Marc Antony and Octavian

Brutus, Cassius and men who murdered and conspired against Caesar considered themselves as “liberators” of the republic. Whatever may have been their motives, they seem to have taken little thought as to how Rome would be governed after they had killed Caesar. If they thought that the senate would take up the powers it had lost, and successfully rule the republic, they were grievously mistaken. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]

The only leading man of the senate who had survived the last civil war was Cicero; but Cicero with all his learning and eloquence could not take the place of Caesar. What Rome needed was what the liberators had taken from her, a master mind of broad views and of great executive power. It is no surprise that the death of Caesar was followed by confusion and dismay. No one knew which way to look or what to expect.\~\

Soon there appeared new actors upon the scene, men struggling for the supreme power in the state—M. Antonius (Antony), the friend of Caesar and his fellow-consul; C. Octavian, his adopted son and heir; M. Aemilius Lepidus, his master of horse; Sextus Pompeius, his previous enemy and the son of his greatest rival; while Cicero still raised his voice in defense of what he regarded as his country’s freedom. \~\

Websites on Ancient Rome: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Rome sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Late Antiquity sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Forum Romanum forumromanum.org ; “Outlines of Roman History” forumromanum.org; “The Private Life of the Romans” forumromanum.org|; BBC Ancient Rome bbc.co.uk/history; Perseus Project - Tufts University; perseus.tufts.edu ; Lacus Curtius penelope.uchicago.edu; Gutenberg.org gutenberg.org The Roman Empire in the 1st Century pbs.org/empires/romans; The Internet Classics Archive classics.mit.edu ; Bryn Mawr Classical Review bmcr.brynmawr.edu; De Imperatoribus Romanis: An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Emperors roman-emperors.org; British Museum ancientgreece.co.uk; Oxford Classical Art Research Center: The Beazley Archive beazley.ox.ac.uk ; Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org/about-the-met/curatorial-departments/greek-and-roman-art; The Internet Classics Archive kchanson.com ; Cambridge Classics External Gateway to Humanities Resources web.archive.org/web; Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy iep.utm.edu;
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy plato.stanford.edu; Ancient Rome resources for students from the Courtenay Middle School Library web.archive.org ; History of ancient Rome OpenCourseWare from the University of Notre Dame /web.archive.org ; United Nations of Roma Victrix (UNRV) History unrv.com

Anthony and Octavian After Caesar's Death

The first to take advantage of the confusion which followed Caesar’s death was Mark Antony (Marcus Antonius) . With the aid of Lepidus he got possession of Caesar’s will and other papers, and seized his treasury. He influenced the senate to confirm all of Caesar’s acts, and obtained permission to speak at his public funeral. He made a strong appeal to the populace to avenge the death of their great friend; and read the will of Caesar, which left his palace and gardens to the people, and a legacy to every citizen. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]

Assassination of Julius Caesar

Excited to fury by the eloquence of Antony, the people seized firebrands from the burning funeral pile, and rushed through the streets swearing vengeance to the so-called liberators. The liberators were obliged to flee from the city; and Antony was for the time supreme. As the senate had confirmed Caesar’s acts, and as Antony had Caesar’s papers, which were supposed to contain these acts, he assumed the role of Caesar’s executor and did what he pleased. The chief liberators hastened to the provinces to which they had previously been assigned by Caesar—Cassius to Syria, Marcus Brutus to Macedonia, and Decimus Brutus to Cisalpine Gaul.

Antony’s dream of power was disturbed when the young Octavian, Caesar’s grand-nephew and adopted son, appeared on scene. After Caesar's assassination in 44 B.C., Octavian's connection to Caesar boosted him on the political scene. At that time Octavian (Augustus) was seen as a “deceptively, malleable-seeming” 18-year-old. “He is wholey devoted to me," Cicero boasted, not long before the youth cut a deal to have him murdered.

Although a young man—only nineteen— Octavian was a born politician, and soon became Antony’s greatest rival. He assumed his adopted name, Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus, and claimed his inheritance and the treasures which had fallen into Antony’s hands. But Antony said that these were public moneys, and that they had been spent in the interests of the Roman state. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]

Octavian for the first time showed that adroit skill for which he was always distinguished. Antony had raised the false hopes of the people by reading Caesar’s will, which promised a legacy to every citizen. The people had heard the will; but they had not yet received the promised legacies. To humiliate Antony and to insure his own popularity, the young Octavian sold his own estates, borrowed money of his friends, and paid the legacies which Caesar had promised to the people. By this act Octavian displaced Antony as the people’s friend. The young heir grew so rapidly in popular favor that his influence was sought both by Cicero, who represented the senate, and by Antony, who represented himself. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]

Political Fallout After Caesar’s Death

David Silverman of Reed College wrote: “Cicero approved of the result if not the method” of Caesar’s death;” he says repeatedly in his letters that the Ides of March was a glorious day. Cicero had encouraged the assassins to their deed on the Ides of March, but neither he nor they had a plan for restoring the Republic afterwards. Having allowed Antony to regain the initiative, Cicero retired to his villa at Puteoli in the spring of 44. There are surviving over 200 letters written by Cicero between the Ides of March and his own death; thus there is a nearly unique opportunity for constructing a detailed account of the politics of the day. Cicero put forward no clear political or military solutions in the aftermath of the Ides; instead, he wrung his hands over the situation and hoped that someone else would take the lead. Is Cicero to blame for his indecision in these months, or was he simply being cautious and prudent, waiting for a better opportunity and greater chances of success? [Source: David Silverman, Reed College, Classics 373 ~ History 393 Class ^*^]

“Surprisingly, Caesar's death did not lead to a quick renunciation of his acts or massive retaliation against his supporters. Cicero supported amnesty for the conspirators; The conspirators had not looked far beyond the tyrannicide, nor severed all of the hydra's heads. The second- and third-in-command in Caesar's organization were his magister equitum M. Aemilius Lepidus and his co-consul for 44, M. Antonius (Mark Antony). Cassius had proposed that Antony should be killed along with Caesar, but Brutus had prevailed with his opinion that Antony might live. Cicero's letters to Atticus from April of 44 give a sense of the uncertainty of the political situation. Anthony was rumoured to be hoarding grain in the capital, but for what purpose was not known; ^*^

“Antony managed to effect a rapid deal, brokered by Cicero, with the Republicans: there was to be amnesty for Caesar's killers, but his acts were to be upheld. Why did Brutus and Cassius agree to this compromise, which seems to undercut the purpose of their deed? The answer is military power; the conspirators could kill the dictator, but they could not change the fact that Antony had lost no time in bringing some of Lepidus' legions from Spain and Gallia Narbonensis (S. France). Nor did Antony intend to let go the reins of power. At the funeral oration for Caesar, he surprised his erstwhile Republican "allies" by igniting the wrath of the crowd against the tyrannicides; Brutus and Cassius were forced to flee from Italy, but they fled not into oblivion. Already assigned to safeguard the corn supply from Libya and Egypt, they made for the more fertile recruiting grounds of Macedonia, Asia, and Syria. In fact this episode was a deliberate attempt by Antony to consolidate his position as the successor of Julius Caesar (Plut. Cicero 42 over Suet. Iul. 84). It is true that Caesar managed to curry favor with the people even after his death by leaving 300 sesterces to every Roman citizen. However, there is a further reason why the historical record represented the event as a popular uprising against the murderers of Caesar, that it was consistent with Octavian's later claim to have been carrying out the popular will in avenging the death of Caesar.” ^*^

Octavian (Augustus)


Octavian (Octavian) was born Gaius Octavianus on September 23, 63 B.C. He was Caesar's grand nephew and adopted son, and was named by Julius Caesar as his heir. He was 18 and in Illyria across the Adriatic when Caesar was murdered. His mother told him he should escape to Greece but instead he came to Rome. Later when became the Emperor of Rome he adopted the name Augustus. It has been said that Caesar's campaign ended Republican Rome and created an empire with Augustus at the throne. The four emperors that followed Augustus were also descendants of Caesar.

Augustus was only five-foot-five and rather frail. He was regarded as a hypochondriac and suffered throughout his life from a variety of infirmities, including gallstones and dirty teeth. He almost died of "an abscessed liver" and was frequent visitor to health spas. He lived relatively modestly. According to Suetonius in Lives of Twelve Caesars Augustus boasted he could fast better than any Jew. He lived to be 75 and outlived his daughter's two sons and was succeeded by his stepson Tiberus

David Silverman of Reed College wrote: “C. Octavian was the son of Atia, the daughter of J. Caesar's sister Julia. At the time of Caesar's death, the nineteen year old Octavian had been in Illyria (or Epirus) waiting to join his grand-uncle on the Parthian venture. Octavian hurried back to Rome, having learned that he had been named Caesar's chief heir in the will of the late dictator. Suddenly one of the richest men in Rome, he set about paying off Caesar's bequests and ingratiating himself with Caesar's former associates. It was natural at this point for Octavian, now calling himself C. Iulius Caesar Octavianus, to be aligned with Antony (as both were adherents of Caesar). [Source: David Silverman, Reed College, Classics 373 ~ History 393 Class ^*^

This changed when Antony went to Cisalpine Gaul to dislodge Decimus Brutus. This Brutus (not to be confused with M. Brutus) was the highest ranking Caesarian to have taken part in the assassination; now in the fall of 44 he refused to evacuate his province and found himself besieged by the consul Antony at Mutina. At Rome, Octavian took advantage of Antony's absence and began to raise an army, playing on the cachet of the name of his adoptive father much as Pompey the Great had done in 84 and 83. Octavian's power grew rapidly. The question was, to what end would it be used? On the one hand, he was determined to avenge the murder of Caesar; on the other, his clearest rival for power was Antony, at this time engaged in attacking one of Caesar's murderers.” ^*^

See Separate Articles on AUGUSTUS

Marc Antony

Marc Antony coin

Marc Antony and Lepidus ultimately prevailed in their war with Cassius and Brutus for control of Rome and divided the Roman Empire among themselves, with Antony getting the East and Lepidus getting the West. In 41 B.C., while on tour of his empire to make alliances and secure funds for attack on the Parthians in Iran, Antony met Cleopatra.

At that time, Anthony was handsome and had thick curly hair. He claimed he was a descendent of Hercules and sometimes identified himself with Dionysus. Plutarch described Antony as mellow and generous but a bit of slob. Cicero called him a "a kind of butcher or prizefighter" and said his all-night orgies made him "odius." He also had a reputation for getting so drunk at all-male parties that he threw up into his own toga.

Even though women and soldiers loved him, Antony's biographer Adrian Goldsworthy dismisses him as a “not an especially good general” and wrote: “There is no real trace of any long-held beliefs or causes on Antony's part” beyond “glory and profit,"

Book: “Cleopatra and Antony” by Diana Preston, well-written and engaging rehashing of the story. “Antony and Cleopatra” by Adrian Goldsworthy (Yale, 2010) emphasizes the military side of their relationship.

Marc Antony's Early Life and Family

Plutarch wrote in “Lives”: “The grandfather of Antony was the famous pleader, whom Marius put to death for having taken part with Sylla. His father was Antony, surnamed of Crete, not very famous or distinguished in public life, but a worthy good man, and particularly remarkable for his liberality, as may appear from a single example. He was not very rich, and was for that reason checked in the exercise of his good nature by his wife. A friend that stood in need of money came to borrow of him. Money he had none, but he bade a servant bring him water in a silver basin, with which, when it was brought, he wetted his face, as if he meant to shave, and, sending away the servant upon another errand, gave his, friend the basin, desiring him to turn it to his purpose. And when there was, afterwards, a great inquiry for it in the house, and his wife was in a very ill-humour, and was going to put the servants one by one to the search, he acknowledged what he had done, and begged her pardon. [Source: Plutarch (A.D. c.46-c.120): Life of Anthony (82-30 B.C.) For “Lives,” written A.D. 75, translated by John Dryden MIT]

young Marc Antony

“His wife was Julia, of the family of the Caesars, who, for her discretion and fair was not inferior to any of her time. Under her, Antony received his education, she being, after the death of his father, remarried to Cornelius Lentulus, who was put to death by Cicero for having been of Catiline's conspiracy. This, probably, was the first ground and occasion of that mortal grudge that Antony bore Cicero. He says, even, that the body of Lentulus was denied burial, till, by application made to Cicero's wife, it was granted to Julia. But this seems to be a manifest error, for none of those that suffered in the consulate of Cicero had the right of burial denied them.

“Antony grew up a very beautiful youth, but by the worst of misfortunes, he fell into the acquaintance and friendship of Curio, a man abandoned to his pleasures, who, to make Antony's dependence upon him a matter of greater necessity, plunged him into a life of drinking and dissipation, and led him through a course of such extravagance that he ran, at that early age, into debt to the amount of two hundred and fifty talents. For this sum Curio became his surety; on hearing which, the elder Curio, his father, drove Antony out of his house. After this, for some short time he took part with Clodius, the most insolent and outrageous demagogue of the time, in his course of violence and disorder; but getting weary before long, of his madness, and apprehensive of the powerful party forming against him, he left Italy and travelled into Greece, where he spent his time in military exercises and in the study of eloquence. He took most to what was called the Asiatic taste in speaking, which was then at its height, and was, in many ways, suitable to his ostentatious, vaunting temper, full of empty flourishes and unsteady efforts for glory. [Source: Plutarch (A.D. c.46-c.120): Life of Anthony (82-30 B.C.) For “Lives,” written A.D. 75, translated by John Dryden MIT]

Antony’s Early Military Campaign in Syria

Plutarch wrote in “Lives”: “After some stay in Greece, he was invited by Gabinius, who had been consul, to make a campaign with him in Syria, which at first he refused, not being willing to serve in a private character, but receiving a commission to command the horse, he went along with him. His first-service was against Aristobulus, who had prevailed with the Jews to rebel. Here he was himself the first man to scale the largest of the works, and beat Aristobulus out of all of them; after which he routed in a pitched battle, an army many times over the number of his, killed almost all of them and took Aristobulus and his son prisoners. This war ended, Gabinius was solicited by Ptolemy to restore him to his kingdom of Egypt, and a promise made of ten thousand talents reward. Most of the officers were against this enterprise, and Gabinius himself did not much like it, though sorely tempted by the ten thousand talents. [Source: Plutarch (A.D. c.46-c.120): Life of Anthony (82-30 B.C.) For “Lives,” written A.D. 75, translated by John Dryden MIT]

“But Antony, desirous of brave actions and willing to please Ptolemy, joined in persuading Gabinius to go. And whereas all were of opinion that the most dangerous thing before them was the march to Pelusium, in which they would have to pass over a deep sand, where no fresh water was to be hoped for, along the Acregma and the Serbonian marsh (which the Egyptians call Typhon's breathing-hole, and which is, in probability, water left behind by, or making its way through from, the Red Sea, which is here divided from the Mediterranean by a narrow isthmus), Antony, being ordered thither with the horse, not only made himself master of the passes, but won Pelusium itself, a great city, took the garrison prisoners, and by this means rendered the march secure to the army, and the way to victory not difficult for the general to pursue.

The enemy also reaped some benefit of his eagerness for honour. For when Ptolemy, after he had entered Pelusium, in his rage and spite against the Egyptians, designed to put them to the sword, Antony withstood him, and hindered the execution. In all the great and frequent skirmishes and battles he gave continual proofs of his personal valour and military conduct; and once in particular, by wheeling about and attacking the rear of the enemy, he gave the victory to the assailants in the front, and received for this service signal marks of distinction. Nor was his humanity towards the deceased Archelaus less taken notice of. He had been formerly his guest and acquaintance, and, as he was now compelled, he fought him bravely while alive, but on his death, sought out his body and buried it with royal honours. The consequence was that he left behind him a great name among the Alexandrians, and all who were serving in the Roman army looked upon him as a most gallant soldier.”

Antony’s Appearance and Character

older Marc Antony

Plutarch wrote in “Lives”: “He had also a very good and noble appearance; his beard was well grown, his forehead large, and his nose aquiline, giving him altogether a bold, masculine look that reminded people of the faces of Hercules in paintings and sculptures. It was, moreover, an ancient tradition, that the Antonys were descended from Hercules, by a son of his called Anton; and this opinion he thought to give credit to by the similarity of his person just mentioned, and also by the fashion of his dress. For, whenever he had to appear before large numbers, he wore his tunic girt low about the hips, a broadsword on his side, and over all a large coarse mantle. What might seem to some very insupportable, his vaunting, his raillery, his drinking in public, sitting down by the men as they were taking their food, and eating, as he stood, off the common soldiers' tables, made him the delight and pleasure of the army. [Source: Plutarch (A.D. c.46-c.120): Life of Anthony (82-30 B.C.) For “Lives,” written A.D. 75, translated by John Dryden MIT]

In love affairs, also, he was very agreeable: he gained many friends by the assistance he gave them in theirs, and took other people's raillery upon his own with good-humour. And his generous ways, his open and lavish hand in gifts and favours to his friends and fellow-soldiers, did a great deal for him in his first advance to power, and after he had become great, long maintained his fortunes, when a thousand follies were hastening their overthrow. One instance of his liberality I must relate. He had ordered payment to one of his friends of twenty-five myriads of money or decies, as the Romans call it, and his steward wondering at the extravagance of the sum, laid all the silver in a heap, as he should pass by. Antony, seeing the heap, asked what it meant; his steward replied, "The money you have ordered to be given to your friend." So, perceiving the man's malice, said he, "I thought the decies had been much more; 'tis too little; let it be doubled." This, however, was at a later time.

Antony Versus Octavian

David Silverman of Reed College wrote: “As Cicero saw the situation, Antony was the more dangerous of the two (cf. the exchange between Cicero and Antony enclosed with ad Att. 14.13). He began to attack Antony in a series of speeches. These are magnificent examples of invective which he titled "Philippics" after Demosthenes' attacks on the Macedonian king. The central themes were that Antony was aiming for a dictatorship (though the title of dictator had been abolished by law at Antony's insistence), and (at least by the time of the 3rd Philippic, which was delivered on Dec. 20, 44) that the Optimates should rally behind Octavian. To this they eventually agreed, and Octavian was coopted into the Senate and granted a propraetor's imperium, while Antony came dangerously close to being declared a public enemy (App. BC 3. 8. 50-61). Legally this made Octavian subordinate to the consuls of 43, A. Hirtius and C. Vibius Pansa, whom he allowed to lead his legions to relieve Decimus Brutus at Mutina in the spring of 43. Notice what an unnatural position this was for Caesar's heir; for the moment he had the legal backing of the Senate, but his troops were being used to save one of Caesar's murderers. [Source: David Silverman, Reed College, Classics 373 ~ History 393 Class ^*^]

“Antony was defeated at Mutina, but managed to escape to Transalpine Gaul. The consul Hirtius had been killed in battle, and Pansa died soon after; this is significant because it left Octavian in sole command of the victorious legions by default (they refused to serve under Decimus Brutus). As a reward Octavian demanded the consulship, and at the same time he made it clear to the senate that he still considered Decimus Brutus, as well as M. Brutus (in Macedonia) and Cassius (in Syria) guilty as murderers, while Sextus Pompey (in Africa) would always be his enemy. For what followed this impasse Octavian himself deserves most of the blame, the low point in his career (it is not a coincidence that Livy waited until after the death of Augustus to publish books 121-140 of the Ab Urbe Condita, dealing with the years after 43 BC); Cicero and the senate were guilty only of continuing to underestimate him (cf. Cic. Ad Att. 16.14, of late November 44: Sed in isto iuvene, quamquam animi satis, auctoritatis parum est - there is in the boy, I admit, enough spirit — but not enough authority). [Source: David Silverman, Reed College, Classics 373 ~ History 393 Class ^*^]

“They took steps to return the senatorial oligarchy to power, notably with the granting of maius imperium (overall command) to Brutus and Cassius in the east. Perhaps more annoying, from Octavian's point of view, was the attempt (much of it at the urging of Cicero) to rehabilitate Sextus Pompey, who had escaped unharmed from the battles of Thapsus and Munda and continued to harass the Caesarians. The sources make much of the fact that a triumph for Mutina was awarded to Decimus Brutus (and denied to Octavian); if anything, this bit of pettiness only proves how shortsighted the senate had become, quibbling over the sort of triumph which should never have been even contemplated, much less awarded to the commander who had watched as others rescued him from Antony's encirclement. The noble tradition had been too long sullied by the celebration of victories over Roman enemies. In any case, Octavian would not wait; he marched on Rome and had himself elected consul for 42 BC (the first of 13). At 19 he was the youngest consul in the history of Rome. ^*^

Marc Antony in Ephesus

Antony with Caesar on His Military Campaigns

During the civil war between Julius Caesar and Pompey, Antony campaigned with Caesar. Plutarch wrote in “Lives”: “When the Roman state finally broke up into two hostile factions, the aristocratical party joining Pompey, who was in the city, and the popular side seeking help from Caesar, who was at the head of an army in Gaul, Curio, the friend of Antony, having changed his party and devoted himself to Caesar, brought over Antony also to his service. And the influence which he gained with the people by his eloquence and by the money which was supplied by Caesar, enabled him to make Antony, first, tribune of the people, and then, augur. And Antony's accession to office was at once of the greatest advantage to Caesar. In the first place, he resisted the consul Marcellus, who was putting under Pompey's orders the troops who were already collected, and was giving him power to raise new levies; he, on the other hand, making an order that they should be sent into Syria to reinforce Bibulus, who was making war with the Parthians, and that no one should give in his name to serve under Pompey.” [Source: Plutarch (A.D. c.46-c.120): Life of Anthony (82-30 B.C.) For “Lives,” written A.D. 75, translated by John Dryden MIT]

When “Caesar set his army in motion, and marched into Italy... Cicero writes in his Philippics that Antony was as much the cause of the civil war as Helen was of the Trojan. But this is but a calumny. For Caesar was not of so slight or weak a temper as to suffer himself to be carried away, by the indignation of the moment, into a civil war with his country, upon the sight of Antony and Cassius seeking refuge in his camp meanly dressed and in a hired carriage, without ever having thought of it or taken any such resolution long before. This was to him, who wanted a pretence of declaring war, a fair and plausible occasion; but the true motive that led him was the same that formerly led Alexander and Cyrus against all mankind, the unquenchable thirst of empire, and the distracted ambition of being the greatest man in the world, which was impracticable for him, unless Pompey were put down. So soon, then, as he had advanced and occupied Rome, and driven Pompey out of Italy, he proposed first to go against the legions that Pompey had in Spain, and then cross over and follow him with the fleet that should be prepared during his absence, in the meantime leaving the government of Rome to Lepidus, as praetor, and the command of the troops and of Italy to Antony, as tribune of the people. Antony was not long in getting the hearts of the soldiers, joining with them in their exercises, and for the most part living amongst them and making them presents to the utmost of his abilities; but with all others he was unpopular enough. He was too lazy to pay attention to the complaints of persons who were injured; he listened impatiently to petitions; and he had an ill name for familiarity with other people's wives. In short, the government of Caesar (which, so far as he was concerned himself, had the appearance of anything rather than a tyranny) got a bad repute through his friends. And of these friends, Antony, as he had the largest trust, and committed the greatest errors, was thought the most deeply in fault. Caesar, however, at his return from Spain, overlooked the charges against him, and had no reason ever to complain, in the employments he gave him in the war, of any want of courage, energy, or military skill.

“He himself, going aboard at Brundusium, sailed over the Ionian Sea with a few troops and sent back the vessels with orders to Antony and Gabinius to embark the army, and come over with all speed to Macedonia. Gabinius, having no mind to put to sea in the rough, dangerous weather of the winter season, was for marching the army round by the long land route; but Antony, being more afraid lest Caesar might suffer from the number of his enemies, who pressed him hard, beat back Libo, who was watching with a fleet at the mouth of the haven of Brundusium, by attacking his galleys with a number of small boats, and gaining thus an opportunity, put on board twenty thousand foot and eight hundred horse, and so set out to sea.

Caesar refused the diadem from Marc Antony

And, being espied by the enemy and pursued, from this danger he was rescued by a strong south wind, which sprang up and raised so high a sea that the enemy's galleys could make little way. But his own ships were driving before it upon a lee shore of cliffs and rocks running sheer to the water, where there was no hope of escape, when all of a sudden the wind turned about to south-west, and blew from land to the main sea, where Antony, now sailing in security, saw the coast all covered with the wreck of the enemy's fleet. For hither the galleys in pursuit had been carried by the gale, and not a few of them dashed to pieces. Many men and much property fell into Antony's hands; he took also the town of Lissus, and, by the seasonable arrival of so large a reinforcement, gave Caesar great encouragement.

“There was not one of the many engagements that now took place one after another in which he did not signalize himself; twice he stopped the army in its full flight, led them back to a charge, and gained the victory. So that now without reason his reputation, next to Caesar's, was greatest in the army. And what opinion Caesar himself had of him well appeared when, for the final battle in Pharsalia, which was to determine everything, he himself chose to lead the right wing, committing the charge of the left to Antony, as to the best officer of all that served under him. After the battle, Caesar, being created dictator, went in pursuit of Pompey, and sent Antony to Rome, with the character of Master of the Horse, who is in office and power next to the dictator, when present, and in his absence the first, and pretty nearly indeed the sole magistrate. For on the appointment of a dictator, with the one exception of the tribunes, all other magistrates cease to exercise any authority in Rome.”

Antony and the Assassination of Caesar

Plutarch wrote in “Lives”: “Brutus and Cassius, who in making choice of trusty friends... were thinking to engage Antony. The rest approved, except Trebonius, who told them that Antony and he had lodged and travelled together in the last journey they took to meet Caesar, and that he had let fall several words, in a cautious way, on purpose to sound him; that Antony very well understood him, but did not encourage it; however, he had said nothing of it to Caesar, but had kept the secret faithfully. The conspirators then proposed that Antony should die with him, which Brutus would not consent to, insisting that an action undertaken in defence of right and the laws must be maintained unsullied, and pure of injustice. It was settled that Antony, whose bodily strength and high office made him formidable, should, at Caesar's entrance into the senate, when the deed was to be done, be amused outside by some of the party in a conversation about some pretended business. [Source: Plutarch (A.D. c.46-c.120): Life of Anthony (82-30 B.C.) For “Lives,” written A.D. 75, translated by John Dryden MIT]

“So when all was proceeded with, according to their plan, and Caesar had fallen in the senate-house, Antony, at the first moment, took a servant's dress, and hid himself. But, understanding that the conspirators had assembled in the Capitol, and had no further design upon any one, he persuaded them to come down, giving them his son as a hostage. That night Cassius supped at Antony's house, and Brutus with Lepidus. Antony then convened the senate, and spoke in favour of an act of oblivion, and the appointment of Brutus and Cassius to provinces. These measures the senate passed; and resolved that all Caesar's acts should remain in force. Thus Antony went out of the senate with the highest possible reputation and esteem; for it was apparent that he had prevented a civil war, and had composed, in the wisest and most statesmanlike way, questions of the greatest difficulty and embarrassment. But these temperate counsels were soon swept away by the tide of popular applause, and the prospect, if Brutus were overthrown, of being without doubt the ruler-in-chief. As Caesar's body was conveying to the tomb, Antony, according to the custom, was making his funeral oration in the market-place, and perceiving the people to be infinitely affected with what he had said, he began to mingle with his praises language of commiseration, and horror at what had happened, and, as he was ending his speech, he took the under-clothes of the dead, and held them up, showing them stains of blood and the holes of the many stabs, calling those that had done this act villains and bloody murderers. All which excited the people to such indignation, that they would not defer the funeral, but, making a pile of tables and forms in the very market-place, set fire to it; and every one, taking a brand, ran to the conspirators' houses, to attack them.

Antony After the Assassination of Caesar

Marc Antony and dead Caesar

Plutarch wrote in “Lives”: “Brutus and his whole party left the city, and Caesar's friends joined themselves to Antony. Calpurnia, Caesar's wife, lodged with him the best part of the property to the value of four thousand talents; he got also into his hands all Caesar's papers wherein were contained journals of all he had done, and draughts of what he designed to do, which Antony made good use of; for by this means he appointed what magistrates he pleased, brought whom he would into the senate, recalled some from exile, freed others out of prison, and all this as ordered so by Caesar. The Romans, in mockery, gave those who were thus benefited the name of Charonites, since, if put to prove their patents, they must have recourse to the papers of the dead. In short, Antony's behaviour in Rome was very absolute, he himself being consul and his two brothers in great place; Caius, the one, being praetor, and Lucius, the other, tribune of the people. [Source: Plutarch (A.D. c.46-c.120): Life of Anthony (82-30 B.C.) For “Lives,” written A.D. 75, translated by John Dryden MIT]

“While matters went thus in Rome, the young Caesar, Caesar's niece's son, and by testament left his heir, arrived at Rome from Apollonia, where he was when his uncle was killed. The first thing he did was to visit Antony, as his father's friend. He spoke to him concerning the money that was in his hands, and reminded him of the legacy Caesar had made of seventy-five drachmas of every Roman citizen. Antony, at first, laughing at such discourse from so young a man, told him he wished he were in his health, and that he wanted good counsel and good friends to tell him the burden of being executor to Caesar would sit very uneasy upon his young shoulders. This was no answer to him; and, when he persisted in demanding the property, Antony went on treating him injuriously both in word and deed, opposed him when he stood for the tribune's office, and, when he was taking steps for the dedication of his father's golden chair, as had been enacted, he threatened to send him to prison if he did not give over soliciting the people. This made the young Caesar apply himself to Cicero, and all those that hated Antony; by them he was recommended to the senate, while he himself courted the people, and drew together the soldiers from their settlements, till Antony got alarmed, and gave him a meeting in the Capitol, where, after some words, they came to an accommodation.

“That night Antony had a very unlucky dream, fancying that his right hand was thunderstruck. And, some few days after, he was informed that Caesar was plotting to take his life. Caesar explained, but was not believed, so that the breach was now made as wide as ever; each of them hurried about all through Italy to engage, by great offers, the old soldiers that lay scattered in their settlements, and to be the first to secure the troops that still remained undischarged. Cicero was at this time the man of greatest influence in Rome. He made use of all his art to exasperate the people against Antony, and at length persuaded the senate to declare him a public enemy, to send Caesar the rods and axes and other marks of honour usually given to proctors, and to issue orders to Hirtius and Pansa, who were the consuls, to drive Antony out of Italy. The armies engaged near Modena, and Caesar himself was present and took part in the battle.

Lepidus, Antony and Octavian

"Antony was defeated, but both the consuls were slain. Antony, in his flight, was overtaken by distresses of every kind, and the worst of all of them was famine. But it was his character in calamities to be better than at any other time. Antony, in misfortune, was most nearly a virtuous man. It is common enough for people, when they fall into great disasters, to discern what is right, and what they ought to do; but there are but few who in such extremities have the strength to obey their judgment, either in doing what it approves or avoiding what it condemns; and a good many are so weak as to give way to their habits all the more, and are incapable of using their using minds. Antony, on this occasion, was a most wonderful example to his soldiers. He, who had just quitted so much luxury and sumptuous living, made no difficulty now of drinking foul water and feeding on wild fruits and roots. Nay, it is related they ate the very bark of trees, and, in passing over the Alps, lived upon creatures that no one before had ever been willing to touch.

“The design was to join the army on the other side the Alps, commanded by Lepidus, who he imagined would stand his friend, he having done him many good offices with Caesar. On coming up and encamping near at hand, finding he had no sort of encouragement offered him, he resolved to push his fortune and venture all. His hair was long and disordered, nor had he shaved his beard since his defeat; in this guise, and with a dark coloured cloak flung over him, he came into the trenches of Lepidus, and began to address the army. Some were moved at his habit, others at his words, so that Lepidus, not liking it, ordered the trumpets to sound, that he might be heard no longer. This raised in the soldiers yet a greater pity, so that they resolved to confer secretly with him, and dressed Laelius and Clodius in women's clothes, and sent them to see him. They advised him without delay to attack Lepidus's trenches, assuring him that a strong party would receive him, and, if he wished it, would kill Lepidus. Antony, however, had no wish for this, but next morning marched his army to pass over the river that parted the two camps. He was himself the first man that stepped in, and, as he went through towards the other bank, he saw Lepidus's soldiers in great numbers reaching out their hands to help him, and beating down the works to make him way. Being entered into the camp, and finding himself absolute master, he nevertheless treated Lepidus with the greatest civility, and gave him the title of Father, when he spoke to him, and though he had everything at his own command, he left him the honour of being called the general. This fair usage brought over to him Munatius Plancus, who was not far off with a considerable force. Thus in great strength he repassed the Alps, leading with him into Italy seventeen legions and ten thousand horse, besides six legions which he left in garrison under the command of Varius, one of his familiar friends and boon companions, whom they used to call by the nickname of Cotylon.”

Triumvirate of Antony, Octavian, and Lepidus (43 B.C.)

Octavian and Antony joined with Lepidus to form the Second Triumvirate (“Group of Three”) in 43 B.C.. Octavian was able get Caesar's old soldiers behind him and win the support of the Senate. The First Triumvirate was formed by Pompey, Caesar and Crassus in 60 B.C. Octavian had broken with the senate, and had obtained a complete victory. But he was not yet ready to break with Antony, who was supported by Lepidus, especially as the two chief liberators, Brutus and Cassius, were still in control of the eastern provinces. If he had had the military genius of Caesar, he might have destroyed all their armies in detail. But the young Octavian was not inclined to overrate his military abilities. He saw that it would be for his interest to make friends with Antony and Lepidus. A coalition was therefore formed between the three leaders, usually called the “second triumvirate.” They agreed to divide the western provinces among themselves, and then to make a new division after they had driven Brutus and Cassius from the eastern provinces. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]

Second Triumvirate with Antony, Octavian and Lepidus

On how the Triumvirate was formed, Nina C. Coppolino wrote: “A feud soon developed between Octavian and Antony, Caesar's colleague as consul, who intended to gain hold of Caesar's Gallic provinces and was luring Caesar's veterans to his side. Octavian raised an army on his own. Under the terms of Caesar's will, Octavian was required to pay a legacy to the urban plebs, but Antony refused to hand over the necessary cash which Caesar's widow had given to him. In 43 B.C. at Mutina Antony was defeated by Octavian with armies given to him by the senate. Octavian was elected consul that year for the first time at the unusually young age of nineteen; he had refused to fight unless he got the consulship because he was convinced that the senate would discard him after they had used him to get rid of Antony. Finally in 43 B.C. at Bononia, Octavian made terms with Antony and Lepidus, who had alternately supported Caesar, Antony, and the senate. Together the three men formed the triumvirate, which had been initially granted absolute powers for five years. They ruthlessly proscribed 120 senators and many equestrian whose property and money were confiscated to pay troops. [Source: Nina C. Coppolino, Roman Emperors]

On the same topic, David Silverman of Reed College wrote: “Antony was able to gather his strength, drawing support from former Caesarian governors in Gaul and Spain. He descended upon Decimus Brutus a second time and destroyed him without even having to fight a battle (Decimus' troops, like those of the western provincial armies, tended to be loyal to Caesar's name). The extent to which resistance to Octavian in the senate had collapsed may be gauged by the fact that now it was the turn of Brutus and Cassius to be outlawed (App. 3. 14. 95). This was Rome as the Republic crumbled: one month you were granted a major command, the next you were public enemy number one. Octavian's next move was to meet Antony and Lepidus. The idea that the three had already struck some sort of deal is belied by the fact that all brought their legions to the meeting, which took place on a small island, i.e. a place where an ambush was impossible. [Source: David Silverman, Reed College, Classics 373 ~ History 393 Class ^*^]

“But despite the climate of mutual suspicion an agreement was made (the Second Triumvirate), soon after ratified by the popular assembly at Rome: Octavian, Antony, and Lepidus styled themselves triumviri rei publicae constituendae, or the "Board of Three for Repairing the State". Thus they borrowed part of one of Caesar's titles, while avoiding the word dictator. Of the three, Antony at this point probably had the weakest position (though many would say it was Octavian). Octavian's strength at this point is shown by the disposition. The plan was for Lepidus to have the consulship in 42 B.C., in which year Octavian would make for Greece with Antony at his side, to punish the men whose amnesty Antony himself had arranged in 44 B.C. Moreover, for the present Antony and Lepidus took up commands in Gaul, while Octavian (though nominally the proconsular governor of Africa and Sicily) was to manage things in the capital. At the beginning of 42 B.C. the Senate passed a decree declaring that Caesar had been a god, which measure certainly was in Octavian's favour, as he could and did now call himself divi filius. ^*^

“The triumvirs needed money to pay their legions, which now collectively numbered 43-45 (roughly a quarter of a million men, a legion being 5000-6000), and as always land upon which to settle them. At the same time there were potential political enemies to be got rid of. Both aims could be accomplished at once by means of proscriptions and confiscations, which were now carried out (SB I 115 = App. BC 4.2.5). The wealthy equites were the hardest hit, but the names of some 300 senators also graced the list. Among those proscribed (at Antony's insistence) was M. Tullius Cicero. ^*^

Cicero’s Attack on Antony Leads to the Second Triumvirate

Cicero’s attempt to defeat Antony by the aid of Octavian was not a successful piece of diplomacy. It resulted not only in alienating the Octavian; but worse than that, it brought about the very coalition — the Second Triumvirate — - which Cicero was trying to prevent. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]

Cicero thought that everything should be done to weaken the power of Antony, and to prevent any possible coalition between him and the young Octavian. The hostility between Cicero and Antony grew to be bitter and relentless; and they were pitted against each other on the floor of the senate. But in a war of words Antony was no match for Cicero. By a series of famous speeches known as the “Philippics,” the popularity of Antony was crushed; and he retired from Rome to seek for victory upon other fields. He claimed Cisalpine Gaul as his province. But this province was still held by Decimus Brutus, one of the liberators to whom the senate looked for military support \~. When Antony attempted to gain possession of this territory, Cicero thought he saw an opportunity to use Octavian in the interests of the senate. Accordingly Antony was declared a public enemy; Octavian was made a senator with the rank of a consul, and was authorized to conduct the war against Antony. In this war—the so-called war of Mutina (44-43 B.C. ) — Octavian was successful. As a reward for his victory he demanded of the senate that he receive a triumph and the consulship. Cicero had intended Decimus Brutus for this office, and the request of Octavian was refused. But the young heir, then twenty years of age, following the example of Caesar, enforced his claims with the sword; he took possession of the city, and obtained his election to the consulship. Octavian thus became the ruling man in Rome.

Rome Under the Second Triumvirate

The Triumvirate battled Cassius and Brutus for control of Rome during five years of civil war. After defeating the armies of Brutus and Cassius at the Battle of Phillipi in 42 B.C., Lepidus was stripped of his power and Octavian and Marc Antony divided the empire, with Octavian getting Italy and the west and Antony getting the east.

The Second Triumvirate was regarded as despotic and self-serving. The leaders — Octavian, Marc Antony and Lepidus — assumed the consular power for five years, with the right of appointing all magistrates. Their decrees were to have the force of law without the sanction of either the senate or the people. It is to the eternal disgrace of these men who professed to espouse the cause of Caesar, that they abandoned the humane policy of their great exemplar, and turned to the infamous policy of Marius and Sulla. Antony especially desired a proscription, as he was surrounded by thousands of personal enemies, chief among whom was Cicero, the author of the “Philippics.” Octavian was reconciled to the horrible work as a matter of policy; and Lepidus acquiesced in it as a matter of indifference. It is said that three hundred senators and two thousand equites were outlawed, and their property confiscated. The triumvirs justified their atrocious acts as a retaliation for the murder of Caesar. Many of the proscribed escaped from Italy and found a refuge with Brutus and Cassius in the East. But a large number of persons were slain. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]

death of Cicero

Plutarch wrote in “Lives”: “This triumvirate was very hateful to the Romans, and Antony most of all bore the blame, because he was older than Caesar (Octavian), and had greater authority than Lepidus, and withal he was no sooner settled in his affairs, but he turned to his luxurious and dissolute way of living. Besides the ill reputation he gained by his general behaviour, it was some considerable disadvantage to him his living in the house of Pompey the Great, who had been as much admired for his temperance and his sober, citizen-like habits of life, as ever he was for having triumphed three times. [Source: Plutarch (A.D. c.46-c.120): Life of Anthony (82-30 B.C.) For “Lives,” written A.D. 75, translated by John Dryden MIT]

“They could not without anger see the doors of that house shut against magistrates, officers, and envoys, who were shamefully refused admittance, while it was filled inside with players, jugglers, and drunken flatterers, upon whom were spent the greatest part of the wealth which violence and cruelty procured. For they did not limit themselves to the forfeiture of the estates of such as were proscribed, defrauding the widows and families, nor were they contented with laying on every possible kind of tax and imposition; but hearing that several sums of money were, as well by strangers as citizens of Rome, deposited in the hands of the vestal virgins, they went and took the money away by force. When it was manifest that nothing would ever be enough for Antony, Caesar at last called for a division of property. The army was also divided between them, upon their march into Macedonia to make war with Brutus and Cassius, Lepidus being left with the command of the city.

Suetonius wrote: “Then, forming a league with Antonius and Lepidus;” Octavian “finished the war of Philippi [42 B.C.] also in two battles, although weakened by illness, being driven from his camp in the first battle and barely making his escape by fleeing to Antonius' division. He did not use his victory with moderation, but after sending Brutus' head to Rome, to be cast at the feet of Caesar's statue, he vented his spleen upon the most distinguished of his captives, not even sparing them insulting language. For instance, to one man who begged humbly for burial, he is said to have replied: "The birds will soon settle that question." When two others, father and son, begged for their lives, he is said to have bidden them cast lots or play mora [a game still common in Italy, in which the contestants thrust out their fingers, the one naming correctly the number thrust out by his opponent being the winner], to decide which should be spared, and then to have looked on while both died, since the father was executed because he offered to die for his son, and the latter thereupon took his own life. Because of this the rest, including Marcus Favonius, the well-known imitator of Cato, saluted Antonius respectfully as Imperator when they were led out in chains, but lashed Augustus to his face with the foulest abuse. When the duties of administration were divided after the victory, Antonius undertaking to restore order in the East, and Augustus to lead the veterans back to Italy and assign them lands in the municipalities, he could neither satisfy the veterans nor the landowners, since the latter complained that they were driven from their homes, and the former that they were not being treated as their services had led them to hope. [Source: Suetonius (c.69-after 122 A.D.): “De Vita Caesarum--Divus Augustus” (“The Lives of the Caesars--The Deified Augustus”), written A.D. c. 110, “Suetonius, De Vita Caesarum,” 2 Vols., trans. J. C. Rolfe (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1920), pp. 123-287]

“When Lucius Antonius at this juncture [41 B.C.] attempted a revolution, relying on his position as consul and his brother's power, he forced him to take refuge in Perusia, and starved him into surrender, not, however, without great personal danger both before and during the war. For at an exhibition of games, when he had given orders that a common soldier who was sitting in the fourteen rows be put out by an attendant, the report was spread by his detractors that he had had the man killed later and tortured as well; whereupon he all but lost his life in a furious mob of soldiers, owing his escape to the sudden appearance of the missing man safe and sound. Again, when he was sacrificing near the walls of Perusia, he was well nigh cut off by a band of gladiators, who had made a sally from the town.

“After the capture of Perusia [40 B.C.] he took vengeance on many, meeting all attempts to beg for pardon or to make excuses with the one reply, "You must die." Some write that three hundred men of both orders were selected from the prisoners of war and sacrificed on the Ides of March like so many victims at the altar raised to the Deified Julius. Some have written that he took up arms of a set purpose, to unmask his secret opponents and those whom fear rather than good-will kept faithful to him, by giving them the chance to follow the lead of Lucius Antonius; and then by vanquishing them and confiscating their estates to pay the rewards promised to his veterans.”

Marc Antony gives Cicero's head to Fulvia

Murder of Cicero by Octavian

Among other things the rivalry between Octavian and Antony led to the murder of Cicero. Cicero did little of consequence during Caesar's rise to power and was unable to do much to halt the demise of the republic. He had a bit of a swan song after Caesar assassination when he placed himself at the head of the Republican party and denounced Marc Antony in a series of famous speech called the “Philippics." When Antony became leader he had Cicero executed for these speeches. According to Plutarch Cicero was taken by a death squad as he attempted to flee to Macedonia. His head and hands were cut off and displayed in the Forum, where Antony's wife Fulvia---who Cicero said Antony married for her money---used her hairpins to pierce the tongue of the man who so caustically denounced her husband.

When Cicero was warned of his danger, and urged to flee, he replied, “Let me die in my fatherland which I have so often saved.” Cicero has been accused of timidity; but he remained at his post, the last defender of the republic. He has been charged with vacillation; but he lived in days when no man knew which way to turn for help. He failed as a politician, because he continually bungled in the fine arts of intrigue. He failed as a statesman, because he persisted in defending a lost cause. He appealed to reason, when the highest arbiter was the sword. But with all his faults, Cicero was, next to Cato, the most upright man of his time; and his influence has been, next to that of Caesar, the most enduring. To practical politics he contributed little; but his numerous writings have exercised a wonderful influence in the intellectual and moral education of the world. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]

Plutarch wrote in “Lives”: “Caesar, perceiving that Cicero's wishes were for liberty, had ceased to pay any further regard to him, and was now employing the mediation of his friends to come to a good understanding with Antony. They both met together with Lepidus in a small island, where the conference lasted three days. The empire was soon determined of, it being divided amongst them as if it had been their paternal inheritance. That which gave them all the trouble was to agree who should be put to death, each of them desiring to destroy his enemies and to save his friends. But, in the end, animosity to those they hated carried the day against respect for relations and affection for friends; and Caesar sacrificed Cicero to Antony, Antony gave up his uncle Lucius Caesar, and Lepidus received permission to murder his brother Paulus, or, as others say, yielded his brother to them. [Source: Plutarch (A.D. c.46-c.120): Life of Anthony (82-30 B.C.) For “Lives,” written A.D. 75, translated by John Dryden MIT]

Fulvia with Cicero's head

“I do not believe anything ever took place more truly savage or barbarous than this composition, for, in this exchange of blood for blood, they were guilty of the lives they surrendered and of those they took; or, indeed, more guilty in the case of their friends for whose deaths they had not even the justification of hatred. To complete the reconciliation, the soldiery, coming about them, demanded that confirmation should be given to it by some alliance of marriage; Caesar should marry Clodia, the daughter of Fulvia, wife to Antony. This also being agreed to, three hundred persons were put to death by proscription. Antony gave orders to those that were to kill Cicero to cut off his head and right hand, with which he had written his invectives against him; and, when they were brought before him, he regarded them joyfully, actually bursting out more than once into laughter, and, when he had satiated himself with the sight of them, ordered them to be hung up above the speaker's place in the forum, thinking thus to insult the dead, while in fact he only exposed his own wanton arrogance, and his unworthiness to hold the power that fortune had given him. His uncle, Lucius Caesar, being closely pursued, took refuge with his sister, who, when the murderers had broken into her house and were pressing into her chamber, met them at the door, and spreading out hands, cried out several times. "You shall not kill Lucius Caesar till you first despatch me who gave your general his birth;" and in this manner she succeeded in getting her brother out of the way, and saving his life.”

Civil Wars After Ceasar’s Death

Suetonius wrote: “ The civil wars which he waged were five, called by the names of Mutina, Philippi, Perusia, Sicily, and Actium; the first and last of these were against Marcus Antonius, the second against Brutus and Cassius, the third against Lucius Antonius, brother of the triumvir, and the fourth against Sextus Pompeius, son of Gnaeus. [Source: Suetonius (c.69-after 122 A.D.): “De Vita Caesarum — Divus Augustus” (“The Lives of the Caesars — The Deified Augustus”), written A.D. c. 110, “Suetonius, De Vita Caesarum,” 2 Vols., trans. J. C. Rolfe (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1920), pp. 123-287]

“The initial reason for all these wars was this: since he considered nothing more incumbent on him than to avenge his uncle's death and maintain the validity of his enactments, immediately on returning from A pollonia he resolved to surprise Brutus and Cassius by taking up arms against them; and when they foresaw the danger and fled, to resort to law and prosecute them for murder in their absence. Furthermore, since those who had been appointed to celebrate Caesar's victory by games did not dare to do so, he gave them himself. To be able to carry out his other plans with more authority, he announced his candidature for the position of one of the tribunes of the people, who happened to die; though he was a patrician, and not yet a senator [Since the time of Sulla only senators were eligible for the position of tribune]. But when his designs were opposed by Marcus Antonius, who was then consul, and on whose help he had especially counted, and Antonius would not allow him even common and ordinary justice without the promise of a heavy bribe, he went over to the aristocrats, who he knew detested Antonius, especially because he was besieging Decimus Brutus at Mutina, and trying to drive him by force of arms from the province given him by Caesar and ratified by the Senate. Accordingly, at the advice of certain men, he hired assassins to kill Antonius, and when the plot was discovered, fearing retaliation he mustered veterans, by the use of all the money he could command, both for his own protection and that of the State. Put in command of the army which he had raised, with the rank of propraetor, and bidden to join with Hirtius and Pansa, who had become consuls, in lending aid to Decimus Brutus, he finished the war which had been entrusted to him within three months in two battles. In the former of these, so Antonius writes, he took to flight and was not seen again until the next day, when he returned without his cloak and his horse; but in that which followed all agree that he played the part not only of a leader, but of a soldier as well, and that, in the thick of the fight, when the eagle-bearer of his legion was sorely wounded, he shouldered the eagle and carried it for some time.

“As Hirtius lost his life in battle during this war, and Pansa shortly afterwards from a wound, the rumor spread that he had caused the death of both, in order that after Antonius had been put to flight and the state bereft of its consuls, he might gain sole control of the victorious armies. The circumstances of Pansa's death in particular were so suspicious, that the physician Glyco was imprisoned on the charge of having applied poison to his wound. Aquilius Niger adds to this that Augustus himself slew the other consul Hirtius amid the confusion of the battle.

“But when he learned that Antonius after his flight had found a protector in Marcus Lepidus, and that the rest of the leaders and armies were coming to terms with them, he abandoned the cause of the nobles without hesitation, alleging as a pretext for his change of allegiance the words and acts of certain of their number, asserting that some had called him a boy, while others had openly said that he ought to be honoured and got rid of, to escape the necessity of making suitable recompense to him or to his veterans. To show more plainly that he regretted his connection with the former party, he imposed a heavy fine on the people of Nursia and banished them from their city when they were unable to pay it, because they had at public expense erected a monument to their citizens who were slain in the battles at Mutina and inscribed upon it: "they fell for liberty."

Battle of Philippi (42 B.C.): Defeat of Brutus and Cassius

Battle of Philippi

The Triumvirate battled Cassius and Brutus, the murderers of Caesar, for control of Rome during a of civil war. In 42 B.C. Antony and Octavian defeated Brutus and Cassius, in two battles at Philippi in Macedonia; the credit went to Antony because Octavian was ill during the fighting. On the ostensibly Republican side, only Sextus Pompey survived with a fleet, and Domitius Ahenobarbus with the fleet of Brutus and Cassius. After the Battle of Phillipi Lepidus was stripped of his power and Octavian and Marc Antony divided the empire, with Octavian getting Italy and the west and Antony getting the east.

After Cicero and other enemies were murdered at home, the triumvirs set their sights on were now prepared to crush their enemies abroad. There were three of these enemies whom they were obliged to meet—Brutus and Cassius, who had united their forces in the East; and Sextus Pompeius, who had got possession of the island of Sicily, and had under his command a powerful fleet. While Lepidus remained at Rome, Antony and Octavian invaded Greece with an army of one hundred and twenty thousand men. Against them the two liberators, Brutus and Cassius, collected an army of eighty thousand men. The hostile forces met near Philippi (42 B.C.), a town in Macedonia on the northern coast of the Aegean Sea. Octavian was opposed to Brutus, and Antony to Cassius. Octavian was driven back by Brutus, while Antony, more fortunate, drove back the wing commanded by Cassius. As Cassius saw his flying legions, he thought that all was lost, and stabbed himself with the same dagger, it is said, with which he struck Caesar. This left Brutus in sole command of the opposing army; but he also was defeated in a second battle, and, following the example of Cassius, committed suicide. The double battle at Philippi decided the fate of the republic. As Cicero was its last political champion, Brutus and Cassius were its last military defenders; and with their death we may say that the republic was at an end. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]

David Silverman of Reed College wrote: “In Asia Brutus and Cassius had joined up, using the force of their erstwhile imperium to extort money from the provinces, and (after they were outlawed) declaring themselves a sort of government in exile (marked by their minting of coins). In 42 Antony and Octavian met Brutus and Cassius at Philippi in Macedonia; in the first battle, Antony defeated Cassius while Octavian's wing suffered at the hands of Brutus; but a few weeks later Brutus too was rolled up. [Source: David Silverman, Reed College, Classics 373 ~ History 393 Class ^*^]

“Antony was able to gather his strength, drawing support from former Caesarian governors in Gaul and Spain. He descended upon Decimus Brutus a second time and destroyed him without even having to fight a battle (Decimus' troops, like those of the western provincial armies, tended to be loyal to Caesar's name). The extent to which resistance to Octavian in the senate had collapsed may be gauged by the fact that now it was the turn of Brutus and Cassius to be outlawed (App. 3. 14. 95). This was Rome as the Republic crumbled: one month you were granted a major command, the next you were public enemy number one. Octavian's next move was to meet Antony and Lepidus. The idea that the three had already struck some sort of deal is belied by the fact that all brought their legions to the meeting, which took place on a small island, i.e. a place where an ambush was impossible. ^*^

Mark Antony and Octavia coin

Plutarch wrote in “Lives”: “However, after they had crossed the sea and engaged in operations of war, encamping in front of the enemy, Antony opposite Cassius, and Caesar opposite Brutus, Caesar did nothing worth relating, and all the success and victory were Antony's. In the first battle, Caesar was completely routed by Brutus, his camp taken, he himself very narrowly escaping by flight. As he himself writes in his Memoirs, he retired before the battle, on account of a dream which one of his friends had. But Antony, on the other hand, defeated Cassius; though some have written that he was not actually present in the engagement, and only joined afterwards in the pursuit. Cassius was killed, at his own entreaty and order, by one of his most trusted freedmen, Pindarus, not being aware of Brutus's victory. [Source: Plutarch (A.D. c.46-c.120): Life of Anthony (82-30 B.C.) For “Lives,” written A.D. 75, translated by John Dryden MIT]

“After a few days' interval, they fought another battle, in which Brutus lost the day, and slew himself; and Caesar being sick, Antony had almost all the honour of the victory. Standing over Brutus's dead body, he uttered a few words of reproach upon him for the death of his brother Caius, who had been executed by Brutus's order in Macedonia in revenge of Cicero; but, saying presently that Hortensius was most to blame for it, he gave order for his being slain upon his brother's tomb, and, throwing his own scarlet mantle, which was of great value, upon the body of Brutus, he gave charge to one of his own freedmen to take care of his funeral. This man, as Antony came to understand, did not leave the mantle with the corpse, but kept both it and a good part of the money that should have been spent in the funeral for himself; for which he had him put to death.

After the Battle of Philippi:Division of the Provinces Between Antony and Octavian

After defeating the armies of Brutus and Cassius at the Battle of Phillipi in 42 B.C., Lepidus was stripped of his power and Octavian and Marc Antony divided the empire, with Octavian getting Italy and the west (though formally his province was Spain, Sardinia, and Africa) and Antony getting the east (though formally Gaul continued to be his province) . Mark Anthony and Octavian, shared power for ten years until Octavian declared war on Antony's lover's Cleopatra.

After the republic was overthrown in 42 B.C., the main question was who would be the master of the new empire, Antony or Octavian. Lepidus, although ambitious, was too weak and vacillating to be dangerous. The triumvirs were growing to be envious of each other; but they contrived to smother their jealousy, and made a new division of the empire. Lepidus was accused of giving aid to the only remaining enemy of the triumvirs, that is, Sextus Pompeius. If he could prove himself innocent of the charge, he was to be given the small province of Africa. The real work of the triumvirate was to be done by Antony and Octavian. Antony was to take control of the eastern provinces, and to push the Roman conquests if possible into Parthia. Octavian was to preserve the peace of Italy and the western provinces, and to destroy the fleet of Sextus Pompeius, which was seriously interfering with Roman commerce. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]

David Silverman of Reed College wrote: “Now the need for land became acute, since Octavian and Antony had disbanded all but 11 of their legions after Philippi. To keep them under arms, of course, would have been prohibitively expensive. As the representative of the triumvirs at Rome it fell to Octavian to handle this task. Did Antony choose wisely? On the one hand, leaving Octavian at Rome meant that he, Antony, could not exercise close control of the Senate and risked becoming yet again a public enemy; also, those veterans who received allotments of land would tend for the future to be loyal to the one who provided the allotment. On the other hand, Antony knew that to settle a hundred thousand veterans many would have to be displaced, which could do much to undermine Octavian's popularity; also, as the fundraising success of Cassius and Brutus had recently demonstrated, the eastern provinces offered the best opportunity for accumulating vast amounts of cash. [Source: David Silverman, Reed College, Classics 373 ~ History 393 Class ^*^]

“Some sense of the helplessness felt by the dispossessed farmers of Italy may be had from Virgil's first Eclogue, where the farmer Meliboeus laments:
Tityrus, you hymn the sylvan Muse on your slender reed-pipe,
reclining in the shade of a spreading beech-wood tree,
but I am leaving my sweet fields and the borders of the fatherland. (1-3)
Some impious soldier shall have these new-ploughed fields,
so carefully cultivated, and some foreigner shall have my crops.
Look, to such a pass civil discord has brought us, wretches!
For these men we sowed our fields. (70-73) ^*^

“Nor was the discontent confined to poets such as Virgil (who managed to find a wealthy patron and became an admirer of Augustus). In 41 B.C. Octavian had to put down an uprising in Italy fueled by hatred for the new measures, and led by L. Antonius and Fulvia, respectively the brother and wife of Antony. The outcome, in which Octavian slaughtered the leading citizens of Perusia (where the rebels were besieged), left an indelible stain on his record, especially since his clementia was a major plank in his political propaganda

Octavian's west

Octavian in the West

Octavian proceeded to secure his position in the West by means of force and craft. He first put down an insurrection incited by the partisans of Antony. The young conqueror won the affections of the people, and tried to show them that peace and prosperity could come only through his influence. The next thing was to dispose of Sextus Pompeius and his hostile fleet. With the help of his friend and able general, Agrippa, and with the aid of a hundred ships lent him by Antony, Octavian destroyed the forces of Pompeius. The defeated general fled to the East, and was killed by the soldiers of Antony. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]

Octavian was then called upon to deal with a treacherous friend. This was the weak and ambitious Lepidus, who with twenty legions thought that he could defeat Octavian and become the chief man of Rome. But Octavian did not think the emergency grave enough to declare war. He defeated Lepidus without a battle. Unarmed and almost unattended he entered his rival’s camp, and made an eloquent appeal to the soldiers. The whole army of Lepidus deserted to Octavian. Lepidus was deposed from his position as triumvir, but was generously allowed to retain the office of pontifex maximus on condition of remaining quiet. By the use of force and diplomacy Octavian thus baffled all his foes in the West, and he and Antony were now the undisputed rulers of the Roman world.

Nina C. Coppolino wrote: “In the division of provinces and duties after Philippi, Antony got the potential wealth and glory of the East, and Octavian got the difficult task of settling veterans in Italy by confiscating property, since there was no money yet to buy it. He faced protest at home and the starvation of Rome by Sextus Pompey, who was blockading grain ships in Sicily. In 40 Antony married Octavian's sister Octavia. In that year at Perusia Octavian fought and defeated Antony's brother, Lucius, who had objected to Octavian's receiving credit for settling troops in Italy before Antony returned from the East. Though Lucius was pardoned, others of Octavian's enemies and the town council of Perusia were executed. Octavian tried to win the support of Sextus Pompey and his fleet by marrying Pompey's aunt, Scribonia, in what was now Octavian's third and penultimate match, producing his only daughter, Julia. Pompey, however, sided with Antony who was vexed at the Perusine episode and since 42 was spending winters in Egypt with Cleopatra. In the autumn of 40 at Brundisium, Octavian confronted Antony and the combined fleets of Pompey and Ahenobarbus, but instead of hostilities they agreed to a pact; they declared Antony's the Greek-speaking provinces east of Macedonia, and Octavian's the Latin-speaking provinces west of Illyricum, while Lepidus remained in Africa, and Pompey initially got nothing and continued to blockade Italy. [Source: Nina C. Coppolino, Roman Emperors ]

Antony in the East

While everything in the West was turning in favor of Octavian, all things in the East were also contributing to his success. But this was due not so much to his own skill as to the weakness and folly of Antony. Octavian had tried to cement the league of the triumvirs by giving his sister Octavia to Antony in marriage. But Antony soon grew tired of Octavia, and became fascinated by Cleopatra, the “Serpent of the Nile.” His time was divided between campaigns in Parthia and dissipations in Egypt. His Parthian wars turned out to be failures; and his Egyptian entanglements resulted in his ruin. He aspired to the position of an Oriental monarch. He divided the Roman provinces with Cleopatra, who was called “the queen of kings.” The Roman people were shocked when he desired his disgraceful acts to be confirmed by the senate. They could not help contrasting this weak and infatuated slave of Cleopatra with their own Octavian, the strong and prudent governor of the West. While Octavian was growing in popularity, Antony was thus becoming more and more an object of detestation. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]

Marc Antony's east

David Silverman of Reed College wrote: “In 40 Antony returned from the East, where his main accomplishment had been to allow himself to be seduced by Cleopatra. Further conflict between him and Octavian in Italy was narrowly averted through the intervention of Maecenas (Virgil's patron) and Asinius Pollio; from Horace we have an account of the trip to Brundisium, where the mediation took place (Hor. Serm. 1.5). Octavian and Antony reaffirmed their alliance and cemented it with the marriage of Antony to Octavia, sister of the future princeps. For a brief period in 39 it appeared that Sextus Pompey, who was in command of the remnants of the resistance to J. Caesar, and whose power was based in a large fleet dominating the western Mediterranean, would be coopted into the alliance. Lepidus and (to a lesser extent) Antony probably supported his claim, and Octavian at first pretended to go along, though he still clung to the principle that any enemy of Caesar was an enemy of his. Octavian soon found a pretext to attack Sextus Pompey, and although he suffered substantial losses at sea, he and his admiral M. Vipsanius Agrippa finally beat Sextus in 36. Lepidus took the opportunity to make a power grab, but his men were unwilling to fight for him, and Octavian now finally eased Lepidus out of the triumvirate. [Source: David Silverman, Reed College, Classics 373 ~ History 393 Class ^*^]

Rupture Between Octavian and Antony

Suetonius wrote: At Octavian he broke off his alliance with Marcus Antonius, which was always doubtful and uncertain, and with difficulty kept alive by various reconciliations; and the better to show that his rival had fallen away from conduct becoming a citizen, he had the will which Antonius had left in Rome, naming his children by Cleopatra among his heirs, opened and read before the people. But when Antonius was declared a public enemy, he sent back to him all his kinsfolk and friends, among others Gaius Sosius and Titus Domitius, who were still consuls at the time. He also excused the community of Bononia from joining in the rally of all Italy to his standards, since they had been from ancient days dependents of the Antonii. Not long afterwards [31 B.C.] he won the sea-fight at Actium, where the contest continued to so late an hour that the victor passed the night on board. Having gone into winter quarters at Samos after Actium, he was disturbed by the news of a mutiny of the troops that he had selected from every division of his army and sent on to Brundisium after the victory, who demanded their rewards and discharge; and on his way back to Italy he twice encountered storms at sea, first between the headlands of the Peloponnesus and Aetolia, and again off the Ceraunian mountains. In both places a part of his galleys were sunk, while the rigging of the ship in which he was sailing was carried away and its rudder broken. He delayed at Brundisium only twenty-seven days — just long enough to satisfy all the demands of the soldiers — and then went to Egypt by a roundabout way through Asia and Syria, laid siege to Alexandria, where Antonius had taken refuge with Cleopatra, and soon took the city. [Source: Suetonius (c.69-after 122 A.D.): “De Vita Caesarum — Divus Augustus” (“The Lives of the Caesars — The Deified Augustus”), written A.D. c. 110, “Suetonius, De Vita Caesarum,” 2 Vols., trans. J. C. Rolfe (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1920), pp. 123-287]

“Although Antonius tried to make terms at the eleventh hour, Augustus forced him to commit suicide, and viewed his corpse. He greatly desired to save Cleopatra alive for his triumph, and even had Psylli brought to her, to suck the poison from her wound, since it was thought that she died from the bite of an asp. He allowed them both the honour of burial, and in the same tomb, giving orders that the mausoleum which they had begun should be finished. The young Antonius, the elder of Fulvia's two sons, he dragged from the image of the Deified Julius, to which he had fled after many vain entreaties, and slew him. Caesarion, too, whom Cleopatra fathered on Caesar, he overtook in his flight, brought back, and put to death. But he spared the rest of the offspring of Antonius and Cleopatra, and afterwards maintained and reared them according to their several positions, as carefully as if they were his own kin.

“About this time he had the sarcophagus and body of Alexander the Great brought forth from its shrine, and after gazing on it, showed his respect by placing upon it a golden crown and strewing it with flowers; and being then asked whether he wished to see the tomb of the Ptolemies as well, he replied, "My wish was to see a king, not corpses." He reduced Egypt to the form of a province, and then to make it more fruitful and better adapted to supply the city with grain, he set his soldiers at work cleaning out all the canals into which the Nile overflows, which in the course of many years had become choked with mud. To extend the fame of his victory at Actium and perpetuate its memory, he founded a city called Nicopolis near Actium, and provided for the celebration of games there every five years; enlarged the ancient temple of Apollo; and after adorning the site of the camp which he had occupied with naval trophies, consecrated it to Neptune and Mars.

“After this he nipped in the bud at various times several outbreaks, attempts at revolution, and conspiracies, which were betrayed before they became formidable. The ringleaders were, first the young Lepidus, then Varro Murena and Fannius Caepio, later Marcus Egnatius, next Plautius Rufus and Lucius Paulus, husband of the emperor's granddaughter, and besides these Lucius Audasius, who had been charged with forgery, and was moreover old and feeble; alsoAsinius Epicadus, a half-breed of Parthian descent, and finally Telephus, slave and page [the nomenclator was a slave whose duty it was to remind his master, or mistress, of the names of persons] of a woman; for even men of the lowest condition conspired against him and imperilled his safety. Audasius and Epicadus had planned to take his daughter Julia and his grandson Agrippa by force to the armies from the islands where they were confined, Telephus to set upon both Augustus and the Senate, under the delusion that he himself was destined for empire. Even a soldier's servant from the army in Illyricum, who had escaped the vigilance of the door-keepers, was caught at night near the emperor's bed-room, armed with a hunting knife; but whether the fellow was crazy or feigned madness is a question, since nothing could be wrung from him by torture.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Rome sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Late Antiquity sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Forum Romanum forumromanum.org ; “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~\; “The Private Life of the Romans” by Harold Whetstone Johnston, Revised by Mary Johnston, Scott, Foresman and Company (1903, 1932) forumromanum.org |+|; BBC Ancient Rome bbc.co.uk/history/ ; Perseus Project - Tufts University; perseus.tufts.edu ; MIT, Online Library of Liberty, oll.libertyfund.org ; Gutenberg.org gutenberg.org Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Live Science, Discover magazine, Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, Encyclopædia Britannica, "The Discoverers" [∞] and "The Creators" [μ]" by Daniel Boorstin. "Greek and Roman Life" by Ian Jenkins from the British Museum.Time, Newsweek, Wikipedia, Reuters, Associated Press, The Guardian, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, “History of Warfare” by John Keegan (Vintage Books), and various books and other publications.

Last updated October 2018

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