Roman Republic

Roman Italy (1st century BC)

Mark Antony and  Octavian:

From the Death of Caesar (March 44 BC)

to the start of the First Triumvirate (November 43 BC)

Silver denarius issued by the moneyer P. Sepullius Macer: 44 BC (RRC 480/22)

Obverse: Portrait of Mark Antony (bearded and veiled in mourning for Caesar, jug behind, lituus in front

Reverse: P·SEPVLLIVS MACER: desultor (riding two horses between which he jumps), palm branch & wreath behind

Silver denarius issued by the moneyer C. Cossutius Maridianus: 44 BC (RRC 480/19)

Obverse: CAESAR PARENS·PATRIAE: Portrait of Caesar (veiled, with apex behind and lituus) in front)

Reverse: C·COSSVTIVS / MARIDIANVS in the form of a cross; A A A FF in the quadrants signifies the moneyers’ full title, Quattuorviri Auro, Argento, Aere, Flando, Feriundo (for casting and striking gold, silver, and bronze)

As mentioned in my page Caesar (45 - 44 BC), the college of moneyers was increased from three to four men in 44 BC (a change that the Emperor Augustus revered some years later).  The quattuorviri monetales of 44 this year were:

  1. L. Aemilius Buca;

  2. C. Cossutius Maridianus;

  3. M. Mettius; and

  4. P. Sepullius Macer.

Many of the coins that they issued in the group RRC 480 (10/27, including RRC 480/19 , illustrated above) had an image (death mask ?) of Caesar on the obverse, presumably because they were issued after his murder.  According to Cassius Dio, shortly before Caesar’s death, the Senate had (among a number of exceptional honours):

  1. “... named him father of his country, stamped this title on the coinage” (‘Roman History’, 44: 4: 4).

This title is reflected in the obverse legend of Maridianus’ denarius above and also in the denarius RRC 480/20 of P. Sepullius Macer.

Another denarius in this group, (RRC 480/22), also issued by P. Sepullius Macer, is generally assumed to depict Mark Antony (albeit that he is not identified by inscription): if this is correct, then this is the only coin issued in his honour before he became one of the triumviri rei publicae constituendae in November 43 BC (see my page First Triumvirate (43 - 38 BC)).

Magistrates at the Time of Caesar’s Murder

As everyone knows, Caesar was murdered on the Ides (15th) Mach 44 BC.  As we saw in my page Caesar (45 - 44 BC), at the time of his murder, Caesar was the dictator perpetuo and consul for the 5th time, and was about to embark on a campaign against the Parthians.  He had decided that:

  1. Mark Antony, his consular colleague, would remain in Rome;

  2. he would resign his consulship, while continuing as dictator perpetuo; and 

  3. P. Cornelius Dolabella would serve as suffect consul after his own resignation.

However, Mark Antony (in his capacity as augur) had obstructed Dolabella’s appointment, although this matter would have been settled at the Senate meeting of 15th March, had Caesar had not been murdered.  (As we shall see below, Dolabella’s consulship was confirmed at the Senate meeting of 17th March.

Events of 16th March

Senate Meeting at the Temple of Tellus (17th March)


Cassius Dio recorded that the lower magistrates that Caesar appointed included:

  1. “... two patrician aediles [who were, for the first time,  added to the four from the plebs.  ... And 16 praetors were appointed [in total]”, (‘Roman History’,  43: 51: 2-6). 

Velleius Paterculus recorded that, at the time of Caesar’s murder:

  1. “[M, Junius Brutus and C. Cassius Longinus] were praetors ... “ (‘Roman History’, 2: 58: 3).


In a speech that Cicero made against Mark Antony in the Senate on 2nd September (when Mark Antony was absent and Dolabella himself was presiding) Cicero referred back to a meeting of the Senate that had taken place of 17th March:

  1. “And you, [Mark Antony] (I address you though you are not here),surely you prize that one day when the Senate met in the Temple of Tellus ... What a speech you made about concord!  From what fear did you deliver the Senate ... when you dropped your quarrel with [Dolabella] and, forgetting the auspices previously announced (on 1st January], you desired him on that day, for the first time, to be your colleague”, (“Philippics’, 1: 31, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, at pp. 37-9).

It is unwise to rely on this polemic for the details of this strange affair, but is is clear that the matter of Dolabella’s consulship was unresolved at the time of Caesar;s murder, but that Mark Antony dropped his objection to it at the Senate meeting that was held in the Temple of Tellus two days later.

Consuls Designate for 43 and 42 BC

Cassius Dio recorded that, in view of Caesar’s impending absence, the Romans decided (presumably with Caesar’s encouragement) that:

  1. “... the magistrates should be appointed in advance for 3 years, this being the estimated length of time needed for the [Parthian] campaign”, (‘Roman History’,  43: 51: 2-6). 

The fasti Capitolini:

  1. confirm the information in the fasti Privernum that Caesar designated P. Cornelius Dolabella as suffect consul; and

  2. also record that C. Vibius Pansa and A. Hirtius  served as consuls of 43 BC and that they both died in office.

More importantly, we know from a passage by Cicero (‘Philippics’, 3: 37-8, David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 2010, at Vol. I, p. 215) that, on 20th December 44 BC:

  1. C. Vibius Pansa and A. Hirtius were consules designati (consuls-designate); and

  2. Decimus Junius Brutus Albinus and L. Munatius Plancus were imperators and consuls-designate. 

Thus, it seems that Caesar had:

  1. designated Hirtius and Pansa as consuls of 43 BC; and

  2. assigned provinces to Decimus and Plancus (see below) and designated them as the consuls for 42 BC.

As things turned out, Caesar had a month at most to live and, following his death, Lepidus was left with his province and the designated masters of horse never took office.  Furthermore, Caesar became the last Roman ever to be appointed as dictator:  Cicero (in a speech that he gave in the Senate on 2nd September, 44 BC) referred to Mark Antony’s:

  1. “... most remarkable gesture [after Caesar’s murder]: the total removal of the office of dictator from our constitution, an office that had usurped the might of royal power (vim regiae potestatis).  We did not even debate the subject; [Mark Antony] brought the draft of a decree ... and, as soon as it had been read out, we followed his lead with the utmost enthusiasm and, by a decree, voted him our unstinted thanks”, (‘Philippics’, 1: 3, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 2010, at Vol. I, p. 9).

Provincial Governors

Nearer and Farther Spain

Cassius Dio recorded that, shortly before Caesar had been murdered, he had:

  1. “... assigned Gallia Narbonensis and Nearer Spain to Lepidus”, (‘Roman History’, 43: 51: 8).

It is likely that Caesar had given him this province so that he could keep the activities of Sextus Pompeius in both Spain and Massalia (modern Marseille) under surveillance,

According to Nicolaus of Damascus, by November 44 BC:

  1. “C. Asinius Pollio was in charge of Farther Spain”, (‘Life of Augustus’, 28).

Velleius Paterculus recorded that, at this time:

  1. “... Asinius Pollio, steadfast in his resolution ... and continued to be an adversary of [Sextus Pompeius in Spain]”, (‘Roman History’, 2: 63: 3). He then recorded that, by November 44 BC:

  2. “... the praetorian Asinius Pollio had distinguished himself in his campaigns against Sextus in Spain]”, (‘Roman History’, 2: 73: 2)

From this, it is clear that Pollio, who had served as one of the praetors of 45 BC, had then been given Farther Spain as his praetorian province in the following year.

Cisalpine and Transalpine Gaul

Cassius Dio expressed surprise that Decimus had joined the conspiracy to murder Caesar in early 44 BC since he:

  1. “... had been designated as consul for [43 BC] and had been assigned to Cisalpine Gaul”, (‘Roman History’, 44: 14: 3). 

Appian recorded that those among Caesar’s murderers who:

  1. “... had accepted the command of provinces from him [soon] left Rome] to take charge of them: [these included]  Decimus Brutus to Cisalpine Gaul ... “, ‘Civil Wars’, 3: 2).

Robert Broughton (referenced below, at p. 307) suggested that, since he had not held curule office before that point, he had probably served as one of the 14 praetors of 45 BC and had then been given Cisalpine Gaul as his praetorian province.  Geoffrey Sumner (referenced below, at p. 359)  observed that, since there is:

  1. “... a conspicuous vacancy in [our knowledge of Decimus’] career in 45 BC,  ... the conjecture that he held one of the praetorships in that year is highly reasonable.”

If so, then had then been given Cisalpine Gaul  as his praetorian province for 44 BC, two years before his designated year as consul.

We know from Cicero (‘Letter to Atticus’, 363, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 1999, at Vol. IV, p. 59) that Hirtius was still governor of Transalpine Gaul at the time of Caesar’s murder.  According to Nicolaus of Damascus, by November 44 BC:

  1. “L. Munatius Plancus, the consul-elect [for 42 BC], held Transalpine Gaul”, (‘Life of Augustus’, 28).

He had issued an aureus (RRC 475/1) as praefectus urbanus in 45 BC. It thus appears that Caesar had intended that he should replace Hirtius as governor of Transalpine Gaul for 44 BC, two years before his designated year as consul.

Asia and Bythnia

According to Plutarch:

  1. “Early next morning, the Senate assembled again.  In the first place, they gave a vote of thanks to [Mark] Antony for having stopped an incipient civil war; next, they passed a vote of commendation for the followers of Brutus who were present; and finally, they distributed the provinces.  It was voted that:

  2. Brutus should have Crete;

  3. Cassius Africa,

  4. Trebonius Asia,

  5. Cimber Bithynia, and

  6. [Decimus] Cisalpine Gaul.

According to Appian, in the aftermath of Caesar’s murder:

  1. “Some of [the assassins] had fled from the City, and those who had accepted the command of provinces from Caesar himself had gone away to take charge of the it:

  2. Decimus Brutus to Cisalpine Gaul [see above];

  3. [C.] Trebonius to Western Asia Minor; and

  4. Tillius Cimber to Bithynia”, (‘Civil Wars’, 3: 2).

In a letter that Cicero wrote to Atticus on 19th April, he asked rhetorically:

  1. “Was this what my (and your) dear Brutus [intended: that:

  2. he should stay at Lanuvium;

  3. Trebonius should use byroads to get to his province; and

  4. all of Caesar’s actions, writings, words, promises, and plans should have greater force than if he were himself alive?”, (‘Letters to Atticus’, 364, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 1999, at p. 159).

Syria: C. Anstitius Vetus; Staius Murcus; Dolabella

It seems that, in his last meeting with the Senate as consul on 28th November 44 BC, the governorship of Macedonia had fallen his older brother, Mark Antony’s older brother.  Cicero claimed that he had:

  1. “... dashed off to Macedonia. [wreaking havoc on the way] .  What had he to do with Apollonia, with Dyrrachium, with Illyricum, or with the army of the imperator Publius Vatinius, [the governor of Illyricum]?  He was succeeding Hortensius, as he said himself.   Macedonia has fixed boundaries, fixed terms of tenure, and a fixed army, if there was any”, (‘Philippics’, 10: 5: 11, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, at Vol. II, p. 109).

The governor whom C. Antonius was attempting to succeed was Q. Hortensius, whom Caesar must had appointed for 44 BC.  Plutarch (Life of Brutus’, 25: 3) referred to him as ‘Hortensius the Praetor’: Geoffrey Sumner (referenced below, at p. 358) observed that, if he had, indeed, previously serve as praetor, he could have don so at any time between 49 BC, when he held a command under Caesar, abd 44 BC.

According to Cassius Dio, Trebonius to western Asia Minor;

and Tillius Cimber to Bithynia.

Cassius and Marcus Brutus, who were the special favourites of the Senate, had also been chosen by Caesar as governors for the following year, the former of Syria, and the latter of Macedonia. But being still city praetors, they [remained at Rome] 1 necessarily, and in their official capacity they conciliated the colonists by various decrees, and among others by one enabling them to sell their allotments, the law hitherto forbidding the alienation of the land till the end of twenty years.

Macedonia and Syria

Antonius received Macedonia, along with Caesar s army, intended for the Parthian campaign; while

  1. [Dolabella] was granted Syria.

[This arrangement] had tangible benefits for each consul.

  1. Macedonia, lying athwart the routes from Rome to the east, was an immensely strategic province and, with its perennially restless tribal neighbours, offered the opportunity of a serious campaign.

  2. Meanwhile Syria, though wracked by the continuing revolt by Q. Caecilius Bassus, was the logical departure point for any campaign against the Parthians.  It was an important commission which provided a chance at glory for an aspiring young consular

  3. Both of these provinciae provided conventional military commands and both were closely associated with Caesar s political legacy: [this] initial allocation of the provinciae consulares contains no clear break from the compromise of 17th March.

According to Appian

“After Brutus and Cassius had left the city, Antony, being in possession of something like monarchical power, cast about for the government of a province and an army for himself.  He desired that of Syria most of all, but he was not ignorant of the fact that he was under suspicion and that he would be more so if he should ask for it; for the Senate had secretly encouraged Dolabella, the other consul, to oppose Antony, as he had always been at variance with him. Antony, knowing that this young Dolabella was himself ambitious, persuaded him to solicit the province of Syria and the army enlisted against the Parthians, to be used against the Parthians, in place of Cassius, and to ask it, not from the Senate, which had not the power to grant it, but from the people by a law. Dolabella was delighted, and immediately brought forward the law. The Senate accused him of nullifying the decrees of Caesar. He replied that Caesar had not assigned the war against the Parthians to anybody, and that Cassius, who had been assigned to the command of Syria, had himself been the first to alter the decrees of Caesar by authorizing colonists to sell their allotments before the expiration of the legal period of twenty years. He said also it would be an indignity to himself if he, Dolabella, were not chosen for  p531 Syria instead of Cassius. The Senate then persuaded one of the tribunes, named Asprenas, to give a false report of the signs in the sky during the comitia, having some hope that Antony, too, who was both consul and augur, and was supposed to be still at variance with Dolabella, would co-operate with him. But when the voting came on, and Asprenas said that the signs in the sky were unfavourable, as it was not his business to attend to this, Antony, angry at his lying, ordered that the tribes should go on with the voting on the subject of Dolabella.

Thus Dolabella became governor of Syria and general of the war against the Parthians and of the forces enlisted for that purpose by Caesar, together with those that had gone in advance to Macedonia. Then it became known for the first time that Antony was co-operating with Dolabella. After this business had been transacted by the people, Antony solicited the province of Macedonia from the Senate, well knowing that after Syria had been given to Dolabella, they would be ashamed to deny Macedonia to himself, especially as it was a province without an army. They gave it to him unwillingly, at the same time wondering why Antony should let Dolabella have the army, but glad nevertheless that the latter had it rather than the former. They themselves took the opportunity to ask of Antony other provinces for Brutus and Cassius, and there were assigned to them Cyrenaica and Crete; or, as some say, both of these to Cassius and Bithynia to Brutus.

Bithynia and Pontus: L. Tillius Cimber; Q. Marcius Crispus

Asia: P. Servilius Isauricus; Trebonius

Gallia Narbonensis and Hither Spain : Lepidus (Cassius Dio, ‘Roman History’, 43: 51: 8)

According to Bradley Jordan (referenced below, at pp. 182-3) argued that:

  1. “... there is no credible evidence  that the allocation of provinciae for 44 BC had been arranged prior to [Caesar’s murder]. ... .  Though there are no explicit references to the date [on which the initial allocations took place, it was probably] between 17th March and 18th April 44 BC.

In addition, at least five men to whom Caesar had awarded military provinces for 44 BC remained in Rome:

  1. M. Aemilius Lepidus (recently replaced by Octavian (see below) as master of horse, now proconsul in  Narbonese Gaul and Nearer Spain);

  2. the consuls designate for 42 BC:

  3. Decimus (now proconsul of Cisalpine Gaul); and

  4. Plancus (now proconsul of Transalpine Gaul); 

  5. C. Trebonius (suffect consul of 45 BC, now proconsul of Asia); and,

  6. L. Tillius Cimber (now governor of Bithynia and Pontus).

Robert Broughton (referenced below, at p. 307) suggested that both Decimus and Tillius Cimber had served as praetors in 45 BC, thereby legitimising their allocation of military provinces in 44 BC.  As we shall see, some of these men played significant roles in Caesar’s murder, as did two of the praetors whom Caesar had appointed for 44 BC:

  1. M. Junius Brutus, the urban praetor; and

  2. C. Cassius Longinus, praetor peregrinus.


He probably joined Antony in carrying in April a law for the settlement of veterans (Cic. Phil. 5. 10-11).

In the same month during Antony's absence from Rome he suppressed a worship of Caesar and destroyed a pillar that had been erected where the body had been burned (Cic. Att. 14.20.2 and 4, and 15.1, and 16.2, and 19.4; Fam. 9.14.7; cf. Phil. 1.5 and 30; 2.107; Dio 44.51.2; Lactant. Inst. Div. 1.15).

In the re-allotment of consular provinces in April he received Syria (Cic. Att. 14.9.3, and 14.4; App. BC 3.7-8, and 12, and 24, and 27; 4.57; Dio 45.15.2; 47.29.1; cf. Cic. Phil. 11.4 and 28; see above, on Antony; and below, Legates, on Cicero).

Soon after presiding over the meeting of the Senate on September 2 (Cic. Phil. 1.27) he prepared to depart for his province, and though still at Formiae on October 25 (Cic. Att. 15.13.5) returned no more to Rome.

He was still Consul when he passed through Macedonia and took with him one legion from Caesar's former army there, and perhaps reached Asia by the end of the year (Cic. Att. 16.15.1; Phil. 11.4 and 16 and 27, delivered by early in March at the latest; App. BC 3.24-26, and 57; Gell. 3.9.4; Dio 45.15.2; 47.29.1; cf. Cic. Phil. 10.13; 11.27; Ad Brut. 1. 11. 1; Plut. Brut. 25. 1; Dio 47.21.3; and on the date, Joseph. AJ 14.225). See 43, Promagistrates. (Broughton MRR II)

Caesar’s Funeral (20th March 44 BC)

His nephew, the young C. Octavian, 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. Lepidus 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 M. Junius Brutus and C. 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 [C. Octavian], 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], C. Octavian [received three quarters of his estate... . At the end of the will, Caesar adopted C. Octavian 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.

C. Octavian

Nicolaus of Damascus, in his biography of  C. Octavian (Caesar’s nephew, whom he adopted posthumously in his will) suggested that his subject entered public life at this point:

  1. “He entered the Forum, aged about 14, to put off the toga praetextata and assume the toga virilis, this being a token of his becoming registered as a man.  Then, while all the citizens looked upon him, because of his comeliness and very evidently noble descent, he sacrificed to the gods and was registered in the sacred college in place of Lucius Domitius, who had died.  The people indeed had very eagerly elected him to this position.  Accordingly, he performed the sacrifice, adorned with the toga virilis and at the same time the honours of a very high priestly office. ... During the Latin Festival, when the consuls had to ascend the Alban Mount to perform the customary sacrifices while the priests succeeded to the jurisdiction of the consuls, Octavian sat on the Tribunal in the centre of the forum. ... Caesar had by this time completed the War in Europe, had conquered Pompey in Macedonia, had taken Egypt, had returned from Syria ... and was intending to advance in to [Africa]”, (‘Life of Augustus’, 5-6).

Although this account is garbled (since the pontifices did not take over the consuls’ jurisdiction during the festival), the account is probably based on fact: Robert Broughton (referenced below, at p. 292) suggested that Octavian:

  1. entered the pontifical college in 47 BC as a replacement for L. Domitius Ahenobarbus, who had died at Pharsalus (although, as we shall see on the following page, Velleius Paterculus dated this appointment to 45 BC); and

  2. was named as urban prefect when Fufius and Calenus celebrated the Latin Festival on the Alban Mount.

Octavian in Spain

According to Nicolaus of Damascus (Life of Augustus’, 9-10), Caesar had originally intended to take Octavian with him to Spain, but this plan was abandoned when Octavian became ill after his exertions in relation to the ludi Veneris Genetricis (above).  When he recovered, Octavian finally took:

  1. “... the long road [to Spain] and approached Caesar, who had already completed the whole war in the space of seven months]”, (Life of Augustus’, 10).

According to Velleius Paterculus:

  1. “At the age of 18,  Octavian followed Caesar to Spain in his campaign there, and Caesar kept him with him thereafter as his companion, allowing him to share the same roof and ride in the same carriage, and though he was still a boy, honoured him with the pontificate”, (‘Roman History’, 2: 59: 3).

(As noted on the previous page, a remark by Nicolaus of Damascus suggests that Caesar might have arranged for Octavian’ entry into the pontifical college as early as 47 BC.)

Arrival with Decimus

Venus games

Octavian was destined to accompany Caesar when he left for Parthia::

  1. according to Nicolaus of Damascus, after his return from Spain with Caesar in September 45 BC:

  2. “Octavian spent three months in Rome and then came and sojourned here [in Apollonia]”, (‘Life of Augustus’, 16); and

  3. according to Velleius Paterculus, Caesar:

  4. “... sent him to Apollonia [in Epirus] to study, with the intention of taking him with him as his companion in his contemplated wars with ... the Parthians”, (‘Roman History’, 2: 59: 3-4).

  1. C. Octavian, (Caesar’s great nephew), who Caesar had appointed as his master of horse, was  at Apollonia in Epirus, waiting for Caesar’s arrival en route to Parthia;

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], presided at [Caesar’s] funeral (if funeral it was) in a most criminal manner. That beautiful tribute to the deceased, the pathos, the incitement, they were yours.  It was you, yes, you, who set light to the firebrands, both those with which Caesar was half-cremated, and those others that set fire to L. Bellienus’ house and burned it down.  It was you who directed those onslaughts of desperate characters (mostly slaves) against our houses, which we repelled by force of arms”, (‘Philippics’, 2: 90, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 2010, at p. 143).

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)

Silver denarius issued by the moneyerP. Sepullius Macer: 44 BC (RRC 480/22)

Obverse:Veiled head of the bearded Mark Antony (indicating his mourning the death of Caesar), with jug and lituus

Reverse: P·SEPVLLIVS MACER: Desultor (performing at circus games)

Minted in Rome  

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 Octavian had been confirmed, Octavian 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 Lepidus.   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.

As we have seen, Octavian was, like Lepidus, 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’s Altar in the Forum

According to Cassius Dio, the consuls Mark Antony and P. Cornelius Dolabella:

  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. “It seemed as though a light of sorts had dawned, with the removal of both the monarchy that we had endured and the fear of its recurrence; it seemed as though [Mark Antony] had given the Republic a mighty pledge of his desire for a free community when ... he totally removed from our constitution the office of dictator, legitimate though it had often been.  A few days later, the Senate was relieved from the threat of a massacre, when the hook was planted in the body of that runaway slave who had usurped the name of Marius.  In all of this, [Mark Antony] acted jointly with his colleague, [Dolabella]; there were other acts besides for which Dolabella was solely responsible, acts which, I imagine, would have been their joint responsibility but for [Mark Antony’s] absence from Rome.  For, when:

  2. a boundless infection was gaining ground in Rome and spreading wider and wider day by day;

  3. the authors of Caesar’s abortive burial were raising a tomb in the Forum; and

  4. more and more desperados with slaves like themselves were daily threatening the houses and temples of our city;

  5. such was action taken by Dolabella:

  6. in punishing not only the bold and criminal slaves but also the foul ruffians consisting of free men; and

  7. in demolishing that accursed pillar;

  8. that I find it strange that his subsequent record stands in such sharp contrast to that one day’s work.

  9. [Unfortunately], on the 1st June, the day of the meeting to which we had been summoned, everything was changed [for the worse - see below]”, (‘Philippics’, 1: 4-6, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 2010, at pp. 9-11). 

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 organising them:

  1. “... were now holding ... [them] 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 way in 44 BC.  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 [wore] 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 Caesar’s victory and accompanied a statue of Caesar.  When they arrived at the Circus, they removed the garlands and mourned [his] death.”

Kathryn Welch (referenced below, 2020, at p. 303, note 10) argued that the desultor (circus acrobat) on the reverse of RRC 840/22 (illustrated above) probably associated the grieving Mark Antony on the obverse with these games in honour of Caesar. 

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

Octavian’s First Dealings with Mark Antony

Octavian quickly returned to Italy and signalled his intention to accept his inheritance by changing his name to C. 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 David Wardle (referenced below).   As he pointed out:

  1. Octavian 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: David 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.”

He 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, he concluded (see his chronology at p. 180) that Octavian entered Rome for the first time since Caesar’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 felt 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. 

Controversy over 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 the decree was enacted 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.  David 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.”

Revival of the Cult Site in the Forum

In late May, M. Brutus and C. Cassius wrote a letter to Mark Antony (that was fortunately preserved by Cicero) to ask his advice on the wisdom of their returning to Rome, since they had wind that there were moves afoot to revive Caesar’s cult:

  1. “Therefore we request you to inform us of your disposition towards us, whether you think we shall be safe among such a multitude of veteran soldiers, who are actually thinking, so we hear, of replacing the altar. It is not easy to believe that anyone who desires our security and dignity can desire and approve of that”, (‘Letters to Friends’, 329: 2, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 2002a, at p. 109).

From this, we can reasonably assume that Caesar’s veterans were planning a replacement for the altar in the Forum that had been destroyed by Dolabella, presumably with Octavian’s support. 

Geoffrey Sumi (referenced below, 2011, at p. 171) reasonably suggested that this replacement monument, now protected from demolition by the veterans, was probably the one that Suetonius described as follow:

  1. “[After Caesar’s funeral, the mob] set up in the Forum a solid column of Numidian marble, almost 20 feet high, and inscribed upon it ‘PARENTI PATRIAE’ (To the father of his country).  At the foot of this they continued for a long time to sacrifice, to make vows, and to settle some of their disputes by an oath in the name of Caesar”  (‘Life of Julius Caesar’, 85).

Caesar’s Birthday and the Re-naming of Quintilis

According to Cassius Dio, in 42 BC (see below), the triumvirs:

  1. “... compelled everybody to celebrate [Caesar’s] birthday by wearing laurel and  ... decreed that those who neglected these observances should be accursed in the sight of Jupiter and of Caesar himself ... Now it happened that the ludi Apollinares [see below] fell on the same day, and they therefore voted that his birthday feast should be celebrated on the previous day, on the ground that there was an oracle of the Sibyl which forbade the holding of a festival on Apollo's day to any god except Apollo”, (‘Roman History’, 47: 18: 6). 

Although the ludi Apollinares took place on consecutive days (7th-13th July) by the late Republic, they had been instituted in 208 BC as a permanent festival held on 13th July.  It is therefore likely that Cassius Dio thought that Caesar had been born on 13th April but that his official birthday was celebrated on 12th July following the decree of 42 BC.  However, as Ernst Badian (referenced below, at p. 16) pointed out, with the exception of Cassius Dio (who cited no sources):

  1. “All our other sources agree on the date [of 12th July for Caesar’s birthday] ..., down to John the Lydian in the 6th century AD.”

Macrobius, who is our most definitive source in this context, recorded that Mark Antony had enacted the renaming of Quintilus as consul, presumably soon after Caesar’s murder.  He explained that:

  1. “.. in Romulus’ system, where March came first [in the calendar], [Iulius] was called Quintilis from its numerical position [as the fifth month], and it still kept that name even after Numa inserted January and February at the start of the year (even though it then appeared as the seventh rather than the fifth month).  Later on, under a law carried by Mark Antony, the son of M., as consul, it was renamed Iulius in honour of Julius Caesar, because he was born a. d. quartum Idus Quintiles (on the 4th day before the Ides of Quintilis - 12th July)”, (‘Saturnalia’, 1: 12: 34, translated by Robert Kaster, referenced below, at p. 153).

Cassius Dio recorded that, in early 44 BC (before Caesar’s murder), the Senate had:

  1. “... voted to celebrate [Caesar’s] birthday by public sacrifice ...”, (‘Roman History’, 44: 4: 4).

Cicero, who heard from Atticus that the new name was to be retained in the official announcement of the ludi Apollinares (see below), expressed his outrage in his reply of :

  1. “Is it really so? ‘Nonis Iuliis’ [7th 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, although nothing in our surviving sources indicates that public sacrifices were actually made on Caesar’s birthday before 42 BC (see below), it is clear that Mark Antony had enacted the law in which Quintilis became Iulius at sometime between 15th March and 7th July 44 BC.

Mark Antony’s Return to Rome (1st June)

As noted above, Cicero felt that things had taken a significant turn for the worse when Mark Antony returned to Rome at the beginning of June.  Thus, in his privately circulated second ‘Philippic’, which he wrote a few months later, he looked back on the events that had surrounded it:

  1. “... when the whole City turned upside down!  It reminded us of:

  2. the excessive power of Cinna and the despotism of Sulla that followed it; and

  3. more recently, of Caesar’s monarchy.

  4. ... But, what an uncivilised, monstrous display yours is: we see men armed with swords, who follow you in battle order, and litters full of shields being carried about.  All this has become a thing of habit ... On the 1t of June, when we wished to enter the Senate [for the meeting that] had been arranged [for that day], we took sudden flight in terror.  [Mark Antony], since he had no need of the Senate, regretted nobody’s absence; rather he was pleased to see us disperse and immediately carried out those amazing deeds of his.  Having defended Caesar’s handwritten documents for his own gain, he proceeded to overturn Caesar’s laws, excellent laws, in order to undermine the Republic. He extended the tenure of provincial office; and though he ought to have been the defender of Caesar’s acts, he actually rescinded Caesar’s acts in matters both public and private. ... [He] annulled some [of Caesar’s laws] without notice and gave notice of his intention to annul others; and he nullified Caesar’s will, despite the fact that a will has traditionally always retained its validity, even for the humblest.  [Irrespective of this, Mark Antony] removed the statues and paintings that Caesar had bequeathed to the people along with his suburban estate, [dividing] those objects between Pompeius’ estate, [which Mark Antony had bought in 47 BC] and Scipio’s villa [the villa of Q. Caecilius Metellus Pius Scipio, Pompeius’ father-in-law, which Mark Antony had presumably also acquired at auction]”, (‘Philippics’, 2: 108-9, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 2010, at pp. 161-3).

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.  However, he had to suffer yet another indignity: in addition to his forced absence, he had to accept the fact that he was financing games in the month (originally 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?  ‘Nonis Iuliis (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, as Plutarch recorded:

  1. “The people ... had their games, in spite of [Brutus’] absence, and these were very lavishly and magnificently appointed: Brutus, who had purchased a great number of wild beasts, 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) 

As we have seen, Cicero had written to Atticus on 18th May about what had probably been Octavian’s first 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 ... ”, (‘Letters to Atticus’, 379: 3, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 1999, at p. 225).

Both Suetonius and Cassius Dio believed that  these games had been planned before Caesar’s death:

  1. Suetonius:

  2. “Furthermore, since those who had been appointed to celebrate the ludos autem victoriae Cesaris [games in honour of Caesar's victory] did not dare to do so [in 44 BC, Octavian] gave them himself” (‘Life of Augustus’, 10).

  3. Cassius Dio:

  4. “After [Octavian’s speech of May 44 BC] came the games appointed in honour of the completion of the temple of Venus [Genetrix], which some, while Caesar was still alive, had promised to celebrate, but which they were now holding in slight regard ... ; so, to win the favour of the populace, [Octavian] provided for them at his private expense, on the grounds that they concerned him because of his family”, (Roman History’, 45: 6: 4).

According to Pliny the Elder (see below), these undefined people whom Caesar had been appointed to celebrate the games in fact belonged to a college that he had established for the purpose, to which Octavian actually belonged.  John Ramsey and Arthur Lewis Licht (referenced below, at p. 50) suggested that the dereliction of duty attributed to the other members of the college in the quotes above:

  1. “... sound like pretexts for Octavian to take matters into his own hands.”

After all (as discussed further below), Octavian held the games in July, well in advance of the ‘normal’ date of 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: Appian, who recorded that Mark Antony had already prohibited the lawful exhibition of these divine attributes earlier in the year (as discussed above), now recorded that he:

  1. “... prohibited this still more unreasonably in the next games, [which were] given by Octavian himself, and which had been instituted by his father in honour of Venus Genetrix when he had dedicated a temple to her in a forum, together with that forum itself”, (‘Civil Wars’, 3: 28: 107).

Cassius Dio gave a similar account relating of this second occasion:

  1. “At this time, out of fear of [Mark] Antony, [Octavian] did not bring into the theatre either Caesar's gilded chair or his crown set with precious stones, as had been permitted by decree” (‘Roman History, 45: 6:4).

Date and Nature of the Games 

Caesar had inaugurated the ludi Veneris Genitricis on 26 September 46 BC.  John Ramsey and Arthur Lewis Licht (referenced below, at p. 43) argued that he had almost certainly celebrated these games for the second time shortly after his victory in Spain of 45 BC:

  1. “Caesar’s [Spanish] triumph [of 45 BC] will have taken place ... precisely in the period during which  the games to Venus [Genetrix] had been celebrated in 46 BC, ... [which] presumably began on 26th September and ran at least through to the end of the month and probably into October.” 

They also   observed (at p. 42) that:

  1. “ ... this double connection with triumphal returns of Caesar (in 46 and again in 45 BC) ... most probably explains why the festival was transformed into [the ludi Victoria Caesaris, which were [subsequently] celebrated on 20-30 July] under the empire.”

I think that it probably also explains why Matius (in his letter to Cicero) and Suetonius, both quoted above, referred to Octavian’s games as “games in honour of Caesar's victory”.

As John Ramsey and Arthur Lewis Licht (referenced below, at p. 41) pointed out:

  1. “The bulk of our sources [which they reproduced in Appendix I, pp. 157-77] would lead us to believe that the games were still being called ludi Veneris Genitricis [when Octavian held them] in 44 BC.”

This did not preclude their being additionally funerary games:  the inaugural games of 46 BC had included funerary games for Caesar’s daughter, Julia.  Matius stated in his letter to Cicero that Octavian’s games of 44 BC were funerary games for Caesar.  So too did Servius, in his commentary on this passage from Virgil, in which the poet described Octavian at the Battle of Actium, when:

  1. “... his father’s star adorned the crest [of his helmet]” (‘Aenid’, (8.681);

Servius noted that this star/comet had appeared:

  1. “... dum sacrificaretur Veneri Genetrici et ludi funebres Caesari exhiberentur” (‘Vergilii Aeneidos Commentarius’, 8, 681)

  2. “... while [Octavian] was sacrificing to Venus Genetrix and holding funerary games for Caesar” (my translation).

However, as noted above, it is clear that Octavian announced his intention to hold these games in May 44 BC, and that they had certainly been held before Matius’ letter to Cicero in the following August.  The date might be inferred from the fact that the ludi Victoria Caesaris were subsequently celebrated on 20-30 July: John Ramsey and Arthur Lewis Licht (referenced below, at p. 41) argued that:

  1. “... in 44 BC, conditions were ripe for holding in July the games that were to be the forerunner of the imperial ludi Victoria Caesaris”;

but that, despite the change of date, the name of the games initially remained unchanged.  Indeed, as they noted at p. 56, Cassius Dio recorded that:

  1. “... the consuls [of 34 BC] celebrated the festival held in honour of Venus Genetrix” (‘Roman History, 49:42:1).

Clearly, these games subsequently became the ludi Victoria Caesaris.

Octavian had a number of reasons for wishing to hold funerary games for his father, not the least of which was probably his desire to demonstrate filial piety and to draw attention to the fact that Mark Antony was still blocking the formalisation his posthumous adoption by Caesar.  July was an excellent month for his purposes: it was the month of Caesar’s  birth and had been renamed in his honour: and 20th July was exactly four months after Caesar’s funeral.  Unfortunately, as Matius had pointed out (above), funerary games were a matter of private obligation with no constitutional significance.  However, as John Ramsey and Arthur Lewis Licht (referenced below, at p. 52 ) pointed out:

  1. “If [Octavian] could not openly advertise Caesar’s divinity [by, for example, securing the enactment of the decree relating to the exhibition of his golden throne and crown in the theatre], he could at least indirectly convey his message by using the ludi Veneris Genitricis to lend an aura of divine majesty to Caesar’s funeral games. The close connection between Venus [Genetrix] and he most famous descendant [Caesar] had recently been demonstrated during [his] funeral, when [as noted in the main page on Octavian] his body had been laid out in a gilded replica of [her temple] that was placed on the rostra ”. 

By advancing the date of these public games to 20th July, just a week after Brutus’ ludi Apollinares (see the main page on Octavian), Octavian was able to secure a major boost to Caesar’s cult. 

The fortuitous appearance of the comet during the games provided the icing on the cake.  As John Ramsay (referenced below, 2001, 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.”

Perhaps the best evidence for this is the fact that (as we shall see) Mark Antony now began to relax to an extent his earlier opposition to the establishment of Caesar’s cult.

As noted above, Cicero wrote to Atticus on 18th May 44 BC, expressing dismay that Matius and Postumus were involved in the organisation of these games, which Octavian had recently announced.  In late 44 BC, after the event, Matius wrote to Cicero justifying his actions:

  1. “[My critics complain that] I superintended the ludos quos Caesaris victoriae [games in honour of Caesar's victory] that were  given by [Octavian].  That is a matter of private obligation with no constitutional significance.  [It was merely] a service that I was bound to render to the memory of a dear friend even after his death, and I could not refuse  the request of a young man [Octavian] of very great promise and in the highest degree worthy of Caesar”, (‘Letters to Friends’, 349: 6, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 2002a, at p. 163).

Sidus Iulium (Julian Star)

Pliny the Elder’s account of these games is the most important of the surviving sources, not only because it is the earliest to describe them in any detail but also because (as noted, for example, by Christopher Smith, in Tim Cornell (editor), referenced below, Vol. II, p. 881) Pliny included what is probably a direct quotation from the lost memoirs of the late Emperor Augustus (i.e. of Octavian himself).  Pliny reported that:

  1. “Rome is the only place in the whole world where there is a temple dedicated to a comet; [Octavian] regarded this comet as auspicious to [himself] because it appeared during the games that he was celebrating in honour of Venus Genetrix, not long after the death of his father Caesar, as a member of the college that Caesar had founded.  He [Octavian] expressed his joy in these terms:

  2. ‘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’.

  3. This is what [Octavian] proclaimed in public but, in secret, he rejoiced at this auspicious omen, believing that it had been for himself and that he was born in it; and, to tell the truth, it really proved a salutary omen for the world at large” (Natural History’, 2: 23).

As noted above, 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).

Other authors produced similar reports:

  1. Suetonius:

  2. “[Caesar] died in the 56th year of his age and was numbered among the gods, not only by a formal decree, but also in the conviction of the common people.  For at the first of the games which his heir [Octavian] gave in honour of his apotheosis, a comet shone for 7 successive days, rising about the 11th hour, and was believed to be the soul of Caesar, who had been taken to heaven; and this is why a star is set upon the crown of his head in his statue” (‘Life of Julius Caesar’, 88).

  3. Cassius Dio:

  4. “When, however, a certain star, which some called a comet, appeared in the north toward evening during [every day of the games], the majority ... ascribed it to Caesar, interpreting it to mean that he had become immortal and had been received into the number of the stars.  [Octavian] then took courage and set up a bronze statue of Caesar with a star above his head in the temple of Venus”  (‘Roman History, 45:7:1).

Senate Meeting on 1st August

L. Calpurnius Piso

Improved Relations with Mark Antony

In the aftermath of Octavian’s games, he and Mark Antony, under pressure from their respective armies, were publicly reconciled.  According to Appian, the first demonstration of this came when Octavian helped Mark Antony to overturn Caesar’s allocation of provinces to his own advantage:

  1. “The law concerning Cisalpine Gaul, [which Caesar had given to Decimus], was proposed at once to the great dismay of the senators.  They intended:

  2. if Antony should first bring the law before them, to reject it; and

  3. if he should bring it before the popular assembly without consulting them, to send the tribunes of the people to veto it. 

  4. ... When the day for the comitia came, the Senate expected that the people would be summoned by centuries, but the Antonians, who had enclosed the forum with a rope during the night summoned them by tribes according to a plan they had agreed upon.  Although the plebeians were angry with Antony, they nevertheless co-operated with him for the sake of Octavian, who stood alongside the rope and begged them to do so.  ... The tribunes, too, had been corrupted with money by Antony and remained silent.  So, the law was passed and Antony now with plausible reason began to bring his army across the Adriatic [from Macedonia]”, (‘Civil Wars’, 3: 30).

Thus, with Octavian’s help,  Mark Antony (whom Caesar had designated as Governor of Macedonia for the 2 years following his consulship) 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 - source needed].

Posthumous Honour for Caesar

Cassius Dio recorded that, after the public reaction to the appearance of the comet on 21st July (described above):

  1. “... at last, some of the other decrees that had been passed in honour of Caesar were put into effect.  Thus, ...  in the course of certain supplicationes (festivals of thanksgiving), [the Romans] sacrificed during one special day in memory of his name”, (‘Roman History’, 45: 7: 2).

Cassius Dio had already recorded that, in 45 BC (when Caesar was still alive) the Senate had decreed that:

  1. “... a special thanksgiving and sacrifices should be offered [in Caesar’s name] whenever any victory should occur, even if he had not been on the campaign or had any hand at all in the achievements”, (‘Roman History’, 43: 44: 5).

As John Ramsey (referenced below, 2003, at p. 110) pointed out, the posthumous honour for Caesar that Mark Antony put before the Senate on 1st September:

  1. “ ... did not concern a supplicatio of the traditional sort: rather, it provided for the permanent addition of an extra day in Caesar’s honour to all future supplicationes. ... it therefore marked a radical innovation, and contributed to the elevation of Caesar to the status of being a new Roman god.”

The reason is that, on this extra day, sacrifices of thanksgiving would be made to Caesar’s departed spirit.  Cicero had not attended this meeting, but the speech that he gave on the following day encapsulated what he would have said, had he done so.  His substantive remarks on this decree were as follows:

  1. “Or do you think, Members of the Senate, that I would have supported the decree that you passed against your will:

  2. that parentatio (a  sacrifice in honour of the dead) should be mixed up with supplicationes (public thanksgivings);

  3. that sacrilege incapable of expiation should be introduced into the commonwealth;

  4. that supplicationes be decreed to a dead man?

  5. Never mind to which dead man.  Let us say it was L. Brutus, who freed the Republic from regal despotism and now, almost 500 years later, has inspired his descendants to a courageousness and a deed like his own.  Even so, I would not be able to be persuaded to link any dead man with the worship of the immortal gods, so that prayers of public thanksgiving are addressed to a man whose tomb, where offerings can be made [in the proper way] to the departed spirit, exists somewhere”, (‘Philippics’, 1: 13, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 2010, at p. 19). 

In his commentary on this passage, John Ramsey (referenced below, 2003, at p. 113) explained that Cicero argued that honouring a dead mortal with a supplicatio (rather than honouring him in the normal way, at his tomb during the Parentalia) constituted a heinous sacrilege, and that:

  1. “... in providing for Caesar to be ... honoured [in supplicationes], even after his death, [the Senate allowed] the boundary between human and divine [to be] blurred.” 

Mark Antony’s Ambivalent Attitude towards the Cult

Cicero’s speech of 2nd September seriously soured his relations with Mark Antony.  Thus, Cicero wisely avoided attending a meeting of the Senate that Mark Antony convened on 19th September (see below).  He did however compose a speech that was highly critical of Mark Antony: it was written as if it had been delivered on 19th September, and was probably published in late December.  (See John Ramsey, referenced below, 2003, at pp. 155-9 for the context.)  It contained a particular accusation against Mark Antony that is of relevance here: that, since Caesar’s death, he had been extremely selective in maintaining the honours that had been granted to Caesar in his lifetime, including some that had implied or actually acknowledged his divinity:

  1. “And are you, [Mark Antony], looking after Caesar’s memory ?  Do you love him, [now that he is] in his grave? What greater honour had Caesar attained than to have:

  2. -a pulvinar [a cushioned couch for the gods];

  3. -a simulacrum [an image, usually of a god];

  4. -a fastigium [a gable added to his official house that made it resemble a temple]; and

  5. -a flamen [priest]? 

  6. Just as Jupiter and Mars and Quirinus have their priests, so the divine Julius has [Mark Antony]. Why do you delay then? Why are you not inaugurated? Choose a date, choose someone to inaugurate you. We are your colleagues, nobody will refuse.  Abominable creature, whether because you are the priest of a tyrant or of a dead man!”, (‘Philippics’, 2: 110, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 2010, at p. 163). 

The speech then turned to another example of Mark Antony’s dereliction:

  1. “Next I ask whether you, [Mark Antony], are unaware what day it is today.  Do you not know that yesterday was the4th day of the chariot races at the Roman Games, and that you yourself put a law through an assembly of the people providing for a 5th day to be added in Caesar’s honour?  Why are we not in our holiday clothes?  Why do we let the honour granted Caesar by your law be omitted?  Perhaps you allowed public thanksgivings to be polluted by adding a day but did not want pollution to sully the sacred couches?  Either abolish religion altogether or preserve it in every possible respect”, (‘Philippics’, 2: 110, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 2010, at p. 163).

Cicero then summed up what all this said about Mark Antony:

  1. “You ask whether I approve of the sacred couch, the gable, the special priest.  Certainly not, none of it has my approval.  But you, who are the defender of Caesar’s acts, how can you explain your defence of some acts and indifference to others?  Unless perhaps you are willing to admit that you measure everything by your own profit, not by Caesar’s honour.”, (‘Philippics’, 2: 111, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 2010, at p. 163).

Senate Meeting of 19th September

As we saw above, Cicero had found it expedient to avoid attending the meeting of the Senate that Mark Antony convened on 19th September.  We know from a letter of apology that he wrote to Plancus at about this time that the meeting had originally been convened to consider honours for Plancus, presumably associated with his summer campaign in Gaul.  Cicero wrote that:

  1. “As a friend, had I been able to enter the Senate in security and dignity [on 19th September], I would not have failed to support the decree in your honour.  However, it is dangerous for any man of independent political views to move about in public [at times such as these], when swords are drawn with complete impunity; and it does not seem to comport with my dignity to make a speech in a House where men-at-arms would hear me better and at shorter distance than senators”, (‘Letters to Friends’, 341: 1, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 2002a, at p. 137).

It seems that Mark Antony used this meeting to respond in terms to Cicero’s attack on him on 2nd September.

Events of November 44 BC

As the end of the consular year approached, Mark Antony’s priority was to secure his new province before the period of his consulship ended.  However, since Decimuus (the incumbent) was unlikely to relinquish it voluntarily, Mark Antony needed an army.  He therefore left Rome for Brundisium in November in order to receive with the legions that he had repatriated from Macedonia when he had secured the transfer of his provincia fro Macedonia to Cisalpine Gaul.. 

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.

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 28th 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).

This was the last time that Mark Antony addressed the Senate during his consulship: he immediately left Rome for Cisalpine Gaul.  Cicero returned to Rome on 9th December in order to fill the political vacuum, as civil war loomed.

We can reconstruct the remaining events of the year from Cicero’s so-called 3rd ‘Philippic’, the speech that he made to the Senate on 20th December 44 BC as the most senior ex-consul present.  He began by asserting that the meeting had been called before the start of the new consular year because:

  1. “[Mark Antony] is attempting to invade the province of our noble and distinguished fellow countryman Decimus Brutus with an army and  ... threatens, when he is equipped and ready, to march on Rome”, (‘Philippics’, 3: 1, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 2010, at p. 179).

He thus began the deliberations that would lead to open warfare between the Roman Senate and Mark Antony, despite the fact that he was still a consul and arguably entitled to take over from Decimus as proconsul of Cisalpine Gaul for the following year.


the Senate of 20th December (see below) Cicero referred to  two notable actions that had been taken at this earlier meeting:

  1. “So that [Mark Antony] might not appear to have ordered  the Senate to meet for no reason, ... [and] when the news about the [defection of] 4th legion came, which entirely bewildered him and made him anxious to flee, he took a division on the resolution for decreeing this supplication [for M. Lepidus], though such a proceeding had never been heard of before”, (‘3rd Philippic’, 23); and

  2. “[Apparently after Mark Antony had left the meeting, the Senate carried out] the allotment of the [praetorian] provinces; and heavenly indeed was the opportunity, when every one got exactly what he thought most desirable”, (‘3rd Philippic’, 24).

, 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  (see above); 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)  

Augustus began his later account of his deeds by proclaiming that:

  1. “At the age of 19, on my own initiative and at my own expense, I raised [a private] army by means of which I restored liberty to the Republic, which had been oppressed by the tyranny of a faction.  [In recognition of] this service, in [43 BC], the Senate:

  2. passed honorific decrees admitting to to [the Senate], at the same time giving me consular precedence in stating my opinion;

  3. gave me the imperium; and

  4. ordered me, as propraetor, to take precautions, together with the consuls, in order prevent the State from suffering harm”, (‘Res Gestae Divi Augusti’, 1: 1-6).

Thus, Augustus (as he was at the time of writing, began his account shortly after his 19th birthday (23rd September 44 BC), when (as we have seen) he had raised an army of Caesarian veterans in Campania.

“Caesar, many years 44younger, armed veterans who now wanted peace and quiet; and he embraced a cause most highly favored by the senate, by the people, by all Italy, by gods and men. Also Pompeius joined Lucius Sulla’s mighty command and victorious army: Caesar attached himself to nobody, was himself the first to form an army and to create a defense. Pompeius held the territory of Picenum, hostile to the opposing party: Caesar raised an army against Antonius from Antonius’ friends—but better friends of freedom. With Pompeius’ help Sulla reigned: by Caesar’s intervention Antonius’ despotism has been crushed. Therefore, let 45us give Caesar that authority without which no military business can be conducted, no army held, no war waged: let him be propraetor in full status. While it is a great honor at his age, it is yet relevant to the necessity of military operations, not just to prestige.

[17] So let us ask for what we shall obtain just as of today; but I expect that both we and the Roman people will have many opportunities in times to come of conferring honors on this young man.

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.”

Decimus in Cisalpine Gaul (May - 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: 4, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 2002a, at pp. 265-7).

He also brought bad news in relation to the situation of Mark Antony, who had fled from Mutina:

  1. ... with a petty little band of unarmed foot soldiers.  However, by throwing open the slave barracks and laying hands on every sort of [available] manpower, he seems to have made up a pretty sizeable body.  He has been joined by [P. Ventidius Bassus, a serving praetor, whom according to Appian (‘Histories’, 3: 66) had raised assembled three legions in Picenum], who, after a very difficult march across the Apennines, reached Vada [Sabatia in Liguria] and linked up with [Mark] Antony there.  There is a pretty considerable number of veterans and armed troops with Ventidius”, (‘Letters to Friends’, 385: 3, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 2002a, at p. 265).

Finally, he described the sorry state of his on army:

  1. “I cannot any longer feed my men.  When I [began] the work of liberation [from Caesar], I had a fortune of over HS40,000,000.  Now, my whole estate is encumbered; not only that, but I have involved all my friends in debt.  I am maintaining seven legions, you may imagine with what difficulty”, (‘Letters to Friends’, 385: 4, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 2002a, at p. 267).

On the following day, he provided an important assessment of the precarious nature of the senatorial position:

  1. “[Mark] Antony is on the march: he is going to Lepidus, [then the governor of Narbonese Gaul and Nearer Spain].  He has not yet even given up hope of [winning the support of] Plancus, [the governor of Transalpine Gaul], as I have discovered from some papers of his that have come my way, in which he entered the names of his various emissaries [that he had sent] to [C. Asinius Pollio, the governor of Further Spain], Lepidus, and Plancus.  However, I entertained no misgivings, and sent word to Plancus straight away”, (‘Letters to Friends’, 386: 4, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 2002a, at pp. 267-9).

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; 1, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 2002a, at p. 307).

Thereafter, Decimus and his dejected army continued their increasingly difficult pursuit of Mark Antony.

Mark Antony and Lepidus (July)

On about 1st July, Cicero wrote to Cassius, informing hime that:

  1. “Lepidus, your relation [through marriage] and my friend, was declared a public enemy by unanimous vote of the Senate on 30 June, as also those who joined him in defecting [to Mark Antony]. ... The Senate is in stout heart to be sure, but principally because they expect succour from you. At the time of writing, we have a major war on our hands through Lepidus’ criminality and fickleness”, (‘Letters to Friends’, 425: 1, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 2002a, at p. 387).

Some days later, Cicero wrote to Brutus’

  1. “The State is in the gravest peril, Brutus, and after our victory [at Mutina], we are now forced to join battle once more.  This has happened because of the criminal folly of M. Lepidus. ... Lepidus’ case can in no way be distinguished from [Mark] Antony’s, and is universally judged to be even less defensible than his, in that after the Senate had honoured him with the highest distinctions and only a few days after sending a splendid dispatch to that body, Lepidus suddenly let in the remnants of the enemy and, not content with that, is waging war energetically by land and sea. ... [We] pin our best hope at this time on you and your army.  It is of great importance to the national cause and to your own glory and prestige that, as I have written before, you return to Italy as soon as possible.  The State sorely needs your strength and your counsel too”, (‘Letters to Brutus’, 21, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 2002b, at p. 265).

From these two letters, we discover that Cicero considered that the defection of Lepidus had marked a turning point in the war, and that all his hopes now rested on securing the return of Cassisu and Brutus with their respective armies in order to counter the expected invasion by Mark Antony and Lepidus.

Cicero and Octavian

Cicero’s next letter to Brutus 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).

Since we do not have this letter from Brutus, the nature of his complaint has the be extracted from Cicero’s somewhat tortuous response. 

Cicero 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.  We had no force to pit against their passionate desire for a political upheaval”, (‘Letters to Brutus’, 23, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 2002b, at pp. 273-5).

This was disingenuous, since Cicero had considered Lepidus as an ally until his recent and unexpected  defection.  However, Cicero reasonably pointed out that, since Brutus and Cassius had been forced to leave Italy, he had been forced to rely on Octavian, and that this had necessitated the voting of honours to him by way of inducement:

  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.  When we first began to call freedom back, before [Decimus’] superlative valour had visibly come into action [i.e., when Decimus was under siege], our only protection was this lad, who had thrust Antony off our necks.  What honour ought we not to have voted him?  However, I at that time paid him a verbal tribute (and that in moderation) and voted him military authority.  That, no doubt, seemed an honour at his age, but it was necessary since he had an army; for what is an army without military authority?  Philippus voted him a statue, Servius the right to stand for office in advance of the legal age, a privilege which was later extended by Servilius.  Nothing seemed too much at the time”, (‘Letters to Brutus’, 23, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 2002b, at p. 277).

This, of course, glosses over the undeserved honour that Cicero had secured for Octavian after the ‘victory’ at Forum Gallorum, which was presumably what Brutus had had in mind.  

All this related to the past, but Cicero turnhe had proposed another honour for Octavian, even though he had refused to assist Decimus Brutus in his pursuit of Mark Antony and was still at Mutina, in command of what had been Pansa’s army:

  1. “I suspect that another proposal of mine is less to your liking ... : namely that Caesar 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 failed 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, Q. Pedius, was appointed as his colleague, and Cicero left Rome for the last time.  Among his first acts as consul (see, for example, Appian, ‘Histories’, 3: 94), Octavian: 

  1. 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

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

Lex Pedia

More importantly, as he wrote in his own account of his deeds, Octavian recorded that, as consul for the first time:

  1. “I drove those who killed my father, [Caesar], into exile, punishing their deed by due process of law”, (‘Res Gestae Divi Augusti’, 2).

Velleius Paterculus described the legislation in question:

  1. “And by the Pedian law, which the consul Pedius, [Octavian’s] colleague, had proposed, all those who had killed ... Caesar, being condemned, were denied water and fire (i.e., exiled)”, (‘Roman History’, 2: 69: 5, translated by Kathryn Welch (referenced below, 2014, at p. 141).

Cassius Dio made it clear that charges were laid against many men who had not directly participated in Caesar’s murder:

  1. “Charges were immediately laid, with [Octavian’s] associates accusing some men of personally participating [in Caesar’s murder] and others simply of being accomplices.   The latter charge was actually formally made even against people who had not been in Rome when Caesar had been killed”, (‘Civil Wars’, 3: 95, translated by Kathryn Welch, 2014, referenced below, at p. 142).

Cassius Dio added that the law was:

  1. “... concocted especially against Sextus Pompeius; for although he had had no share whatever in the attack, he was nevertheless condemned because he had been an enemy [of Caesar]”, (‘Roman History’, 46: 48: 4).  

However, as Kathryn Welch (referenced below, 2014, at p. 145) observed:

  1. “The sources are in agreement ... on the matter of punishment: [at this point, it involved] interdiction rather than summary execution.”

Reconciliation with Mark Antony (October)

Mark Antony’s position was greatly enhanced in late 43 BC, when  both Plancus and Pollio defected to his cause.  Decimus fled from Plancus’ camp and was soon captured and executed on Mark Antony’s orders.  Thus, while Octavian was dominant in Rome, where he now controlled the Senate, he was vulnerable to attack by:

  1. the resurgent Mark Antony and his ally, M. Aemilius Lepidus, from the north;

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

  3. potentially, Sextus Pompeius, the son of Pompey the Great, who had been reconciled with Mark Antony in the summer of 44 BC: Sextusus 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, he 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.  After his departure, Q. Pedius, Octavian’s consular colleague, persuaded the senators ... to be reconciled to Lepidus and Antony: they foresaw that such a reconciliation would not be to their advantage or to that of the country, but would be merely strengthen Octavian against Brutus and Cassius, but they nevertheless went along with it as a matter of necessity.  Thus, the decrees declaring Antony and Lepidus, and the soldiers under them, public enemies, were repealed ...”, (‘Civil Wars’, 3: 96). 

Read more:

Welch K. , “M. Antonius: Words and Images”, in:

  1. Pina Polo, F. (editor), “The Triumviral Period: Civil War, Political Crisis and Socioeconomic Transformations”, (2020) Seville, at pp. 301-26

Wardle D., “Baby Steps for Octavian: 44 BC ?”, Classical Quarterly 68.1 (2018) 178–91

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

Welch K., “The Lex Pedia of 43 BCE and its Aftermath”, Hermathena, 196-7  (2014) 137-62

Cornell T. C. (editor), “The Fragments of Roman History”, (2013) Oxford

Lange C. H., “Triumph and Civil War in the Late Republic”, Papers of the British School at Rome, 81 (2013) Leiden and Boston

Kaster R. A., “Macrobius: Saturnalia, Volume I; Books 1-2”, (2011) Cambridge MA

Shackleton Bailey D. R. (translator), “Cicero: Philippics , 1-6 (Vol. I)”, (2010) Cambridge, MA

Badian E.., “From the Iulii to Caesar”, in:

  1. Griffin M. (editor), “Companion to Julius Caesar’ (2009) Chichester and Malden, MA, at pp. 11-22

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

Ramsey J., “Cicero: Philippics I-II”, (2003) Cambridge

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

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

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

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

Ramsey J. and Licht A. L., “The Comet of 44 B.C. and Caesar's Funeral Games”, (1997) Atlanta, Georgia

Sumner G. V., “The Lex Annalis under Caesar (Continued)”, Phoenix, 25:4 (1971) 357-71

Broughton T. R. S., “The Magistrates of the Roman Republic. Vol. II : 99 BC - 31 BC”, (1952) New York

Mitchell H., “The Reputation of L. Munatius Plancus and the Idea of Serving the Times”, in:

  1. Osgood J., Morrel K. and Welch K. (editors), “The Alternative Augustan Age”,(2019)  Oxford, at pp. 163-81

Jordan B., “Consular Provinciae of 44 BCE and the Collapse of the Restored Republic”, Hermes, 145:2 (2017) 174-94

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