Servilia (mother of Brutus)

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Servilia on a silver Denarius

Servilia (b. circa 104 BC, d. after 42 BC) was a Roman matron from a distinguished family, the Servilii Caepiones, and the half-sister of Cato the Younger. She was the wife of Marcus Junius Brutus, and then of Decimus Junius Silanus. But she is more famous as the mistress of Caesar, the mother of the younger Marcus Junius Brutus, and the mother-in-law of Gaius Cassius Longinus, the leaders of the conspiracy to assassinate Caesar in 44 BC.

Life[edit]

Servilia was a patrician who could trace her line back to Gaius Servilius Ahala,[1] and was the eldest child of Livia and Quintus Servilius Caepio the Younger. Her parents had two other children, a younger Servilia and a Quintus Servilius Caepio. They divorced when she was young (c. 97 BC), and her mother then married Marcus Porcius Cato. From this union, Servilia's half-brother, Cato, and half-sister, Porcia, were born. However, her mother and stepfather both died before 91 BC. As a result, Servilia, her younger siblings, and her half-siblings were all brought up in the house of their maternal uncle, Marcus Livius Drusus. He was assassinated during his tribunate in 91 BC, when Servilia would have been around 16 years of age.

Servilia was married to Marcus Junius Brutus, tribune of the plebs founder of a colony at Capua. They had one child, Marcus, born about 85 BC. The elder Brutus was killed by Gnaeus Pompeius after the surrender of Mutina in 77 BC.[2][3][4] Servilia subsequently married Decimus Junius Silanus, by whom she had three daughters: Junia Prima, Junia Secunda, and Junia Tertia.

By 64 BC, Servilia had become the mistress of Caesar, and they remained involved until the dictator's death in 44 BC. Caesar was very fond of her and famously presented her with a priceless black pearl after his return to Rome after the Gallic Wars. Two conflicting tales were told concerning Caesar and Servilia's youngest daughter, Junia Tertia. One was that Servilia offered Junia to Caesar once his interest in her began to wane.[5] This story was alluded to wittily by Cicero, when he remarked of a real estate transaction: "It's a better bargain than you think, for there is a third (tertia) off." The second rumour was that Junia was Caesar's daughter. A similar rumour held that Servilia's son, Marcus Junius Brutus, was Caesar's son,[6] but this is unlikely on chronological grounds, as Caesar was only fifteen years old when Brutus was born.

In 63, Servilia contributed to a scandalous incident during a debate in the senate over the fate of those who had conspired with Catiline. Caesar and Cato, Servilia's half-brother, were on opposing sides in the debate, and when someone handed Caesar a letter, Cato accused him of corresponding with the conspirators, and demanded it be read aloud. The missive proved to be a love letter from Servilia.[7]

Servilia's loyalties were torn during the Civil War, as both Cato and Brutus espoused the side of Pompeius, despite the latter's role in the death of the elder Brutus. Perhaps out of a desire to avoid offending Servilia, Caesar gave orders that Brutus should not be harmed if encountered after the Pompeian defeat at Pharsalus, Caesar gave orders to his officers not to harm Brutus if they saw him in battle, probably out of respect for Servilia.[8]

A rift developed between Servilia and her son in 45, when Brutus unexpectedly, and some thought unreasonably, divorced Claudia Pulchra, in order to marry his cousin, Porcia, the daughter of Cato.[9] Servilia seems to have worried that Porcia would exert too strong an influence on her son, and she may well have been jealous of the affection that Brutus showed his new bride.[10]

After Caesar's assassination in 44, in a conspiracy headed by Servilia's son and son-in-law, the conspirators met at Servilia's house. Apart from Servilia, the only women in attendance were Porcia and Junia Tertia. Despite her connections to the conspirators, Servilia escaped the purges of the second triumvirate unscathed. After Brutus' death, her son's ashes were sent to her from Philippi. While Porcia died soon after her husband, and was rumoured to have taken her own life by swallowing hot coals, Servilia lived out the remainder of her life in relative comfort and affluence under the care of Cicero's friend, Titus Pomponius Atticus. Servilia died a natural death, as did Tertia after her.

Marriages and issue[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

Lindsay Duncan as Servilia in the TV series Rome

See also[edit]

Sources[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Plut. Bru. 1,5.
  2. ^ Plut. Pomp. 16
  3. ^ Appian, B. C. ii. Ill
  4. ^ Liv. Epit 90.
  5. ^ Suet. Caesar. 50.2
  6. ^ Plut, Bru., 5.2.
  7. ^ Plut. Cato. 24,1
  8. ^ Plutarch, Life of Brutus, 5.1.
  9. ^ Cic. Att. 13. 16
  10. ^ Cic. Att. 13. 22
  11. ^ Syme, the Roman Revolution, page 69
  12. ^ McCullough, Colleen (1997-02-01). Caesar's Women. Avon. ISBN 978-0-380-71084-3.

External links[edit]