Roman Empire > Roman Empire History > From The Death Of Caesar To The Battle Of Philippi - b.C. 44-42

From The Death Of Caesar To The Battle Of Philippi - b.C. 44-42

When the bloody deed had been finished, Brutus and the other conspirators rushed into the forum, proclaiming that they had killed the Tyrant, and calling the people to join them; but they met with no response, and, finding alone averted looks, they retired to the Capitol. Here they were joined by Cicero, who had not been privy to the conspiracy, but was now one of the first to justify the murder. Meantime the friends of Cæsar were not idle. M. Lepidus, the Master of the Horse, who was in the neighborhood of the city, marched into the Campus Martius in the night; and M. Antony hastened to the house of the Dictator, and took possession of his papers and treasures. But both parties feared to come to blows. A compromise was agreed to; and at a meeting of the Senate it was determined that Cæsar's murderers should not be punished, but, on the other hand, that all his regulations should remain in force, that the provisions of his will should be carried into effect, and that he should be honored with a public funeral. The conspirators descended from the Capitol; and, as a proof of reconciliation, Cassius supped with Antony and Brutus with Lepidus.

This reconciliation was only a pretense. Antony aspired to succeed to the power of the Dictator; and, to rouse the popular fury against the conspirators, Cæsar's will was immediately made public. He left as his heir his great-nephew Octavius, a youth of 18, the son of Atia, the daughter of his sister Julia. He bequeathed considerable legacies to his murderers. He gave his magnificent gardens beyond the Tiber to the public, and to every Roman citizen he bequeathed the sum of 300 sesterces (between £2 and £8 sterling). When this became known a deep feeling of sorrow for the untimely fate of their benefactor seized the minds of the people. Their feelings were raised to the highest point two or three days afterward, when the funeral took place. The body was to be burned in the Campus Martius, but it was previously carried to the forum, where Antony, according to custom, pronounced the funeral oration over it. After relating the exploits of the great Dictator, reciting his will, and describing his terrible death, he lifted up the blood-stained robe which Cæsar had worn in the Senate-house, and which had hitherto covered the corpse, and pointed out the numerous wounds which disfigured the body. At this sight a yell of indignation was raised, and the mob rushed in every direction to tear the murderers to pieces. The conspirators fled for their lives from the city. The poet Helvius Cinna, being mistaken for the Prætor Cinna, one of the assassins, was sacrificed on the spot before the mistake could be explained.

Antony was now master of Rome. Being in possession of Cæsar's papers, he was able to plead the authority of the Dictator for every thing which he pleased. The conspirators hastened to take possession of the provinces which Cæsar had assigned to them. Dec. Brutus repaired to Cisalpine Gaul, M. Brutus to Macedonia, and Cassius to Syria. Antony now made a disposition of the provinces, taking Cisalpine Gaul for himself, and giving Macedonia to his brother C. Antonius, and Syria to Dolabella.

Meantime a new actor appeared upon the stage. Octavius was at Apollonia, a town on the coast of Illyricum, at the time of his uncle's death. Cæsar had determined to take his nephew with him in his expedition against the Parthians, and had accordingly sent him to Apollonia, where a camp had been formed, that he might pursue his military studies. The soldiers now offered to follow him to Italy and avenge their leader's death, but he did not yet venture to take this decisive step. He determined, however, to sail at once to Italy, accompanied by only a few friends. Upon arriving at Brundusium he heard of the will of the Dictator, and was saluted by the soldiers as Cæsar. As the adopted heir of his uncle his proper name was now C. Julius Cæsar Octavianus, and by the last of these names we shall henceforth call him. He now made up his mind to proceed to Rome and claim his uncle's inheritance, in opposition to the advice of his mother, who dreaded this dangerous honor for her son. Upon arriving at Rome he declared before the Prætor, in the usual manner, that he accepted the inheritance, and he then promised the people to pay the money bequeathed to them. He even ventured to claim of Antony the treasures of his uncle; but, as the latter refused to give them up, he sold the other property, and even his own estates, to discharge all the legacies. Antony threw every obstacle in his way; but the very name of Cæsar worked wonders, and the liberality of the young man gained the hearts of the people. He had, indeed, a difficult part to play. He could not join the murderers of his uncle; and yet Antony, their greatest enemy, was also his most dangerous foe. In these difficult circumstances the youth displayed a prudence and a wisdom which baffled the most experienced politicians. Without committing himself to any party, he professed a warm attachment to the Senate. Cicero had once more taken an active part in public affairs; and Octavian, with that dissimulation which he practiced throughout his life, completely deceived the veteran orator. On the 2d of September Cicero delivered in the Senate the first of his orations against Antony, which, in imitation of those of Demosthenes against Philip, are known by the name of the Philippics. Antony was absent at the time, but shortly afterward attacked the orator in unmeasured terms. Cicero replied in the Second Philippic, one of the most violent invectives ever written. It was not spoken, but was published soon after Antony had quitted Rome.

Meantime the emissaries of Octavian had been sounding the disposition of the soldiers, and had already enlisted for him a considerable number of troops in various parts of Italy. Antony saw that the power was slipping from under his feet. Two of the legions which he had sent from Epirus passed over to Octavian; and, in order to keep the remainder under his standard, and to secure the north of Italy to his interests, Antony now proceeded to Cisalpine Gaul, which had been previously granted to him by the Senate. Upon entering the province toward the end of November, Dec. Brutus threw himself into Mutina (Modena), to which Antony laid siege.

Soon after Antony's departure Cicero prevailed upon the Senate to declare Antony a public enemy, and to intrust to the young Octavian the conduct of the war against him. Cicero was now at the height of his glory. His activity was unceasing, and in the twelve remaining "Philippics" he encouraged the Senate and the people to prosecute the war with vigor. The two new Consuls (B.C. 48) were A. Hirtius and C. Vibius Pansa, both of whom had been designated by the late Dictator. As soon as they had entered upon their office, Hirtius, accompanied by Octavian, marched into Cisalpine Gaul, while Pansa remained in the city to levy troops. For some weeks no movement of importance took place in either army; but when Pansa set out to join his colleague and Octavian, Antony marched southward, attacked him at Forum Gallorum, near Bononia (Bologna), and gained a victory over him (April 14). Pansa was mortally wounded; but Hirtius retrieved this disaster by suddenly attacking Antony the same evening on his return to the camp at Mutina. A few days afterward (April 27th) a more decisive battle took place before Mutina. Antony was defeated with great loss, but Hirtius fell in leading an assault on the besiegers' camp. The death of the two Consuls left Octavian the sole command; and so timely was their removal that he was accused by many of murdering them.

Antony now found it impossible to continue the siege of Mutina, but he retreated in good order northward, crossed the Alps, and was well received in Farther Gaul by Lepidus, who had promised him support. Meantime the good understanding between Octavian and the Senate had come to an end. The latter, being resolved to prevent him from obtaining any farther power, gave the command of the Consular armies to D. Brutus; and Cicero talked of removing the boy. But the "boy" soon showed the Senate that he was their master. He gained the confidence of the soldiers, who gladly followed the heir of Cæsar to Rome. Though only 20 years of age, he demanded of the Senate the Consulship. At first they attempted to evade his demand; but his soldiers were encamped in the Campus Martius, and in the month of August he was elected Consul with his cousin Q. Pedius. The first act of his Consulship showed that he had completely broken with the Senate. His colleague proposed a law declaring all the murderers of Cæsar to be outlaws. Octavian then quitted Rome to march professedly against Antony, leaving Pedius in charge of the city; but it soon appeared that he had come to an understanding with Antony, for he had hardly entered Etruria before the unwilling Senate were compelled, upon the proposal of Pedius, to repeal the sentence of outlawry against Antony and Lepidus. These two were now descending the Alps at the head of 17 legions. Octavian was advancing northward with a formidable army. Between two such forces the situation of D. Brutus was hopeless. He was deserted by his own troops, and fled to Aquileia, intending to cross over to Macedonia, but was put to death in the former place by order of Antony.

Lepidus, who acted as mediator between Antony and Octavian, now arranged a meeting between them on a small island near Bononia, formed by the waters of the River Rhenus, a tributary of the Po. The interview took place near the end of November. It was arranged that the government of the Roman world should be divided between the three for a period of five years, under the title of "Triumvirs for settling the affairs of the Republic" Octavian received Sicily, Sardinia, and Africa; Antony the two Gauls, with the exception of the Narbonese district, which, with Spain, was assigned to Lepidus. Octavian and Antony were to prosecute the war against Brutus and Cassius, who were in possession of the eastern provinces. Lepidus was to receive the Consulship for the following year, with the charge of Italy.

The Triumvirs next proceeded to imitate the example of Sulla by drawing up a Proscription - a list of persons whose lives were to be sacrificed and property confiscated. But they had not Sulla's excuse. He returned to Italy exasperated to the highest degree by the murder of his friends and the personal insults he had received. The Triumvirs, out of a cold-blooded policy, resolved to remove every one whose opposition they feared or whose property they coveted. In drawing up the fatal list, they sacrificed without scruple their nearest relatives and friends. To please Antony, Octavian gave up Cicero; Antony, in return, surrendered his own uncle, L. Cæsar; and Lepidus sacrificed his own brother Paullus. As many as 300 Senators and 2000 Equites were entered on the lists.

As soon as the Triumvirs had made their secret arrangements they marched toward Rome. Hitherto they had published the names of only 17 of the Proscribed; but the city was in a state of the utmost alarm, and it was with difficulty that Pedius could preserve the peace. So great were his anxiety and fatigue that he died the night before the entry of the Triumvirs into the city. They marched into Rome at the head of their legions, and filled all the public places with their soldiery. No attempt at resistance was made. A law was proposed and carried conferring upon the Triumvirs the title and powers they had assumed. The work of butchery then commenced. Lists after lists of the Proscribed were then published, each more numerous than the former. The soldiers hunted after the victims, cut off their heads, and brought them to the authorities to prove their claims to the blood-money. Slaves were rewarded for betraying their masters, and whoever harbored any of the Proscribed was punished with death. Terror reigned throughout Italy. No one knew whose turn would come next.

Cicero was included in the first 17 victims of the Proscription. He was residing in his Tusculan villa with his brother Quintus, who urged him to escape to Brutus in Macedonia. They reached Astura, a small island off Antium, when Quintus ventured to Rome to obtain a supply of money, of which they were in need. Here he was apprehended, together with his son, and both were put to death. The orator again embarked, and coasted along to Formiæ, where he landed at his villa, resolving no longer to fly from his fate. After spending a night in his own house, his attendants, hearing that the soldiers were close at hand, forced him to enter a litter, and hurried him through the woods toward the shore, distant a mile from his house. As they were passing onward they were overtaken by their pursuers, and were preparing to defend their master with their lives; but Cicero commanded them to desist, and, stretching his head out of the litter, called upon his executioners to strike. They instantly cut off his head and hands, which were carried to Rome. Fulvia, the widow of Clodius and now the wife of Antony, gloated her eyes with the sight, and even thrust a hair-pin through his tongue. Antony ordered the head to be nailed to the Rostra, which had so often witnessed the triumphs of the orator. Thus died Cicero, in the 64th year of his age. He had not sufficient firmness of character to cope with the turbulent times in which his lot was cast, but as a man he deserves our admiration and love. In the midst of almost universal corruption he remained uncontaminated. He was an affectionate father, a faithful friend, and a kind master.

Many of the Proscribed escaped from Italy, and took refuge with Sextus Pompey in Sicily, and with Brutus and Cassius in the East. After the death of Cæsar, the Senate appointed Sextus Pompey to the command of the Republican fleet. He had become master of Sicily; his fleet commanded the Mediterranean; and Rome began to suffer from want of its usual supplies of corn. It was arranged that Octavian should attempt the conquest of Sicily, while Antony was preparing for the campaign in the East. A fleet under Salvidienus Rufus was sent against Pompey, but was defeated by the latter in the Straits of Sicily, in sight of Octavian. But the war against Brutus and Cassius was more urgent, and accordingly Octavian and Antony sailed shortly afterward to the East, leaving Pompey undisputed master of the sea.

On quitting Italy, Brutus had first gone to Athens. The remains of the Pompeian legions, which continued in Greece after the battle of Pharsalia, gathered round him; Hortensius, the governor of Macedonia, acknowledged him as his successor; and C. Antonius, whom his brother had sent over to take the command of the province, was obliged to surrender to Brutus.

His colleague had been equally fortunate in Syria. Dolabella, to whom Antony had given this province, was besieged in Laodicea by Cassius, and put an end to his own life.

These events took place in B.C. 43. Brutus and Cassius were now masters of the Roman world east of the Adriatic. It was evident that their enemies before long would cross over into Greece; but, instead of concentrating their forces in that country, they began to plunder the cities of Asia Minor, in order to obtain money for their troops. Brutus pillaged Lycia, and Cassius Rhodes. The inhabitants of the Lycian town of Xanthus refused to submit to the exactions of Brutus, made an heroic defense when they were attacked, and preferred to perish in the flames of their city rather than to yield. Brutus and Cassius were thus engaged when the news of the Triumvirate and the Proscription reached them; but they continued some time longer plundering in the East, and it was not till the spring of B.C. 42 that the Republican chiefs at length assembled their forces at Sardis, and prepared to march into Europe. So much time, however, had now been lost, that Antony and Octavian landed upon the coast of Greece, and had already commenced their march toward Macedonia before Brutus and Cassius had quitted Asia.

Brutus seems to have had dark forebodings of the approaching struggle. He continued his studious habits during the campaign, and limited his sleep to a very short time. On the night before his army crossed over into Europe he was sitting in his tent, the lamp burning dim, and the whole camp in deep silence, when he saw a gigantic and terrible figure standing by him. He had the courage to ask, "Who art thou, and for what purpose dost thou come?" The phantom replied, "I am thy evil genius, Brutus; we shall meet again at Philippi!" and vanished.


Brutus and Cassius marched through Thrace and Macedonia to Philippi, where they met the army of the Triumvirs. The Republican leaders took up their positions on two heights distant a mile from each other, Brutus pitching his camp on the northern, and Cassius on the southern, near the sea. The camps, though separate, were inclosed with a common intrenchment, and midway between them was the pass which led like a gate from Europe to Asia. The Triumvirs were on the lower ground, in a less favorable position - Octavian opposite Brutus, and Antony opposite Cassius. Their troops began to suffer from want of provisions, and they endeavored to force the Republican leaders to an engagement. Cassius was unwilling to quit his strong position, and recommended that they should wait for their fleet; but Brutus was anxious to put an end to this state of suspense, and persuaded the council to risk an immediate battle. Brutus himself defeated the army opposite to him, and penetrated into the camp of Octavian, who was lying ill, unable to take part in the battle. His litter was seized, and brought forth covered with blood, and a report spread that he had been killed. Meantime, on the other side of the field, Antony had driven back Cassius, and taken his camp. Cassius had retired to a neighboring hill with some of his men, when he saw a large body of cavalry approaching. Thinking that they belonged to the enemy and that every thing was lost, he ordered one of his freedmen to put an end to his life. But the cavalry had been sent by Brutus to obtain news of Cassius; and when he heard of the death of his colleague, he wept over him as "the last of the Romans," a eulogy which Cassius had done nothing to deserve.

Twenty days after the first battle Brutus again led out his forces; but this time he was completely defeated, and with difficulty escaped from the field. He withdrew into a wood, and in the night-time fell upon his sword, which Strato, who had been his teacher in rhetoric, held for him. His wife Porcia, the daughter of Cato, resolved not to survive her husband; and, being closely watched by her relations, she put an end to her life by thrusting burning charcoal into her mouth. Brutus was doubtless a sincere Republican, but he was a man of weak judgment, deficient in knowledge of mankind, and more fitted for a life of study than the command of armies and the government of men.

Coin of Antony and Cleopatra
Coin of Antony and Cleopatra

M. Agrippa
M. Agrippa
Roman Empire History

Copyright © 2007 All Rights Reserved.
Roman Empire | Sitemap | | Contact Us | Disclaimer & Credits