‘There is a tide in the affairs of men/Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune,’ Shakespeare’s Brutus remarks in Julius Caesar. The real Marcus Junius Brutus too had had good cause to note the vicissitudes of the fickle goddess Fortuna. He also knew something of Greece and the Greeks; indeed, according to his biographer, Plutarch, ‘there was practically no Greek philosopher with whom Brutus was unacquainted or unfamiliar’. But no amount of Greek philosophy could have saved him from going down to defeat and death in the civil war against the forces of Mark Antony at Philippi in Greece in 42 BC.
Brutus was the classic exemplar of Horace’s maxim that ‘captive Greece took its fierce conqueror captive, and introduced the arts to rustic Latium’. High-ranking Romans were adepts of Greek culture; indeed, it was they who reinvented the Greeks as their – and so our – cultural ancestors. Had not the