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About David Halberstam. David Halberstam.
Marcus Brutus, the Noblest Roman of them all? By Kathryn TempestYale University Press London Blog
David Halberstam was an American journalist and historian, known for his work on the Vietnam War, politics, history, the Civil Rights Movement, business, media, American culture, and later, sports journalism. He was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting in Halberstam graduated from Harvard University with a degree in journalism in and started his career writing for the Dai David Halberstam was an American journalist and historian, known for his work on the Vietnam War, politics, history, the Civil Rights Movement, business, media, American culture, and later, sports journalism.
Halberstam graduated from Harvard University with a degree in journalism in and started his career writing for the Daily Times Leader in West Point, Mississippi. In the late s and early s, writing for The Tennessean in Nashville, Tennessee, he covered the beginnings of the American Civil Rights Movement.
At the age of 30, he won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the war. Yet even as a young man Brutus had exploited his name, its legendary associations and the reputation it conferred upon him as a defender of the Roman Republic. In so doing, he added a nobility of character to the reputation he was so carefully crafting.
And character, to the Romans, counted for a lot.
Yet readers of Plutarch will know that the biographer has something else in mind when he praises Brutus: namely, the nobility of purpose from which he acted. Brutus, he believed, had killed Caesar because he feared the latter was establishing a tyranny over Rome.
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Time and again Caesar had held the offices of consul and dictator; just two months before he was killed he had been made dictator perpetuo — dictator for a potentially unlimited term — all of which left him in a position of unrivalled power. The rest of the conspirators, Plutarch tells us, acted because they hated and envied him.
But to return to our question: why was Brutus singled out as the only noble conspirator? Some men, like the Roman politician Cicero, immediately celebrated the death of Caesar as a victory and congratulated Brutus on the recovery of freedom. Others disagreed.
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In addition, he had worked tirelessly to reform Rome and improve its living conditions. As for Brutus himself, few historical figures have inspired such a conflicting legacy.
Julius Caesar as the Noblest Roman of them all
The interpretation of Brutus as either a selfless fighter against dictatorship or an opportunistic traitor has varied along with historical and political circumstances. Even today, more than two thousand years later, dilemmas such as the price of liberty, the conflict between personal loyalties and universal ideals, and whether it works when a tyrant is removed remain as relevant as ever.
Yet in all this Brutus himself has continued to fascinate: an unresolved conundrum which has in turn transformed him into an almost mythological, legendary character. When we encounter Brutus today in modern representations on TV, stage and film, the Brutus we see is predominantly the product of Shakespeare. Thus, when he appears, he is more of a troubled soul than a public symbol, and the result is often sympathetic: a tragic hero akin to Hamlet.
When a historical figure has been so variously interpreted, it is unlikely that any study can claim finality on the verdict.