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The Comparison of Dion and Brutus
Translated by John Dryden
There are noble points in abundance in the characters of these two
men, and one to be first mentioned is their attaining such a height
of greatness upon such inconsiderable means; and on this score Dion
has by far the advantage. For he had no partner to contest his glory,
as Brutus had in Cassius, who was not, indeed, his equal in proved
virtue and honour, yet contributed quite as much to the service of
the war by his boldness, skill, and activity; and some there be who
impute to him the rise and beginning of the whole enterprise, saying
that it was he who roused Brutus, till then indisposed to stir, into
action against Caesar. Whereas Dion seems of himself to have provided
not only arms, ships, and soldiers, but likewise friends and partners
for the enterprise. Neither did he, as Brutus, collect money and forces
from the war itself, but, on the contrary, laid out of his own substance,
and employed the very means of his private sustenance in exile for
the liberty of his country. Besides this, Brutus and Cassius, when
they fled from Rome, could not live safe or quiet, being condemned
to death and pursued, and were thus of necessity forced to take arms
and hazard their lives in their own defence, to save themselves, rather
than their country. On the other hand, Dion enjoyed more ease, was
more safe, and his life more pleasant in his banishment, than was
the tyrant's who had banished him, when he flew to action, and ran
the risk of all to save Sicily.
Take notice, too, that it was not the same thing for the Sicilians
to be freed from Dionysius, and for the Romans to be freed from Caesar.
The former owned himself a tyrant, and vexed Sicily with a thousand
oppressions; whereas Caesar's supremacy, certainly, in the process
for attaining it, had inflicted no trouble on its opponents, but,
once established and victorious, it had indeed the name and appearance,
but fact that was cruel or tyrannical there was none. On the contrary,
in the malady of the times and the need of a monarchical government,
he might be thought to have been sent as the gentlest physician, by
no other than a divine intervention. And thus the common people instantly
regretted Caesar, and grew enraged and implacable against those that
killed him. Whereas Dion's chief offence in the eyes of his fellow-citizens
was his having let Dionysius escape, and not having demolished the
former tyrant's tomb.
In the actual conduct of war, Dion was a commander without fault,
improving to the utmost those counsels which he himself gave, and
where others led him into disaster correcting and turning everything
to the best. But Brutus seems to have shown little wisdom in engaging
in the final battle, which was to decide everything, and when he failed
not to have done his business in seeking a remedy; he gave all up,
and abandoned his hopes, not venturing against fortune even as far
as Pompey did, when he had still means enough to rely on in his troops,
and was clearly master of all the seas with his ships.
The greatest thing charged on Brutus is, that he, being saved by Caesar's
kindness, having saved all the friends whom he chose to ask for, he
moreover accounted a friend, and preferred above many, did yet lay
violent hands upon his preserver. Nothing like this could be objected
against Dion; quite the contrary; whilst he was of Dionysius's family
and his friend, he did good service and was useful to him; but driven
from his country, wronged in his wife, and his estate lost, he openly
entered upon a war just and lawful. Does not, however, the matter
turn the other way? For the chief glory of both was their hatred of
tyranny, and abhorrence of wickedness. This was unmixed and sincere
in Brutus; for he had no private quarrel with Caesar, but went into
the risk singly for the liberty of his country. The other, had he
not been privately injured, had not fought. This is plain from Plato's
epistles, where it is shown that he was turned out, and did not forsake
the court to wage war upon Dionysius. Moreover, the public good made
Brutus Pompey's friend (instead of his enemy as he had been) and Caesar's
enemy; since he proposed for his hatred and his friendship no other
end and standard but justice. Dion was very serviceable to Dionysius
whilst in favour; when no longer trusted, he grew angry and fell to
arms. And, for this reason, not even were his own friends all of them
satisfied with his undertaking, or quite assured that, having overcome
Dionysius, he might not settle the government on himself, deceiving
his fellow-citizens by some less obnoxious name than tyranny. But
the very enemies of Brutus would say that he had no other end or aim,
from first to last, save only to restore to the Roman people their
And apart from what has just been said, the adventure against Dionysius
was nothing equal with that against Caesar. For none that was familiarly
conversant with Dionysius but scorned him for his life of idle amusement
with wine, women, and dice; whereas it required an heroic soul and
a truly intrepid and unquailing spirit so much as to entertain the
thought of crushing Caesar, so formidable for his ability, his power,
and his fortune, whose very name disturbed the slumbers of the Parthian
and Indian kings. Dion was no sooner seen in Sicily but thousands
ran in to him and joined him against Dionysius; whereas the renown
of Caesar, even when dead, gave strength to his friends; and his very
name so heightened the person that took it, that from a simple boy
he presently became the chief of the Romans; and he could use it for
a spell against the enmity and power of Antony. If any object that
it cost Dion great trouble and difficulties to overcome the tyrant,
whereas Brutus slew Caesar naked and unprovided, yet this itself was
the result of the most consummate policy and conduct, to bring it
about that a man so guarded around, and so fortified at all points,
should be taken naked and unprovided. For it was not on the sudden,
nor alone, nor with a few, that he fell upon and killed Caesar; but
after long concerting the plot, and placing confidence in a great
many men, not one of whom deceived him. For he either at once discerned
the best men, or by confiding in them made them good. But Dion, either
making a wrong judgment, trusted himself with ill men, or else by
his employing them made ill men of good; either of the two would be
a reflection on a wise man. Plato also is severe upon him, for choosing
such for friends as betrayed him.
Besides, when Dion was killed, none appeared to revenge his death.
Whereas Brutus, even amongst his enemies, had Antony that buried him
splendidly; and Caesar also took care his honours should be preserved.
There stood at Milan in Gaul, within the Alps, a brazen statue, which
Caesar in aftertimes noticed (being a real likeness, and a fine work
of art), and passing by it presently stopped short, and in the hearing
of many commanded the magistrates to come before him. He told them
their town had broken their league, harbouring an enemy. The magistrates
at first simply denied the thing, and, not knowing what he meant,
looked one upon another, when Caesar, turning towards the statue and
gathering his brows, said, "Pray, is not that our enemy who stands
there?" They were all in confusion, and had nothing to answer; but
he, smiling, much commended the Gauls, as who had been firm to their
friends, though in adversity, and ordered that the statue should remain
standing as he found it.
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