Marcus Brutus just before the most significant act of his life and one that would change the course of the Republic, a major distraction occurred. At home his wife, Porcia, was worried nearly to death about the actions her husband was about to take. She couldn’t sit still, she was unable to breathe, turned white and fainted. Her maids took her to her room, but not before the commotion attracted a large crowd outside. Whispers spread from onlooker to onlooker. Soon rumors swirled, as they often do in crowds, that she had died.
The news of Porcia’s death reached Brutus at the Senate. All his life, Brutus had drilled himself to focus on what was in his control. Even in his younger years in before the outbreak of major battles, Brutus spent the time studying and strengthening his mind, not worrying like his fellow soldiers. Plutarch compares Brutus to other soldiers preparing for battle the following day:
“It was then the height of summer, and the heat was overpowering, especially as Pompey’s army was encamped near a marsh, and the soldiers carried Brutus’s tent were slow in arriving. He was exhausted by the lack of shade, but although it was almost noon before he had anointed himself and taken a little food, he spent the time until the evening – when his companions were either sleeping or brooding anxiously about the future – in writing out a summary of Polybius*.” – Plutarch
The conspiracy against Caesar relied on Brutus. His character was known around Rome as reliable, just and moral. His actions were always aimed at the preservation of the Republic and the people knew this. Cassius, the main plotter, recruited Brutus for this very reason.
Brutus, obviously torn apart by arrival of news of his wife. What could he do at the moment? She was already dead, Caesar was still alive and threat to the freedom of Rome. Brutus followed the plan just as the conspirators had gone over. Antony was cornered, Caesar was murdered by a crowd of Senator’s. Bloodstained, they had achieved their desired outcome.
Porcia hadn’t died.
Years of trained focus in the face of difficulties and battles had allowed Brutus to focus on what he could control in the moment and what had to be left for later. He could have chosen to panic before major battles, like his fellow Roman’s, but he chose to study history instead. He could have returned home to check on his dead wife, but he chose to change the course of history.
What can I do today that sweeps away the distractions and allows me to focus on changing my own course?
*Polybius is a Greek historian.
To learn more check out: Plutarch’s Maker’s of Rome on Amazon.