Text #9560"Servilia Caepionis", in .
Servilia Caepionis (b.c. 104 BC, d. after 42 BC) was the mistress of Julius Caesar, mother of one of Caesar’s assassins, Brutus, mother-in-law of another assassin, Cassius, and half-sister of Cato the Younger.
Little is known of Servilia’s early life. She was a patrician who could trace her line back to Gaius Servilius Ahala, and was the eldest child of Livia Drusa and Quintus Servilius Caepio the Younger. Her parents had two other children, Servilia the Younger and a younger Quintus Servilius Caepio. They divorced when she was young and her mother married Marcus Porcius Cato (who was father to Servilia’s younger half-brother Cato the Younger.) Following her parents’ divorce both her mother and stepfather died. Servilia and her younger siblings were brought up in the house of their maternal uncle, Marcus Livius Drusus, who was the tribune. He too, however, died when she was 16.
Prior to 85 BC, she was married to Marcus Junius Brutus the Elder, who became tribune of the plebs in 83 BC, and was founder of the colony in Capua. They had only one known child, Marcus Junius Brutus, born around 85 BC. Following the death of Sulla, who had been dictator in 79 BC but had resigned a year later, the elder Brutus was killed by Pompey after the surrender of Mutina, where he had fought him in 77 BC. Servilia’s second marriage was with Decimus Junius Silanus, with whom she had three daughters; Junia Prima, Junia Secunda, and Junia Tertia.
Before 64 BC she became the mistress of Julius Caesar, and remained so until the dictator’s death in 44 BC. Caesar was very fond of her and, years later, when he returned to a chaotic Rome after the Gallic Wars, he presented her with a priceless black pearl. It is also said that she offered him her youngest daughter Junia Tertia once his interests began to wane. Cicero wittily referenced this in remarking of a real estate deal: “It’s a better bargain than you think, for there is a third (tertia) off.”1 There was also gossip that Junia Tertia was Caesar’s daughter, but it is unlikely that both tales could be true at once. It was also rumoured that Servilia’s son Marcus Junius Brutus, later one of Caesar’s assassins, was Caesar’s son, but this is unlikely, as Caesar was only fifteen to seventeen years older than Brutus, and patricide was considered among the worst of crimes.
In 63 BC, Servilia contributed to a scandalous incident during a debate in the Senate over the execution or imprisonment of the Catiline conspirators, when someone handed Caesar a letter and it turned out that it was a love letter from her, after her half-brother Cato, who was on the opposing side in the debate and horrified by the ongoing, had accused Caesar of corresponding with the conspirators and demanded the letter to be read aloud.
Servilia may still have had influence over both Cato and her son, Brutus, at that time, but in 49 BC had to suffer when civil war broke out, Cato left Rome to side with Pompey the Great, despite her relationship with Caesar; and even Brutus, although he was resentful of Pompey for the death of his father, went too. After Pompey’s defeat in the Battle of Pharsalus, Caesar gave orders to his officers not to harm Brutus if they saw him in battle, probably out of respect for Servilia.
Servilia appears to have deeply resented the marriage of Brutus to his cousin Porcia Catonis, Cato’s daughter, in 45 BC, as it caused a semi-scandal due to Brutus’ unexplained and unreasonable rejection of Claudia Pulchra. As well as this she was jealous of the affection that Brutus had for Porcia and possibly feared Porcia might exert too strong an influence on Brutus. The marriage resulted in a rift between mother and son.
After the assassination of Caesar by her son Brutus and her son-in-law Cassius, the conspirators met at Servilia’s house. Apart from Servilia the only other women in attendance were Porcia and Junia Tertia. Despite this, she herself escaped the purges of the second triumvirate unscathed. After Brutus’ death, she lived out the remainder of her life in relative comfort and affluence under the care of Cicero’s friend Titus Pomponius Atticus. Her son’s ashes were sent to her from Philippi and she died naturally, like Junia Tertia.
Suetonius, Julius Caesar 50
Plutarch, Cato the Younger, Brutus
Appian, Civil Wars
Cicero, Letters F 12.7, A 14.21, A 15.11, A 15.12
Cornelius Nepos, Atticus
This is just one of many cowardly defamatory slurs made by Cicero against Caesar. [nE] ↩