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Oath of Brutus

Oath of Brutus

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Oath of Brutus - History

People - Ancient Rome : Lucius Junius Brutus

Brutus in Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities L. Iunius Brutus. A celebrated Roman, the author, according to the Roman legends, of the great revolution which drove Tarquin the Proud from his throne, and which substituted the consular for the regal government. He was the son of Marcus Iunius and of Tarquinia, the second daughter of Tarquin. While yet young in years, he saw his father and brother slain by the order of Tarquin, and having no means of avenging them, and fearing the same fate to himself, he affected a stupid air, in order not to appear at all formidable in the eyes of a suspicious and cruel tyrant. This artifice proved successful, and he so far deceived Tarquin and the other members of the royal family that they gave him, in derision, the surname of Brutus, as indicative of his supposed mental imbecility. At length, when Lucretia had been outraged by Sextus Tarquinius, Brutus, amid the indignation that pervaded all orders, threw off the mask, and suatching the dagger from the bosom of the victim, swore upon it eternal exile to the family of Tarquin. Wearied out with the tyranny of this monarch, and exasperated by the spectacle of the funeral solemnities of Lucretia, the people abolished royalty, and confided the chief authority to the Senate and two magistrates, named at first praetors, but subsequently consuls. Brutus and the husband of Lucretia were first invested with this important office. They signalized their entrance upon its duties by making all the people take a solemn oath never again to have a king of Rome. Efforts, nevertheless, were soon made in favour of the Tarquins: an ambassador sent from Etruria, under the pretext of procuring a restoration of the property of Tarquin and his family, formed a secret plot for the overthrow of the new government and the sons of Brutus became connected with the conspiracy. A discovery having been made, the sons of the consul and their accomplices were tried, condemned, and executed by the orders of the father, although the people were willing that he should pardon them. From this time, Brutus sought only to die himself, and, some months after, a battle between the Romans and the troops of Tarquin enabled him to gratify his wish. He encountered, in the fight, Aruns, the son of the exiled monarch and with so much impetuosity did they rush to the attack that both fell dead on the spot, pierced to the heart each by the weapon of the other. The corpse of Brutus was carried to Rome in triumph. The consul Valerius pronounced a funeral eulogy over it, a statue of bronze was raised to the memory of the deceased in the Capitol, and the Roman women wore mourning for an entire year.

Lucius Junius Brutus in Roman Biography Brutus, (Lucius Junius,) a distinguished Ron patriot, son of Tarquinia, the sister of Tarquin the Pro The king having put to death the father and elder 1 ther of Brutus, the latter feigned idiocy, gave up all 1 possessions to his tyrannical uncle, and patiently accept! the reproachful surname of Brutus,(/>." stupid, brutish, which was destined to become a titleof so much gloi his family. Aruns and Titus, the sons of Tarquin, ha ing been sent to Delphi to consult the oracle, took Bruti with them to serve for their amusement. When th


August 21 is the harvest-time feast of Consualia, honoring the Roman god of grain storage, Consus.

We mark on this occasion the legendary capital punishment inflicted by Lucius Junius Brutus when he was consul of the ancient Roman Republic upon two rebels — his own sons, Titus and Tiberius.

The great Brutus had been one of the leaders of the revolt that expelled Rome’s last king, Lucius Tarquinius — reputedly after the king’s son raped Lucius’s kinswoman Lucretia. (Brutus was also Tarquin’s nephew.)

Upon completing his coup, Brutus immediately summoned the populace to swear an oath that no king would ever rule Rome again. So potent was the civic memory of this event that even centuries later when the Republic was well gone, Rome’s emperors dared not appropriate such an incendiary title as “King”.

But that was for a later time, after the winners wrote the history.

The exiled Etruscan king, subsequent Romans’ eternal watchword for tyranny, got the boot about 510 B.C.E., and in 509 was still hanging about looking for an opportunity to re-seat his dynasty. The plot he hatched is known as the Tarquinian conspiracy, and Brutus, to his grief, would discover that his own children had adhered to it. The statesman’s willingness to put his own flesh and blood to death for the security of Rome would long stand as a parable of manful patriotism.

Our account here is from Livy (line breaks have been added for readability), and the excuse to approximate this undated execution to summer’s harvest-time is bolded therein.

liberty was well nigh lost by treachery and fraud, a thing they had never apprehended. There were, among the Roman youth, several young men of no mean families, who, during the regal government, had pursued their pleasures without any restraint being of the same age with, and companions of, the young Tarquins, and accustomed to live in princely style.

Longing for that licentiousness, now that the privileges of all were equalized, they complained that the liberty of others has been converted to their slavery: “that a king was a human being, from whom you can obtain, where right, or where wrong may be necessary that there was room for favour and for kindness that he could be angry, and could forgive that he knew the difference between a friend and an enemy that laws were a deaf, inexorable thing, more beneficial and advantageous for the poor than the rich that they allowed of no relaxation or indulgence, if you transgress bounds that it was a perilous state, amid so so many human errors, to live solely by one’s integrity.”

Whilst their minds were already thus discontented of their own accord, ambassadors from the royal family come unexpectedly, demanding restitution of their effects merely, without any mention of return. After their application was heard in the senate, the deliberation on it lasted for several days, (fearing) lest the non-restitution might be a pretext for war, and the restitution a fund and assistance for war. In the mean time the ambassadors were planning different schemes openly demanding the property, they secretly concerted measures for recovering the throne, and soliciting them as if for the object which appeared to be under consideration, they sound their feelings to those by whom their proposals were favourably received they give letters from the Tarquins, and confer with them about admitting the royal family into the city secretly by night.

The matter was first intrusted to brothers of the name of Vitellii and those of the name of Aquilii. A sister of the Vitellii had been married to Brutus the consul, and the issue of that marriage were young men, Titus and Tiberius these also their uncles admit into a participation of the plot: several young noblemen also were taken in as associates, the memory of whose names has been lost from distance of time. In the mean time, when that opinion had prevailed in the senate, which recommended the giving back of the property, and the ambassadors made use of this as a pretext for delay in the city, because they had obtained from the consuls time to procure modes of conveyance, by which they might convey away the effects of the royal family all this time they spend in consulting with the conspirators, and by pressing they succeed in having letters given to them for the Tarquins. For otherwise how were they to believe that the accounts brought by the ambassadors on matters of such importance were not idle?

The letters, given to be a pledge of their sincerity, discovered the plot for when, the day before the ambassadors set out to the Tarquins, they had supped by chance at the house of the Vitellii, and the conspirators there in private discoursed much together concerning their new design, as is natural, one of the slaves, who had already perceived what was going on, overheard their conversation but waited for the occasion when the letters should be given to the ambassadors, the detection of which would prove the transaction when he perceived that they were given, he laid the whole affair before the consuls. The consuls, having left their home to seize the ambassadors and conspirators, crushed the whole affair without any tumult particular care being taken of the letters, lest they should escape them.

The traitors being immediately thrown into chains, a little doubt was entertained respecting the ambassadors, and though they deserved to be considered as enemies, the law of nations however prevailed.

The question concerning the restitution of the tyrants’ effects, which the senate had formerly voted, came again under consideration. The fathers, fired with indignation, expressly forbad them either to be restored or confiscated. They were given to be rifled by the people, that after being made participators in the royal plunder, they might lose for ever all hopes of a reconciliation with the Tarquins. A field belonging to them, which lay between the city and the Tiber, having been consecrated to Mars, has been called the Campus Martius. It happened that there was a crop of corn* upon it ready to be cut down, which produce of the field, as they thought it unlawful to use, after it was reaped, a great number of men carried the corn and straw in baskets, and threw them into the Tiber, which then flowed with shallow water, as is usual in the heat of summer that thus the heaps of corn as it stuck in the shallows became settled when covered over with mud: by these and the afflux of other things, which the river happened to bring thither, an island was formed by degrees. Afterwards I believe that mounds were added, and that aid was afforded by art, that a surface so well raised might be firm enough for sustaining temples and porticoes.

After plundering the tyrants’ effects, the traitors were condemned and capital punishment inflicted. Their punishment was the more remarkable, because the consulship imposed on the father the office of punishing his own children, and him who should have been removed as a spectator, fortune assigned as the person to exact the punishment.

Young men of the highest quality stood tied to a stake but the consul’s sons attracted the eyes of all the spectators from the rest of the criminals, as from persons unknown nor did the people pity them more on account of the severity of the punishment, than the horrid crime by which they had deserved it.

“That they, in that year particularly, should have brought themselves to betray into the hands of Tarquin, formerly a proud tyrant, and now an exasperated exile, their country just delivered, their father its deliverer, the consulate which took its rise from the family of the Junii, the fathers, the people, and whatever belonged either to the gods or the citizens of Rome.”

The consuls seated themselves in their tribunal, and the lictors, being despatched to inflict punishment, strip them naked, beat them with rods, and strike off their heads. Whilst during all this time, the father, his looks and his countenance, presented a touching spectacle, the feelings of the father bursting forth occasionally during the office of superintending the public execution.

Bummer: Jacques-Louis David‘s 1784 painting, Lictors Bring Home the Sons of Brutus.

This Brutus was an ancestor of the Brutus who helped assassinate Julius Caesar, and that later et tu, Brutus is commonly represented as having been convinced to turn against his friend and patron by, in part, the example of his legendary namesake.

O, you and I have heard our fathers say,
There was a Brutus once that would have brooked
The eternal devil to keep his state in Rome
As easily as a king.

-Cassius to Brutus in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (Act 1, Scene 2)

* “Corn” meaning not American maize, of course — which was not available before the Columbian exchange — but the word’s earlier meaning of whatever was the local grain: wheat, barley, and millet in Rome’s case. (The word corn derives from the Latin granum.)

Law pt 3: the oath of Brutus

Now this Brutus who had accompanied Collatinus to his house was a strange one. He became a great man, yet his early life had been one of trouble. His real name was Lucius Junius, and not many remember that he was King Tarquin’s nephew.

Now the proud King had a vicious streak in him, and among the many people he murdered was a brother of young Lucius. So Lucius, not wanting to draw unwanted attention, pretended from then on to be a harmless idiot – so gaining the nickname Brutus.

And so imagine Collatinus’ shock when this Brutus grabbed the knife from his wife’s lifeless hand and cried “By this innocent blood I swear before heaven, by fire, sword and all my might, to drive out Tarquin the Superb, his wife and his wretched children, that neither they nor anyone else may ever rule here as King!

And what a change it made after that! Lucius the Idiot seemed to become a new man. This very same Brutus had just a few years before visited the Oracle at Delphi, then tripped on the way out the door because his tiny mind was so shocked by the marvelous words! But this same Brutus now fired up the brave young men of Rome, leading them to drive out the proud King. This same Brutus sat on the curule chair as the first consul of our glorious Republic, with young Collatinus as his colleague.

That oath he swore before heaven must have done something. But oaths, as you know, are hungry. When a man swears an oath he follows an unseen law. And laws have a habit of eating anything they can find. Whatever law Brutus found himself under when he spoke that oath, it bound him tightly. For he fought against Tarquin for the rest of his life, and the struggle took from him everything.

Proud Tarquin tried three times to retake our seven hills. The first time was through trickery. He sent spies to Rome, hoping to find a secret way in. These spies met with some success, for some of the worthless men of the city, former pets of the former King, welcomed them. These men made a secret agreement with the spies to open the city gates at night and let Tarquin’s men in. Among the traitors were young Titus and Tiberius, the sons of poor Brutus.

Everything was undone however by a slave. This man, in the house of one of the traitors, had already suspected something was wrong. He had been trying to bring the traitors out, when one night – look! – all of them gathered to write a letter, guaranteeing their cooperation with Tarquin. Immediately he ran to tell the consuls, who with full fury rushed in and arrested the lot of them.

Now of course the traitors were to be executed under the consuls’ stern eyes. But everyone looked with wonder at Brutus, who was to watch and approve of his own children’s deaths – for what man, what consul could break the laws for the sake of kin?

So stern Brutus sat on the curule chair, bound by law. The traitors were bound to posts set in the ground. They say that both consuls gave the order, though Brutus’ voice was a little quieter. First the executioners whipped the men, and then beheaded them. They say that when young Titus and Tiberius were whipped, stern Brutus’ mask still held. But when the axe flashed in the sunlight it made the consul blink, as if blinking away tears. So they say.

Now the second time Tarquin tried to retake our city was through force. That same year he gathered the fighting men of Veii and Tarquinii to march on Rome. The Veientines, humiliated time and again by Roman arms, were eager for a fight. The Tarquinians also needed little persuasion, for they were the tyrant’s kinsmen.

So proud Tarquin marched at the head of this army with his son Aruns. The Roman army met them at the forest of Arsia, and riding at its head were the consuls Brutus and Valerius.

Now both Aruns and Brutus were the cavalry commanders, and so both chose to lead a charge into the enemy. As the horses thundered toward each other it was young Aruns who first spotted Brutus. With a dreadful shout he said “Look, there is the man who took away our home! See how proudly he rides, dressed in our armour. O Heaven, avenger of kings, help me!” And with a roar he raised his lance, rushing out of his troop and straight toward Brutus. Stern consul Brutus, no coward, bound to fight all challengers, raised his lance and roaring, rushed at Aruns. When they collided there was a sound not unlike the butcher’s knife striking home, only much louder. And then – look! – there lay both men, dead on the ground, run through by each other’s weapons.

It goes without saying that we won that battle. And you probably know the details of it. Our men carried the day, though to speak the truth it was no easy fight! We whipped the Veientines, but the Tarquinians were made of stern stuff. In the end however they ran and we won.

Proud Tarquin would return once more to threaten our seven hills. But stern Brutus, poor Brutus, was dead by then, bound to death by law and by oath.

Context and Story

The story depicted in Oath of the Horatii comes from a popular Roman legend that was elaborated by the Roman historian Titus Levy. It talks about the conflict between the cities of Rome and Alba Longa.

Because a battle between the cities would have angered the gods, the rulers of each city decided that they would not send their soldiers to war. Instead, they agreed that they would each choose three individuals to fight for them in a ritual duel. The three Horatii brothers of Rome would face off against the three Curatii brothers from Alba Longa.

The solemn moment in the painting, however, is David’s own invention. In the scene, the three Horatii brothers courageously salute their father. Brave and stoic, the brothers swear an oath to fight for their republic.

Behind the father, the women of the family are stricken with grief. The situation is complicated because the Horatii and the Curatii were linked by marriage.

Camilla, the woman in the far right, is betrothed to a Curatii brother. However the duel ends, she is bound to lose someone. Beside her sits Sabina, a Curiatius whose Horatii husband is about to face off against her brother. Behind them, the mother of the Horatii brothers comforts two of her grandchildren.

According to legend, only one of the three brothers survives the battle with the Curatii. He comes home to find Camilla cursing his beloved Rome because her Curatius fiancé was killed during the duel. Angered, the Horatii brother draws his sword and kills her.

This final scene, in which brother kills sister, was what David originally wanted to depict for the commissioned painting. In the end, he thought the scene was too brutal and chose, instead, to paint the oath-taking scene.

Oath of the Horatii was one of the first masterpieces to break away from the Rococo style. The pictorial treatment is quintessentially Neoclassical, with sober colors, harsh lighting, sharp contours, large empty spaces, and a broad and simple frieze-like composition with life-size figures. The room’s geometry is emphasized, and the scene is clearly organized, with the three groups of figures positioned in front of the three arches.

The painting lacks the wispy, soft-focus brushstrokes of Rococo art. Here, the brushstrokes are invisible, and the surface of the work is smooth, removing the focus from the painter’s technique and placing it on the painting itself. The background is shrouded in darkness and de-emphasized, while strong slanting light emphasizes the figures in the foreground.

David gave the male figures tense muscles and masculine bodies drawn with straight lines, symbolizing strength and reflecting the columns in the background. He dressed the men in vivid reds and blues.

In contrast, the Horatii women were painted in fluid contours, reflecting the arches that support the columns. Slumped in their heartbreak, they were dressed in muted creams, nudes, and siennas.

Only one brother was dressed in vibrant colors like those of the father, seemingly insinuating that he will be the sole survivor. Meanwhile, the clothing of the other two brothers was obscured and muted, much like those of the grieving women.

When the Oath of the Horatii was commissioned, the king’s minister specified that it was to convey devotion to the king and the state. However, David’s message veered slightly from what the minister wanted.

Set in republican Rome, Oath of the Horatii shows no king — just a family torn apart by war and patriotism. Though it does promote patriotic sacrifice, stoicism, love of country, purpose, and courage, it is also saying that loyalty should take precedence over everything else, even family.

David finished Oath of the Horatii in his studio in Rome and showed it there and at the Paris Salon in 1785. It made him famous on a global scale and enabled him to take on students. It became one of the finest paintings done in the Neoclassical style in France and one of the defining images from the years before and during the French Revolution.

Julius Caesar- Honor of Brutus

The Honor of an Important Roman Man
In Roman history, some elite men held certain values that they felt strong enough to take their life in order to defend it. In William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, there are certain characters portrayed to show how a person’s values or ideas can change their behavior and influence some significant decisions. The protagonist of the play, Marcus Brutus, supports this thought by having an idealistic view on the world and by showing his patriotism toward Rome. In William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Shakespeare uses Brutus as an honorable, idealistic man in order to show the depth that a high-class Roman man will go through in order to defend his honor. If a person truly can define himself as an honorable man, all, if not many of his actions and decisions will be consistent with their honor. Marcus Brutus is put in a situation where he and a group of conspirators are asked to take an oath in order to stay truthful to their decision to kill Julius Caesar. Cassius, Brutus’s brother-in-law, says to the conspirators, “And let us swear our resolution” (2.1.124). Cassius feels that the group needs to all take an oath so that no man would seem loyal enough not to take revenge against themselves. Brutus does not feel the same way that Cassius does and shows it by saying, No, not an oath. If not the face of men,

The sufferance of our souls, the time’s abuse-
If these be motives weak, break off bedtimes,
And every man hence to his idle bed (2.1.125-128).
Brutus clearly uses his idealism to think that every man is honorable enough to not go back on a decision they make even if they do not take the oath that Cassius feels is necessary.
Furthermore, the honorable decisions of men can later backfire against him. As the conspirators plot in opposition to Caesar, the question comes up about whether or not to kill some of Caesar’s loyal followers alongside him. As Cassius says during the conspirator’s meeting,

Gender in Nineteenth-Century Art

This lecture addresses issues of gender—masculine and feminine—in nineteenth-century art. It primarily focuses on works produced in France, corresponding with the standard narrative of the nineteenth-century survey. However, images produced in Britain, Belgium, and the United States are also addressed. These discussions could be expanded upon—and the lecture made more international—at the instructor’s discretion.

While gender is certainly a topic that could be addressed throughout the entire survey of art, the nineteenth century had very strong (and pervasive) ideas about how a “man” or a “woman” should behave. Men belonged to the public sphere, in the realms of politics, commerce, religion, and academia. They should be physically strong and serve as the breadwinners of their families. Women, on the other hand, belonged to the private sphere, raising the family and caring for the home, and should be delicate and demure.

Since “gender” is such a broad topic, this lecture has been divided into three thematic sub-groups with coherent narratives. This subject could also, however, be discussed chronologically since changes in the treatment of gender are quite often the product of larger socio-political events.

This lesson is by no means a comprehensive discussion of gender in the nineteenth century. It is an overview of several artists, artworks, and common trends prevalent at that time. Many of the topics discussed in this lecture could also be taken forward into discussions about the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. For example, the end of the nineteenth century marks the beginning of an important gender revolution that eventually developed into the first wave of the feminist movement.

Since so much of this lecture is based on discussing representations of “masculinity” versus “femininity,” it might be helpful to first compile a word-bank as a class of adjectives traditionally associated with these terms. Since this is an art history lecture, encourage your students to think about physical characteristics as well as personality traits. And, if you find that your students are providing a lot of value-laden terms, consider circling or starring those words to then discuss why we associate so many positive or negative attributes with a certain gender.

This lecture addresses issues of gender in nineteenth-century art, a context that predated understandings of gender as a continuum instead of a binary construction. The lecture will therefore use the terms “masculine” and “feminine.”

Background Readings

Mary Cassatt, Woman with a Pearl Necklace, 1879.

The two most important and canonical readings about nineteenth-century gender politics are Linda Nochlin’s “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” and Griselda Pollock’s “Modernity and the Spaces of Femininity.” Either one of these essays would be good to assign to students. They both address constraints for female artists, which could be discussed and then used to more broadly examine the gender expectations of nineteenth-century society.

Baudelaire, Charles. The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays. Translated and edited by Jonathan Mayne. New York: Phaidon, 1970.

D’Souza, Aruna and Tom McDonough, editors. The Invisible Flâneuse? Gender, Public Space and Visual Culture in Nineteenth-Century Paris. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2008.

Garb, Tamar. “Berthe Morisot and the Feminizing of Impressionism.” In Readings in Nineteenth-Century Art, 230-46. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1996.

_______. “Gustave Caillebotte’s Male Figures: Masculinity, Muscularity and Modernity.” In Bodies of Modernity: Figure and Flesh in Fin-de-Siècle France, 25-53. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1998.

_______. “Painterly Plenitude: Pierre-August Renoir’s Fantasy of the Feminine.” In Bodies of Modernity: Figure and Flesh in Fin-de-Siècle France, 144-177. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1998.

Nochlin, Linda. “Issues of Gender in Cassatt and Eakins.” In Nineteenth-Century Art: A Critical History, 349-67. New York: Thames & Hudson, 1994.

_______. “Morisot’s Wet Nurse: The Construction of Work and Leisure in Impressionist Painting” In Women, Art, and Power: And Other Essays, 37-56. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1988.

_______. “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” In Women, Art, and Power: And Other Essays, 145-78. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1988.

Ockman, Carol. Ingres’s Eroticized Bodies: Retracing the Serpentine Line. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995.

Pollock, Griselda. “Modernity and the Spaces of Femininity.” In Vision and Difference: Feminism, Femininity and the Histories of Art, 70-127. New York: Routledge Classics, 1988.

Solomon-Godeau, Abigail. Male Trouble: A Crisis in Representation. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1997.

Content Suggestions

  • Flâneur: literally a “stroller” or “lounger” in French. In the nineteenth century, a flâneur refers to a bourgeois man of leisure, who strolls around the city observing his surroundings. During this decade, the flâneur is the archetype of the urban modern male experience.
  • Femme Fatale: an attractive, mysterious, and dangerously seductive woman who will ultimately bring disaster to any man who becomes involved with her.
  • New Woman: a feminist an educated, independent career woman. The New Woman was a feminist ideal that emerged in the late nineteenth century as a counterpoint to the traditional definition of woman as a demure homemaker dependent upon a man to care for her.

Suggested Images:

  • Jacques-Louis David, Oath of the Horatii, 1785
  • Jacques-Louis David, The Lictors Brining to Brutus the Bodies of His Sons for Burial, 1789
  • Edwin Landseer, Windsor Castle in Modern Times, 1841-45
  • Gustave Caillebotte, Boulevard Seen from Above, 1880
  • Gustave Caillebotte, Traffic Island on Boulevard Haussmann, 1880
  • Gustave Caillebotte, Paris Street Rainy Day, 1877
  • Gustave Caillebotte, Le Pont de l’Europe, 1876
  • Édouard Manet, Masked Ball at the Opera, 1873
  • Édouard Manet, Concert in the Tuileries Gardens, 1862
  • Mary Cassatt, The Opera, 1877
  • Pierre-August Renoir’s The Loge, 1874
  • Mary Cassatt’s Woman with a Pearl Necklace in a Loge, 1879
  • Berthe Morisot, The Cradle, 1872
  • Mary Cassatt, The Bath, 1891-92
  • Pierre-August Renoir, Maternity, 1885
  • Berthe Morisot, On the Balcony, 1872
  • Gustave Moreau, Salome Dancing before Herod, 1876
  • Fernand Khnopff, Caresses, 1896
  • Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, Self-Portrait with Two Pupils, 1785
  • Rosa Bonheur, The Horse Fair, 1853
  • Rosa Bonheur, Plowing in the Nivernais, 1849
  • Gustave Courbet, White Bull and Blonde Heifer, 1850
  • Berthe Morisot, The Wet Nurse, 1880
  • Jacques-Louis David, Death of Socrates, 1787
  • Anne-Louis Girodet, The Sleep of Endymion, 1791
  • Jean Broc, The Death of Hyacinth, 1801
  • Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Venus Anadyomene, 1808
  • Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Grande Odalisque, 1814
  • Édouard Manet, Olympia, 1863
  • Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Large Bathers, 1887
  • Edgar Degas, The Tub, 1886
  • Paul Cezanne, Large Bathers, 1906
  • Gustave Caillebotte, Man at His Bath, 1884
  • Thomas Eakins, Max Schmitt in a Single Scull, 1871

Defining Gender Roles

For the most part, the nineteenth century conceived of gender as a binary of masculine versus feminine. A good way to start a discussion of this divide is through the Neoclassical paintings of Jacques-Louis David. In works like Oath of the Horatii (1785) or The Lictors Bringing to Brutus the Bodies of His Sons for Burial (1789), David clearly illustrates the gender roles of the time: men are energetic, muscular, and heroic, while women are soft, fragile, and emotional. Moreover, David underlines this division through his clear, ordered composition by physically separating the genders so that the women slump over, weep, and mourn on one side of the painting, while the men take charge and prepare for battle or deal with the difficult decisions of a leader on the other.

In a somewhat less dramatic way, Edwin Landseer conveys similar ideas about the roles of men versus women in his Windsor Castle in Modern Times (1841-45). While it is a portrait of Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert, Victoria is depicted as a typical middle-class woman of the time, not a ruling monarch. Dressed in soft colors and carefully put together, Victoria welcomes her husband home from the hunt. The scene suggests that the interior space of the home is Victoria’s dominion, like a good middle-class woman, while hunting and the outside world belong to Prince Albert. It is a harmonious domestic scene in which Victoria plays the role of the modest and devoted wife and Prince Albert the virile, bread-winning husband (with his recent kill scattered about his feet).

This divide between the spheres for men and women remained an important social doctrine throughout the nineteenth century. Man’s connection to the public sphere is best exemplified in the second half of the nineteenth century by the figure of the flâneur—the man of leisure who strolls throughout the city carefully observing the world, while he himself remains almost invisible. A homogenizing black attire was popular among bourgeois males at the time, which allowed them to move through the city without drawing attention to themselves, thus infusing them with the all-important power of the gaze—of seeing without being seen. The gaze is a very significant issue in nineteenth-century gender politics as it functions as a symbol of the power dynamics between the dominant person observing (often a man) and the vulnerable person being observed (often a woman). The politics of the gaze involves not only the power dynamics of who is looking at whom within the painting, but also who is looking at the painting. Who was the image intended for? Was it a privately owned work and only seen by a few select (most likely male) viewers? Or would it have been displayed in a public venue like the Paris Salon and seen by both men and women?

The boundless world of the flâneur can most clearly be seen in the works of the Impressionist artist Gustave Caillebotte. Following Haussmann’s renovation of Paris, Caillebotte took to depicting the new, open spaces of the city that encouraged social interaction and a rise in the upper middle class. In images like Boulevard Seen from Above (1880) and Traffic Island on Boulevard Haussmann (1880), the neutral beiges of the city streets are punctuated by wandering, anonymous figures clad in the black coat and top hat of the bourgeoisie man. They are solitary figures moving throughout these new public spaces, completely open only to men. They may go anywhere and do anything without a chaperone.

The accessibility of public spaces for men is further demonstrated in some of Caillebotte’s more famous works, like Paris Street Rainy Day (1877) and Le Pont de l’Europe (1876). Again, independent male figures punctuate these street scenes. Women, however, such as the female figure holding the man’s arm in the foreground of Paris Street Rainy Day, must be in the company of an escort if she is to retain her reputation as an honest, moral woman (an unaccompanied woman was assumed to be a prostitute). Based on this critical social norm, there has been much debate about the status of the woman at the center of Caillebotte’s Le Pont de l’Europe. The ambiguous amount of space between her and the bourgeois man walking in front of her bring doubts about whether the two are together or the man is propositioning her.

While good bourgeois women had limited public spaces available to them, bourgeois men could go anywhere and mix with all levels of society, their reputations unscathed. Édouard Manet’s Masked Ball at the Opera (1873) is good example of the nightlife entertainment open to them. The anonymous sea of uniformly black-clad men is punctuated by masked female figures in a scene of coquetry. No proper woman would appear in a space like this where men and women mix in such a flirtatious and informal manner. These instead are the women of the demi-monde (women of questionable morality and social standing).

Manet further demonstrates the difference between the near invisibility of the flâneur compared to bourgeois women in his Concert in the Tuileries Gardens (1862). The uniformity of male fashion at the time again allows them to wander through the scene and the public space anonymously. In contrast, the voluminous, brightly colored dresses worn by the women make them instantly visible—most notably with the matching yellow dresses and blue bonnets of the mother and daughter in the immediate foreground of the scene.

The gender politics of sight and visibility in nineteenth-century France are also outlined by the female artist Mary Cassatt in The Opera (1877). The woman in the immediate foreground peers through her opera glasses (presumably to better see the performers on stage), while in the background, a man can been seen using his glasses, not to watch the performance, but to spy on the women in the boxes around him. Just being out in public—even in an acceptable venue like the opera—made women susceptible to male gaze and the power dynamics associated with it.

Female Artists

In contrast to their male counterparts, bourgeois women could either stay home or venture out in select public spaces only if accompanied by a proper chaperone. Because of these restrictions, female artists had fewer experiences to draw from than their male colleagues. Griselda Pollock’s landmark essay “Modernity and the Spaces of Femininity” discusses the way that contemporary gender roles impacted the subject matter depicted by the female versus male Impressionist artists. As Pollock points out, social restrictions prevented female Impressionist artists like Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt from being able to attend the new nighttime entertainment spots that occupied their male colleagues, like the café-concert or the cabaret. In the nineteenth-century mindset, only women with loose morals would converse with men so informally and without a chaperone in these settings. According to Pollock, because of these constrictions on their mobility, female Impressionist artists therefore tended to focus on the lives and experiences of women— most often the experience of childrearing.

Within her article, Pollock provides two grids in which she outlines the various venues that frequently appear in Impressionist paintings, the types of women/occupations often represented, and the artists who depict them, divided into two columns, male and female. Recreating these grids for the class using actual images could be an effective way to discuss Pollock’s essay. Alternatively, after assigning your students the reading for class, you could bring images in unordered and, either in groups or as a whole, have the students organize them based on the logic of Pollock’s argument.

Or, do a comparison as a class of two paintings, one by a male artist and another by a female artist, that depict the same public space, like Pierre-August Renoir’s The Loge (1874) and Cassatt’s Woman with a Pearl Necklace in a Loge (1879). Then, move from the public to the private sphere and discuss Morisot’s The Cradle (1872) and Cassatt’s The Bath (1891-92), both female artists who frequently address the theme of motherhood in their art. These are more than archetypal scenes of mother and child drawing on the Christian theme of the Virgin Mary and Christ Child. They are distinctively modern scenes—and spaces exclusively available to women in the nineteenth century: the nursery and the child’s bath. Furthermore, there is a complex psychological bond and emotional connection between mother and child in Morisot and Cassatt’s maternal images that is often lacking in comparable works by their male colleagues. Morisot and Cassatt could be compared with the work of Renoir, who created numerous images of women and children. For example, he created several paintings depicting his wife nursing their son, Maternity (1885), which is more of a nostalgic image of wholesome, pre-modern, rustic maternity than an exploration of the psychological relationships between the two.

Morisot also poignantly illustrates the sphere of women in her scenes of mothers and daughters out in the city together, such as in On the Balcony (1872). Mother and daughter stand on a balcony overlooking a view of the city of Paris (distinguishable in the distance through the gold dome of Les Invalides). The child, still young and unfamiliar with her expectations in life, peers through the fence, looking out toward the city. The mother, on the other hand, aware that the public life of the city is not open to her, looks down at her daughter.

Women started to push back against their prescribed gender roles toward the end of the nineteenth century, and called for more liberty and socio-political rights. As female gender roles began to change, the figure of the New Woman—an educated, independent career woman—emerged. Many men were wary of the New Woman and the autonomy she demanded. They lashed back against this early form of feminism with warnings of the dangerous power of women, and depictions of the femme fatale, or a dangerous, evil woman, in art and popular culture.

One of the earliest representations of the femme fatale is Gustave Moreau’s Salome Dancing before Herod (1876). A biblical figure, Salome is often considered to be the original femme fatale as she used her powers of seduction to secure the death of John the Baptist. In exchange for the saint’s head on a platter, Salome agreed to dance the erotic Dance of the Seven Veils for her stepfather, Herod Antipas. She thus uses her dangerous power of allure to secure the death of a good and honorable man.

Another good example of the femme fatale in art is Fernand Khnopff’s Caresses (1896), in which a female-headed leopard embraces a young man. Khnopff’s image references the story of Oedipus, who must solve the riddle of the sphinx to gain entry to Thebes. Unlike earlier depictions of this myth—most famously, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’s Oedipus and the Sphinx (1808)—the male youth lacks the muscular physique typical of classical heroes. He does not appear to be the one in power here, especially since the woman-beast’s left forepaw rests strategically just above his groin, alluding to the possibility of castration.

Women were not only limited in the spaces they could inhabit, they were also limited in their educational opportunities—especially in terms of art production. Before the French Revolution of 1789, the French Academy limited the number of female admissions to four, and following the Revolution, women were then excluded from the Academy until 1897. As Linda Nochlin outlines in her canonical essay “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?,” women were expected to restrict themselves to the polite arts of flower and porcelain painting and were denied access to nude models because it was deemed improper—especially if the model was male. This exclusion severely impacted female artists’ ability to effectively execute large figural paintings and compete on the same level as their male colleagues. Nochlin’s essay is an important feminist art-historical text, largely because it moves beyond the early impulse to uncover forgotten female artists and approaches the discussion of female artists from another perspective. By admitting that there actually haven’t been any “great women artists,” Nochlin examines why that is and what prevented female artists from becoming “great.”

Adélaïde Labille-Guiard’s Self-Portrait with Two Pupils (1785) provides an opportunity to discuss gender politics that female artists faced in the academy in the late eighteenth century. A member of the French Academy (she and her contemporary Elizabeth Vigée Le Brun were both admitted in 1783), Labille-Guiard was a staunch defender of the rights of women artists. This self-portrait was painted as a retort to sexist rumors that her works were not painted by her, but had actually been painted by men. She positions herself at the center of the composition, seated before a large canvas and holding the tools of a serious artist, including a maulstick, which was only used by history painters, defiantly staring out of the canvas at the viewer. She also inserts herself into a position of authority, as her eager pupils stand behind her. However, her precarious status as a woman and an artist is subtly alluded to by the fashionable, completely impractical dress that she wears. This is common in female artists’ self-portraits from this time period, also evident in self-portraits by Judith Leyster and Elizabeth Vigée Le Brun. Although these women wanted to depict themselves as serious, professional artists, societal expectation prevented them from doing so at the loss of their femininity, which is closely tied to their attire.

In light of the gender politics female artists faced, the life, work, and success of the Realist animal painter Rosa Bonheur is all the more remarkable (as Nochlin herself discusses at length in her article). Determined to make a name for herself as an artist on masculine terms, she rejected the dainty subjects expected of female painters in favor of animal painting. Bonheur’s The Horse Fair (1853) illustrates the way she tackled a traditionally masculine subject on the monumental scale of history painting. Like male artists, Bonheur studied animals from life, visiting the local horse market in Paris to sketch. And, in order to visit these hyper-masculine spaces unnoticed and unmolested, Bonheur obtained special permission from the police to dress in men’s clothing. Like Labille-Guiard, Bonheur sought to prove that women were as equally capable of quality, artistic production as men.

After introducing Bonheur, compare one of her images, like Plowing in the Nivernais (1849), with a similar image created by a male artist, such as Gustave Courbet’s White Bull and Blonde Heifer (1850). Have your students discuss how each artist addresses the subject matter compositionally and how they each actually treat the animals’ form. Are there noticeable differences? Is one more effective than the other? What does that tell us? You could also not tell your students who created which image and see if they can easily identify which was created by a female artist and which a male (either in groups or together as a class). Have them provide solid visual evidence for their argument, and then discuss why they came to the conclusions they did.

Berthe Morisot’s Wet Nurse (1880) is another suitable artwork to examine the obstacles that female artists faced in the nineteenth century. In another seminal essay, “Morisot’s Wet Nurse: The Construction of Work and Leisure in Impressionist Painting,” Linda Nochlin identifies the scene as depicting not just any wet nurse, but the woman who Morisot herself hired to provide for her own daughter, Julie. In addition to representing a type of servant that Morisot was expected to employ as a proper bourgeois woman—and which provided her with enough independence from her child to pursue a professional artistic career—The Wet Nurse is also a good example of Morisot’s mature painting style. Over time, Morisot’s style became more Impressionistic as her palette lightened and her brushstrokes became more visible and broken. Unlike the male Impressionists, however, Morisot was not criticized for this style because it was perceived as inherently feminine.

Gender and the Nude

In addition to discussing gender in relation to the nineteenth-century ideology of separate spheres, the theme of the nude is another rich thread that concerns both masculinity and femininity.

With the revival of Greco-Roman art in the eighteenth century, the muscular male physique was considered the ideal by Neoclassical artists like Jacques-Louis David. One good example is the youthful musculature of the aged Socrates in David’s Death of Socrates (1787). In the wake of the French Revolution of 1789, the male body lost some of its virility and became more androgynous as artists turned away from the hyper-masculinity of David’s Neoclassicism, which was intrinsically linked to the Revolution—and the horrors it wrought. This trend is most notable in the art of David’s students. Images like Anne-Louis Girodet’s Sleep of Endymion (1791) and Jean Broc’s Death of Hyacinth (1801) thus reject the heroic warriors that embody Neoclassicism and instead depict a more sensual, erotic male nude.

While the male nude remained a favorite throughout the reign of Napoleon (who himself was obsessed with classical culture), the female nude never fully disappeared. Female display nudes (or images whose chief aim is to exhibit an idealized, sensualized depiction of the nude female form) from the Renaissance, like Titian’s Venus of Urbino (1538), were typically painted for private chambers, not public display (where we typically see more impassive nudes derived from antiquity). In the nineteenth century, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres established the female academic nude for public exhibition with his Venus Anadyomene (1808) and Grande Odalisque (1814), which served as the prototypes for the standing and reclining nude, respectively. In his paintings, Ingres emphasizes the smooth, sensuousness of the female form, at times manipulating the figure’s anatomy, altering or omitting certain elements to enhance their aesthetic beauty. For example, he famously added at least three vertebrate to the spine to produce a more alluring S-curve in the Grande Odalisque. He also removed unseemly hair and genitalia from Venuses, nymphs, or odalisques (women whose natural state is to be unclothed and therefore acceptable) to create images suitable for public display.

Following in Ingres’ wake, academic nudes became increasingly popular throughout the nineteenth century. By 1863, the Salon was so full of female nudes that the art critic Théophile Gautier mockingly dubbed it the “Salon of the Venuses.” In response to this overabundance of idealized nudes—as well as the recent call for artists to depict subjects of their own time—Édouard Manet exhibited his Olympia (1863) at the Salon of 1865. Clearly inspired by a famous Renaissance painting, Titian’s Venus of Urbino, Olympia turns the female academic nude on its head by presenting, not a mythological or exotic figure, but a contemporary French prostitute for public display. Unlike the nudes of Ingres and Titian, Olympia is confrontational and not nude, but naked, and was therefore extremely controversial.

However, Manet eventually paved the way for the contemporary nude to become popular as well. As artists increasingly turned to modern life to derive their subject matter, mythological nudes began to be replaced by a comparable figure from contemporary life: the bather. Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, and Paul Cézanne all addressed the theme of the bather, but varied in their departure from tradition. An image like Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s Large Bathers (1887) is most closely linked to the tradition of the academic nude. Although Renoir’s bodies are much more naturalistic in their anatomy and proportions than Ingres’ unrealistically manipulated forms, they are still idealized through their fleshiness and the gentle contours of their bodies. While there is some attempt at individuality and no allusion to mythology, the women somehow still exist in a state of timeless beauty.

In contrast to Renoir, Edgar Degas’s The Tub (1886) is firmly rooted in the modern world. While Renoir’s female bathers each pose in the perfect position so that they may be seen from the back, the side, or the front (in the classical tradition of the Three Graces), Degas’ bather is absorbed in her own activities, completely unaware that she is being observed. These images feel voyeuristic, as though we are peeking through a keyhole and invading the woman’s privacy. She is also bathing herself in a manner that was uncharacteristic of the habits of bourgeois women at the time. Because of this, it has been proposed that Degas’ bathers are prostitutes cleaning themselves between clients in an attempt to prevent the spread of disease, thus further removing them from any connection to the classical world.

Paul Cezanne’s Large Bathers (1906) likewise departs from the traditional academic nude—but primarily in form, not in composition. The image is rooted in several academic conventions: some of the bathers’ poses reflect classical statuary, the triangular composition derives from Renaissance painting, and the scene fulfills the traditional requirements of history painting as a large multi-figure canvas. However, Cezanne’s distinctive patchy, constructivist stroke and his almost animalistic treatment of the figures distinctively separates his bathers from the smooth, idealized forms of Ingres, and even Renoir.

During the ascendency of the female nude in the nineteenth century, the male figure falls somewhat out of favor. By the mid-nineteenth century, the archetypal male figure evolves from the heroic, muscular warrior to the cultivated, urban flâneur. This led to concerns about the loss of masculine virility toward the end of the century, as illustrated by Gustave Caillebotte’s Man at His Bath (1884). Encapsulating these concerns about male vulnerability, Caillebotte depicts a man rather than a woman at her bath, turning the bathing theme on its head. As in Degas’ The Tub, the man appears to be unaware he is being observed and is at the mercy of the viewer’s gaze. With his discarded clothes and workman’s boots on the floor, he is decidedly not a classical hero, but a contemporary working-class man. Furthermore, his nudity makes him vulnerable, therefore signaling a loss of power.

[NOTE: Caillebotte is also, of course, not the only artist to depict male bathers. Most notably, they appear in the works of Frederic Bazille and Paul Cezanne. Male bathers, however, are usually shown wearing bathing suits (not nude) and are typically discussed in relation to homosocial relations—especially in Bazille’s works.]

This concern with masculine virility appears throughout Caillebotte’s oeuvre, such as in his paintings of floor-scrapers and rowers. It also appears in the work of other late-nineteenth-century artists, like Thomas Eakins, who frequently depicts strong, athletic, moral men in his art, such as Max Schmitt in a Single Scull (1871), which celebrates the rower’s skill and physical prowess.

The road from Rome: the fall of the Roman Empire wasn’t a tragedy for civilisation. It was a lucky break for humanity as a whole. Essay by Professor Walter Scheidel (Stanford University)

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It's such a huge variable that I think it's impossible to really try tally the pros and cons of Rome falling, given how history so often hinges on tiny moments, how could we even comprehend a world where the Empire held together. Everything we've ever know would be alien.

The advancement of technology may have been accelerated by the harmony, or may have been stifled by the lack of real competition of nations. If it did advance faster, that may have spurred social change much earlier, or the inherent success of the old social order may have proved irrefutably successful and thus made more egalitarian measures impossible, or alternatively the greatly harmony may have led to people being more trusting.

The actual factors at play are countless though.

I agree, it’s like when people say “Rome fell because. ”

Its far too complicated to boil down like this, there were benefits and great costs to the fall of Rome for humanity.

His premise is tautological.

"Rome falling gave rise to the history that led to the modern world."

Yeah, sure - but perhaps had Rome not fallen there would have been other factors that gave rise to a different and possibly better society.

That's a mighty small sample size comparing the West vs the empires of other regions to claim that federation was a narrow path to modernity.

What’s bugs me the most is that the author does not factor in religion. There was absolutely no separation of church and state so it’s impossible to separate the two. Rome found a golden ticket with Christianity, gods power was no longer based on how popular or mighty a living human was. Rulers didn’t need to occupy regions and force money out of the peasants when the peasants were already giving to a church that filtered its money back to the Vatican. It begs the question, did Rome actually fall or did the leaders transform it into something more efficient. Sure cities fell but the men wearing silk robes didn’t have to care anymore.

Technological advancement might be the biggest what if with the fall of Rome. We like to think of the romans as this great technologically innovator, but other than concrete and the arch I can’t name anything that the romans actually invented. I’m sure there was more, but I think I’m right in saying most of what we think of as Roman was either Greek or Etruscan. It’s popular to imagine a Roman Empire with guns, discovering the Americas, and more but I just don’t see it.

Reminds me of that Simpsons episode where Homer makes the most minuscule change in the past and gets thrown into the future

would not be fair to say that the latest Rome regime was plugged by massive corruption, leaders' incompetence and administration/decision tradition/process incapable to handle existing problems?

P.S. article is pure garbage even from factual POV.

P.P.S I've never seen use of "pluralism" in such context. Is it normal in modern historical literature?

A key pillar of this article's argument is that post-Roman Empire Europe enjoyed power plurality while the rest of the world was stuck with various forms of monopoly power.

"Nothing like this happened anywhere else in the world. The resilience of empire as a form of political organisation made sure of that. Wherever geography and ecology allowed large imperial structures to take root, they tended to persist: as empires fell, others took their place."

Is this really true? It seems to me that some governments that were empires in name were in fact just as pluralistic as Europe. Feudal Japan had a mostly impotent Emperor for the last thousand years. Even when there was a Shogun (and there often wasn't), the Shogan's power was as temperamental as that of the European kings described in this article: noble lords were the true seats of power. Being king/shogun required a delicate touch - you had to be careful not to ask too much of your vassals. History is not my best subject but I imagine there are similar stories for many of the non-European "imperial structures" described in the article.

Yeah I agree. The great Indian unifying dynasty Maurya had already fallen long before Rome and South Asia was a cluster of numerous states vying for power with rise and fall of fortunes for various player, it didn't exactly do anything revolutionary compared to other parts of the world.

I think people always tend to forget South Asia when they try to attribute Europe's rise in early modern period to the fractured nature of European polity incentivizing innovation be it military or other things but South Asia was also mostly divided in the same period with various powers vying for supremacy.

That's a good point, but Japan was one of the first non European powers to industrialize too. There is a crucial time :The Shogunate did provide a 'monopoly' power that froze Japan technologically once Tokugawa prevailed from the 1600s until commodore Perry.

I think it's a great point. Not to mention that even in the heyday of the Roman Empire the power of the emperor was not monopolistic. Examples abound of Roman emperors being checked by the Senate, or engaged in civil war, or overthrown, or outright murdered. There were always factions and regions to be placated.

It could be that religious unity under Rome was as important as political fragmentation. Early on, the chief intellectuals were monks and clerics, with the early giants of embryonic science a veritable who's who of monastic Western Christendom. Their shared language, Church Latin, combined with their unity, would have allowed them to pass around ideas in an environmemt where ambitious kings and lords were ready to adopt new ideas that could give them a leg up against their competitors. This cross-pollination internationally via the church, and interclass via church-state relations, would have created fertile ground to both transmit and try out new ideas.

Certainly the sciences eventually broke out of the Church, but I think its origin within the Church is probably important.

Feudal Japan had a mostly impotent Emperor for the last thousand years

It still had a fairly centralized government though, even if it was not specifically through the emperor.

That said, during the Sengoku you actually can see processes that would strike a chord with medievalists, like the development of commerce, mercantile power, and civic independence.

Being king/shogun required a delicate touch - you had to be careful not to ask too much of your vassals

This is discussed in the article, which I am honestly curious how many people in this comment section bothered to read.

Japan is a curios case and power was always extremely pluralistic. Many people misunderstand Japan‘s government in WW2 therefore completely - Tojo was never a dictator nor was the Emperor really in charge. There were generals who forbid their troops to use artillery next to Chinese famous landmarks and build shrines for the enemies killed by their troops and there were ( as you know. ) who used scorched earth tactics in mass, there were politicians calling for and end to the war already when it started all the way to the end (and they werent put in jail or anything) and there were warhawks who would rather see most Japanese dead than surrender. The navy and army worked actively against each other and there never was a real plan on what to do with the conquered territories.

And this extreme plurality still exists - Japan is governed by a party that has many different factions who rival each other for power. When the public wants a hawk they get one, when the party wants someone driving in he economy and they get that and when the public wants progress they get some progressive elements pushing for it. The LDP is basically without profile yet extremely flexible and they also collaborate with the super powerful farmer union and the biggest company groups (keiretsu). The Emperor itself has no influence today though (after China and Korea protested against the visits from prime ministers to the Yasukuni shrine in the 80s the Emperor stopped visiting immediately breaking a long tradition and complained to the prime Minister and the shrine but got no answer)

Still, Japan is completely plural, yet still homogeneous. It was seldom a clash of cultures / religions / beliefs like it happened in Europe

Oath of Brutus - History

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Primary Sources


Neoclassic artists often depicted scenes from the Roman Republic. Enlightenment philosophers believed in a equality, freedom and a republican form of government and Rome was the only model they had. The virtues of Ancient Rome were a common theme.

In Lictors Bringing Back to Brutus the Bodies of his Sons, the artist David used a story from the Roman republic to make a point.

Brutus, as a consul of Rome, condemned his own sons for treason against the state. He sacrificed his personal feelings for the good of the fatherland.

The painting portrays the consul seated beneath a statue that symbolizes the city of Rome. Behind him lictors carry into the house the bodies of Brutus’ sons, executed at the command of their father because they plotted against the state.

Lictors Bringing Back to Brutus the Bodies of his Sons by Jacques Louis David, 1789
click for a larger image

Julius Caesar- Honor of Brutus

The Honor of an Important Roman Man In Roman history, some elite men held certain values that they felt strong enough to take their life in order to defend it. In William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, there are certain characters portrayed to show how a person’s values or ideas can change their behavior and influence some significant decisions. The protagonist of the play, Marcus Brutus, supports this thought by having an idealistic view on the world and by showing his patriotism toward Rome.

In William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Shakespeare uses Brutus as an honorable, idealistic man in order to show the depth that a high-class Roman man will go through in order to defend his honor. If a person truly can define himself as an honorable man, all, if not many of his actions and decisions will be consistent with their honor. Marcus Brutus is put in a situation where he and a group of conspirators are asked to take an oath in order to stay truthful to their decision to kill Julius Caesar. Cassius, Brutus’s brother-in-law, says to the conspirators, “And let us swear our resolution” (2.. 124). Cassius feels that the group needs to all take an oath so that no man would seem loyal enough not to take revenge against themselves. Brutus does not feel the same way that Cassius does and shows it by saying, No, not an oath. If not the face of men, The sufferance of our souls, the time’s abuse- If these be motives weak, break off bedtimes, And every man hence to his idle bed (2. 1. 125-128). Brutus clearly uses his idealism to think that every man is honorable enough to not go back on a decision they make even if they do not take the oath that Cassius feels is necessary.

Furthermore, the honorable decisions of men can later backfire against him. As the conspirators plot in opposition to Caesar, the question comes up about whether or not to kill some of Caesar’s loyal followers alongside him. As Cassius says during the conspirator’s meeting, If he improve them, may well stretch so far As to annoy us all which to prevent, Let Antony and Caesar fall together (2. 1. 172-174). Cassius’s thinking is that when Caesar falls, Antony is not to be trusted and will most likely seek revenge.

However, Brutus once again disagrees with Cassius’s opinion thinking that Antony is an honorable man who, without Caesar, is too weak to actually take revenge against them. Brutus and Cassius’s contradicting thoughts on Antony are shown when Brutus says, Our course will seem too bloody, Caius Cassius, To cut the head off and then hack the limbs, Like wrath in death and envy afterwards For Antony is but a limb of Caesar (2. 1. 175-178). Clearly, Brutus thinks that by killing Antony alongside Caesar, the conspirators will be seen as butchers.

Brutus’s idealism backfires against him as Antony later takes revenge against the conspirators for killing Caesar. In addition, when an honorable man sometimes makes a decision that turns out to be inconsistent with his values, he must make drastic decisions in order to make up for it. A while after Caesar is killed, Brutus starts to realize that maybe he did not do the honorable thing in killing Caesar. Brutus comes to this conclusion when he is arguing with Cassius and says, Remember March the ides of March remember.

Did not great Julius bleed for justice sake? What villain touched his body that did stab And not for justice? Brutus’s reaction to coming to this realization is shown when he says, O Julius Caesar, thou art mighty yet Thy spirit walks abroad and turns our swords In our own proper entrails (5. 3. 105-107). Obviously, Brutus has realized that Caesar’s spirits still controls the men and are making them fight. This shows that it was not necessary to kill Caesar since people are killing each other whether or not Caesar was killed.

Brutus now knows that he has made a dishonorable decision, so he decides to kill himself for doing so. In William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Shakespeare uses Brutus as an honorable, idealistic man in order to show the depth that a high-class Roman man will go through in order to defend his honor. Brutus is used to show this when he refuses to take the oath, he refuses to kill Mark Antony, and when he kills himself in order to defend his honor. Brutus symbolizes a wise, important Roman man who knows values his honor and will commit drastic actions with the purpose of defending it.

Watch the video: Cher Lloyd - Oath Official Music Video ft. Becky G (June 2022).


  1. Yerodin

    Remember this once and for all!

  2. Kazirisar

    Bravo, that's just a great phrase :)

  3. Bradd


  4. Cougar

    And such a thing

  5. Ichiro

    I must tell you you are mistaken.

  6. Eburscon

    As a variant, yes

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