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Author: Plutarch
Editor: John D. Cox
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The Comparison of Dion with Brutus


Plutarch: The Comparison of Dion with Brutus

11. To come now to compare these two noble personages together, it is certain that both of them having had great gifts in them (and specially Dion), of small occasions they made themselves great men, and therefore Dion of both deserveth chiefest praise. For he had no co-helper to bring him unto that greatness, as Brutus had of Cassius, who doubtless was not comparable unto Brutus for virtue and respect of honor, though otherwise in matters of war, he was no less wise and valiant than he. For many do impute unto Cassius the first beginning and original of all the war and enterprise and sayd it was he that did encourage Brutus to conspire Caesar’s death, where Dion furnished himself with armor, ships, and soldiers and won those friends and companions also that did help him to prosecute his war. Nor he did not as Brutus, who rose to greatness by his enterprises and by war got all his strength and riches. But he in contrary manner spent of his own goods to make war for the liberty of his country and disbursed of his own money that should have kept him in his banishment. Furthermore, Brutus and Cassius were compelled of necessity to make war, because they could not have lived safely in peace when they were driven out of Rome, for that they were condemned to death and pursued by their enemies. And for this cause therefore they were driven to hazard themselves in war, more for their own safety than for the liberty of their countrymen, whereas Dion on the other side, living more merrily and safely in his banishment than the tyrant Dionysius himself that had banished him, did put himself to that danger to deliver Sicily from bondage.

22. Now the matter was not alike unto the Romans to be delivered from the government of Caesar as it was for the Syracusans to be rid of Dionysius’ tyranny. For Dionysius denied not that he was not a tyrant, having filled Sicily with such misery and calamity. Howebeit Caesar’s power and government, when it came to be established, did indeed much hurt at his first entry and beginning unto those that did resist him, but afterwards, unto them that being overcome had received his government, it seemed he rather had the name and opinon only of a tyrant than otherwise that he was so indeed. For there never followed any tyrannical nor cruel act, but contrarily, it seemed that he was a merciful physician, whom God had ordained of special grace to be governor of the Empire of Rome and to set all things again at quiet stay, the which required the counsel and authority of an absolute prince. And therefore the Romans were marvelous sorry for Caesar after he was slain, and afterwards would never pardon them that had slain him. On the other side, the cause why the Syracusans did most accuse Dion was because he did let Dionysius escape out of the castle of Syracuse, and because he did not overthrow and deface the tomb of his father.

33. Furthermore, touching the wars, Dion alway showed himself a captain unreprovable, having wisely and skilfully taken order for those thing which he had enterprised of his own head and counsel: and did amend the faults others committed, and brought things to better state than he found them. Where it seemeth that Brutus did not wisely to receive the second battle, considering his rest stood upon it. For after he had lost the battle, it was unpossible for him ever to rise again, and therefore his hart failed him, and so gave up all, and never durst strive with his evil fortune as Pompey did, considering that he had present cause enough in the field to hope of his soldiers, and being beside a dreadful lord of all the sea over. Furthermore, the greatest reproach they could object against Brutus was that Julius Caesar having saved his life, and pardoned all the prisoners also taken in battle, as many as he had made request for, taking him for his friend, and honoring him above all his other friends, Brutus notwithstanding had imbrued his hands in his blood, wherewith they could never reprove Dion. For on the contrary side, so long as Dion was Dionysius’ friend and kinsman, he did alway help him to order and govern his affairs. But after he was banished his country, and that his wife was forcibly married to an other man, and his goods also taken from him, then he entered into just and open wars against Dionysius the tyrant.

4In what things Dion was inferior unto Brutus. But in this point, they were contrary together. For wherein their chiefest praise consisted, to wit, in hating of tyrants and wicked men, it is most true that Brutus’ desire was most sincere of both. For having no private cause of complaint or grudge against Caesar, he ventured to kill him, only to set his country again at liberty. Where if Dion had not received private cause of quarrel against Dionysius, he would never have made war with him. The which Plato proveth in his Epistles, where is plainly seen that Dion being driven out of the tyrant’s court against his will, and not putting himself to voluntary banishment, he drove out Dionysius. Furthermore, the respect of the commonwealth caused Brutus, that before was Pompey’s enemy, to become his friend, and enemy unto Caesar, that before was his friend, only referring his friendship and enmity unto the consideration of justice and equity. And Dion did many things for Dionysius’ sake and benefit, all the while he trusted him: and when he began to mistrust him, then for anger he made war with him. Wherefore all his friends did not believe, but after he had driven out Dionysius, he would stablish the government to himself, flattering the people with a more courteous and gentle title than the name of a tyrant. But for Brutus, his very enemies themselves confessed, that of all those that conspired Caesar’s death, he only had no other end and intent to attempt his enterprise, but to restore the Empire of Rome again to her former state and government.

55. And furthermore, it was not all one thing to deal with Dionysius, as it was to have to do with Julius Caesar. For no man that knew Dionysius, but would have despised him, considering that he spent the most part of his time in drinking, dicing, and in haunting lewd women’s company. But to have undertaken to destroy Julius Caesar, and not to have shrunk back for fear of his great wisdom, power, and fortune, considering that his name only was dreadful unto every man, and also not to suffer the kings of Parthia and India to be in rest for him: this could not come but of a marvelous noble mind of him that for fear never fainted nor let fall any part of his courage. And therfore, so soon as Dion came into Sicilia, many thousands of men came and joined with him, against Dionysius. But the fame of Julius Caesar did set up his friends again after his death, and was of such force that it raised a young stripling, Octavius Caesar (that had no means nor power of himself) to be one of the greatest men of Rome: and they used him as a remedy to encounter Antonius’ malice and power. And if men will say, that Dion drove out the tyrant Dionysius with force of arms, and sundry battles: and that in contrary manner Brutus slew Caesar, being a naked man, and without guard: then do I answer again, that it was a noble part, and of a wise Captain, to choose so apt a time and place, to come upon a man of so great power, and to find him naked without his guard. For he went not suddenly in a rage, and alone, or with a small company, to assail him: but his enterprise was long time before determined of, and that with divers men, of all the which, not a man of them once failed him: but it is rather to be thought that from the beginning he chose them honest men, or else that by his choice of them, he made them good men. Whereas Dion, either from the beginning made no wise choice in trusting of evil men, or else because he could not tell how to use them he had chosen, of good men he made them become evil, so that neither the one nor the other could be the part of a wise man. For Plato himself reproveth him, for that he had chosen such men for his friends that he was slain by them, and after he was slain, no man would then revenge his death.

6Brutus honored of his enemies after his death. Brutus image or statue standing in brasse in Millaine was preserved and kept by Octavius Caesar. And in contrary maner, of the enemies of Brutus, the one (who was Antonius) gave his body honorable burial: and Octavius Caesar the other, reserved his honors and memories of him. For at Millaine, (a citie of Gaul on Italy side) there was an image of his in brass, very like unto him: the which Caesar afterwards passing that way, beheld very advisedly, for that it was made by an excellent workman, and was very like him, and so went his way. Then he stayed suddenly again, and called for the governors of the city, and before them all told them, that the citizens were his enemies, and traitors unto him, because they kept an enemy of his among them. The Governors of the city at the first were astonished at it, and stoutly denied it: and none of them knowing what enemy he meant, one of them looked on another. Octavius Caesar then turning him unto Brutus’ statue, bending his brows, said unto them: This man you see standing up here, is he not our enemy? Then the governors of the city were worse afraid than before, and could not tell what answer to make him. But Caesar laughing, and commending the Gauls for their faithfulness to their friends, even in their adversities, he was contented Brutus’ image should stand still as it did.