν Ταρκυνίου υἱῶν τίς τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ πατρὸς διαδέξεται, ἔχρησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν πρῶτον τὴν μητέρα φιλήσαντα τὸ κράτος ἕξειν. καὶ συνεὶς ὁ Βροῦτος ὡς τυχαίως καταπεσὼν τὴν γῆν κατεφίλησεν, αὐτὴν μητέρα πάντων ὑπάρχειν κρίνας ὀρθῶς.

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