1: Brutus

At the very center of Dante Alighieri's hell, there stands Satan. The Father of All Lies has three heads. According to Dante, the three worst sinners in human history get chewed on perpetually by the devil himself. The three are the Roman betrayers Cassius and Brutus, and the worst betrayer of them all, good ol' Judas Iscariot, who sold Jesus for 30 silver coins. Not even gold coins. Silver. Marcus Junius Brutus the Younger, also known as Quintus Servilius Caepio Brutus, but simply known to us non-Romans as Brutus, has plenty reason enough to be endowed with heaps of pity for being at the center of hell. But a look at his actual life reveals all the more a deep sadness in my bosom for the sad sack of a traitor.

He killed himself, by the by --- as all self-realized traitors must.

Brutus was born into a brutal world. His father was murdered by Pompey the Great, whose very name bears our word Pomp. Everyone, to this very day, graduates to the tune of Pomp & Circumstance. What a crummy world to bear if you're baby Brutus. Your father's killer is immortalized forever. Any child who accomplishes anything in this life, is lauded by Pompey's memory; his pomp endures forever. All the while your destiny is enshrined as the most tragic of all. Cruel fate, get thy gone!

Add to your father's death by Julius Caesar's eventual enemy combatant Pompey the Greatest, your mother. She becomes a loving mistress to the venerable conquerer of Gaul, the young Julius. Your mother is so head over heels for him, that many in fact believe you are Caesar's illegitimate son.

Why then, do you kill him? Why do you slay Caesar? It's simple; Rome hated kings. The name Brutus was hand-picked for good reason. Once upon a time an ancestor named Brutus led the revolt agains the King of Rome, and pledged an oath that Rome would never again be ruled by one man. You, Marcus Junius Brutus, the incarnation of that belief. Rome, amidst a sea of kings and queens ruling all the nations around, refused to bow the knee to one. Forever and ever. That was how it was supposed to be. '

But Julius, Caesar your friend, he's become the unthinkable. He's named himself dictator imperpetuity. How could he do such a thing?! Though he's your friend, though he entrusted you to be governor of Gaul, the land he himself spent a decade claiming for Rome, though your mother shared a bed with him, though he destroyed your Pompey, your family's eternal enemy, though you may share DNA, though he's a brilliant man --- you've seen his intellect on display, he's without a doubt the smartest man in the kingdom. Though heaven and hell may curse you, you cannot abide a King in Rome. This is your very soul. The meaning of your life is the Republic of Rome. To let Caesar rule as one is to forsake your name. You cannot abide.

You kill him. You, Brutus, kill Caesar.

It doesn't take long. Rome hates you. You killed her most precious son. Who cares for you and ancestor worship. You, you, YOU are the betrayer. YOU are sinful goat that Rome shall place all its guilt and shame upon.

As I already wrote, Brutus killed himself. He ran himself through by his own sword that two of his servants held. He ran headlong into that unforgiving dagger. The historian Plutarch wrote that some of his final words were, “Forget not Zeus, the author of these crimes.” This has widely and historically been interpreted as Brutus' plea to his god that vengeance rain down on Octavius and Mark Antony. While this makes good sense, I offer another interpretation. Maybe Brutus isn't crying out to Zeus for justice. Perhaps he's telling his servants, Forget not Zeus. For he is the author of these crimes. The melodrama that turned out to be Brutus' life, and his eternal infamy, was not a work of mere men. No, it was a script written by the gods, merely played out by men. Brutus, in the end, understood his role, saw that he was a pawn, and with his last breath, cursed his god.

REMEMBER, REMEMBER: Acting justly, striving for the cause of ultimate justice does not merely require us to donate our lives to the cause. No, no. It also requires us to forsake our memory. For goodness, we must be okay to sacrifice more than just our bodies.

Our reputation, our history, our story, our very names, all must be put forth as our loving sacrifice.

We must prepare ourselves to fall to the very center of hell.