Brutus and Cassius: Circle 9, Inferno 34
Eternally eaten by Lucifer's three mouths are--from left to right-- Brutus, Judas, and Cassius (Inf. 34.61-7). Brutus and Cassius, stuffed feet first in the jaws of Lucifer's black and whitish-yellow faces respectively, are punished in this lowest region for their assassination of Julius Caesar (44 B.C.E.), the founder of the Roman Empire that Dante viewed as an essential part of God's plan for human happiness. Both Brutus and Cassius fought on the side of Pompey in the civil war. However, following Pompey's defeat at Pharsalia in 48 B.C.E., Caesar pardoned them and invested them with high civic offices. Still, Cassius continued to harbor resentment against Caesar's dictatorship and enlisted the aid of Brutus in a conspiracy to kill Caesar and re-establish the republic. They succeeded in assassinating Caesar but their political-military ambitions were soon thwarted by Octavian (later Augustus) and Antony at Philippi (42 B.C.E.): Cassius, defeated by Antony and thinking (wrongly) that Brutus had been defeated by Octavian, had himself killed by a servant; Brutus indeed lost a subsequent battle and took his life as well. For Dante, Brutus and Cassius' betrayal of Julius Caesar, their benefactor and the world's supreme secular ruler, complements Judas Iscariot's betrayal of Jesus, the Christian man-god, in the Bible. Judas, one of the twelve apostles, strikes a deal to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver; he fulfills his treacherous role--foreseen by Jesus at the Last Supper--when he later identifies Jesus to the authorities with a kiss; regretting this betrayal that will lead to Jesus' death, Judas returns the silver and hangs himself (Matthew 26:14-16; 26:21-5; 26:47-9; 27:3-5). Suffering even more than Brutus and Cassius, Dante's Judas is placed head-first inside Lucifer's central mouth, with his back skinned by the devil's claws (Inf. 34.58-63).