Zonaras 7.12 Part II: Brutus Executes His Sons

“It was either godly or beastly.”

The ambassadors who had been sent to Rome on the pretence of asking for money remained in the city for a while and managed to corrupt some of the nobles, among whom were the sons of Brutus, whom they persuaded to engage in treason. Therefore, as they persuaded them, it seemed right to undertake an oath, and after all of this they returned home. The house was deserted and dark. A certain slave named Vindicius escaped their notice within the house, not by contrivance but by chance. As he lay hidden, he was a witness to their deeds and plans, which involved the murder of the consuls and the surrender of the city; they had related these intentions to Tarquinius through the ambassadors. Once the conspirators had left the house, the slave left the house and related everything. Those who had planned the treachery were rounded up, and their letters were attended to. They were led to the forum and placed against Vindicius. They recognized their letters. Many stood in dejection and silence, but Brutus called each of his sons by name and asked, “You do not make any defense against the charge?” They held their silence, so Brutus turned to the officers and said, “The rest of the business is yours.” They took the youths and beat them to death with their clubs. Although some of the others felt pity for his sons in their suffering, Brutus did not divert his eyes, nor did he display any grief from the beginning until the end, when the executioners removed their heads with an axe. It is not easy either to praise or to blame this action. Either the sublimity of virtue had prompted him to apathy, or the greatness of the suffering drove him to insensibility. Neither of these things is inconsiderable or human – rather, it was either godly or beastly.

Οἱ πρέσβεις δὲ ἐπὶ τῇ τῶν χρημάτων προφάσει τῇ ῾Ρώμῃ ἐνδιατρίβοντες ἴσχυσαν διαφθεῖραι τῶν ἐπισήμων τινάς, μεθ’ ὧν καὶ δύο τοῦ Βρούτου παῖδας ἔπεισαν ἐν τῇ προδοσίᾳ γενέσθαι. ὡς οὖν συνέπεισαν τὰ μειράκια, ἔδοξε καὶ ὅρκον προβῆναι, καὶ ἐπὶ τούτοις εἰς οἰκίαν συνῆλθον. ἦν δὲ ὁ οἶκος ὑπέρημος καὶ σκοτώδης. ἔλαθεν οὖν ἔνδον ὢν οὐκ ἐκ προνοίας, ἀλλὰ τυχαίως οἰκέτης ὄνομα Οὐινδίκιος, καὶ κατακρυφθεὶς ἐκεῖ θεατής τε τῶν δρωμένων ἦν καὶ τῶν βεβουλευμένων ἐπήκοος· ἅπερ ἦσαν τοὺς ὑπάτους ἀνελεῖν καὶ τὴν πόλιν προδοῦναι· καὶ ταῦτα τῷ Ταρκυνίῳ διὰ τῶν πρέσβεων ἐπεστάλκασιν. ἀπελθόντων δὲ τοῦ οἰκήματος τῶν συνωμοτῶν, ἐξελθὼν ὁ οἰκέτης ἅπαντα κατεμήνυσε. καὶ οἵ τε τὴν προδοσίαν μελετήσαντες συνελήφθησαν, καὶ τὰ γράμματα ἐκομίσθησαν· καὶ εἰς τὴν ἀγορὰν προαχθέντων αὐτῶν καὶ τὸν Οὐίνδικα παρεστήσαντο. τά τε γράμματα ἀνεγνώσθησαν· καὶ οἱ μὲν ἄλλοι ἐν κατηφείᾳ ἦσαν καὶ σιωπῇ, ὁ δὲ Βροῦτος ὀνομαστὶ τῶν υἱέων ἑκάτερον προσειπών “οὐκ ἀπολογεῖσθε” ἔφη “πρὸς τὴν κατηγορίαν;” τῶν δὲ σιωπώντων στραφεὶς πρὸς τοὺς ὑπηρέτας “ὑμέτερον” εἶπεν “ἤδη λοιπὸν τὸ ἔργον.” οἱ δὲ συλλαβόντες τοὺς νεανίσκους ῥάβδοις κατέξαινον. καὶ τῶν ἄλλων ἐπικλωμένων τοῖς πάσχουσιν ὁ πατὴρ οὔτ’ ἀλλαχόσε τὰς ὄψεις ἀπήγαγεν οὔτε μὴν οἴκτου τι ἐνεδείξατο μέχρι πελέκει τὰς κεφαλὰς τῶν παίδων ἀπέκοψαν. τοῦτο δὲ οὔτ’ ἐπαινεῖν οὔτε ψέγειν ἐστὶ ῥᾴδιον· ἢ γὰρ ἀρετῆς ὕψος εἰς ἀπάθειαν ἐξέστησεν αὐτοῦ τὴν ψυχὴν ἢ πάθους μέγεθος εἰς ἀναλγησίαν· οὐδέτερον δὲ μικρὸν οὐδ’ ἀνθρώπινον, ἀλλ’ ἢ θεῖον ἢ θηριῶδες.

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