The final blow came when his uncle Cato, a father figure to Brutus, killed himself after losing in a battle against Caesar in 46 B.C. Brutus may have felt shame over accepting Caesar's clemency and obligation to do Cato honor by continuing his quest to "save" the republic from Caesar, Osgood speculated.
It is this moral dilemma that has caused debate over whether or not Brutus should be branded a villain. Plutarch's Life of Brutus, Osgood noted, is quite sympathetic in comparison to surviving documents naming other enemies of Caesar and his successors.
Shakespeare later used Plutarch's Brutus as one of the bases for his play Julius Caesar, where Brutus is portrayed as a tragic hero and Caesar as an unequivocal tyrant. The poet Dante, however, took a different stance: Brutus, in killing the man who spared him, was doomed to the lowest levels of hell. "He's perceived not as a liberator but [as] somebody who threatened the stability of the political system," McNelis said.
Scholars disagree on just who was the on the side of "good." McNelis believes neither side is entirely in the clear. "We need to realize that we're dealing with very brutal and ruthless men on both sides."
In the end, the legacy of power Caesar established lived on through his heir Octavian, who later became Rome's first emperor, also known as Imperator Caesar Augustus. The Ides of March remained a pithy reminder to future rulers, according to McNelis. "Octavian seems to have been aware of the problems of presenting himself as Caesar had. The Ides became a lesson in political self-presentation," he said.
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