Friday 03 October 2008

Et Tu, Brute (And you too, Brutus) : Origin and Meaning


What does Et tu Brute mean? These words are said to have been Julius Caesars last words after being assassinated on the Ides of March by a group of Senators, including Marcus Brutus, someone he had considered a close friend.
A number of translations exist:-
“And you, Brutus?”
“You too, Brutus?”
“Even you Brutus?”
“And you, (too) Brutus?”
Today, this quotation is mostly used to refer to an act of ultimate betrayal, usually from a trusted person.
The source of this quote appears to be from William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar: -
“Caesar: Doth not Brutus bootless kneel?
Casca: Speak, hands, for me! (They stab Caesar.)
Caesar: Et tu, Brute? Then fall, Caesar! (Dies.)
Cinna: Liberty! Freedom! Tyranny is dead!”
Purists are still debating the correct translation, but the question is whether the translation efforts are directed towards translating the Shakespeare version, or Caesars last words.
Further sources of Caesars demise are the writings of Suetonius, a Roman biographer and historian. (69 AD- 122 AD). In his biography of Julius Caesar reference is made to a Greek phrase "καὶ σὺ τέκνον”. This has been translated by scholars to “You too, my child?”.
Why Greek at this serious point in time? It would appear as though the words uttered by Caesar were also the first few words of a Greek saying "You too my son, will have a taste of power," which implied that he (Brutus) would be heading for the same fate.
Suetonius : “ ….was stabbed with three and twenty wounds, uttering not a word, but merely a groan at the first stroke, though some have written that when Marcus Brutus rushed at him, he said in Greek, You too, my child?”.
So, according to Suetonius there was written documentation as to Caesars last words. Plutonius, another respected philosopher and historian, maintained that Caesar died witout saying a word.
More Caesar quotes at a later post.
Image : Wikipedia
Source : Suetonius " The Lives of the Caesars- The Deified Julius"
Shakespeare : Julius Caesar
>Updated 23 June 2009<

No comments: