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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Servilia Caepionis


Servilia Caepionis (b. c.107 BC - d. after 42 BC) is one of the few Roman women cited by ancient sources, mainly due to her being the mistress of Julius Caesar, mother of his assassin Marcus Junius Brutus, and half-sister of Cato the Younger.

Little is known of Servilia's early life. She was a patrician who could trace her line back to Gaius Servilius Ahala, and was the eldest child of Livia Drusa and Quintus Servilius Caepio the Younger. Her parents had two other children, Servilia the younger and a younger Quintus Servilius Caepio. Her parents divorced when she was young and her mother married Marcus Porcius Cato (who was father to Servilia's younger half-brother Cato the Younger.) Following her parents' divorce both her mother and stepfather died. Servilia and her younger siblings were brought up in the house of their maternal uncle, Marcus Livius Drusus who was the tribune. He too, however, died when she was 9.

Prior to 85 BC, she was married to Marcus Junius Brutus the Elder who became tribune of the plebs in 83 BC, and was founder of the colony in Capua. They had only one known child, Marcus Junius Brutus, born around 85 BC. Following the death of Sulla who had been dictator in 79 BC but had resigned a year later, the elder Brutus was killed by Pompey after the surrender of Mutina where he had fought him in 77 BC. Servilia's second marriage was with Decimus Junius Silanus with whom she had three daughters; Junia Prima, Junia Secunda and Junia Tertia.

Before 64 BC she became the mistress of Julius Caesar, and remained so until his death in 44 BC. Caesar was very fond of Servilia and, years later, when he returned to a chaotic Rome after the Gallic Wars, he presented her a priceless black pearl. It is also said that she offered him her youngest daughter Junia Tertia once his interests began to wane. Cicero wittily referenced this in remarking of a real estate deal: "It's a better bargain than you think, for there is a third (tertia) off." There was also gossip that Junia Tertia was Caesar's daughter, but it is unlikely that both tales could be true at once. It was also rumored that Servilia's son Marcus Junius Brutus, later one of Caesar's assassins, was Caesar's son but this is unlikely, as Caesar was only fifteen to seventeen years older than Brutus, and patricide was considered among the worst of crimes.

Scandalously, during a debate in the Senate over the execution or imprisonment of the Catiline conspirators in 63 BC, someone handed Caesar a letter. Servilia's half-brother, Cato, and Caesar were on opposing sides in the debate. When Cato accused Caesar of corresponding with the conspirators, and demanded the letter be read aloud, he discovered to his horror that it was a love letter written by his half-sister to Caesar.

Servilia may still have had influence over both Cato and her son, Brutus, at that time, but in 50 BC civil war broke out, and Cato left Rome to side with Pompey the Great, despite Servilia's relationship with Caesar. Although Brutus resented Pompey for the death of his father, he went too. In 48 BC Pompey was defeated in the battle of Pharsalus. Caesar gave orders to his officers not to harm Brutus if they saw him in battle, probably out of respect for Servilia. In 46 BC Caesar defeated Cato at the battle of Thapsus, and Cato took his own life.

Following the death of his uncle, although he was given high honour by Caesar, Brutus divorced his first wife Claudia Pulchra and married his cousin Porcia Catonis, Cato's daughter, in 45 BC. Servilia appears to have deeply resented the marriage as it caused a semi-scandal due to Brutus' unexplained and unreasonable rejection of Claudia Pulchra. As well as this she was jealous of the affection Brutus had for Porcia and Servilia possibly identified the influence Porcia could have over Brutus. The marriage resulted in a rift between mother and son. It may have been through Porcia's influence that Brutus decided to attack Caesar in 44 BC, in which he and several other senators conspired and assassinated Caesar.

After the assassination of Caesar by her son Brutus (and her son-in-law Cassius), the conspirators met at Servilia's house. Apart from Servilia the only other women in attendance were Porcia and Junia Tertia. Despite this, she herself escaped the purges of the second triumvirate unscathed. After Brutus's death, she lived out the remainder of her life in relative comfort and affluence under the care of Cicero's friend Titus Pomponius Atticus. Her son's ashes were sent to her from Philippi and she died naturally, as did Junia Tertia. Porcia, on the other hand, died in around 43/42 BC of uncertain causes although a majority of them claim that committed suicide following Brutus' death.

5 comments:

  1. Why are you quoting wikipedia word for word without either quotes or references? This is plagiarism.

    ReplyDelete
  2. ...it's only a blog, and I do it for my family history. Do you work for them? Tell them I'm sorry please. My relatives like it...

    ReplyDelete
  3. ...it's only a blog, and I do it for my family history. Do you work for them? Tell them I'm sorry please. My relatives like it...

    ReplyDelete
  4. ...don't think so, but Wikipedia sometimes is wrong...just interested in checking my family history...

    ReplyDelete