Servilia (mother of Brutus)
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|Born||Before 97 BC|
|Known for||Julius Caesar's mistress|
|Spouse(s)||Marcus Junius Brutus the Elder, Decimus Junius Silanus|
Marcus Junius Silanus
Servilia (b. circa 104 BC, d. after 42 BC) was a Roman matron from a distinguished family, the Servilii Caepiones. She was the daughter of Quintus Servilius Caepio the Younger and Livia, thus the half-sister of Cato the Younger. She married Marcus Junius Brutus the Elder. They had a son, Brutus the Younger. After her first husband's death she married Decimus Junius Silanus, and had a son with him, as well as three daughters.
She gained fame as the mistress of Julius Caesar, whom her son Brutus and son-in-law Gaius Cassius Longinus, would assassinate in 44 BC. The relationship between Caesar and her seems to have been well known in Rome at the time and imperial historians characterized her as "the love of his life", "his only true love" and "his first love", Plutarch stated that she in turn was madly in love with him. When exactly their relationship began is unclear. Some historians believe it began when they were teenagers, while others think it started when they were in their 30s.
Servilia was a patrician who could trace her line back to Gaius Servilius Ahala, 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 13 years of age.
Marriages and children
Servilia was married to Marcus Junius Brutus, tribune of the plebs and founder of a colony at Capua. They had one child, Marcus, born about 85 BC. The elder Brutus was killed by Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus after the surrender of Mutina in 77 BC. Servilia subsequently married Decimus Junius Silanus, by whom she had three daughters: Junia Prima, Junia Secunda, and Junia Tertia.
Relationship with Caesar
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 on 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. 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, but this is unlikely on chronological grounds, as Caesar was only fifteen years old when Brutus was born. In 63 BC, 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. 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.
Brutus's actions during her later life
A rift developed between Servilia and her son in 45 BC, when Brutus unexpectedly, and some thought unreasonably, divorced Claudia Pulchra, in order to marry his cousin, Porcia, the daughter of Cato. 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.
After Caesar's assassination in 44 BC, 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 with the conspirators, Servilia escaped the purges of the second triumvirate unscathed, probably due to the fact that she was Lepidus' mother-in-law. After Brutus' death, her son's ashes were sent to her from Philippi. While Porcia died soon after her husband, 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.
Marriages and issue
- Marcus Junius Brutus the Elder
- Decimus Junius Silanus, the consul of 62 BC
- Marcus Junius Silanus, the consul of 25 BC
- Junia Prima (married Publius Servilius Isauricus, the consul of 48 BC)
- Junia Secunda (married Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, the future triumvir of the Second Triumvirate)
- Junia Tertia (married Gaius Cassius Longinus, another prominent assassin of Julius Caesar.)
Brutus family tree
Servilia is the subject of a poem by John Dryden. A fictionalized Servilia appears in the Emperor series of novels by Conn Iggulden, who has portrayed her as a courtesan. Servilia is a character in Colleen McCullough's Masters of Rome series.
Television and film
A fictionalised version of Servilia was a main character in the 2005 HBO television series Rome, played by Lindsay Duncan. A similarly fictionalised Servilia makes an appearance in the 2005 six-part mini series Empire, here played by Trudie Styler. Natalie Medlock portrays Servilia in the 2018 Netflix television docudrama series Roman Empire.
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