Roman Republic
 


Roman Italy (1st century BC)


Octavian: From the start  of the First Triumvirate

to the Triple Triumph (August 29BC)

First Triumvirate (43 - 38 BC)


Aureus (41 BC):issued by M. Barbatius Pollo (quaestor pro praetore)

Obverse: head of Mark Antony, legend: M·ANT·IM͡P·A͡VG·III·VIR·R·P·C·; M·BARBAT·Q·P

Reverse: head of Octavian: CAESAR·IMP·PONT·III·VIR·R·P·C

Formation of the Triumvirate (late 43 BC)

It was probably at about this time that the cause of Mark Antony was greatly enhanced by the defection of Plancus, followed by that of Caius Asinus Pollio, the governor of Hispania Ulterior.  Decimus fled from Plancus’ camp and was soon captured and executed on Mark Antony’s orders.  Thus, while Octavian was supreme in Rome, where he now controlled the Senate, he was vulnerable to attack by:

  1. the resurgent Mark Antony and his ally, Lepius, from the north

  2. two of the murderers of Caesar, M. Brutus and C. Cassius , the governors (respectively) of the eastern provinces of Macedonia  and Syria; and

  3. potentially, Sextus Pompeius, the son of Pompey the Great, who had been reconciled with Mark Antony in the summer of 44 BC: Pompeius was now securely based in Sicily with a naval capability that could cut off the grain supply to Rome.

Clearly, Octavian would have to form an alliance with one of these groupings against the other two.  According to Appian Octavian duly:

  1. “... formed his plans for a reconciliation with [Mark] Antony, for he had learned that Brutus and Cassius had already collected 20 legions of soldiers, and he needed [Mark] Antony's help against them.  He moved out of the city toward the Adriatic coast and proceeded in a leisurely way, waiting to see what the Senate would do.  Pedius persuaded the senators, after Octavian had taken his departure, ... to be reconciled to Lepidus and Antony.  Although they foresaw that such a reconciliation would not be for their advantage or for that of the country, but would be merely an assistance to Octavian against Brutus and Cassius, nevertheless, they gave their approval and assent to it as a matter of necessity.  So, the decrees declaring Antony and Lepidus, and the soldiers under them, public enemies, were repealed ... Thereupon Octavian ... promised to lend assistance to [Mark] Antony against Decimus Brutus if he needed it. ... [Mark] Antony wrote that he would himself punish Decimus on [Octavian's] account and Plancus on his own, and that then he would join forces with Octavian”, (‘Civil Wars’, 3: 96). 

Octavian met with Mark Antony and Lepidus in late October 43 BC on an island in a river near Bononia (Bologna), where they agreed to form an alliance against the exiles Brutus and Cassius.  Octavian agreed to resign as consul and the three ‘Caesarians’ agreed to share power in a legally constituted triumvirate.  As Carsten Lange (referenced below, at p. 18) pointed out, the agreement between Octavian, Mark Antony and Lepidus:

  1. “... was later given legal force by a plebiscite, the lex Titia, carried through the assembly by the tribune P. Titius on 27th November [43 BC]: the three men were now tresviri rei publicae constituendae [triumvirs for the restoration of the Republic] for a period of five years.” 

Octavian then consolidated the alliance by marrying Clodia, the step-daughter of Mark Antony. 

In order to retain their soldier’s appetite for another war against fellow-Romans, the triumvirs agreed on a programme of confiscations that would facilitate their settlement after the expected victory,  Thus Appian recorded that, while they were still at Bononia:

  1. “To encourage the army with expectation of booty, [the triumvirs] promised, beside other gifts, 18 cities of Italy as colonies - cities that excelled in wealth and in the splendour of their estates and houses - which were to be divided among them (land, buildings, and all), just as though they had been captured from an enemy in war.  The most renowned among these were: Capua; Rhegium; Venusia; Beneventum; Nuceria [in Campania]; Ariminum; and Vibo.  Thus were the most beautiful parts of Italy marked out for the soldiers”, (’Civil Wars’, 4:3).

The three men than returned to Rome.

The proscription of the triumvir’s enemies began even before their arrival in Rome, and Quintus Pedius died from the strain of trying to maintain calm in the city.  The confiscated wealth of the proscribed was used to finance the imminent war, although it seems to have been less than had been expected.  Cicero, who was perhaps the most important of the victims of the proscriptions, was executed on 7th December in the full knowledge that the Republic was dead and that his long political career had ended in abject failure.  

Events of 42 BC

Octavian’s First Naval Battle against Sextus Pompeius

Sextus Pompeius, the youngest of the sons of Pompey the Great, had escaped from the scene of Caesar’s two famous victories:

  1. at Pharsalus, in modern Egypt) in 46 BC, after which his father had been killed; and

  2. at Munda (in modern Spain) in 45 BC, the battle in which his older brother had been killed. 

Sextus had remained in Spain and continued to cause problems for the Romans until 43 BC, when Lepidus, on behalf of the Senate, persuaded him to withdraw with honour.  

Appian described the events that led to his first confrontation with Octavian:

  1. “When the triumvirate was established, [Sextus Pompeius] sailed to Sicily and, since Bithynicus, the governor, would not yield the island, he besieged it, until Hirtius and Fannius, (two men who had been proscribed and had fled to [Sextius] from Rome) persuaded Bithynicus to surrender Sicily to Pompeius.   ... [Sextus now] had:

  2. ships;

  3. an island lying convenient to Italy; and

  4. an army, now of considerable size, composed of

  5. his own men;

  6. those who had fled from Rome, ...;

  7. those sent to him by the Italian cities that had been [selected by the triumvirs] as prizes of victory for [their] soldiers; and ...

  8. many seafaring men from Africa and Spain, skilled in naval affairs ... 

  9. When Octavian learned these facts he sent [his ally, Quintus Salvidienus Rufus] with a fleet, as though it were an easy task to come alongside of Pompeius and destroy him, while he himself passed through Italy with the intention of joining Salvidienus at Rhegium”, (’Civil Wars’, 4: 84: 5).

Appian then described the ensuing naval battle in which Sextus’ more experienced seamen had the better of the fighting:

  1. “Salvidienus retired to the port of Balarus, ... where he repaired what was left of his damaged and wasted fleet.  When Octavian arrived, he gave a solemn promise to the inhabitants of Rhegium and Vibo [two of the towns selected for veteran settlement, that they should now] be exempt from the [list], because he feared them on account of their nearness to the straits [of Messina].  As Antony had sent him a hasty summons, he set sail to join the latter at Brundusium ...”, (’Civil Wars’, 4: 85-6). 

As Kathryn Welch (referenced below, 2012, at p. 179) pointed out, Octavian had to circumnavigate Sicily in order to reach Brundisium because the straits of Messina were closed to him.

Mark Antony’s Victory at Philippi  (October)

The most prominent of Caesar’s surviving assassins, Cassius and Brutus, had lived in exile in the east for much of the time since the murder and, by late 42 BC, they had confiscated sufficient wealth from the unfortunate provincials to buy the services of a large army made up principally from men who had fought under Caesar.  This army was assemble at Philippi, on the coast of Macedonia.

Lepidus was left in Rome when Mark Antony and Octavian embarked with a joint force from Brundisium across the Adriatic to  meet it.  At the first battle (3rd October), Mark Antony defeated Cassius and stormed his  camp, where Cassius, believing that Brutus had also been defeated, committed suicide.  In fact, Brutus had defeated the army led by Octavian and had captured the camp of Mark Antony and Octavian.  Octavian, who had not taken part in the battle, had fortunately left the camp in time: according to Plutarch:

  1. “[Octavian], as he himself tells us in his [memoirs], barely succeeded in having himself carried forth [from the camp] following a vision... of his friend, Marcus Artorius, [in which he was told to] ... rise up from his bed and depart ... [His departure went unnoticed and] he was thought to have been slain; for his litter, when empty, was pierced by the javelins and spears of his enemies”, (’Life of Brutus’, 41:7-8).

Brutus, perhaps unwisely, offered battle again on 23rd October, was defeated and committed suicide.

Appian ended his account of the battles as follows:

  1. “Thus did Octavian and [Mark] Antony, by perilous daring and by two infantry engagements, achieve an unprecedented  success.  Never before had such numerous and powerful Roman armies come in conflict with each other.  ... Nor was there ever such fury and daring in war as here, when citizens contended against citizens, families against families, and fellow-soldiers against each other.  The proof  of this is that, taking both battles into the account, the number of the slain mong the victors appeared to be not fewer than among the vanquished.  Thus the army of [Mark] Antony and Octavian confirmed the prediction of their generals, passing in one day and by one blow from extreme danger and famine and fear of destruction to lavish wealth, absolute security, and glorious victory.  Moreover, the result that[Mark] Antony and Octavian had predicted as they advanced into battle came about: their form of government was chiefly decided by that day's work ...”, (’Civil Wars’, 4: 137-8).

Cassius Dio reached a similar conclusion:

  1. “That this struggle ... surpassed all previous civil conflicts of the Romans would be naturally surmised  ... now, as never before, liberty and popular government were the issues of the struggle; ... one side was trying to lead [the Romans] to autocracy, the other side to self-government.  [Once the first side, led by Mark Antony and Octavian, had won], the [Romans] never again attained absolute freedom of speech, even though [they had been] vanquished by no foreign nation; ... [they] triumphed over and were vanquished by themselves, defeated themselves and were defeated, and consequently they exhausted the democratic element and strengthened the monarchical”, (’Roman History’, 47: 39).

In short, the Roman Republic had defeated itself.

After Philippi

As Cassius Dio pointed out, after the Battle of Philippi, almost all of Caesar’s assassins were either dead or shortly to die.

  1. “As for [Mark Antony and Octavian], on the other hand, they secured an advantage over Lepidus for the moment, because he had not shared the victory with them; yet they were destined before long to turn against each other.  For it is a difficult matter for three men, or even two, who are equal in rank and as a result of war have gained control over such vast interests, to be of one accord.  ... Thus, they immediately redistributed the empire, so that:

  2. Spain and Numidia [passed from Lepidus to Octavian]; and

  3. Gaul   and Africa [passed from Lepidus] to [Mark] Antony;

  4. and they further agreed that, if Lepidus showed any vexation at this, they should give up Africa to him.   This was all they allotted between them, since Sextus [Pompeius] was still occupying Sardinia and Sicily, and the other regions outside of Italy were still in a state of turmoil.  ... So, they left Italy and the places held by Sextus as common property. 

  5. [Mark] Antony undertook to reduce those who had fought against them [in the east] and to collect the money [there] necessary to pay what had been promised to the soldiers; and

  6. [Octavian] undertook:

  7. to curtail the power of Lepidus, if he should make any hostile move;

  8. to conduct the war against Sextus [Pompeius]; and

  9. to assign to those of their troops who had passed the age-limit the land which they had promised them.

  10. ... After making these agreements..., putting them in writing and sealing them, they exchanged copies , ... so that, if any transgression were committed, it might be proved by these records.  Thereupon [Mark] Antony set out for Asia and [Octavian] for Italy”, (’Roman History’, 48: 1-2).

The situation facing Octavian when he returned to Rome was extremely fraught:

  1. the proscriptions had taken their toll;

  2. many of the towns and cities of Italy lived in dread of the confiscations that would be needed for the settlement of the veterans who had returned with Octavian;

  3. these veterans were impatient and very hard to control; and

  4. Sextus Pompeius was disrupting the supply of grain to Rome. 

In addition, two supporters of Mark Antony, Lucius Antonius (his brother) and Servilius Isauricus, took office as the consuls of 41 BC, while Mark Antony’s wife and Octavian’s mother-in-law, the redoubtable Fulvia, pursued her own agenda.

It was in this difficult climate that Octavian began the process of land confiscation and veteran resettlement.  According to Laurence Keppie (at p. 61):

  1. “The method of acquiring land was simple and callous: wholesale confiscation from owners [who were] mostly innocent of any disaffection or disloyalty [to the newly-elected triumvirs].   With good reason could the dispossessed complain of the injustice of their plight.”

Lex Rufrena (42 BC ?)

An inscribed statue base (CIL VI 0872) from Ocriculum, which is now in the Sala Rotunda, Musei Vaticani, reads

Divo Iulio iussu / populi Romani/ statutum est lege/ Rufrena

It records that the base supported a statue of divus Julius that had been erected by order of the Roman people in accordance with the Lex Rufrena.  The existence of  two other similar inscriptions:

  1. CIL I 2972, from Minturnae in Latium et Campania (now in the lapidarium of the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Minturno); and

  2. CIL IX 5136, from Interamna Praetuttiorum in Picenum (now in the church of San Pietro at Campli, near Teramoo, in the Abruzzo region);

suggests that this law required such cult statues to be erected across Italy.  Stefan Weinstock (referenced below, at p.397, note 5) noted that Rufrenus, whom Cicero mentioned as serving under Lepidus in 43 BC, could have issued this law as Tribune of the Plebs (a post that he might have held in 42 BC), but this is far from certain.

Perusine War (41 - 40 BC)

Lucius Antonius chose this moment to rebel against Octavian.  His reasons are much debated, but Appian seems to have put his side of the debate, taken from his memoirs, into the speech he made to Octavian while accepting defeat:

  1. “I [Lucius Antonius] undertook this war against you [Octavian], not in order to succeed to the leadership by destroying you, but to restore to the country the patrician government that had been subverted by the triumvirate, as not even yourself will deny.  For, when you created the triumvirate, you acknowledged that it was not in accordance with the law, but you established it as something necessary and temporary because Cassius and Brutus were still alive and you could not be reconciled to them.  When they ... were dead  ...  I demanded that the magistracies should be revived in accordance with the custom of our fathers, not even preferring my brother [Mark Antony] to my country, but hoping to persuade him to assent upon his return and hastening to bring this about during my own term of office.  If you had begun this reform you alone would have reaped the glory.  Since I was not able to persuade you, I thought to march against [Rome] and to use force, being a citizen, a nobleman, and a consul.  These then are the causes of the war I waged and these alone [i.e. Lucius’ desire to end the triumvirate and to restore the Romans’ ancient liberties]:

  2. -not my brother [Mark Antony]; nor Manius [a key supporter of Mark Antony in Rome]; nor Fulvia;

  3. -not the colonisation [needed for the settlement] of those who fought at Philippi, nor pity for the cultivators ... who were [as a consequence] deprived of their holdings, since I myself [as tribune in 44 BC] appointed the leaders of colonies of my brother's legions who deprived the cultivators of their possessions and divided them among the soldiers”, (’Civil Wars’, 5:43).

It seems as if Mark Antony was content to see how Lucius’ revolt played out before committing himself one way or the other, with the result that the generals whom he had left in Gaul gave Lucius only hesitant ineffective support.  His rebellion ended in failure after a dreadful siege in Perusia in February 40 BC, as set out in the page on the Perusine War.

Peace of Brundisium (early October 40 BC)

In the summer of 40 BC, Mark Antony appeared off the coast of Brundisium at the head of a substantial fleet.  When Octavian’s men prevented his landing there, he moved further along the coast and then laid siege to the city.  He also negotiated an alliance with Sextus Pompeius.  However, as Octavian approached with a substantial army, and as both men realised that their respective armies would probably not fight each other, they settled their differences by negotiation.  According to Plutarch, during their meeting:

  1. “... Antony..., as a favour to [Octavian], was appointed to the priesthood of [divus Julius]: [Mark Antony and Octavian] transacted everything else also of the most important political nature ... in a friendly spirit” (‘Life of Mark Antony’, 33:1).

The so-called Peace of Brundisium was sealed by the betrothal of Mark Antony to Octavian’s sister, Octavia.  (Mark Antony had his first, brief affair with Cleopatra by this time, and their twins were born in Alexandria on 25th December 40 BC.)

Octavian now received Mark Antony’s Gallic provinces, making him master of the west, while Lepidus was left with Africa.  The ovation that Octavian received soon after was recorded in the ‘Fasti Triumphales’ as: 

Imp. Caesar Divi f. (C. f.) IIIvir r(ei) p(ublicae) c(onstituendae)

ovans an. DCCXIII quod pacem cum M. Antonio fecit'

Imperator Caesar, son of the god [Julius],  triumvir for the regulation of the Republic  

an ovation because he made peace with Mark Antony

According to Plutarch:

  1. “After this settlement, Antony sent [his genera], Ventidius, on ahead into Asia to oppose the further progress of the Parthians.  He himself, as a favour to [Octavian], was [finally !] appointed to the priesthood of the elder Caesar; they transacted together everything else of the most important political nature in a friendly spirit”, (Life of Mark Antony’, 33: 1)

Appian recorded the tasks that now fell to Octavian and Mark Antony, who:

  1. “... made a fresh partition of the whole Roman empire between themselves (the boundary line being Scodra, a city of Illyria, which was supposed to be situated about midway up the Adriatic gulf)):

  2. “All provinces and islands east of this place, as far as the river Euphrates, were to belong to Antony and all west of it to the ocean to Octavian. Lepidus was to govern Africa, inasmuch as Octavian had given it to him:

  3. Octavian was to make war against Pompeius unless they should come to some agreement; and

  4. [Mark] Antony was to make war against the Parthians to avenge their treachery toward Crassus”, (‘Civil Wars’, 5: 65).

Pact of Misenum (39 BC)

Infuriated by the Peace of Brundisium, from which he was excluded, Sextus Pompeius renewed his blockade of Italy.  However, in 39 BC,the triumvirs  negotiated this pact with him: he agreed to end the blockade and, in return, his control of Sicily and Sardinia was recognised and he acquired Corsica.  He was promised a future augurate and consulship, and Octavian married his relative Scribonia.  The exiles who had taken refuge with Pompeius (except those implicated in Caesar’s murder) were allowed to return to Rome and to recover a quarter of their confiscated property.  This effectively marked the end of the proscriptions. 

Octavian’s Second Naval Battle against Sextus Pompeius

Once Mark Antony was back in the east, Octavian soon re-opened hostilities with Pompeius.  He first divorced Scribonia immediately upon the birth of their daughter Julia (probably in October 39 BC) and, after an indecently short period, married the recently-divorced Livia (already the mother of Tiberius and pregnant with Drusus) in January 38 BC.  Sextus resumed his blockade of Italy in early 38 BC.  However, Menodorus, who held Sardinia for Sextus, defected to Octavian with 60 ships and 3 legions.  Octavian asked Antony (who was then in Athens with Octavia) to meet him at Brundisium.  Antony duly arrived but left again when (for whatever reason) Octavian failed to make an appearance. He apparently wrote to Octavian urging him to honour the Pact of Misenum.

Octavian nevertheless assembled two fleets for an invasion of Sicily, one under the joint command of Calvisius Sabinus (who had been consul in 39 BC) and Menodorus, which set sail from Etruria and the other under his own command.  Before the fleets could meet up, that first was checked and that under Octavian suffered an outright defeat.  Soon after, what remained of both of them was destroyed in a storm. 

Second Triumvirate (37 - 31 BC)


Aureus (RRC 540/1, 36 BC)

Obverse: bearded head of Octavian: inscription: IMP CAESAR DIVI F III·VIR ITER R P C

Reverse: temple of Divus Julius: inscription: DIVO IVL (on temple architrave); COS ITER ET TER DESIG

Meeting of Octavian and Mark Antony at Tarentum (mid 37 BC)

As the first triumvirate (which had been instituted for 5 years on  27th November 43 BC) approached its end, Octavian sent Maecenas (see below) to Mark Antony with a request for another meeting in Italy.  Antony and Octavian duly met at Tarentum in the summer of 37 BC and apparently renewed their agreement, apparently on the basis that  two matters still required resolution:

  1. Octavian had yet to defeat Pompeius; and

  2. Mark Antony had yet to defeat the Parthians. 

Antony gave Octavian the 120 ships (and their commander, Titus Statilius Taurus) that he had brought from the east and received the promise of troops from Italy for his planned Parthian campaign.  The promises made to Sextus in relation to the augurate and designated consulship were formally rescinded. 

It is unclear whether or not the renewal of the triumvirate was formalised and backdated to the start of 37 BC:

  1. Mark Antony continued to be designated as III·VIR on his coins of this period; while

  2. Octavian was designated as III·VIR·ITER on four issues of 37 -6BC (RRC 538/1; RRC 538/2; RRC 540/1  (illustrated above); and RRC 540/2).

Formal reappointment was also implied retrospectively in:

  1. the entry for 37 BC in the Augustan fasti Capitolini ((in which, Mark Antony’s name seems to have been removed and subsequently reinstated):

  2. [Triumvirs:] M. Aemilius M.f. [Q.n. Lepidus II], M. Antonius M.f. [M.n. II] , Imp. Caesar Divi f. [C.n. II] ...

  3. Consuls: M. Agrippa L.f. , ...’; and

  4. the entry for 36 BC in the Augustan fasti Triumphales, which recorded an ovation on Octavian’s return to Rom after his victory at Naulochus (see below).

Octavian’s Victory over Pompeius at Naulochus (36 BC)

Kathryn Welch (referenced below, 2012, at p. 268) suggested that the agreement that Octavian and Mark Antony in relation to Pompeius might have been part of a plan to:

  1. “... detach as many of Pompeius’ adherents as possible before making an outright attack on him.”

He therefore prepared for another attack, and his prospects improved when Menodorus returned to his allegiance.  At about this time, Octavian relieved Calvisius Sabinus of his naval responsibilities and appointed Agrippa in his place.  Agrippa (who was recalled from Gaul) spent much of his consular year of 37 BC building a magnificent artificial port (named Port Julius) near Puteoli, in which he assembled a new and powerful fleet for the invasion of Sicily. 

Octavian began his invasion of Sicily in July 36 BC, with three fleets:

  1. the one that Mark Antony had donated, under Titus Statilius Taurus;

  2. another recently built and now commanded by Agrippa; and

  3. a third under Lepidus, which had sailed from Africa. 

Their first attempt (in August) nearly met with failure: Agrippa secured a naval victory off Mylae but Octavian was defeated and wounded off Tauromenium, at which point he found it expedient to send Maecenas (see below) back to Rome to ensure his position there.  However, the decisive naval encounter was a victory for Agrippa off Naulochus (in September), and Pompeius’ position was further undermined when Lepidus managed to land with his army at Lilybaeum.  As Kathryn Welch (referenced below, 2012, at p. 279) observed:

  1. “In late 36 BC, Pompeius escaped from the [subsequent] carnage of Sicily and lived for another year.”

However, his chances of ever returning to Rome were over.  More importantly, Sicily was now securely in the Octavian’s hands: Lepidus subsequently attempted to assert his own claim on the island, but Octavian entered his camp and faced him down in front of his own army, which duly defected.  Octavian then sent him into exile, from which point his claims to the title of triumvir were purely notional. 

According to Appian, when Octavian returned to Rome:

  1. “... the Senate voted him unbounded honours, giving him the privilege of accepting all, or such as he chose.   ... Of the honours voted to him, he accepted an ovation and annual solemnities on the days of his victories, and the erection of a golden image  in the Forum, with the garb he wore when he entered the city, to stand on a column covered with the beaks of captured ships.  There the image was placed bearing the inscription:

  2. ‘PEACE, LONG DISTURBED, HE RE-ESTABLISHED ON LAND AND SEA’”, (‘Civil Wars’, 5: 130).

The ovation that Octavian received on 13th November 36 BC to mark this victory was recorded in the fasti Triumphales as: 

Imp. Caesar Divi f. C. f. II, IIIvir r(ei) p(ublicae) c(onstituendae) II

ovans ex Sicilia idibus Novemb

Imperator Caesar, son of the god [Julius], triumvir for the regulation of the Republic: 

an ovation from Sicily, 13th November

David Sear (referenced below, at p. 192) observed that:

“The bearded Octavian makes his final appearance [in these coins].  With the defeat of the last Pompeians [whose army included the last of the erstwhile adherents of Caesar’s assassins, Octavian] reverted to being clean-shaven, a sure sign that [Caesar’s murder] had at last been avenged ...”

Rebellion in Rome and Etruria (36 BC)

According to Cassius Dio, in Octavian’s absence from Rome in 36 BC:

  1. “Other matters in the City and in the rest of Italy were administered by one Caius Maecenas, a knight, both then [i.e., in July - November 36 BC] and for a long time afterwards”, (’Roman History’, 49: 16:2).

  2. Appian recorded that, when Octavian’s fleet was damaged in the storm early in the campaign:

  3. “In anticipation of more serious misfortune, [Octavian] sent Maecenas to Rome on account of those who were still under the spell of the memory of Pompey the Great, for the fame of that man had not yet lost its influence over them”, (’Civil Wars’, 5: 99).

  4. According to A. J. M. Watson (referenced below, at p. 99):

  5. “... it seems that [this] was more of a diplomatic mission than one with a military purpose; ... because the populace in Rome began to riot, Maecenas, Octavian's principal diplomat, was sent to Rome to mollify them.” 

  6. When Octavian suffered a more serious setback off  Tauromenium in August, Appian recorded that:

  7. “He sent Maecenas again to Rome on account of the revolutionists; and some of these, who were stirring up disorder, were punished”, (’Civil Wars’, 5: 112).

  8. A. J. M. Watson (referenced below, at p. 99) suggested that:

  9. “The tenure of [Maecenas’] administration [of Rome and Italy] really began in mid-August, with the naval defeat ... off [Tauromenium].  As a result of this [defeat], a rebellion began in Etruria [as recorded by Cassius Dio, above] and Octavian gave Maecenas control of Rome and Italy, [with orders] to keep Rome loyal and to [suppress] the [Etruscan] rebellion ...  However, before he could deal with [the latter], there was [another] outburst of unrest in Rome ... [which became] Maecenas' first objective ...”

Our sources indicate two distinct episodes of violence in Etruria at this time:

  1. According to Cassius Dio, during Octavian’s absence from Italy in 36 BC:

  2. “... parts of Etruria ... had been in rebellion, [but they] become quiet as soon as word came of his victory [at Naulochus]”, (’Roman History’, 49: 15: 1).

  3. According to Appian, even after the victory:

  4. “... Italy and Rome itself were openly infested with bands of robbers, whose doings were more like barefaced plunder than secret theft.  Octavian appointed [Caius Calvisius] Sabinus to correct this disorder.  He [Sabinus] executed many of the captured brigands and, within one year, brought about a condition of absolute security”, (’Civil Wars’, 5:132).

Thus, Emilio Gabba (referenced below, at p. 100) summarised:

  1. “Still in 36 BC, the entire area of Etruria was in revolt, and Octavian had to entrust ... Sabinus with the task of wiping out the armed bands that still roamed across central Italy”, (my translation).

Putting these accounts and interpretations together, we might reasonably assume that the revolt in Etruria broke out in August 36 BC and that Maecenas, who was tied up in Rome, delegated the task of suppressing it, probably to Sabinus (although no surviving source actually identifies him at this point).   Sabinus’ task was made much easier by the news of the victory at Naulochus, which brought an end to the famine and simultaneously removed any hope that the rebels might have had of a rival to Octavian in the west.  Thereafter, Sabinus turned his attention to the lawlessness that still engulfed the region (which might be a euphemism for a programme of reprisals against the former rebels).

It would be a mistake, in my view, to regard this short revolt in Etruria as an isolated event.  Ronald Syme (referenced below, at p. 208) wrote of the Perusine War that it had:

  1. “... blended with an older feud and took on the colours of an ancient wrong.  Political contests at Rome and the civil wars into which they degenerated had been fought at the expense of Italy [for decades].  Denied justice and liberty, Italy rose against Rome for the last time.”

In my view, the revolt in Etruria in 36 BC represented a final postscript to the incipient rebellion in central Italy (and elsewhere on the peninsular) that had occupied much of the century.  William Harris (referenced below, at p 313-4) suggested (without giving his sources) that:

  1. “Of the more important towns of Etruria, only Tarquinii, Volsinii and Clusium may have survived the triumvirs and Augustus fairly untroubled.”

However, the imperial estate that seems to have been created to the north of Bolsena (link needed) suggests that the area might have suffered confiscations at the hands of Octavian.

Relations with Mark Antony (35-30 BC)

After his meeting with Octavian at Tarentum in 37 BC, Mark Antony crossed the Adriatic with the pregnant Octavia but, during their subsequent journey to the east, he sent her  back to Italy.  When he arrived in the east, he resumed his affair with Cleopatra.  He also embarked on his invasion of Parthia, a campaign that ended in disaster in 36 BC.  His daughter with Octavia (named Antonia) and his son with Cleopatra were both born in this year.

In 35 BC, Octavia travelled to Athens with supplies for Mark Antony: he accepted the supplies but refused to meet Octavia and ordered her return to Rome.

Antony finally broke with Octavian in 34 BC.  He celebrated a triumph against the Armenians in Alexandria, formally bestowed territories on Cleopatra and their three children (acknowledging paternity of the twins and naming them Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene) and proclaimed that Caesarion (Cleopatra’s first child) was the legitimate heir of Caesar.

33: Second Triumvirate runs out again; Octavian campaigns in Illyria

32: Octavian reads Antonyʹs will (which again declares Caesarion as Caesarʹs lawful heir) in the Senate. The Senate declares war on Egypt and authorises Octavian (who currently holds no magisterial office) as dux or leader of the war effort.

31: Octavian (now consul for the third time) and Agrippa are victorious over Antony and Cleopatra at Actium.

30: Octavian and his forces take Alexandria; Antony and Cleopatra commit suicide

29: Octavian celebrates a triple triumph at Rome (Illyria, Actium and Alexandria) on three successive days, August 13‐15, and attributes the success to Apollo.

28: Octavian dedicates a temple to Apollo on the Palatine Hill next to his home.

27: Octavian ʺhands the Republic back to the peopleʺ and in return receives the title Augustus and a proconsular province including Spain, Gaul, Syria and Egypt.


Read more:

Welch K., “The Lex Pedia of 43 BCE and its Aftermath”, Hermathena, 196-7  (2012) 137-62

Welch K., “Magnus Pius: Sextus Pompeius and the Transformation of the Roman Republic”, (2012) Swansea

Lange C. H., “Res Publica Constituta: Actium, Apollo and the Accomplishment of the Triumviral Assignment”, (2009) Leiden and Boston

Sear D., “History and Coinage of the Roman Imperators 49-27 BC”, (1998) London

Watson A. J. M., “Maecenas’ Administration of Rome and Italy”, Akroterion, 39 (1994) 98-104

Gabba E., “Trasformazioni Politiche e Socio-Economiche dell' Umbria dopo il 'Bellum Perusinum'”, in:

  1. Catanzaro G. and Santucci F. (editors), “Bimillenario della Morte di Properzio”, (1986) Assisi, pp. 95-104

Harris, W., “Rome in Etruria and Umbria”, (1971) Oxford

Syme R., “The Roman Revolution” (1939, latest edition 2002) Oxford



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