What does the quote, "I love Caesar but I love Rome more," mean?
In Act Three, Scene 2, the Roman populace gathers to listen to Brutus defend his actions before hearing Mark Antony give his moving funeral oration. Brutus begins by urging the masses to listen to his reasons carefully and take into consideration his honor while he explains why he felt it was necessary to assassinate Julius Caesar. Brutus then describes Caesar as his dear friend, and he tells the masses that he truly loved Caesar. Brutus also says that, if anyone questions his motives as to why he chose to murder Caesar, his response would be,
I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more. (Shakespeare, 3.2.21)
Brutus's statement essentially means that his love for the Roman citizens and the Roman Republic outweighs his individual love and affinity for Julius Caesar. Brutus's comment also depicts his honorable nature and illustrates his integrity. Out of all the senators who conspire against Caesar, only Brutus has unselfish, honorable intentions. Brutus honestly feels that assassinating Julius Caesar is necessary to save the Roman Republic and prevent its citizens from suffering under the rule of an oppressive tyrant.
This quote is powerful because it really demonstrates that Brutus is a man of integrity and honor. Although one might not think of murdering someone as being an act of integrity or honor, his reasoning shows that his intentions behind the murder were good.
Brutus was good friends with Caesar and it was not easy for him to decide to be part of the conspiracy to kill him. He did so, however, because he recognized that his friend posed a great threat to Rome and in order to save Rome, Caesar's death was a necessary evil. When he says that he loved Rome more, he is also saying that the needs of the many were more important than his needs or the needs of Caesar. So, as difficult as it was for him to kill Caesar, he felt that the morally right thing to do for his city was to kill him.
This passage also demonstrates how hard this choice was for Brutus and reminds us again of his own inner conflict.
This line is spoken by Brutus. It is found very early in Act III, Scene 2. What is going on is that Brutus is going to address a crowd of Romans. They are going to want to hear what he has to say -- why he and the conspirators decided to kill Caesar. The actual line is
Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved
What he is saying in the line you cite is that he was friends with Caesar. He is trying to tell the people that he loved Caesar, but that Caesar was bad for Rome. Because Caesar was bad for Rome, and because Brutus loved Rome more than he loved Caesar, Brutus decided that it was necessary to kill Caesar.
So he is saying that he didn't really want to kill his friend, but he had to do it for patriotic reasons.
It's essentially Brutus's justification for killing Caesar. He's making a speech to the people and desperately wants to placate them. They are frightened, angry, and confused. They loved Caesar dearly and don't understand why it was necessary to kill him. So Brutus needs to stand before them and tell them exactly why Caesar needed to be disposed of. To get them on his side, Brutus wants them to know that he too loved Caesar. He didn't participate in his assassination for personal reasons, but out of high-minded ideals. Rome is bigger than any one individual, and that applies to Caesar as much as anyone. Brutus genuinely believed that Caesar wanted to turn himself into a king, thus destroying the republican system of government that Brutus venerates so deeply.