Roman Republic

Roman Italy (1st century BC)

Octavian (44 - 29 BC)

Caesar’s Funeral

Julius Caesar (as everyone knows) was murdered on the Ides of March (15th March) in 44 BC.  His nephew, the young Gaius Octavius, was then with the legions that Caesar had mustered at Apollonia (in modern Albania) for a forthcoming campaign against the Parthians.  In Rome, while the assassins dithered:

  1. Mark Antony, Caesar’s erstwhile consular colleague assumed political control; while

  2. Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, Caesar’s erstwhile Magister equitum (Master of Cavalry) and his chosen governor of Transalpine Gaul for 44 BC, maintained order using his army, which was conveniently based in the Campus Martius. 

Two days after the murder, as recorded by Appian:

  1. “[Mark] Antony, by means of a notice sent round by night, called the Senate to meet before daybreak at the temple of Tellus ...”, (‘Civil Wars’, 2:126).  

During this meeting (which the assassins declined to attend):

  1. “... a decree was passed: that there should be no prosecution for the murder of Caesar; but that all his acts and decrees should be confirmed ... The Senate was thereupon dismissed ...” (‘Civil Wars’, 2:135).

This marked a compromise between those who welcomed the actions of the assassins and those (including the soldiers congregating in the city) who demanded vengeance and full posthumous honours for the deceased:

  1. the assassins were given an amnesty; while

  2. the confirmation of Caesar’s actions in office absolved him from the allegation of illegal tyranny (while usefully preserving the lucrative posts that Caesar had conferred on his erstwhile colleagues). 

A number of issues still demanded urgent attention, not least the arrangements to be made for Caesar’s body and the reading of his will.  According to Appian, after the meeting above:

  1. “... a number of senators collected around Lucius Piso [Caesar’s father-in-law], whom Caesar had made the custodian of his will, and urged him not to make the will public, and not to give the body a public burial, lest some new disturbance should arise therefrom.  [However, after a powerful speech by Piso] it was finally decreed that Caesar’s will should be read in public and that he should have a public funeral.  Thereupon the Senate adjourned”, (‘Civil Wars’, 2:135-6).

Mark Antony convened another meeting of the Senate on 19th March, which Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius (the most prominent of the assassins) attended after receiving hostages in guarantee of their safety.  They were initially quite well-received.  However, Appian recorded that:

  1. “Caesar's will was now produced and the people ordered that it be read at once.  In it, Caesar adopted [Gaius Octavius], the grandson of his sister.  Caesar’s gardens were given to the people ... and 75 Attic drachmas went to every Roman still living in the city”, (‘Civil Wars’, 2:143). 

Suetonius recorded other interesting details:

  1. “... [Caesar’s] will was unsealed and read in [Mark] Antony's house: Caesar had made [this will on] the preceding Ides of September at his place near Lavicum and put [it] in the care of the chief of the Vestals. ... In [this,] his last will, ... he named three heirs, his sisters' grandsons, [one of whom], Gaius Octavius [received three quarters of his estate... . At the end of the will, Caesar adopted Gaius Octavius into his family and gave him his name”, (‘Life of Julius Caesar’, 83).

One wonders how Mark Antony felt when he had first became aware that he had been replaced as Caesar’s chosen heir by a boy who was only eighteen years old.

The promised public funeral took place on 20th March.  Again, Appian gave a detailed account:

  1. “The people were ... stirred to anger [and remorse ?] when they saw [Caesar’s] will [i.e when they realised that he had made such lavish public bequests]....  When Piso brought Caesar's body into the Forum, a countless multitude ran together with arms to guard it and, with acclamations and magnificent pageantry, placed it on the rostra.  ... [The mob] began to repent themselves of the amnesty [that had been granted to the assassins].  [Mark] Antony, seeing how things were going, did not abandon his purpose but, having been chosen to deliver the funeral oration,  ... spoke as follows ...”, (‘Civil Wars’, 2:143).

There are conflicting records of what Mark Antony actually said and of the precise nature of the associated theatricals.  However, there is no doubt about the effect of it all on the crowds.  Cassius Dio, for one, was unimpressed:

  1. “[Mark] Antony aroused [the mob] still more by bringing [Caesar’s] body most inconsiderately into the Forum, exposing it, all covered with blood as it was and with gaping wounds, and then delivering over it a speech, that was very ornate and brilliant, to be sure, but out of place on that occasion”, (‘Roman History’, 44: 35).

Cicero (one of the leading critics of Mark Antony) was even more scathing in a speech he would have liked to have delivered in the Senate in September 44 BC (and which he circulated privately):

  1. “... you [Mark Antony] behaved with the greatest wickedness while presiding at the funeral of the tyrant [i.e. Caesar], if that ought to be called a funeral.  All that fine panegyric was yours, that commiseration was yours, that exhortation was yours.   It was you ... who hurled those firebrands [against the assassins and their supporters] ... . It was you who let loose those attacks of abandoned men, slaves... [that] we repelled by violence and our own personal exertions; it was you who set them on to attack our houses”, (‘Philippics’, 2:90).

As Barry Strauss observed”

  1. “On March 17th, [Mark Antony] had supported amnesty, but now [on March 20th] he went for the jugular.  Without formally repealing the amnesty, he showed who really ran Rome.”

This was the point at which the assassins and most of their supporters wisely fled Rome.

After Mark Antony’s eulogy (again according to Appian):

  1. “The people returned to Caesar's bier and bore it as a consecrated thing to the Capitol in order to bury it in the [Capitoline] temple and place it among the gods.  Being prevented from doing so by the priests, they placed it again in the Forum where stands the ancient palace of the kings of Rome.  There, they collected together pieces of wood ... for a funeral pile ... Then they set fire to it, and the entire people remained by the funeral pile throughout the night. There, an altar was ... erected ...”, (‘Civil Wars’, 2:148).

Cassius Dio provided additional details:

  1. “... the throng was at first excited, then enraged, and finally so inflamed with passion that they sought [Caesar’s] murderers ... Then, [they seized] his body, which some had wished to convey [for burning] to the place in which he had been slaughtered [i.e. the Theatre of Pompey] and others to the Capitol; but, being prevented by the soldiers, who feared that the theatre and temples would be burned to the ground at the same time, they placed it upon a pyre there in the Forum ... After this, ... [they] set up an altar on the site of the pyre (for the freedmen of Caesar had previously taken up his bones and deposited them in the family tomb), and undertook to sacrifice upon it and to offer victims to Caesar, as to a god”, (‘Roman History’, 44: 50:1 - 51:1).

In other words, Caesar’s funeral culminated in his consecration by the Roman mob.

Mark Antony  takes Control (March-April)

Election of a New Pontifex Maximus

In 63 BC, Caesar had famously bribed the electors in order to secure the post of Pontifex Maximus (head priest of the Roman state religion), a post that was held for life.  Cassius Dio recorded that, shortly before his murder, the Senate voted that:

  1. “... Caesar's son, should he beget or even adopt one, should [succeed him as] high priest”, (‘Roman History’, 44: 4:3).

Thus, if Caesar’s posthumous adoption of Octavius had been confirmed, Octavius would have become the new Pontifex Maximus.  However, as Richard Weigel (referenced below, at p. 48) recorded:

  1. “This [very recent and] blatantly monarchical  provision was ignored by [Mark] Antony, as was the proper [alternative] procedure, [which required a public] election, presided over by a pontifex, [in which the voters chose] from a list of candidates provided by the pontifical college.  [Instead, Mark Antony, as consul] restored the [ancient] right of the [pontifical] college ... to select its [own] leader ...”

For whatever reason, the pontifical college selected one of their own, M. Aemilius Lepidus, Caesar’s erstwhile Magister equitum (Master of Cavalry) and his chosen governor of Transalpine Gaul.   Richard Weigel (referenced below, at p. 49 and note 24) suggested that Lepidus was probably inaugurated before his departure for his province in March or early April, 44 BC.

Octavius was also a member of the pontifical college, although he could hardly complain that his colleagues had chosen the older man.  Nevertheless, he must have been frustrated that, by changing the arrangements for succession, Mark Antony had deprived him of part of his inheritance.  However, it seems that, at least in hindsight, he blamed Lepidus rather than Mark Antony for the outcome: looking back on these events, he recorded that:

  1. “I declined to be made Pontifex Maximus in succession to a colleague still living [i.e. Lepidus] when [in 36 BC - see below] the people tendered me that priesthood, which my father [Caesar] had held.  Several years later [i.e. in 12 BC] I accepted that sacred office  when [Lepidus], who, taking advantage of a time of civil disturbance [following Caesar’s assassination], had seized it for himself, was dead ...”, (‘Res Gestae Divi Augusti’, 10).

Destruction of Caesar’a Altar in the Forum

According to Cassius Dio, the consuls (Mark Antony and P. Cornelius Dolabella, who had been appointed as suffect consul after Caesar’s death):

  1. “... overthrew the altar [to Caesar that had been erected in the Forum] and punished some who showed displeasure at the act, at the same time publishing a law that no one should ever again be dictator ...” (‘Roman History’, 44: 51: 2).

Appian gave further details of the disturbances that had been whipped up at this altar by a man called Amatius, who claimed to have been a relative of Marius and Caesar.  Furthermore:

  1. “It was said that Amatius was only waiting for an opportunity to entrap Brutus and Cassius [the most prominent of Caesar’s assassins].  ... [Mark] Antony, making capital out of the [alleged] plot and using his consular authority, arrested Amatius and boldly put him to death without a trial. ... The followers of Amatius ... [then] took possession of the Forum, exclaiming violently against [Mark] Antony, and called on the magistrates to dedicate an altar in place of [that of] Amatius, and to offer the first sacrifices on it to Caesar. ... Finally, [Mark] Antony sent more soldiers and some of those who resisted were killed, others were captured: the slaves among them were crucified and the freemen thrown over the Tarpeian Rock”, (‘Civil Wars’, 3:2-3).

In fact, pace Cassius Dio (above) it seems that the demolition of the original altar took place in April. while Mark Antony was away from Rome during the recess of the Senate, and that it was the work of Dolabella, much to the delight of Cicero (his father-in-law): in a letter to Atticus a few weeks later, Cicero exclaimed:

  1. “My wonderful Dolabella!  Now I call him mine: before, I can tell you, I had lurking doubts! This affair really gives people something to think about!

  2. Over the [Tarpeian ]Rock with [the freedmen], on to the cross with [the slaves];

  3. away with the pillar [that had presumably been erected near the altar];

  4. contract [awarded] for paving the site!

  5. Why, it’s Homeric!!”, (‘Letters to Atticus’, 369: 1, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 1999, at p. 185).

In an oration that he delivered in early September in the Senate, Cicero looked back on the Consuls’ suppression of the cult site as the light before the storm:

  1. “A new light, as it were, seemed to be brought over us, now that ... the kingly power [of Caesar] ... was taken away from us; and Mark Antony appeared to have been given a great pledge to the Republic [to the effect] that he wished the city to be free, when he utterly abolished out of the Republic the name of dictator [i.e. of Caesar] ... A few days afterwards, the Senate was delivered from the danger of bloodshed, and a hook was fixed into that runaway slave who had usurped the name of Gaius Marius [i.e. Amatius].  And [Mark Antony] did all these things in concert with his colleague [Dolabella].  Some other things that were done were the acts of Dolabella alone: but, I believe that, if his colleague had not been absent, these things would have been done by both of them in concert.  For:

  2. when enormous evil was insinuating itself into the Republic ...;

  3. when the same men who had performed that irregular funeral were erecting a tomb in the Forum; and

  4. when abandoned men, with slaves like themselves, were every day threatening ... the houses and temples of the city;

  5. so severe was the rigour of Dolabella ... and so prompt was his overthrow of that accursed pillar [near the altar to Caesar], that it seems marvellous to me that the subsequent time has been so different from that one day.  For behold, on the first of June, on which day [Mark Antony and Dolabella] had given notice that we were all to attend the Senate, everything was changed”, (‘Philippics’, 1: 4-6). 

Parilia (21st April)

The ancient festival known as the Parilia was apparently held as usual on 20th April.  However, according to Cassius Dio, those responsible for them:

  1. “... were now holding ... the games in the Circus in honour of the Parilia in slight regard ...”, (‘Roman History, 45: 6: 4).

These circus games had been added to the festival in 45 BC in celebration in Caesar’s victory at the Battle of Munda, and Cassisu Dio’s comment suggests that they were neglected in some ways (or perhaps not held at all) in 44 BC, presumably in case they provoked further pro-Caesarian demonstrations.  If so, this measure was not completely successful: Cicero feigned  outrage when he heard from Atticus that young Quintus (the son of Cicero’s brother and Atticus’ sister), had been involved in just this kind of behaviour:

  1. “Now, tell me once again your tale!  Our nephew Quintus wearing a garland [in honour of Caesar] at the Parilia? Was he alone?  You certainly also mention Lamia [a friend of Cicero’s], which utterly astonishes me, but I am eager to know who the others were: although I am quite sure that there was no-one [among them who] was not a traitor”, (‘Letters to Atticus’, 368, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 1999, at p. 179).

  2. “As for the wearing of garlands [at the Parilia], when your nephew was taxed by his father, he wrote back that he had worn one in Caesar’s honour and laid it aside in mourning; he finishes up by saying that he is glad to bear censure for loving Caesar even after his death”, (‘Letters to Atticus’, 372, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 1999, at p. 201).

According to Geoffrey Sumi (referenced below, at p. 64):

  1. “It is likely that those involved [in the demonstration] ... would have formed a procession from the Capitolium to the Circus, as was customary before [circus games], but that on this occasion they wore garlands in honour of victory Caesar’s and accompanied a statue of Caesar.  When they arrived at the Circus, they removed the garlands and mourned [his] death.”

Octavian’s Arrival in Rome (probably May 44 BC)

First Dealings with Mark Antony

Octavius quickly returned to Italy and signalled his intention to accept his inheritance by changing his name to Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus, or Caesar for short (although I call him ‘Octavian’ hereafter for the sake of clarity).  The date of his arrival in Rome is a matter of dispute: in what follows, I follow the chronology deduced by Donna Wardle (referenced below).   As she pointed out:

  1. he met Cicero at the latter’s villa at Puteoli on 22nd April, while he was staying at his step-farther’s nearby villa; and

  2. Cicero ended a letter to Atticus from Puteoli on 11th May by reminding him that:

  3. “I am waiting to hear about Octavian’s contio ...”, (Letters to Atticus’, 375: 4, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 1999, at p. 213).

According to Geoffrey Sumi (referenced below, at p. 128) this contio was the second of two appearances of Octavian in the Forum soon after hiss arrival:

  1. “First, he approached [the praetor C. Antonius, [one of Mark Antony’s brothers] ... at the praetor’s tribunal [and] publicly accepted Caesar’s name and [bequest - see Appian, ‘Civil Wars’, 3: 14].  Later, perhaps on the same day, [he] delivered [the speech about which Cicero sought news] at a contio convened by the tribune L. Antonius [one of Mark Antony’s other brother], where he could formally announce to the people his plans to accept Caesar’s [bequest].”

These two appearances almost certainly took place while Mark Antony was away from Rome: Donna Wardle (referenced below, at p. 189) established that:

  1. “Cicero’s correspondence indicates... [that Mark Antony] had left Rome by 28th April and returned between 18th and 21st May.”

She noted that other scholars hypothesise that this was Octavian’s second visit to Rome, after an earlier and shorted visit in April, but she argued that it is more likely that the annalistic sources on which this hypothesis was based could not be relied on for an accurate chronology.  Thus she concluded (see her chronology at p. 180) that Octavian entered Rome for the first time since Casear’s murder at some time between 26th April and 9th May, and that he publicly accepted his inheritance on the day after his arrival.  It seems to me that the date of Cicero’s letter favours the latter part of this period.  It seems that, after his return to Rome, Mark Antony dragged his fett on the subject of Octavian’s inheritance: for example, Cassius Dio recorded that he did Octavian:

  1. “... many injuries both in word and deed, particularly when the lex curiata was proposed by which [Octavian’s adoption would be officially recognised] ... [Mark] Antony pretended to be doing his best to have it passed but, through some tribunes, he kept securing its postponement ... ” (‘Roman History’, 45: 5:2-3).

Octavian’s Announcement of Funerary Games for Caesar

On 18th May,  Cicero wrote to Atticus about what had probably been Octavian’s next public speech made in Rome:

  1. “...concerning Octavian’s speech, I feel the same as you do: the preparations for his games and [the fact that he has secured the services of] Matius and Postumus as his procuratores (agents) are displeasing ...” (‘Letter to Atticus”, 379: 3, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 1999, at p. 225).

As we shall see below, these games were the Ludi Veneris Genitricis, which Octavian was to hold on 20th July, combined with (nominally private) funerary games for his ‘father’, Caesar.  Matius and Postumus, who had been prominent among Caesar’s financial advisers, had now apparently transferred their allegiance to Octavian and, since Octavian could not immediately access Caesar’s bequests, were presumably helping him to find other sources of finance for (inter alia) these games. 

Caesar’s Throne and Garland

Cassius Dio recorded that, among the divine honours that had been awarded to Caesar during his lifetime:

  1. “[The Senate] voted that his golden chair and his crown, which was set with precious gems and overlaid with gold, should be carried into the theatres [during religious festivals] in the same manner as those of the gods” (‘Roman History’, 44: 6: 3).

There is no surviving evidence to suggest that the throne was ever exhibited in this way during Caesar’s lifetime, but it seems that Octavian decided to demonstrate his filial piety by ensuring that it was done in honour of Caesar’s memory: according to Appian:

  1. “... when the time had arrived for the games that the aedile Critonius was about to hold, Octavian made preparations to display [Caesar’s] gilded throne and garland, which the Senate had voted should be placed in front of him at all games.  When Critonius said that he could not allow Caesar to be honoured in this way at games given at his expense, Octavian brought him before [Mark] Antony as consul.  [Mark] Antony said he would refer the matter to the Senate.  Octavian was vexed and said:

  2. ‘Refer it; [but] I will place the throne there as long as the decree is in force.’ 

  3. [Mark] Antony became angry and prohibited it” (‘Civil Wars’, 3: 28: 105).

None of our surviving sources identified these games, but they had certainly taken place by the 22nd May, when Cicero reacted to Atticus’ report of the incident:

  1. The Tribunes have done well about Caesar’s chair [i.e. about this incident, of which Atticus had recently informed him].  Good for the fourteen rows [where the knights, sat] too”, (‘Letters to Atticus’, 380: 3, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 1999, at p. 229).

Thus Cicero  had heard from Atticus that Octavian had been thwarted by the the tribunes.  Geoffrey Sumi (referenced below, at p. 118) suggested that the incident took place at the ludi Ceriales, which might well have been moved from their usual date in early April because of the recent riots in the Forum.  Donna Wardle (referenced below, at p. 189) agreed with this dating, pointing out that:

  1. “... the need for M. Antonius’ presence and Cicero’s information about a tribunician veto against Octavian’s proposal to display Caesar’s [throne] plausibly fix Critonius’ games between mid May and the Ludi Apollinares which began on 6 July.  It fits with all of the data, if Critonius’ games were the rescheduled Ludi Cereales, for which there was room in the calendar after the Lemuria of 13 May.”

Ludi Apollinaris (6th - 13th July 44 BC)

These games were particularly important since they were the responsibility of  M. Brutus, who held the office of Urban Praetor. 

He was now living in self-imposed exile outside the City, but hoped that, by financing particularly impressive games, he could influence popular sentiment to the extent that he might be able to return.

He had to suffer yet another indignity: in addition to his forced absence, he had to contemplate the fact that he was financing games in the month (Quintilis) that had been renamed in Caesar’s honour shortly before his death.  Cicero, who heard from Atticus that the new name was to be retained in the official announcement of the games, expressed his outrage in his reply of :

  1. “Is it really so?  ‘Nones of July’?  The gods confound them!  But one might rage all day long.  What could be a greater insult to Brutus than ‘July’ ?”, (‘Letters to Atticus’, 409:1, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 1999, at p. 307).

He had to suffer yet another indignity: in addition to his forced absence, he had to contemplate the fact that he was financing games in the month (Quintilis) that had been renamed in Caesar’s honour shortly before his death.  Cicero, who heard from Atticus that the new name was to be retained in the official announcement of the games, expressed his outrage:

  1. “Is it really so?  ‘Nones of July’?  The gods confound them!  But one might rage all day long.  What could be a greater insult to Brutus than ‘July’ ?”, (‘Letters to Atticus’, 409:1, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 1999, at p. 307).

Thus Plutarch:

  1. “The people, however, had their games, in spite of [Brutus’] absence, and these were very lavishly and magnificently appointed.  For Brutus had purchased a great number of wild beasts, and now gave orders that none should be sold or left behind, but that all should be used.  He himself went down to Naples and conferred with a very large number of actors; and regarding Canutius, an actor who enjoyed great fame, he wrote to his friends that they should persuade him to go to Rome; for no Greek could properly be compelled to go.  He wrote also to Cicero, begging him by all means to attend the spectacles” (‘Life of Brutus’, 21:4-5).

Brutus’ investment in the games proved to be unproductive: as Geoffrey Sumi (referenced below, at p.  147) observed, he and his fellow assassins:

  1. “... failed to achieve their ultimate goal of being recalled to Rome.  Based on this outcome, we have to assume that [they] failed to communicate their message effectively.”

Given their absence from the games, this outcome had probably been inevitable.

Ludi Veneris Genitricis (July 44 BC) 

These games are discussed in detail in the page on Divus Julius.  In summary, Octavian announced in May his intention to hold funerary games for his ‘father’, Caesar.  The contents of the announcement are unknown, but it seems that they began on 20th July as part of the Ludi Veneris Genitricis, which Octavian arranged at this time rather than on the usual date, 26th September.  There is no suggestion in the surviving sources that Mark Antony tried to block the games.  However, this was the second of the two occasions on which he prevented Octavian from exhibiting Caesar’s golden throne and crown.  Nonetheless, those who had been unable to honour Caesar’s memory fully at the Parilia (above) now had an excellent opportunity to do so.

These games became famous for the appearance of a comet, an event that Octavian/ Augustus apparently described in his memoirs:

  1. “During the very time of these games of mine, a hairy star was seen for 7 days, in the part of the heavens that is under the Great Bear.  It rose about the 11th hour of the day, was very bright, and was conspicuous in all parts of the earth.  The common people supposed the star to indicate that the soul of Caesar had been admitted among the immortal Gods; [and thus] the star was placed on the bust [of Caesar] that had been lately consecrated in the Forum” (reproduced by Pliny the Elder, ‘Natural History’, 2:23).

As John Ramsay (referenced below, at p. 255) pointed out, our main sources on its effect on the public - i.e not only Pliny the Elder but also Suetonius and Cassius Dio - probably all relied on Octavian’s memoirs, which were hardly unbiased.  Nevertheless, Adrian Goldsworthy (referenced below, at p. 99), for example, judged that: 

  1. “The story caught on and ... in many ways it built on the semi-divine honours awarded to [Caesar] during his lifetime and the altar to him [that had been] set up [in the Forum after his funeral] but later knocked down on the consuls’ orders.”

Events of Autumn 44 BC

Shortly after the Mark Antony and Octavian, under pressure from their respective supporters, were publicly reconciled.  Thus, Octavian supported Mark Antony (whom Caesar had designated as Governor of Macedonia for the 2 years following his consulship) when he obtained by plebiscite the substitution of the province of Cisalpine Gaul for Macedonia and the extension of provincial commands for consuls from 2 to 5 years.

However, relations between Octavian and Mark Antony subsequently deteriorated, although Mark Antony had to devote most of his attention to securing his new province before the period of his consulship ended.  Unfortunately, the incumbent, Decimuc Brutus (one of the most prominent of Caesar’s assassins, was unlikely to relinquish it, so he would have to take it by force.  Thus left for for Brundisium in November in order to receive with the legions that he had repatriated from Macedonia. 

Octavian, meanwhile, was recruiting in Caesar’s veteran colonies in Campania and also (through agents) subverting Antony’s efforts at Brundisium.  Since Octavian was still a private citizen, his recruitment of what was a private army was illegal.  He was later to recall this as the  start of his career, clearly (if disingenuously) implying that the ends justified the means:

  1. “At the age of 19, on my own initiative and at my own expense, I raised an army, by means of which I restored liberty to the Republic, which had been oppressed by the tyranny of a faction” (‘Res Gestae Divi Augusti, 1:1).

Octavian arrived back in Rome in November and installed his illegal army (even more illegally) on the Campus Martius.  Appian described a public address in which he then announced his intention to move against Mark Antony:

  1. “In this time of consternation, Cannutius, the tribune, an enemy of [Mark] Antony and hence friendly to Octavian, went to meet the latter.  Having learned of [Octavian’s] intentions, Cannutius addressed the people, saying that Octavian was advancing with real hostility towards Mark Antony and that those who were afraid that [the latter] was aiming at tyranny should side with Octavian, as they had no other army at present.  After speaking thus, he brought in Octavian, who was encamped before the city at the temple of Mars ... When Octavian arrived, he proceeded to the temple of Castor and Pollux [in the Forum], which his soldiers surrounded carrying concealed daggers.  Cannutius addressed the people first, speaking against Mark Antony.  Afterwards Octavian also reminded them of his father [Caesar] and of what he [Octavian] had also suffered at the hands of Mark Antony ... He declared himself [and probably swore to be] the obedient servant of his country in all things, and said that he was ready to confront Mark Antony in the present emergency” (‘Civil Wars’, 3:41).

Cicero provides us with further details of contents of Octavian’s speech in a letter that he wrote to Atticus on 12th November 44 BC:

  1. “I have received ... many a prudent word from you [Atticus] under the head of politics, but never anything wiser than your last letter, [in which you wrote]:

  2. ‘Though that boy [Octavian] is powerful and has given [Mark] Antony a fine check, yet ... we must wait to see [how things] end [before we decide that he is a good thing]’. 

  3. Why, what a speech!  It has been sent to me.  He qualifies his oath by the words:

  4. ‘So may I [be permitted to] achieve the honours of my father’,

  5. and, at the same time, he held out his right hand in the direction of his [father’s] statue.  [He then expressed himself in Greek:] μηδὲ σωθείην ὐπό γε τοιούτου! [Heaven forfend that we should be saved by such a man!]”, (‘Letters to Atticus’, 426: 3, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 1999, at p. 369; the phrase in italics is from the translation of Geoffrey Sumi, referenced below, p. 164).

Octavian’s immediate purpose in having raised his private army was now clear: he was determined to secure in full his legacy from Caesar and the enactment of Caesar’s divine honours, which had been his (i.e. Caesar’s) by decree and which did not fall away now that he was dead.  If Mark Antony would not co-operate, then Octavian would achieve his objectives by force.  (Aspects of this that involved Caesar’s divine honours are discussed in the page on Divus Julius).

Towards the end of November, when the return of Mark Antony was imminent, Octavian wisely left Rome for Arretium (Arezzo), where he continued to recruit men for his army.  Appian described Mark Antony’s movements and intentions at this point:

  1. “[Mark Antony] convoked the Senate [on 24th November] in order to make complaint against the acts of Octavian [in raising a private army etc]  but, just as he was entering [the meeting], he learned that the so‑called Martian legion, one of the four [from Macedonia via Brundisium] ... had gone over to Octavian.  While he was waiting at the entrance, cogitating over this news, it was announced to him that another legion, called the Fourth, had followed the example of the Martian and espoused the side of Octavian.  Disconcerted ..., he: entered the [meeting], pretending that he had convened [it] about other matters, said a few words, and immediately departed to the city gates, and thence to the town of Alba, in order to persuade the deserters to come back to him.  They shot arrows at him from the walls and he retreated.  To the other [still loyal, but wavering] legions, he forwarded 500 drachmas per man.  With the soldiers he had with him, he marched to Tibur, taking the equipment customary to those who are going to war; for war was now certain, since Decimus Brutus had refused to give up Cisalpine Gaul” (Civil Wars’, 3:45).

Decimus Brutus, was one of the two men who had organised the murder of Julius Caesar, after which, he found it expedient to take up the post of propraetor in Cisalpine Gaul (which Caesar had assigned to him).   However, Mark Antony (to whom Caesar had assigned the province of Macedonia) had subsequently passed legislation that had the effect of reversing these assignations and, since Decimus had decided not to oblige, he now needed to evict him by force.

Octavian’s gamble in raising his private army had succeeded, at least while Mark Antony was dealing with Decimus Brutus and while the Senate (or at least the influential Cicero) perceived Mark Antony to be the greater threat to the Republic. In December, Cicero returned to Rome in order to fill the political vacuum, but he was very much aware that the Senate had no military resources at hand.  Thus , on 20th December, he delivered two speeches in praise of Octavian:

  1. one (the ‘3rd Philippic’) in the Senate; and

  2. the other (the ‘4th Philippic’) in the Forum. 

Thus it was that Octavian found himself in alliance with Cicero and the Senate, and indirectly, with Decimus Brutus, one of the two men who had been most responsible for Caesar’s murder.

Events of 43 BC 

Battle of Mutina (April)  

The new consuls, Gaius Vibius Pansa and Aulus Hirtius, duly took power at the start of 43 BC, but Cicero seems to have remained the most influential member of the Senate.  Thus, after a period of dithering and failed negotiations, the Senate:

  1. declared a state of emergency:

  2. declared Mark Antony to be a public enemy:

  3. confirmed Decimus Brutus as governor of Cisalpine Gaul; and

  4. prepared to break Mark Antony’s siege at Mutina. 

Since Octavian’s army was the only one available, the Senate solved the problem of its illegality by giving him propraetorian imperium (despite the fact that he was under-age): he now became a senator and a praetor, with the right to seek other magistracies ten years earlier than was normal .  With these inducements, he agreed to put himself and his army at the disposal of the new consuls in the war to save one of Caesar’s assassins:

  1. On 14th April 43 BC, the two consular armies engaged with that of Mark Antony at Forum Gallorum.  The consuls seem to have had the better of the fighting, although Pansa was seriously wounded.  In a speech to the Senate soon after this ‘victory’ (‘Philippics’, 14: 29, Cicero proposed that supplicationes (public thanksgivings to the gods) should be held for an unprecedented 50 days in the joint names of Hirtius, Pansa and Octavian, even though Octavian had played no active role in this battle. 

  2. On 21st April, Hirtius and Octavian defeated Mark Antony outside Mutina and liberated the city, and Mark Antony retreated along the Via Aemilia towards Gaul.  Hirtius died during this battle and Pansa died shortly after.  The Roman armies were now under the command of Octavian and Decimus Brutus.

The news of the victory reached Rome on 27th April.  As Carsten Hjort Lange  (referenced below, at p.79) pointed out, it was:

  1. “ ... initially hailed with enthusiasm ... (although [this reaction was soon muted when news arrived of] the consuls' deaths and Antonius's escape).  Now Cicero at last got his way ... : [Mark Antony] and his followers were declared public enemies, and a triumph was voted to Decimus Brutus. The justification [for a triumph awarded for the defeat of another Roman army] was ... that, since they were enemies not citizens, it was permissible to triumph over them.”

Cicero looked back on this moment of euphoria in a letter to M. Junius Brutus in July 43 BC.  His correspondent, who was a relative of Decimus Brutuus, had participated in Caesar’s murder and subsequently replaced Mark Antony’s brother as governor of Madeconia.  Cicero recalled that:

  1. “There came that most joyful day of the liberation of Decimus Brutus, which happened also to be his birthday.  I proposed that Brutus’ name should be entered in the fasti beside that day [21st April], following the precedent of our ancestors, who paid that compliment to a woman, Larentia [see below], at whose altar in the Velabrum you pontifices offer sacrifice.  [This refers to the fact that his correspondent was a pontifex.]  In trying to confer that honour on [Decimus] Brutus, I wished the fasti to contain a permanent record of a most welcome victory.  [However], on that day, I [found out] that gratitude has considerably fewer votes in the Senate than spite, [which explained why, in Cicero’s view, his proposal had been rejected]”, (‘Letters to Brutus’, 23, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 2002b, at p. 277).

Furthermore Brutus never celebrated the triumph that the Senate had awarded to him because (as we shall see) he never returned to Rome.

Events of April - July

After the liberation of Mutina, Decimus was nominally the senior officer in command of the Senatorial army in Italy.  However, since neither Octavian nor many of his soldiers (both his own recruits and those that he had inherited from Pansa) would accept his orders, he was forced to pursue Mark Antony with what forces he could muster.   Progress was slow (perhaps because many of his men had suffered during the siege at Mutina), and he had only reached Dertona (modern Tortona in the Po valley) by 5th May, when he wrote to Cicero complaining that:

  1. “... if [Octavian] had listened to me and crossed the Apennines, I should have reduced [Mark] Antony to such straits that he would have been ruined by failure of provisions rather than by the sword.  But no-one can control [Octavian], nor can [Octavian] control his own army  ...”, (‘Letters to Friends’, 385,  translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 2002a, at p. 265).

On 24th May, Decimus (who was still only at Eporedia, near modern Turin) warned Cicero in a letter  that, when he (Decimus) had last seen Octavian:

  1. “He had no complaint to make against you, except as to an epigram that he said that you uttered that the young man must be complimented, honoured, and got rid of [perhaps better translated as: ‘praised, raised and erased’].  He said that he did not mean to give [you] the chance of getting rid of him”, (‘Letters to Friends’, 401,  translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 2002a, at p. 307).

As Decimus proceeded towards Gaul, he probably expected that he would find help against Mark Antony from:

  1. M. Aemilius Lepidus, governor of Transalpine Gaul

  2. L. Munatius Plancus, governor of Gallia Comata (Long-haired Gaul).

However, Lepidus joined forces with Mark Antony towards the end of May, albeit that Decimus managed to join forces with Plancus in early June.

This was how things stood in July, when Cicero wrote the letter to M. Junius Brutus mentioned above.  It was his response to:

  1. “... a letter of yours in which, while paying me a number of compliments, you find one fault: namely that I am ... prodigal in voting honours”, (‘Letters to Brutus’, 23, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 2002b, at p. 273).

He started his defence by reminding Brutus of the objective that had guided his dealings with the Senate in the period following Caesar’s murder:

  1. “You will not have forgotten, Brutus, that, after Caesar’s death, ...  I said that you and your associates had left one thing undone ... : although you had removed  ... a great stain on the honour of the Roman people and won immortal glory for yourselves, [you had not removed] the apparatus of monarchy, [which had] passed to Lepidus and [Mark] Antony, [the former] a weathercock and the other ... a blackguard”, (‘Letters to Brutus’, 23, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 2002b, at p. 275).

It seems that the honours to which his correspondent had objected had been those that he had given to Octavian, because he countered that:

  1. “All I will say [in answer to your charge] is that this young man, Caesar [i.e., Octavian], thanks to whom ... we are still alive, drew his inspiration from my counsels.  I have given him no honours, Brutus, but what were due, none that were unnecessary.  ... ”, (‘Letters to Brutus’, 23, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 2002, at p. 277).

This, of course, glossed over the undeserved honour that Cicero had secured for Octavian after the ‘victory’ at Forum Gallorum, which was presumably what his correspondent  had had in mind.   Since then, Octavian had remained with his army at Mutina, bombarding the Senate with demands that he should be appointed as suffect consul, and that his men should receive the honour and compensation that was their due.  Some members of the Senate refused to make any concessions of this kind, but Cicero now admitted that he had proposed another (somewhat belated) honour for Octavian in return for the role that he had played at Mutina:

  1. “I suspect that another proposal of mine is less to your liking ... : namely that [Octavian] should be granted leave to enter Rome in ovation.  For my part ... , I do not think that I have made a wiser proposal in the course of this war, (‘Letters to Brutus’, 23, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 2002b, at p. 277-9).

It is clear from this that, when he wrote this letter, Cicero still expected that Decimus Brutus and Plancus would eliminate Mark Antony and Lepidus in Gaul and that, once the last remnants of the ‘apparatus of monarchy’ had been thus destroyed, Octavian would return to Rome and find a place for himself in the new Republican order.  

Octavian’s Coup (August) 

Incredibly, the Senate seems to have ailed to recognise the strength of Octavian’s position, and it seems that Cicero ‘s proposed ovation for Octavian came to nothing.  Thus, when his final demands were refused, Octavian marched on Rome and established his camp outside the city on 18th August and negotiations resumed.  According to Appian:

  1. When Cicero learned of the truce, he sought an interview with Octavian through friends.  When it was granted, he defended himself and dwelt much upon his proposing Octavian for the consulship, as he had done in the Senate on a former occasion.  Octavian answered ironically that Cicero seemed to be the last of his friends to greet him”, (‘Civil Wars’, 3: 92).

After a series of rumours that military help would soon arrive turned out be false, the Senate quickly changed tack and, on 19th August, Octavian became the youngest consul in the history of the Republic: his uncle, Quintus Pedius, was appointed as his colleague, and Cicero left Rome for the last time.  Among his first acts as consul, Octavian:

  1. reversed the amnesty that had been decreed for Caesar’s assassins, who were duly tried in absentia and pronounced guilty; 

  2. used public funds to pay the bonuses owed to his soldiers and the outstanding bequests that Caesar had made to the Roman people in his will; and

  3. put in motion the formal process for the ratification of his own posthumous adoption by Caesar. 

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

  1. the resurgent Mark Antony from the north

  2. two of the murderers of Caesar, G. Cassius and M. Brutus, the governors (respectively) of Syria and Macedonia in the east; and

  3. potentially, Sextus Pompeius, the son of Pompey the Great, who had been reconciled with Mark Antony in the summer of 44 BC .  He 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.

Formation of the Triumvirate (November)

Octavian marched north from Rome in late August, probably ostensibly in order to continue the war against Mark Antony.  However, his true intentions became clear soon after, when his consular colleague, Quintus Pedius, pressured the Senate to reverse the decrees that had outlawed Mark Antony and Lepidus: Octavian was clearly offering them an alliance.  The three men met on an island in a river near Bononia (Bologna) in late October 43 BC, 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. 

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 and the triumvirate was duly constituted on 27th November, with a mandate to rule for five years.  Octavian then consolidated the alliance by marrying Clodia, the step-daughter of Mark Antony.  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. 

End of the Republic (October 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 Lepidus in 43 BC, 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: ships; an island lying convenient to Italy; and an army, now of considerable size, composed of: his own men; those who had fled from Rome, ...; those sent to him by the Italian cities that had been [selected by the triumvirs] as prizes of victory for [their] soldiers; and ... many seafaring men from Africa and Spain, skilled in naval affairs ...  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], for 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). 

Mark Antony’s Victory at Philippi  (October 42 BC)

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.

Perusine War and Peace of Brundisium (41-40 BC)

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 [from Lepidus] and Numidia fell to [Octavian]; and

  3. Gaul [excluding Cisalpine Gaul, which became part of Italy] and Africa [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;

  6. [Octavian] undertook: to curtail the power of Lepidus, if he should make any hostile move; to conduct the war against Sextus [Pompeius]; and to assign to those of their troops who had passed the age-limit the land which they had promised them.

  7. ... 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: the proscriptions had taken their toll; 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; these veterans were impatient and very hard to control; and 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.”

Lucius Antonius and the 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.  The so-called Peace of Brundisium was sealed by the betrothal of Mark Antony to Octavian’s sister, Octavia. 

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 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)

Mark Antony had a brief affair with Cleopatra at about this time, and their twins were born in Alexandria on 25th December 40 BC.

Pact of Misenum (39 BC)

Infuriated by the Peace of Brundisium, from which he was excluded, Sextus Pompeius renewed his blockade of Italy. 

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, who was soon to become the mother of Octavian’s daughter, Julia.  The exiles who had taken refuge with him (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.

He 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.

War with Sextus Pompeius (38-6 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 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 fcould meet up, that under Calvisius was checked and that under Octavian suffered an outright defeat.  Soon after, what remained of both of them was destroyed in a storm. 

In late 38 BC, Octavian sent Maecenas to Mark Antony with a request for another meeting in Italy. Antony and Octavian met at Tarentum in the spring of 37 BC.  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 consulship were formally rescinded.  The first five years of the triumvirate had expired at the end of 38 BC, so the two men renewed it (and probably backdated it to the start of 37 BC). 

When Menodorus deserted again, this time back to Sextus, Octavian relieved Calvisius Sabinus of his naval responsibilities and appointed Agrippa in his place.  During 37 BC, Agrippa (who was recalled from Gaul) spent much of his consular year 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: the one recently built and now commanded by Agrippa; the one that Mark Antony had donated, under Titus Statilius Taurus; and a third under Lepidus, which had sailed from Africa).  Their first attempt nearly met with failure, and Octavian found it expedient to send Maecenas back to Rome to ensure his position there.

The decisive naval encounter was a victory for Agrippa off Naulochus (September 36 BC).  Lepidus subsequently attempted to take over Sicily, but Octavian entered his camp and faced him down in front of his own army, which duly defected.  Octavian duly sent him into exile. 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 a golden image to be erected 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:


The ovation that Octavian received 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

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:

G, L. Gregori and G. Almago (authors) and T. Spinelli (editor and translator), “Roman Calendars: Imperial Birthdays, Victories and Triumphs”, (2018) Mauritius

D. Wardle, “Baby Steps for Octavian: 44 BC?”, Classical Quarterly, 68:1 (2018) 178-91

B. Strauss, “The Death of Caesar: The Story of History’s Most Famous Assassination”, (2015) New York

A. Goldsworthy, “Augustus: First Emperor of Rome”, (2014) New Haven and London

K. Galinsky, The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Augustus”, (2005) New York

G. Sumi, “Ceremony and Power: Performing Politics in Rome between Republic and Empire”, (2005) Michigan

D. R. Shackleton Bailey (translator), “Cicero: Letters to Friends, Volume III: Letters 281-435”, (2002a) Cambridge MA

D. R. Shackleton Bailey (translator), “Cicero: Letters to Quintus and Brutus; Letter Fragments;  Letter to Octavian.; Invectives; Handbook of Electioneering”, (2002b) Cambridge MA

J. Ramsey, “Did Mark Antony Contemplate an Alliance with His Political Enemies in July 44 BC ?”, Classical Philology, 96:3 (2001) 253-68

D. R. Shackleton Bailey (translator), “Cicero: Letters to Atticus, Volume IV”, (1999) Cambridge MA

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