The Great Events by Famous Historians/Volume 2/Rome Becomes a Monarchy
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Rome Becomes a Monarchy
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ROME BECOMES A MONARCHY
DEATH OF ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA
HENRY GEORGE LIDDELL
(After the death of Cæsar, Rome was in confusion; consternation seized the people, and the "liberators" failed to rally them to their own support. In possession of Cæsar's treasure, Antony, the surviving consul, bided his time. His oration at Cæsar's funeral stirred the populace against the "liberators," and made him for the moment master of Rome; but his self-seeking soon turned the people against him. The young Octavius, Cæsar's heir, had become popular with the army. He returned to Rome and claimed his inheritance, demanded from Antony Cæsar's moneys, but in vain, and assumed the title of Cæsar. The rivalry between the two leaders rapidly approached a crisis. The partisans of Antony and Octavius began to clash, and civil war followed. Defeated, Antony retreated across the Alps. Octavius was elected consul, and began negotiations with Antony and Lepidus, which resulted in the three new masters constituting themselves a triumvirate—the Second Triumvirate—to settle the affairs of the Commonwealth. They divided the powers of government, and a partition of territory was made between them. Their next business was to put out of the way, by proscription, the enemies of this new order of things. Three hundred senators, including Cicero, were massacred, as well as two thousand knights.
When the terrified senate had legalized the self-assumed authority of the triumvirs, they turned their attention to Brutus and Cassius in the East, whither they had gone after the assassination of Cæsar and established and maintained themselves in power. At the battle of Philippi in Macedonia [B.C. 42] Antony and Octavius defeated Brutus and Cassius, both of whom died by their own hands. The Roman world was now in the hands of the triumvirs. Antony ruled in the East, Octavius in the West, and Lepidus in Africa, B.C. 42-36. In the latter year Lepidus was deposed by Octavius after a short conflict. And only a year after Philippi a war between Octavius and Antony was threatened because of a revolt in Italy, raised by Antony's brother Lucius and Fulvia, wife of Antony; but it was prevented by a treaty of peace, sealed by the marriage of Antony to Octavia, sister of Octavius. This peace lasted for ten years, during which time, however, there was constant friction between them.
At Tarsus, in B.C. 41, Antony received a visit from Cleopatra, to whose charms he had yielded years before. This was the turning-point in his career; he went with her to Alexandria. By his oppression of the people of the East, and his dalliance with Cleopatra, he made himself the object of hatred and contempt. His army met with a series of defeats. In the mean time Octavius was constantly strengthening himself. The rivalry between them finally reached the point where both prepared for war. The great sea fight near Actium, September 2d, B.C. 31, resulted in the destruction of Antony's fleet after he had followed Cleopatra in her flight. A year later occurred the death of both. This important battle established Octavius as the sole ruler of the Roman possessions, and historians regard it as marking the end of the republic and the beginning of the empire.)
While the conspirators were at their bloody work [of slaying Cæsar], the mass of the senators rushed in confused terror to the doors; and when Brutus turned to address his peers in defence of the deed, the hall was well-nigh empty. Cicero, who had been present, answered not, though he was called by name; Antony had hurried away to exchange his consular robes for the garb of a slave. Disappointed of obtaining the sanction of the senate, the conspirators sallied out into the Forum to win the ear of the people. But here, too, they were disappointed. Not knowing what massacre might be in store, every man had fled to his own house; and in vain the conspirators paraded the Forum, holding up their blood-stained weapons and proclaiming themselves the liberators of Rome. Disappointment was not their only feeling: they were not without fear. They knew that Lepidus, being on the eve of departure for his province of Narbonnese Gaul, had a legion encamped on the island of the Tiber: and if he were to unite with Antony against them, Cæsar would quickly be avenged. In all haste, therefore, they retired to the Capitol. Meanwhile three of Cæsar's slaves placed their master's body upon a stretcher and carried it to his house on the south side of the Forum, with one arm dangling from the unsupported corner. In this condition the widowed Calpurnia received the lifeless clay of him who had lately been sovereign of the world.
Lepidus moved his troops to the Campus Martius. But Antony had no thoughts of using force; for in that case probably Lepidus would have become master of Rome. During the night he took possession of the treasure which Cæsar had collected to defray the expenses of his Parthian campaign, and persuaded Calpurnia to put into his hands all the dictator's papers. Possessed of these securities, he barricaded his house on the Carinae, and determined to watch the course of events.
In the evening Cicero, with other senators, visited the self-styled liberators in the Capitol. They had not communicated their plot to the orator, through fear (they said) of his irresolute counsels; but now that the deed was done, he extolled it as a godlike act. Next morning, Dolabella, Cicero's son-in-law, whom Cæsar had promised should be his successor in the consulship, assumed the consular fasces and joined the liberators; while Cinna, son of the old Marian leader and therefore brother-in-law to Cæsar, threw aside his praetorian robes, declaring he would no longer wear the tyrant's livery. Dec. Brutus, a good soldier, had taken a band of gladiators into pay, to serve as a bodyguard of the liberators. Thus strengthened, they ventured again to descend into the Forum. Brutus mounted the tribune, and addressed the people in a dispassionate speech, which produced little effect. But when Cinna assailed the memory of the dictator, the crowd broke out into menacing cries, and the liberators again retired to the Capitol.
That same night they entered into negotiations with Antony, and the result appeared next morning, the second after the murder. The senate, summoned to meet, obeyed the call in large numbers. Antony and Dolabella attended in their consular robes, and Cinna resumed his praetorian garb. It was soon apparent that a reconciliation had been effected: for Antony moved that a general amnesty should be granted, and Cicero seconded the motion in an animated speech. It was carried; and Antony next moved that all the acts of the dictator should be recognized as law. He had his own purposes here; but the liberators also saw in the motion an advantage to themselves; for they were actually in possession of some of the chief magistracies, and had received appointments to some of the richest provinces of the empire. This proposal, therefore, was favorably received; but it was adjourned to the next day, together with the important question of Cæsar's funeral.
On the next day Cæsar's acts were formally confirmed, and among them his will was declared valid, though its provisions were yet unknown. After this, it was difficult to reject the proposal that the dictator should have a public burial. Old senators remembered the riots that attended the funeral of Clodius and shook their heads. Cassius opposed it. But Brutus, with imprudent magnanimity, decided in favor of allowing it. To seal the reconciliation, Lepidus entertained Brutus at dinner and Cassius was feasted by Mark Antony.
The will was immediately made public. Cleopatra was still in Rome, and entertained hopes that the boy Cæsarion would be declared the dictator's heir; for though he had been married thrice, there was no one of his lineage surviving. But Cæsar was too much a Roman, and knew the Romans too well, to be guilty of this folly. Young C. Octavius, his sister's son, was declared his heir. Legacies were left to all his supposed friends, among whom were several of those who had assassinated him. His noble gardens beyond the Tiber were devised to the use of the public, and every Roman citizen was to receive a donation of three hundred sesterces—between ten and fifteen dollars. The effect of this recital was electric. Devotion to the memory of the dictator and hatred for his murderers at once filled every breast.
Two or three days after this followed the funeral. The body was to be burned, and the ashes deposited in the Campus Martius, near the tomb of his daughter Julia. But it was first brought into the Forum upon a bier inlaid with ivory and covered with rich tapestries, which was carried by men high in rank and office. There Antony, as consul, rose to pronounce the funeral oration. He ran through the chief acts of Cæsar's life, recited his will, and then spoke of the death which had rewarded him. To make this more vividly present to the excitable Italians he displayed a waxen image marked with the three-and-twenty wounds, and produced the very robe which he had worn, all rent and blood-stained. Soul-stirring dirges added to the solemn horror of the scene. But to us the memorable speech which Shakespeare puts into Antony's mouth will give the liveliest notion of the art used and the impression produced. That impression was instantaneous. The senator friends of the liberators who had attended the ceremony looked on in moody silence. Soon the menacing gestures of the crowd made them look to their safety. They fled; and the multitude insisted on burning the body, as they had burned the body of Clodius, in the sacred precincts of the Forum. Some of the veterans who attended the funeral set fire to the bier; benches and firewood heaped round it soon made a sufficient pile.
From the blazing pyre the crowd rushed, eager for vengeance, to the houses of the conspirators. But all had fled betimes. One poor wretch fell a victim to the fury of the mob—Helvius Cinna, a poet who had devoted his art to the service of the dictator. He was mistaken for L. Cornelius Cinna the prætor, and was torn to pieces before the mistake could be explained.
Antony was now the real master of Rome. The treasure which he had seized gave him the means of purchasing good will, and of securing the attachment of the veterans stationed in various parts of Italy. He did not, however, proceed in the course which, from the tone of his funeral harangue, might have been expected. He renewed friendly intercourse with Brutus and Cassius, who were encouraged to visit Rome once at least, if not oftener, after that day; and Dec. Brutus, with his gladiators, was suffered to remain in the city. Antony went still further. He gratified the senate by passing a law to abolish the dictatorship forever. He then left Rome to win the favor of the Italian communities and try the temper of the veterans.
Meanwhile another actor appeared upon the scene. This was young Octavius. He had been but six months in the camp at Apollonia; but in that short time he had formed a close friendship with M. Vipsanius Agrippa, a young man of his own age, who possessed great abilities for active life, but could not boast of any distinguished ancestry. As soon as the news of his uncle's assassination reached the camp, his friend Agrippa recommended him to appeal to the troops and march upon Rome. But the youth, with a wariness above his years, resisted these bold counsels. Landing near Brundusium almost alone, he there first heard that Cæsar's will had been published and that he was declared Cæsar's heir. He at once accepted the dangerous honor. As he travelled slowly toward the city he stayed some days at Puteoli with his mother, Atia, who was now married to L. Philippus. Both mother and stepfather attempted to dissuade him from the perilous business of claiming his inheritance. At the same place he had an interview with Cicero, who had quitted Rome in despair after the funeral, and left the orator under the impression that he might be won to what was deemed the patriotic party.
He arrived at Rome about the beginning of May, and demanded from Antony, who had now returned from his Italian tour, an account of the moneys of which the consul had taken possession, in order that he might discharge the obligations laid upon him by his uncle's will. But Antony had already spent great part of the money in bribing Dolabella and other influential persons; nor was he willing to give up any portion of his spoil. Octavius therefore sold what remained of his uncle's property, raised money on his own credit, and paid all legacies with great exactness. This act earned him much popularity. Antony began to fear this boy of eighteen, whom he had hitherto despised, and the senate learned to look on him as a person to be conciliated.
Still Antony remained in possession of all actual power. Cicero, not remarkable for political firmness, in this crisis displayed a vigor worthy of his earlier days. He had at one moment made up his mind to retire from public life and end his days at Athens in learned leisure. In the course of this summer he continued to employ himself on some of his most elaborate treatises. His works on the Nature of the Gods and on Divination, his Offices, his Dialogue on Old Age, and several other essays belong to this period and mark the restless activity of his mind. But though he twice set sail from Italy, he was driven back to port at Velia, where he found Brutus and Cassius. Here he received letters from Au. Hirtius and other friends of Cæsar, which gave him hopes that, in the name of Octavius, they might successfully oppose Antony and restore constitutional government. He determined to return, and announced his purpose to Brutus and Cassius, who commended him and took leave of him. They went their way to the east to raise armies against Antony; he repaired to Rome to fight the battles of his party in the senate house.
Meanwhile Antony had been running riot. In possession of Cæsar's papers, with no one to check him, he produced ready warrant for every measure which he wished to carry, and pleaded the vote of the senate which confirmed all the acts of Cæsar. When he could not produce a genuine paper, he interpolated or forged what was needful.
On the day after Cicero's return (September 1st) there was a meeting of the senate. But the orator did not attend, and Antony threatened to send men to drag him from his house. Next day Cicero was in his place, but now Antony was absent. The orator arose and addressed the senate in what is called his First Philippic. This was a measured attack upon the government and policy of Antony, but personalities were carefully eschewed: the tone of the whole speech, indeed, is such as might be delivered by a leader of opposition in parliament at the present day. But Antony, enraged at his boldness, summoned a meeting for the 19th of September, which Cicero did not think it prudent to attend. He then attacked the absent orator in the strongest language of personal abuse and menace. Cicero sat down and composed his famous Second Philippic, which is written as if it were delivered on the same day, in reply to Antony's invective. At present, however, he contented himself with sending a copy of it to Atticus, enjoining secrecy.
Matters quickly drew to a head between Antony and Octavius. The latter had succeeded in securing a thousand men of his uncle's veterans who had settled in Campania; and by great exertions in the different towns of Italy had levied a considerable force. Meantime four of the Epirote legions had just landed at Brundusium, and Antony hastened to attach them to his cause. But the largess which he offered them was only a hundred denaries a man, and the soldiers laughed in his face. Antony, enraged at their conduct, seized the ringleaders and decimated them. But this severity only served to change their open insolence into sullen anger, and emissaries from Octavius were ready to draw them over to the side of their young master. They had so far obeyed Antony as to march northward to Ariminum, while he repaired to Rome. But as he entered the senate house he heard that two of the four legions had deserted to his rival, and in great alarm he hastened to the camp just in time to keep the remainder of the troops under his standard by distributing to every man five hundred denaries.
The persons to hold the consulship for the next year had been designated by Cæsar. They were both old officers of the Gallic army, C. Vibius Pansa and Au. Hirtius, the reputed author of the Eighth Book of the History of the Gallic War. Cicero was ready to believe that they had become patriots, because, disgusted with the arrogance of Antony, they had declared for Octavius and the senate. Antony began to fear that all parties might combine to crush him. He determined, therefore, no longer to remain inactive; and about the end of November, having now collected all his troops at Ariminum, he marched along the Æmilian road to drive Dec. Brutus out of Cisalpine Gaul. Decimus was obliged to throw himself into Mutina (Modena), and Antony blockaded the place. As soon as his back was turned, Cicero published the famous Second Philippic, in which he lashed the consul with the most unsparing hand, going through the history of his past life, exaggerating the debaucheries, which were common to Antony with great part of the Roman youth, and painting in the strongest colors the profligate use he had made of Cæsar's papers. Its effect was great, and Cicero followed up the blow by the following twelve Philippics, which were speeches delivered in the senate house and Forum, at intervals from December (44) to April in the next year.
Cicero was anxious to break with Antony at once, by declaring him a public enemy. But the latter was still regarded by many senators as the head of the Cæsarean party, and it was resolved to treat with him. But the demands of Antony were so extravagant that negotiations were at once broken off, and nothing remained but to try the fortune of arms. The consuls proceeded to levy troops; but so exhausted was the treasury that now for the first time since the triumph of Æmilius Paullus it was found necessary to levy a property tax on the citizens of Rome.
Octavius and the consuls assembled their forces at Alba. On the first day of the new year (43) Hirtius marched for Mutina, with Octavius under his command. The other consul, Pansa, remained at Rome to raise new levies; but by the end of March he also marched to form a junction with Hirtius. Both parties pretended to be acting in Cæsar's name.
Antony left his brother Lucius in the trenches before Mutina, and took the field against Hirtius and Octavius. For three months the opponents lay watching each other. But when Antony learned that Pansa was coming up, he made a rapid movement southward with two of his veteran legions and attacked him. A sharp conflict followed, in which Pansa's troops were defeated, and the consul himself was carried, mortally wounded, off the field. But Hirtius was on the alert, and assaulted Antony's wearied troops on their way back to their camp, with some advantage. This was on the 15th of April, and on the 27th Hirtius drew Antony from his intrenchments before Mutina. A fierce battle followed, which ended in the troops of Antony being driven back into their lines. Hirtius followed close upon the flying enemy; the camp was carried by storm, and a complete victory would have been won had not Hirtius himself fallen. Upon this disaster Octavius drew off the troops. The news of the first battle had been reported at Rome as a victory, and gave rise to extravagant rejoicings. The second battle was really a victory, but all rejoicing was damped by the news that one consul was dead and the other dying. No such fatal mischance had happened since the Second Punic War, when Marcellus and Crispinus fell in one day.
After his defeat Antony felt it impossible to maintain the siege of Mutina. With Dec. Brutus in the town behind him, and the victorious legions of Octavius before him, his position was critical. He therefore prepared to retreat, and effected this purpose like a good soldier. His destination was the province of Narbonnese Gaul, where Lepidus had assumed the government and had promised him support. But the senate also had hopes in the same quarter. L. Munatius Plancus commanded in Northern Gaul, and C. Asinius Pollio in Southern Spain. Sext. Pompeius had made good his ground in the latter country, and had almost expelled Pollio from Bætica. Plancus and Pollio, both friends and favorites of Cæsar, had as yet declared neither for Antony nor Octavius. If they would declare for the senate, Lepidus, a feeble and fickle man, might desert Antony; or if Octavius would join with Dec. Brutus, and pursue him, Antony might not be able to escape from Italy at all. But these political combinations failed. Plancus and Pollio stood aloof, waiting for the course of events. Dec. Brutus was not strong enough to pursue Antony by himself, and Octavius was unwilling, perhaps unable, to unite the veterans of Cæsar with troops commanded by one of Cæsar's murderers. And so it happened that Antony effected his retreat across the Alps, but not without extreme hardships, which he bore in common with the meanest soldier. It was at such times that his good qualities always showed themselves, and his gallant endurance of misery endeared him to every man under his command. On his arrival in Narbonnese Gaul he met Lepidus at Forum Julii (Frejus), and here the two commanders agreed on a plan of operations.
The conduct of Octavius gave rise to grave suspicions. It was even said that the consuls had been killed by his agents. Cicero, who had hitherto maintained his cause, was silent. He had delivered his Fourteenth and last Philippic on the news of the first victory gained by Hirtius. But now he talked in private of "removing" the boy of whom he had hoped to make a tool. Octavius, however, had taken his part, and was not to be removed. Secretly he entered into negotiations with Antony. After some vain efforts on the part of the senate to thwart him, he appeared in the Campus Martius with his legions. Cicero and most of the senators disappeared, and the fickle populace greeted the young heir of Cæsar with applause. Though he was not yet twenty he demanded the consulship, having been previously relieved from the provisions of the Lex Annalis by a decree of the senate, and he was elected to the first office in the State, with his cousin, Q. Pedius.
A curiate law passed, by which Octavius was adopted into the patrician gens of the Julii, and was put into legal possession of the name which he had already assumed—C. Julius Cæsar Octavianus. We shall henceforth call him Octavian.
The change in his policy was soon indicated by a law in which he formally separated himself from the senate. Pedius brought it forward. By its provisions all Cæsar's murderers were summoned to take their trial. Of course none of them appeared and they were condemned by default. By the end of September Octavian was again in Cisalpine Gaul and in close negotiation with Antony and Lepidus. The fruits of his conduct soon appeared. Plancus and Pollio declared against Cæsar's murderers. Dec. Brutus, deserted by his soldiery, attempted to escape into Macedonia through Illyricum; but he was overtaken near Aquileia and slain by order of Antony.
Italy and Gaul being now clear of the senatorial party, Lepidus, as mediator, arranged a meeting between Octavian and Antony, upon an island in a small river near Bononia (Bologna). Here the three potentates agreed that they should assume a joint and coordinate authority, under the name of "Triumvirs for settling the affairs of the Commonwealth." Antony was to have the two Gauls, except the Narbonnese district, which, with Spain, was assigned to Lepidus; Octavian received Sicily, Sardinia, and Africa. Italy was for the present to be left to the consuls of the year, and for the ensuing year Lepidus, with Plancus, received promise of this high office. In return, Lepidus gave up his military force, while Octavian and Antony, each at the head of ten legions, prepared to conquer the Eastern part of the empire, which could not yet be divided like the Western provinces, because it was in possession of Brutus and Cassius.
But before they began war, the triumvirs agreed to follow the example set by Sylla—to extirpate their opponents by a proscription, and to raise money by confiscation. They framed a list of all men's names whose death could be regarded as advantageous to any of the three, and on this list each in turn pricked a name. Antony had made many personal enemies by his proceedings at Rome, and was at no loss for victims. Octavian had few direct enemies; but the boy-despot discerned with precocious sagacity those who were likely to impede his ambitious projects, and chose his victims with little hesitation. Lepidus would not be left behind in the bloody work. The author of the Philippics was one of Antony's first victims; Octavian gave him up, and took as an equivalent for his late friend the life of L. Cæsar, uncle of Antony. Lepidus surrendered his brother Paullus for some similar favor. So the work went on. Not fewer than three hundred senators and two thousand knights were on the list. Q. Pedius, an honest and upright man, died in his consulship, overcome by vexation and shame at being implicated in these transactions.
As soon as their secret business was ended, the triumvirs determined to enter Rome publicly. Hitherto they had not published more than seventeen names of the proscribed. They made their entrance severally on three successive days, each attended by a legion. A law was immediately brought in to invest them formally with the supreme authority, which they had assumed. This was followed by the promulgation of successive lists, each larger than its predecessor.
Among the victims, far the most conspicuous was Cicero. With his brother Quintus, the old orator had retired to his Tusculan villa after the battle of Mutina; and now they endeavored to escape in the hope of joining Brutus in Macedonia; for the orator's only son was serving as a tribune in the liberator's army. After many changes of domicile they reached Astura, a little island near Antium, where they found themselves short of money, and Quintus ventured to Rome to procure the necessary supply. Here he was recognized and seized, together with his son. Each desired to die first, and the mournful claim to precedence was settled by the soldiers killing both at the same moment.
Meantime Cicero had put to sea. But even in this extremity he could not make up his mind to leave Italy, and put to land at Circeii. After further hesitation he again embarked, and again sought the Italian shore near Formiae. For the night he stayed at his villa near that place, and next morning would not move, exclaiming: "Let me die in my own country—that country which I have so often saved." But his faithful slaves forced him into a litter and carried him again toward the coast. Scarcely were they gone when a band of Antony's bloodhounds reached his villa, and were put upon the track of their victim by a young man who owed everything to the Ciceros. The old orator from his litter saw the pursuers coming up. His own followers were strong enough to have made resistance, but he desired them to set the litter down. Then, raising himself on his elbow, he calmly waited for the ruffians and offered his neck to the sword. He was soon despatched. The chief of the band, by Antony's express orders, hewed off the head and hands and carried them to Rome. Fulvia, the widow of Clodius and now the wife of Antony, drove her hairpin through the tongue which had denounced the iniquities of both her husbands. The head which had given birth to the Second Philippic, and the hands which had written it, were nailed to the Rostra, the home of their eloquence. The sight and the associations raised feelings of horror and pity in every heart. Cicero died in his sixty-fourth year.
Brutus and Cassius left Italy in the autumn of B.C. 44 and repaired to the provinces which had been allotted to them, though by Antony's influence the senate had transferred Macedonia from Brutus to his own brother Caius, and Syria from Cassius to Dolabella. C. Antonius was already in possession of parts of Macedonia; but Brutus succeeded in dislodging him. Meanwhile Cassius, already well known in Syria for his successful conduct of the Parthian War, had established himself in that province before he heard of the approach of Dolabella. This worthless man left Italy about the same time as Brutus and Cassius, and at the head of several legions marched without opposition through Macedonia into Asia Minor. Here C. Trebonius had already arrived. But he was unable to cope with Dolabella; and the latter surprised him and took him prisoner at Smyrna. He was put to death with unseemly contumely in Dolabella's presence. This was in February, 43; and thus two of Cæsar's murderers, in less than a year's time, felt the blow of retributive justice. When the news of this piece of butchery reached Rome, Cicero, believing that Octavian was a puppet in his hands, was ruling Rome by the eloquence of his Philippics. On his motion Dolabella was declared a public enemy. Cassius lost no time in marching his legions into Asia, to execute the behest of the senate, though he had been dispossessed of his province by the senate itself. Dolabella threw himself into Laodicea, where he sought a voluntary death.
By the end of B.C. 43, therefore, the whole of the East was in the hands of Brutus and Cassius. But instead of making preparations for war with Antony, the two commanders spent the early part of the year 42 in plundering the miserable cities of Asia Minor. Brutus demanded men and money of the Lycians; and, when they refused, he laid siege to Xanthus, their principal city. The Xanthians made the same brave resistance which they had offered five hundred years before to the Persian invaders. They burned their city and put themselves to death rather than submit. Brutus wept over their fate and abstained from further exactions. But Cassius showed less moderation; from the Rhodians alone, though they were allies of Rome, he demanded all their precious metals. After this campaign of plunder, the two chiefs met at Sardis and renewed the altercations which Cicero had deplored in Italy. It is probable that war might have broken out between them had not the preparations of the triumvirs waked them from their dream of security. It was as he was passing over into Europe that Brutus, who continued his studious habits amid all disquietudes, and limited his time of sleep to a period too small for the requirements of health, was dispirited by the vision which Shakespeare, after Plutarch, has made famous. It was no doubt the result of a diseased frame, though it was universally held to be a divine visitation. As he sat in his tent in the dead of night, he thought a huge and shadowy form stood by him; and when he calmly asked, "What and whence art thou?" it answered, or seemed to answer: "I am thine evil genius, Brutus: we shall meet again at Philippi."
Meantime Antony's lieutenants had crossed the Ionian Sea and penetrated without opposition into Thrace. The republican leaders found them at Philippi. The army of Brutus and Cassius amounted to at least eighty thousand infantry, supported by twenty thousand horse; but they were ill-supplied with experienced officers. For M. Valerius Messalla, a young man of twenty-eight, held the chief command after Brutus and Cassius; and Horace, who was but three-and-twenty, the son of a freedman, and a youth of feeble constitution, was appointed a legionary tribune. The forces opposed to them would have been at once overpowered had not Antony himself opportunely arrived with the second corps of the triumviral army. Octavian was detained by illness at Dyrrhachium, but he ordered himself to be carried on a litter to join his legions. The army of the triumvirs was now superior to the enemy; but their cavalry, counting only thirteen thousand, was considerably weaker than the force opposed to it. The republicans were strongly posted upon two hills, with intrenchments between: the camp of Cassius upon the left next the sea, that of Brutus inland on the right. The triumviral army lay upon the open plain before them, in a position rendered unhealthy by marshes; Antony, on the right, was opposed to Cassius; Octavian, on the left, fronted Brutus. But they were ill-supplied with provisions and anxious for a decisive battle. The republicans, however, kept to their intrenchments, and the other party began to suffer severely from famine.
Determined to bring on an action, Antony began works for the purpose of cutting off Cassius from the sea. Cassius had always opposed a general action, but Brutus insisted on putting an end to the suspense, and his colleague yielded. The day of the attack was probably in October. Brutus attacked Octavian's army, while Cassius assaulted the working parties of Antony. Cassius' assault was beaten back with loss, but he succeeded in regaining his camp in safety. Meanwhile, Messalla, who commanded the right wing of Brutus' army, had defeated the host of Octavian, who was still too ill to appear on the field, and the republican soldiers penetrated into the triumvirs' camp. Presently his litter was brought in stained with blood, and the corpse of a young man found near it was supposed to be Octavian's. But Brutus, not receiving any tidings of the movements of Cassius, became so anxious for his fate that he sent off a party of horse to make inquiries, and neglected to support the successful assaults of Messalla.
Cassius, on his part, discouraged at his ill-success, was unable to ascertain the progress of Brutus. When he saw the party of horse he hastily concluded that they belonged to the enemy, and retired into his tent with his freedman Pindarus. What passed there we know not for certain. Cassius was found dead, with the head severed from the body. Pindarus was never seen again. It was generally believed that Pindarus slew his master in obedience to orders; but many thought that he had dealt a felon blow. The intelligence of Cassius' death was a heavy blow to Brutus. He forgot his own success, and pronounced the elegy of Cassius in the well-known words, "There lies the last of the Romans." The praise was ill-deserved. Except in his conduct of the war against the Parthians, Cassius had never played a worthy part.
After the first battle of Philippi it would have still been politic in Brutus to abstain from battle. The triumviral armies were in great distress, and every day increased their losses. Reinforcements coming to their aid by sea were intercepted—a proof of the neglect of the republican leaders in not sooner bringing their fleet into action. Nor did Brutus ever hear of this success. He was ill-fitted for the life of the camp, and after the death of Cassius he only kept his men together by largesse and promises of plunder. Twenty days after the first battle he led them out again. Both armies faced one another. There was little manoeuvring. The second battle was decided by numbers and force, not by skill; and it was decided in favor of the triumvirs. Brutus retired with four legions to a strong position in the rear, while the rest of his broken army sought refuge in the camp. Octavian remained to watch them, while Antony pursued the republican chief. Next day Brutus endeavored to rouse his men to another effort; but they sullenly refused to fight; and Brutus withdrew with a few friends into a neighboring wood. Here he took them aside one by one, and prayed each to do him the last service that a Roman could render to his friend. All refused with horror; till at nightfall a trusty Greek freedman named Strato held the sword, and his master threw himself upon it. Most of his friends followed the sad example. The body of Brutus was sent by Antony to his mother. His wife Portia, the daughter of Cato, refused all comfort; and being too closely watched to be able to slay herself by ordinary means, she suffocated herself by thrusting burning charcoal into her mouth. Massalla, with a number of other fugitives, sought safety in the island of Thasos, and soon after made submission to Antony.
The name of Brutus has, by Plutarch's beautiful narrative, sublimed by Shakespeare, become a byword for self-devoted patriotism. This exalted opinion is now generally confessed to be unjust. Brutus was not a patriot, unless devotion to the party of the senate be patriotism. Toward the provincials he was a true Roman, harsh and oppressive. He was free from the sensuality and profligacy of his age, but for public life he was unfit. His habits were those of a student. His application was great, his memory remarkable. But he possessed little power of turning his acquirements to account; and to the last he was rather a learned man than a man improved by learning. In comparison with Cassius, he was humane and generous; but in all respects his character is contrasted for the worse with that of the great man from whom he accepted favors and then became his murderer.
The battle of Philippi was in reality the closing scene of the republican drama. But the rivalship of the triumvirs prolonged for several years the divided state of the Roman world; and it was not till after the crowning victory of Actium that the imperial government was established in its unity. We shall, therefore, here add a rapid narrative of the events which led to that consummation.
The hopeless state of the republican or rather the senatorial party was such that almost all hastened to make submission to the conquerors: those whose sturdy spirit still disdained submission resorted to Sext. Pompeius in Sicily. Octavian, still suffering from ill-health, was anxious to return to Italy; but before he parted from Antony, they agreed to a second distribution of the provinces of the empire. Antony was to have the Eastern world; Octavian the Western provinces. To Lepidus, who was not consulted in this second division, Africa alone was left. Sext. Pompeius remained in possession of Sicily.
Antony at once proceeded to make a tour through Western Asia, in order to exact money from its unfortunate people. About midsummer (B.C. 41) he arrived at Tarsus, and here he received a visit which determined the future course of his life and influenced Roman history for the next ten years.
Antony had visited Alexandria fourteen years before, and had been smitten by the charms of Cleopatra, then a girl of fifteen. She became Cæsar's paramour, and from the time of the dictator's death Antony had never seen her. She now came to meet him in Cilicia. The galley which carried her up the Cydnus was of more than oriental gorgeousness: the sails of purple; oars of silver, moving to the sound of music; the raised poop burnished with gold. There she lay upon a splendid couch, shaded by a spangled canopy; her attire was that of Venus; around her flitted attendant cupids and graces. At the news of her approach to Tarsus, the triumvir found his tribunal deserted by the people. She invited him to her ship, and he complied. From that moment he was her slave. He accompanied her to Alexandria, exchanged the Roman garb for the Graeco-Egyptian costume of the court, and lent his power to the Queen to execute all her caprices.
Meanwhile Octavian was not without his difficulties. He was so ill at Brundusium that his death was reported at Rome. The veterans, eager for their promised rewards, were on the eve of mutiny. In a short time Octavian was sufficiently recovered to show himself. But he could find no other means of satisfying the greedy soldiery than by a confiscation of lands more sweeping than that which followed the proscription of Sylla. The towns of Cisalpine Gaul were accused of favoring Dec. Brutus, and saw nearly all their lands handed over to new possessors. The young poet, Vergil, lost his little patrimony, but was reinstated at the instance of Pollio and Maecenas, and showed his gratitude in his First Eclogue. Other parts of Italy also suffered: Apulia, for example, as we learn from Horace's friend Ofellus, who became the tenant of the estate which had formerly been his own.
But these violent measures deferred rather than obviated the difficulty. The expulsion of so many persons threw thousands loose upon society, ripe for any crime. Many of the veterans were ready to join any new leader who promised them booty. Such a leader was at hand.
Fulvia, wife of Antony, was a woman of fierce passions and ambitious spirit. She had not been invited to follow her husband to the East. She saw that in his absence imperial power would fall into the hands of Octavian. Lucius, brother of Mark Antony, was consul for the year, and at her instigation he raised his standard at Præneste. But L. Antonius knew not how to use his strength; and young Agrippa, to whom Octavian intrusted the command, obliged Antonius and Fulvia to retire northward and shut themselves up in Perusia. Their store of provisions was so small that it sufficed only for the soldiery. Early in the next year Perusia surrendered, on condition that the lives of the leaders should be spared. The town was sacked; the conduct of L. Antonius alienated all Italy from his brother.
While his wife, his brother, and his friends were quitting Italy in confusion, the arms of Antony suffered a still heavier blow in the Eastern provinces, which were under his special government. After the battle of Philippi, Q. Labienus, son of Cæsar's old lieutenant Titus, sought refuge at the court of Orodes, king of Parthia. Encouraged by the proffered aid of a Roman officer, Pacorus (the King's son) led a formidable army into Syria. Antony's lieutenant was entirely routed; and while Pacorus with one army poured into Palestine and Phoenicia, Q. Labienus with another broke into Cilicia. Here he found no opposition; and, overrunning all Asia Minor even to the Ionian Sea, he assumed the name of Parthicus, as if he had been a Roman conqueror of the people whom he served.
These complicated disasters roused Antony from his lethargy. He sailed to Tyre, intending to take the field against the Parthians; but the season was too far advanced, and he therefore crossed the Ægean to Athens, where he found Fulvia and his brother, accompanied by Pollio, Plancus, and others, all discontented with Octavian's government. Octavian was absent in Gaul, and their representation of the state of Italy encouraged him to make another attempt. Late in the year (41) Antony formed a league with Sext. Pompeius; and while that chief blockaded Thurii and Consentia, Antony assailed Brundusium. Agrippa was preparing to meet this new combination; and a fresh civil war was imminent. But the soldiery was weary of war: both armies compelled their leaders to make pacific overtures, and the new year was ushered in by a general peace, which was rendered easier by the death of Fulvia. Antony and Octavian renewed their professions of amity, and entered Rome together in joint ovation to celebrate the restoration of peace. They now made a third division of the provinces, by which Scodra (Scutari) in Illyricum was fixed as the boundary of the West and East; Lepidus was still left in possession of Africa. It was further agreed that Octavian was to drive Sext. Pompeius, lately the ally of Antony, out of Sicily; while Antony renewed his pledges to recover the standards of Crassus from the Parthians. The new compact was sealed by the marriage of Antony with Octavia, his colleague's sister, a virtuous and beautiful lady, worthy of a better consort. These auspicious events were celebrated by the lofty verse of Vergil's Fourth Eclogue.
Sext. Pompeius had reason to complain. By the peace of Brundusium he was abandoned by his late friend to Octavian. He was not a man to brook ungenerous treatment. Of late years his possession of Sicily had given him command of the Roman corn market. During the winter which followed the peace of Brundusium (B.C. 40-39), Sextus blockaded Italy so closely that Rome was threatened with a positive dearth. Riots arose; the triumvirs were pelted with stones in the Forum, and they deemed it prudent to temporize by inviting Pompey to enter their league. He met them at Misenum, and the two chiefs went on board his ship to settle the terms of alliance. It is said that one of his chief officers, a Greek named Menas or Menodorus, suggested to him the expediency of putting to sea with the great prize, and then making his own terms. Sextus rejected the advice with the characteristic words, "You should have done it without asking me." It was agreed that Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica should be given up to his absolute rule, and that Achaia should be added to his portion; so that the Roman world was now partitioned among four: Octavian, Antony, Lepidus, and Sext. Pompeius. On their return the triumvirs were received with vociferous applause.
Before winter, Antony sailed for Athens in company with Octavia, who for the time seems to have banished Cleopatra from his thoughts. But he disgusted all true Romans by assuming the attributes of Grecian gods and indulging in Grecian orgies.
He found the state of things in the East greatly changed since his departure. He had commissioned P. Ventidius Bassus, an officer who had followed Fulvia from Italy, to hold the Parthians in check till his return. Ventidius was son of a Picenian nobleman of Asculum, who had been brought to Rome as a captive in the Social War. In his youth he had been a contractor to supply mules for the use of the Roman commissariat. But in the civil wars which followed, men of military talent easily rose to command; and such was the lot of Ventidius. While Antony was absent in Italy, he drove Q. Labienus into the defiles of Taurus, and here that adventurer was defeated and slain. The conqueror then marched rapidly into Syria, and forced Pacorus also to withdraw to the eastern bank of the Euphrates.
In the following year (38) he repelled a fresh invasion of the Parthians, and defeated them in three battles. In the last of these engagements Pacorus himself was slain on the fifteenth anniversary of the death of Crassus. Antony found Ventidius laying siege to Samosata, and displaced him, only to abandon the siege and return to Athens. Ventidius repaired to Rome, where he was honored with a well-deserved triumph. He had left it as a mule jobber; he returned with the laurel round his brows. He was the first, and almost the last, Roman general who could claim such a distinction for victory over the Parthians.
The alliance with Sext. Pompeius was not intended to last, and it did not last. Antony refused to put him in possession of Achaia, and to avenge himself for this breach of faith Pompeius again began to intercept the Italian corn fleets. Fresh discontent appeared at Rome, and Octavian equipped a second fleet to sail against the naval chief; but after two battles of doubtful result, the fleet was destroyed by a storm, and Sextus was again left in undisputed mastery of the sea. Octavian, however, was never daunted by reverses, and he gave his favorite Agrippa full powers to conduct the war against Pompeius. This able commander set about his work with that resolution that marked a man determined not to fail. As a harbor for his fleet, he executed a plan of the great Cæsar; namely, to make a good and secure harbor on the coast of Latium, which then, as now, offered no shelter to ships. For this purpose he cut a passage through the narrow necks of land which separated Lake Lucrinus from the sea, and Lake Avernus from Lake Lucrinus, and faced the outer barrier with stone. This was the famous Julian Port. In the whole of the two years B.C. 38 and 37 Agrippa was occupied in this work and in preparing a sufficient force of ships. Every dockyard in Italy was called into requisition. A large body of slaves was set free that they might be trained to serve as rowers.
On the 1st of July, B.C. 36, the fleet put to sea. Octavian himself, with one division, purposed to attack the northern coast of Sicily, while a second squadron was assembled at Tarentum for the purpose of assailing the eastern side. Lepidus, with a third fleet from Africa, was to assault Lilybaeum. But the winds were again adverse; and, though Lepidus effected a landing on the southern coast, Octavian's two fleets were driven back to Italy with great damage. But the injured ships were refitted, and Agrippa was sent westward toward Panormus, while Octavian himself kept guard near Messana. Off Mylae, a place famous for having witnessed the first naval victory of the Romans, Agrippa encountered the fleet of Sext. Pompeius; but Sextus, with the larger portion of his ships, gave Agrippa the slip, and sailing eastward fell suddenly upon Octavian's squadron off Tauromenium. A desperate conflict followed, which ended in the complete triumph of Sextus, and Octavian escaped to Italy with a few ships only. But Agrippa was soon upon the traces of the enemy. On the 3d of September Sextus was obliged once more to accept battle near the Straits of Messana, and suffered an irretrievable defeat. His troops on land were attacked and dispersed by an army which had been landed on the eastern coast by the indefatigable Octavian; and Sextus sailed off to Lesbos, where he had found refuge as a boy during the campaign of Pharsalia, to seek protection from the jealousy of Antony.
Lepidus had assisted in the campaign; but after the departure of Sextus he openly declared himself independent of his brother triumvirs. Octavian, with prompt and prudent boldness, entered the camp of Lepidus in person with a few attendants. The soldiers deserted in crowds, and in a few hours Lepidus was fain to sue for pardon, where he had hoped to rule. He was treated with contemptuous indifference, Africa was taken from him; but he was allowed to live and die at Rome in quiet enjoyment of the chief pontificate.
It was fortunate for Octavian that during this campaign Antony was on friendly terms with him. In B.C. 37 the ruler of the East again visited Italy, and a meeting between the two chiefs was arranged at Tarentum. The five years for which the triumvirs were originally appointed were now fast expiring; and it was settled that their authority should be renewed by the subservient senate and people for a second period of the same duration. They parted good friends; and Octavian undertook his campaign against Sext. Pompeius without fear from Antony. This was proved by the fate of the fugitive. From Lesbos Sextus passed over to Asia, where he was taken prisoner by Antony's lieutenants and put to death.
Hitherto Octavia had retained her influence over Antony. But presently, after his last interview with her brother, the fickle triumvir abruptly quitted a wife who was too good for him, and returned to the fascinating presence of the Egyptian Queen, whom he had not seen for three years. From this time forth he made no attempt to break the silken chain of her enchantments. During the next summer, indeed, he attempted a new Parthian campaign. But his advance was made with reckless indifference to the safety of his troops. Provisions failed; disease broke out; and after great suffering he was forced to seek safety by a precipitate retreat into the Armenian mountains. In the next year he contented himself with a campaign in Armenia, to punish the King of that country for alleged treachery in the last campaign. The King fell into his hands; and with this trophy Antony returned to Alexandria, where the Romans were disgusted to see the streets of a Graeco-Egyptian town honored by a mimicry of a Roman triumph.
For the next three years he surrendered himself absolutely to the will of the enchantress. To this period belong those tales of luxurious indulgence which are known to every reader. The brave soldier, who in the perils of war could shake off all luxurious habits and could rival the commonest man in the cheerfulness with which he underwent every hardship, was seen no more. He sunk into an indolent voluptuary, pleased by childish amusements. At one time he would lounge in a boat at a fishing party, and laugh when he drew up pieces of salt fish which by the Queen's order had been attached to his hook by divers. At another time she wagered that she would consume ten million sesterces at one meal, and won her wager by dissolving in vinegar a pearl of unknown value. While Cleopatra bore the character of the goddess Isis, her lover appeared as Osiris. Her head was placed conjointly with his own on the coins which he issued as a Roman magistrate. He disposed of the kingdoms and principalities of the East by his sole word. By his influence Herod, son of Antipater, the Idumæan minister of Hyrcanus, the late sovereign of Judea, was made king to the exclusion of the rightful heir. Polemo, his own son by Cleopatra, was invested with the sceptre of Armenia. Encouraged by the absolute submission of her lover, Cleopatra fixed her eye upon the Capitol, and dreamed of winning by means of Antony that imperial crown which she had vainly sought from Cæsar.
While Antony was engaged in voluptuous dalliance, Octavian was resolutely pursuing the work of consolidating his power in the West. His patience, his industry, his attention to business, his affability, were winning golden opinions and rapidly obliterating all memory of the bloody work by which he had risen to power. He had won little glory in war; but so long as the corn fleets arrived daily from Sicily and Africa, the populace cared little whether the victory had been won by Octavian or by his generals. In Agrippa he possessed a consummate captain, in Maecenas a wise and temperate minister. It is much to his credit that he never showed any jealousy of the men to whom he owed so much. He flattered the people with the hope that he would, when Antony had fulfilled his mission of recovering the standards of Crassus, engage him to join in putting an end to their sovereign power and restoring constitutional liberty.
In point of fidelity to his marriage vows Octavian was little better than Antony. He renounced his marriage with Clodia, the daughter of Fulvia, when her mother attempted to raise Italy against him. He divorced Scribonia, when it no longer suited him to court the favor of her kinsman. To replace this second wife, he forcibly took away Livia from her husband, T. Claudius Nero, though she was at that time pregnant of her second son. But in this and other less pardonable immoralities there was nothing to shock the feelings of Romans.
But Octavian never suffered pleasure to divert him from business. If he could not be a successful general, he resolved at least to show that he could be a hardy soldier. While Antony in his Egyptian palace was neglecting the Parthian War, his rival led his legions in more than one dangerous campaign against the barbarous Dalmatians and Pannonians, who had been for some time infesting the province of Illyricum. In the year B.C. 33 he announced that the limits of the empire had been extended northward to the banks of the Save.
Octavian now began to feel that any appearance of friendship with Antony was a source of weakness rather than of strength at Rome. Misunderstandings had already broken out. Antony complained that Octavian had given him no share in the provinces wrested from Sext. Pompeius and Lepidus. Octavian retorted by accusing his colleague of appropriating Egypt and Armenia, and of increasing Cleopatra's power at the expense of the Roman Empire. Popular indignation rose to its height when Plancus and Titius, who had been admitted to Antony's confidence, passed over to Octavian, and disclosed the contents of their master's will. In that document Antony ordered that his body should be buried at Alexandria, in the mausoleum of Cleopatra. Men began to fancy that Cleopatra had already planted her throne upon the Capitol. These suspicions were sedulously encouraged by Octavian.
Before the close of B.C. 32, Octavian, by the authority of the senate, declared war nominally against Cleopatra. Antony, roused from his sleep by reports from Rome, passed over to Athens, issuing orders everywhere to levy men and collect ships for the impending struggle. At Athens he received news of the declaration of war, and replied by divorcing Octavia. His fleet was ordered to assemble at Corcyra; and his legions in the early spring prepared to pour into Epirus. He established his head-quarters at Patræ on the Corinthian Gulf.
But Antony, though his fleet was superior to that of Octavian, allowed Agrippa to sweep the Ionian Sea, and to take possession of Methone, in Messenia, as a station for a flying squadron to intercept Antony's communications with the East, nay, even to occupy Corcyra, which had been destined for his own place of rendezvous. Antony's fleet now anchored in the waters of the Ambracian Gulf, while his legions encamped on a spot of land which forms the northern horn of that spacious inlet. But the place chosen for the camp was unhealthy; and in the heats of early summer his army suffered greatly from disease. Agrippa lay close at hand watching his opportunity. In the course of the spring Octavian joined him in person.
Early in the season Antony had repaired from Patræ to his army, so as to be ready either to cross over into Italy or to meet the enemy if they attempted to land in Epirus. At first he showed something of his old military spirit, and the soldiers, who always loved his military frankness, warmed into enthusiasm; but his chief officers, won by Octavian or disgusted by the influence of Cleopatra, deserted him in such numbers that he knew not whom to trust, and gave up all thoughts of maintaining the contest with energy. Urged by Cleopatra, he resolved to carry off his fleet and abandon the army. All preparations were made in secret, and the great fleet put to sea on the 28th of August. For the four following days there was a strong gale from the south. Neither could Antony escape nor could Octavian put to sea against him from Corcyra. On the 2d of September, however, the wind fell, and Octavian's light vessels, by using their oars, easily came up with the unwieldy galleys of the eastern fleet. A battle was now inevitable.
Antony's ships were like impregnable fortresses to the assault of the slight vessels of Octavian; and, though they lay nearly motionless in the calm sea, little impression was made upon them. But about noon a breeze sprung up from the west; and Cleopatra, followed by sixty Egyptian ships, made sail in a southerly direction. Antony immediately sprang from his ship-of-war into a light galley and followed. Deserted by their commander, the captains of Antony's ships continued to resist desperately; nor was it till the greater part of them were set on fire that the contest was decided. Before evening closed, the whole fleet was destroyed; most of the men and all the treasure on board perished. A few days after, when the shameful flight of Antony was made known to his army, all his legions went over to the conqueror.
It was not for eleven months after the battle of Actium that Octavian entered the open gates of Alexandria. He had been employed in the interval in founding the city of Nicopolis to celebrate his victory on the northern horn of the Ambracian Gulf, in rewarding his soldiers, and settling the affairs of the provinces of the East. In the winter he returned to Italy, and it was midsummer, B.C. 30, before he arrived in Egypt.
When Antony and Cleopatra arrived off Alexandria they put a bold face upon the matter. Some time passed before the real state of the case was known; but it soon became plain that Egypt was at the mercy of the conqueror. The Queen formed all kinds of wild designs. One was to transport the ships that she had saved across the Isthmus of Suez and seek refuge in some distant land where the name of Rome was yet unknown. Some ships were actually drawn across, but they were destroyed by the Arabs, and the plan was abandoned. She now flattered herself that her powers of fascination, proved so potent over Cæsar and Antony, might subdue Octavian. Secret messages passed between the conqueror and the Queen; nor were Octavian's answers such as to banish hope.
Antony, full of repentance and despair, shut himself up in Pharos, and there remained in gloomy isolation.
In July, B.C. 30, Octavian appeared before Pelusium. The place was surrendered without a blow. Yet, at the approach of the conqueror, Antony put himself at the head of a division of cavalry and gained some advantage. But on his return to Alexandria he found that Cleopatra had given up all her ships; and no more opposition was offered. On the 1st of August (Sextilis, as it was then called) Octavian entered the open gates of Alexandria. Both Antony and Cleopatra sought to win him. Antony's messengers the conqueror refused to see; but he still used fair words to Cleopatra. The Queen had shut herself up in a sort of mausoleum built to receive her body after death, which was not approachable by any door; and it was given out that she was really dead. All the tenderness of old times revived in Antony's heart. He stabbed himself, and in a dying state ordered himself to be laid by the side of Cleopatra. The Queen, touched by pity, ordered her expiring lover to be drawn up by cords into her retreat, and bathed his temples with her tears.
After he had breathed his last, she consented to see Octavian. Her penetration soon told her that she had nothing to hope from him. She saw that his fair words were only intended to prevent her from desperate acts and reserve her for the degradation of his triumph. This impression was confirmed when all instruments by which death could be inflicted were found to have been removed from her apartments. But she was not to be so baffled. She pretended all submission; but when the ministers of Octavian came to carry her away, they found her lying dead upon her couch, attended by her faithful waiting-women, Iras and Charmion. The manner of her death was never ascertained; popular belief ascribed it to the bite of an asp which had been conveyed to her in a basket of fruit.
Thus died Antony and Cleopatra. Antony was by nature a genial, open-hearted Roman, a good soldier, quick, resolute, and vigorous, but reckless and self-indulgent, devoid alike of prudence and of principle. The corruptions of the age, the seductions of power, and the evil influence of Cleopatra paralyzed a nature capable of better things. We know him chiefly through the exaggerated assaults of Cicero in his Philippic, and the narratives of writers devoted to Octavian. But after all deductions for partial representation, enough remains to show that Antony had all the faults of Cæsar, with little of his redeeming greatness.
Cleopatra was an extraordinary person. At her death she was but thirty-eight years of age. Her power rested not so much on actual beauty as on her fascinating manners and her extreme readiness of wit. In her follies there was a certain magnificence which excites even a dull imagination. We may estimate the real power of her mental qualities by observing the impression her character made upon the Roman poets of the time. No meditated praises could have borne such testimony to her greatness as the lofty strain in which Horace celebrates her fall and congratulates the Roman world on its escape from the ruin which she was threatening to the Capitol.
Octavian dated the years of his imperial monarchy from the day of the battle of Actium. But it was not till two years after (the summer of B.C. 29) that he established himself in Rome as ruler of the Roman world. Then he celebrated three magnificent triumphs, after the example of his uncle the great dictator, for his victories in Dalmatia, at Actium, and in Egypt. At the same time the temple of Janus was closed—notwithstanding that border wars still continued in Gaul and Spain—for the first time since the year B.C. 235. All men drew breath more freely, and all except the soldiery looked forward to a time of tranquillity. Liberty and independence were forgotten words. After the terrible disorders of the last century, the general cry was for quiet at any price. Octavian was a person admirably fitted to fulfil these aspirations. His uncle Julius was too fond of active exertion to play such a part well. Octavian never shone in war, while his vigilant and patient mind was well fitted for the discharge of business. He avoided shocking popular feeling by assuming any title savoring of royalty; but he enjoyed by universal consent an authority more than regal.
- This story is, however, rendered somewhat doubtful by the manner in which Cinna is mentioned in Vergil's ninth Eclogue, which was certainly written in or after the year B.C. 40.
- Pedius was son of Cæsar's second sister, Julia minor, and therefore first cousin (once removed) to Octavius.
- He had divorced Tullia, the orator's daughter, before he left Italy.