Brutus’ army had been soundly defeated, and most of his men were dead. The remnants of his force gathered around him.
‘Come, poor survivors, and rest on this rock,’ he said.
Clitus shook his head sadly. ‘Statilius showed the torch light to tell us that everything was well at the camp but he didn’t come back. He has either been captured or killed.’
‘Sit down Clitus,’ said Brutus. ‘Killing is the latest word. It’s the thing that’s in fashion. Listen Clitus.’ Brutus whispered something in Clitus’ ear.
‘Who, me?’ said Clitus. ‘Not for all the world.’
‘Quiet,’ said Brutus. ‘Not so loud.’
‘I’d rather kill myself,’ said Clitus.
Brutus turned to the man on his other side. ‘Listen, Dardanius,’ he said, and whispered in his ear.
Dardanius started back. ‘Would I do such a deed?’
Brutus got up and walked away. Dardanius and Clitus looked at each other in dismay. ‘What bad request did Brutus make of you?’ said Clitus.
‘To kill him, Clitus. Look, he’s deep in thought.’
‘That noble man is so full of grief that it’s overflowing through his eyes,’ said Clitus.
Brutus beckoned to Volumnius. ‘Come here, good Volumnius, I want a word with you,’ he said.
‘What do you want to say to me my lord?’ said Volumnius.
‘This, Volumnius,’ said Brutus. ‘Caesar’s ghost has appeared to me two separate times at night: at Sardis once, and again last night, here at Philippi. I know my hour has come.’
‘Not so, my lord.’
‘No, I’m sure it has, Volumnius’ said Brutus quietly. ‘You can see the situation, how it’s going. Our enemies have beaten us to the grave. It’s worthier to leap into it than linger till they push us. Good Volumnius, you know that we went to school together. For the sake of that old love, I beg of you, hold my sword’s hilt while I run on it.’
‘That’s not a friend’s place, my lord.’
The sound of the enemy’s trumpets was coming closer. Clitus walked a little away and came hurrying back. ‘Run, run, my lord,’ he urged. ‘There’s no time to linger here.’
Brutus ignored him. He nodded to each man in turn. ‘Farewell to you, and you, and you Volumnius.’ One of them lay sleeping and he opened his eyes. Brutus smiled. ‘Strato, you’ve been sleeping all this time. Farewell to you too, Strato. Countrymen, my heart is full of joy that in all my life every man I’ve known has been faithful to me. This losing day will give me more glory than Octavius and Mark Antony will achieve by this vile conquest. So farewell, now, for Brutus’ tongue has almost ended his life’s history. Night hangs on my eyes: my bones, that have worked only toward this hour of honour, crave rest.’
The trumpets were very close, and men were shouting, “ run, run”.
‘Flee, my lord, flee,’ shouted Clitus.
‘Go,’ said Brutus, ‘all of you. I’ll follow.’
They all started running, away from the approaching enemy. Brutus, called Strato back. ‘Please, Strato,’ he said. ‘Stay here with your lord. You are a man of good reputation Your life has had a taste of honour in it. So hold my sword while I run on it. Will you Strato?’
Strato looked at him sadly. He took the sword and held it. Brutus stood with the point at his stomach. ‘Give me your hand first,’ said Strato.’ They clasped hands. ‘Farewell, my lord,’ said Strato.
‘Farewell, good Strato.’ Brutus took hold of Strato’s shoulders and pulled himself onto the sword. Strato held him against his body, embracing him, as the sword penetrated his leader.
‘Caesar, be still now,’ gasped Brutus. ‘I didn’t kill you half as eagerly.’
Strato lowered Brutus’ body gently and lay it out on the ground.
Trumpets sounded the retreat, signalling to everyone that the battle was over.
Octavius, Antony and some officers arrived while Strato was still kneeling beside Brutus’ body. Messala and Lucilius were with them.
‘Who’s that man?’ said Octavius.
‘It’s my master’s man,’ said Messala. ‘Strato, where is your master?’
‘Free from the captivity you’re in Messala,’ said Strato. ‘The victors can do nothing more than make a fire out of him, because Brutus conquered himself and no other man has honour from his death.’
‘It’s fitting that Brutus should be found like this,’ said Lucilius. ‘I thank you, Brutus, for proving my words true, that no enemy would ever take you and, alive or dead, you would always be Brutus.’
‘All those who served Brutus may join me,’ said Octavius. He pointed at Strato. ‘Fellow, would you like to join me?’
‘Yes, if Messala recommends me.’
‘Do so, Messala,’ said Octavius.
‘How did my master die, Strato?’ said Messala.
‘I held the sword and he ran on it,’ said Messala.
‘Then take the man who did the last service to my master, Octavius,’ said Messala.
Antony held his hand up for silence. ‘This was the noblest Roman of them all,’ he said. ‘All the conspirators, except for him, did what they did in envy of great Caesar. Only he, in general honest thought, and in the common good, became one of them. His life was noble and his qualities so finely proportioned that Nature could stand up and say to all the world, “This was a man.”’
‘Let us treat him accordingly,’ said Octavius. ‘Give him all respect and full burial rites. His bones will lie in my tent tonight, like a soldier, dressed fittingly. So call the armies to rest and let’s go and share the glories of this happy day.’
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