Antony and Octavius   
44-30 B.C.

43 B.C.

The second triumvirate

Octave ou Auguste jeune
Octave or Auguste young
Department of Greek, Etruscan
and Roman Antiquities, Denon

As soon as the conspirators had despatched Caesar, they all retired to the capitol, and guarded its accesses by a body of gladiators, which Brutus had in pay.

The Roman people were struck with horror at the deed. Mark Antony and Lepidus, ambitious of succeeding to the power of the dictator, resolved to pave the way by avenging his death. Caesar had bequeathed a great part of his fortune to the people; and they were penetrated with gratitude to his memory. A public harangue by Antony over the bleeding body, exposed in the Forum, inflamed them with indignation against his murderers, who must have met with instant destruction if they had not escaped from the city. Antony, the avenger of Caesar, was in the immediate prospect of attaining a similar height of dominion. In this, however, he found a formidable competitor in Octavius, afterwards called Augustus, the grand-nephew and the adopted heir of Caesar, who at this critical moment arrived in Rome. Availing himself of these titles, Octavius gained the senate to his interest, and divided with Antony the favor of the people.

The rivals soon perceived that it was the wisest plan to unite their interest; and they admitted Lepidus into their association, whose power as governor of Gaul, and immense riches, gave him great authority. Thus was formed the second triumvirate, the effects of which were beyond measure dreadful to the republic. The triumviri divided among themselves the provinces, and cemented their union by a deliberate sacrifice, made by each, of his best friends, to the vengeance of his associates.

Antony consigned to death his uncle Lucius; Lepidus, his brother Paulus; and Octavius, his guardian Toranius, and his friend Cicero. In this horrible proscription, 300 senators and 3000 knights were put to death.

42 B.C.

Brutus and Cassius

Brutus and Cassius, the principals of the conspirators against Caesar, being compelled to quit Rome, went into Greece, where they persuaded the Roman students at Athens to declare in the cause of freedom. Then parting, the former raised a powerful army in Macedonia and the adjacent countries, while the latter went into Syria, where he soon became master of twelve legions, and reduced his opponent Dolabella to such straits as to kill himself.

Both armies soon joining at Smyrna, the sight of such a formidable force began to revive the declining spirits of the party, and to reunite the two generals more closely, between whom there had been a slight misunderstanding.

Having left Italy like exiles, they now found themselves at the head of a flourishing army, and in a condition to support a contest where the empire of the world depended on the event. In this flourishing state of their affairs, the conspirators formed a resolution of going against Cleopatra, who had made great preparations to assist their opponents. They were however diverted from this purpose, by an information that Octavius and Antony were now upon their march, with forty legions, to oppose them. Brutus proposed to pass over into Greece and Macedonia, and there meet the enemy; but Cassius so far prevailed, as to have the Rhodians and Lycians first reduced, who had refused their usual contributions.

This plan was speedily put into execution, and extraordinary contributions were raised by that means, the Rhodians having scarcely anything left but their lives. The Lycians suffered still more severely; for, having shut themselves up in the city of Xanthus, they defended the place against Brutus with such fury, that neither his arts nor entreaties could prevail upon them to surrender.

The town being set on fire by their attempting to burn the works of the Romans, Brutus entreated his soldiers to try all means of extinguishing the fire : but the desperate frenzy of the citizens was not to be mollified, and they resolved to perish in the flames.

Nothing could exceed the distress of Brutus, upon seeing the townsmen bent on destroying themselves; he rode about the fortifications, stretching out his hands to the Xanthians, and conjuring them to have pity on themselves and their city; but insensible to his entreaties, they rushed into the flames, and the whole town soon became a heap of ruins. At this horrible spectacle, Brutus melted into tears, offering a reward to every soldier who should bring him a Lycian alive. The number saved amounted to no more than 150.

42 B.C.

The vision of Brutus

Brutus and Cassius met once more at Sardis; where, after the usual ceremonies were passed between them, they resolved to have a private conference. They shut themselves up in the first convenient house, with express orders to their servants to give no admission.

Brutus began by reprimanding Cassius for Having disposed of offices which should ever be the reward of merit, and for having overtaxed the tributary states. Cassius retorted the imputation of avarice with the more bitterness, as he knew the charge to be groundless. The debate grew warm, till from loud speaking, they burst into tears. Their friends, who were standing at the door, overheard the increasing vehemence of their voices, and began to dread for the consequences; till Favonius, who valued himself upon boldness that knew no restraint, entering the room with a jest, calmed their mutual animosity.

After their conference, night coming on, Cassius invited Brutus and his friends to an entertainment, where freedom and cheerfulness, for a while, took place of political anxiety, and softened the severity of wisdom. Upon returning home, Brutus, as Plutarch says, saw a spectre in his tent.

Brutus slept but little, and he increased this state of watch fulness by habit and great sobriety. It was in the dead of the night that Brutus was employed in reading; on a sudden he thought he heard a noise, and looking towards the door, he perceived it open. A gigantic figure, with a frightful aspect, stood before him, and continued to gaze upon him with silent severity.

At last Brutus had courage to speak to it : Art thou a demon, or a mortal man ? and why corniest thou to me? Brutus, replied the phantom, I am thy evil genius; thou shalt see me again at Philippi. Well then, answered Brutus we shall meet again. Upon which the phantom vanished, and Brutus, calling to his servants, asked if they had seen anything ? They replied no, and he resumed his studies.

But as he was struck with so strange an occurrence, he mentioned it the next day to Cassius, who, being an Epicurean, ascribed it to the effect of an imagination too much exercised by vigilance and anxiety. Brutus appeared satisfied with this solution.

3 and 23 October B.C.

Battle of Philippi

Brutus
Brutus and his companions
after the battle

Antony and Octavius were now advanced into Macedonia, and Brutus and his colleague passed over into Thrace, and drew near to the city of Philippi, where the forces of the Triumviri were posted to receive them.

All mankind now began to regard the approaching armies with terror and suspense. The empire of the world depended upon the fate of a battle. Brutus was the only man who looked upon these great events before him with calmness. Satisfied with having done his duty, he said to one of his friends, If I gain the victory, I shall restore liberty to my country; if I lose it, by dying, I shall be delivered from slavery myself; my condition is fixed, and I run no hazards.

The republican army consisted of 80000 foot, and 20000 horse. The army of the Triumviri amounted, to 100000 foot, and 13000 horse. Thus complete on both sides, they met, and encamped near each other, upon the plains of Philippi, a city upon the confines of Thrace.

The next morning the two generals gave the signal for engaging, and conferred together before the battle began. Cassius desired to know how Brutus intended to act in case they were unsuccessful; to which the other replied, that he had formerly, in his writings, condemned the death of Cato, and maintained, that avoiding calamities by suicide, was an insolent attempt against Heaven, which sent them; but he had now altered his opinions, and having given up his life to his country, he thought he had a right to his own way of ending it; wherefore he resolved to change a miserable being here, in hope of a better hereafter, if fortune proved against him.

Well said, my friend, cried Cassius, embracing him, now we may venture to face the enemy; for either we shall be conquerors ourselves, or we shall have no cause to fear those that are so. Octavius being sick, the forces of the Triumviri were commanded by Antony, who hegan the engagement by a vigorous attack upon the lines of Cassius.

Brutus, on the other side, made a furious attack on the army of Octavius, and drove forward with so much intrepidity, that he broke them upon the first charge. Upon this he penetrated as far as the camp, and cutting in pieces those left for its defence, his troops immediately began to plunder; but in the mean time the lines of Cassius were forced, and his cavalry put to flight. There was no effort that this unfortunate general did not use to make his infantry stand, stopping those, that fled, and seizing himself the colors to rally them.

But his own valor alone was not sufficient to inspire his timorous army; wherefore, despairing of success, he caused himself to be slain by one of his freedmen. Brutus was informed of the defeat of Cassius, and soon after, of his death.

His first care was to assemble all the dispersed troops of Cassius, and animate them with fresh hopes of victory. As they had lost all they possessed by the plundering of their camp, he promised each of them 2000 denarii, to make up their losses. This once more inspired them with new ardor.

Brutus, after a respite of twenty days, was obliged to comply with the solicitations of his army to try the fate of another battle, which proved fatal to him.

Both armies being drawn out, they remained a long while without offering to engage. It is said that Brutus had lost much of his natural ardor, by having seen a spectre; but he encouraged his men, and gave the signal for battle.

He commanded in person, and made a great slaughter; surrounded by the most valiant of his officers, he fought with amazing valor. The son of Cato fell fighting by his side, as also the brother of Cassius; so that at last he was obliged to yield to necessity and flee.

The two Triumviri, now assured of victory, seemed chiefly intent on Brutus alone, and his capture appeared inevitable. In this deplorable exigence, Lucilius, his friend, was resolved by his own death, to effect his general's delivery. Perceiving a body of Thracian horse closely pursuing Brutus, and just upon the point of taking him, he boldly threw himself in their way, telling them that he was Brutus.

The Thracians, overjoyed with so great a prize, immediately despatched some of their companions with the news of their success to the army. Upon which, the ardor of the pursuit now abating, Antony marched out to meet his prisoner, to hasten his death, or insult his misfortunes; and seeing the Thracians approach, he began to prepare himself for the interview; but the faithful Lucilius, advancing with a cheer ful air, It is not Brutus, said he, that is taken; fortune has not yet had the power of committing so great an outrage upon virtue. As for my life, it is well spent in preserving his honor; take it, for I have deceived you. Antony, struck with so much fidelity, pardoned him upon the spot; and from that time forward loaded him with benefits, and honored him with his friendship.

In the mean time Brutus, with a small number of friends, passed over a rivulet, and night coming on, sat down under a rock, concealed from the enemy, and casting his eyes up to heaven, he repeated a line from Euripides, containing a wish to the gods, that guilt should not pass in this life, without punishment; adding, 0 Virtue ! thou empty name, I have worshipped thee as a real god, but thou art only the slave of fortune.

He then called to mind, with great tenderness, those whom he had seen perish in battle, and sent out one Statilius to give him some information of those that remained; but he never returned, being killed by a party of the enemy's horse. Brutus, judging very rightly of his fate, now resolved to die likewise, and spoke to those who stood around him to lend him their last sad assistance. None of them would render him so melancholy a service. He called to one of his slaves to perform what he so ardently desired; but Strato, his tutor, offered himself, crying out, That it should never be said that Brutus, in his last extremity, stood in need of a slave, for want of a friend. Thus saying, and averting his head, he presented, the sword's point to Brutus, who threw himself upon it, and expired.

42 B.C.

New sharing of the world

From the death of Brutus, the Triumviri began to act as sovereigns, and to divide the Roman dominions among them.

Though there were apparently three who shared the power, yet in fact only two were actually possessed of it, since Lepidus was at first admitted merely to curb the mutual jealousy of Antony and Octavius; and was possessed neither of interest in the army, nor authority among the people. Their first care was to punish those whom they had formerly marked for vengeance.

Hortensius, Drusus, and Quintilius Varus, all men of the first rank in the commonwealth, either killed themselves, or were slain. A senator and his son were ordered to cast lots for their lives, but both refused it; the father voluntarily gave himself up to the executioner, and the son stabbed himself before his face. Another begged to have the rites of burial after his death; to which Octavius replied, That he should find a grave in the vultures which would devour him.

But the people chiefly lamented to see the head of Brutus sent to Rome, to be thrown at the foot of Caesar's statue. His ashes, however, were sent to his wife Portia, Cato's daughter; who, following the example of her husband and father, killed herself, by swallowing burning coals. It is observed, that of all those who had a hand in Caesar's murder, not one died a natural death.

42-41 B.C.

Cleopatra and Antony

The power of the Triumviri being established upon the ruins of the commonwealth, they now began to think of enjoying that to which they had aspired. Antony went into Greece, to receive the flattery of that refined people, and spent some time at Athens, conversing with philosophers, and assisting at their disputes in person.
From thence he passed over into Asia, where all the monarchs of the East, who acknowledged the Roman power, came to pay him their obedience; while the fairest princesses strove to gain his favor, by presents, or the allurements of their beauty. In this manner he proceeded from kingdom to kingdom, attended by a crowd of sovereigns, exacting contributions, distributing favors, and giving away crowns, with capricious insolence.
He presented the kingdom of Cappadocia to Sisenes. He settled Herod in the kingdom of Judea, and supported him against every opposer. But among all the sovereigns of the East, who shared his favors, none had so large a part as Cleopatra, the celebrated queen of Egypt.

Cleopatra was now in her twentyseventh year, and had improved her natural allurements by art. Her address and wit were still farther heightened; and though there were some women in Rome that were her equals in beauty, none could rival her in the charms of seducing conversation. Antony was in Tarsus, a city of Cilicia, when Cleopatra resolved to attend his court in person. She sailed to meet him down the river Cydnus, at the mouth of which the city stood, with the most sumptuous pageantry.

Her galley was covered with gold, with the sails of purple; the oars of silver, kept time to the sound of flutes and cymbals. She lay reclined on a couch spangled with stars of gold, and with such ornaments as poets and painters usually ascribe to Venus. On each side were boys like Cupids, who fanned her by turns, while the most beautiful nymphs, dressed like Naiads and Graces, were placed at proper distances around her.

Upon the banks of the river were kept burning the most exquisite perfumes, while an infinite number of people gazed upon the sight with admiration. Antony was captivated with her beauty, and leaving all his business soon after, followed her into Egypt. There he continued, indulging in all that ease and luxury to which his vicious heart was prone.

While Antony remained idle in Egypt, Octavius, who took upon him to lead back the veteran troops and settle them in Italy, was employed in providing for their subsistence.

Octavius had promised them lands at home as a recompense for their past services; but they could not receive their new grants without turning out the former possessors. In consequence of this, multitudes of women, with children in their arms, daily filled the streets with their distresses.

Numbers of husbandmen and shepherds came to deprecate the conqueror's intention, or to obtain a habitation in some other part of the world. Among this number was Virgil, the poet, who in an humble manner begged permission to retain his patrimonial farm. Virgil obtained his request, but the rest of his countrymen were turned out without mercy.

Rome now felt the most extreme miseries. Sextus Pompey being master of the sea, cut off all foreign communication, and prevented the people from receiving their usual supplies of corn.

41-38 B.C.

Sextus Pompey

To these mischiefs was added another civil war. Fulvia, the wife of Antony, was filled with rage, and resolved to try every method of bringing back her husband from the arms of Cleopatra. She considered a breach with Octavius as the only probable means of rousing him from his lethargy; and accordingly, with the assistance of Lucius, her brother in law, who was then consul, and devoted to her interest, she began to sow the seeds of dissension.

The pretext was, that Antony should have a share in the distribution of lands as well as Octavius. This produced negotiations between them, and Octavius offered to make the veterans umpires in the dispute. Lucius refused; and being at the head of six legions, mostly composed of such as were dispossessed, he resolved to compel Octavius to accept of his terms.

Thus a new war was excited between Octavius and Antony. Octavius was victorious; and Lucius forced to retreat. He was at last so reduced by famine, that he came out in person and delivered himself up to the mercy of the conqueror. Octavius received him very honorably, and generously pardoned him and all his followers.

Antony having heard of his brother's overthrow, and that his wife was compelled to leave Italy, resolved to oppose Octavius without delay. He accordingly sailed at the head of a considerable fleet from Alexandria to Tyre, and from thence to Cyprus and Rhodes, and had an interview with Fulvia, at Athens. He blamed her for occasioning the late disorders, testified the utmost contempt for her person, and, leaving her upon her death bed at Sicyon, hastened into Italy to fight Octavius.

They met at Brundusium. A negotiation was proposed, and by the activity of a common friend a reconciliation was effected.

All offences and affronts were mutually forgiven; and to cement the union, a marriage was concluded between Antony and Octavia, the sister of Octavius. A new division of the empire was made between them; Octavius was to have the command of the West, Antony of the East, while Lepidus, was obliged to content himself with the provinces in Africa.

Antony led his forces against the Parthians, over whom his lieutenant, Ventidius, had gained some advantages. Octavius drew the greater part of his army into Gaul, where there were some disturbances : and Sextus Pompey went to secure his newly ceded province to his interest, but he was soon overthrown and slain.

Antony, who was obliged by treaty to quit Peloponnesus, refused to evacuate it till Pompey had satisfied him for such debts as were due to him from the inhabitants. This Pompey refused, and fitted out a new fleet, to repeat his former enterprises, by cutting off such corn and provisions, as were consigned to Italy. Thus the grievances of the poor were renewed, and the people complained that, instead of three tyrants, they were now oppressed by four.

In this exigence Octavius resolved to get rid of Pompey who kept the state in continual alarm. Octavius was master of two fleets. His first attempt was to invade Sicily; but being overpowered in his passage by Pompey, and afterwards shattered in a storm, he was obliged to defer his designs to the ensuing year.

During this interval, he was reinforced by a noble fleet of 120 ships, given him by Antony, with which he resolved once more to invade Sicily on three several quarters. But fortune seemed still to oppose him. He was a second time disabled and his fleet shattered by a storm, which so raised the vanity of Pompey, that he began to style himself the son of Neptune.

However, Octavius was not to be intimidated by any disgraces; for having shortly refitted his navy, and recruited his forces, he gave the command of both to Agrippa, his faithful friend and associate in war. Agrippa proved himself worthy of this trust, and began his operations by a victory over Pompey.

Thus undone, Pompey resolved to fly to Antony, with whom he expected refuge, as he had formerly conferred an obligation upon him, by protecting his mother. He was at last abandoned by his soldiers and delivered up to Titus, Antony's lieutenant, who caused him to be slain.

30 B.C.

The end of the Roman republic

Octavius
Octavius
Museo Archeologico Nazionale

The death of Sextus Pompey removed one very powerful obstacle to the ambition of Octavius : He resolved to take the earliest opportunity to get rid of the rest of his associates, and soon triumphed over Antony and Cleopatra.

Lepidus by his imprudent conduct had been banished, so that Octavius plainly saw if he could set aside Antony, Rome would be his own. Antony had been a great general, but his love for the Egyptian queen, and his indulgence in luxurious living, seemed to have enervated both his mind and body. In a desperate engagement with the Romans at sea, because Cleopatra fled in her galley, he was so lost to manhood as to follow her, and thus give up every chance of victory.

The fatal battle of Actium, in which Antony was defeated, is considered as the end of the Roman republic, for Octavius Caesar was now sole master of Rome.

The victor pursued the fugitives to Egypt; and the base Cleopatra proffered terms of reconciliation to Octavius, including the surrender of her kingdom, the abandonment of Antony, but he determined to take her and her children to Rome to grace his triumph.

Octavius made his entry into Alexandria, taking care to diminish the fears of the inhabitants, by conversing familiarly as he went along, with Areus, a philosopher, and a native of the place. The citizens trembled at his approach; and when he placed himself upon the tribunal, they prostrated themselves with their faces to the ground like criminals who waited the sentence of their execution.

Octavius ordered them to rise, telling them that three motives induced him to pardon them. His respect for Alexander, who was the founder of their city; his admiration of its beauty, and his friendship for Areus their fellow citizen.

Antony hearing that Cleopatra was dead, stabbed himself, that, either in life or death he might share her fate; but finding the account was false, and that she had only shut herself up in a monument, he desired to be carried to her. As all the entrances were fastened, Cleopatra and her women drew up the dying lover into one of the windows. Antony died in the presence of his too much loved Egyptian queen.

Cleopatra was now determined upon dying, and throwing herself upon Antony's coffin, bewailed her captivity, and renewed, her protestations not to survive him. Having bathed and ordered a sumptuous banquet, she attired herself in the most splendid manner. She then feasted as usual, and ordered all but her two attendants to leave the room.

Having previously ordered an asp to be secretly conveyed to her in a basket of fruit, she sent a letter to Octavius, in forming him of her fatal purpose, and desiring to be buried in the same tomb with Antony. Octavius upon receiving the letter, despatched messengers to prevent her, but they ar rived too late. Entering the chamber, they beheld Cleopatra lying dead upon a gilded couch arrayed in her royal robes.

I'ras, one of her faithful attendants, was stretched lifeless at the feet of her mistress; and Charmion, almost expiring, was settling the diadem upon Cleopatra's head. Alas ! cried one of the messengers, was this well done, Charmion ? Yes, replied she, it is well done; such a death becomes a glorious queen descended from a noble race of ancestors. On pronouncing these words she fell down and died with her much loved mistress.

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