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43 BC - 2nd Triumvirate
Octavius, Antony and Lepidus

Although Caesar was dead, both parties, the conspirators and the personal and political friends of the dead leader, rested on their arms. Neither faction knew the strength of the other nor the sentiment of the people. The Caesarian consul Mark Antony thought it best to propose a compromise, and Marcus and Decimus Brutus, Cassius, and the other conspirators accepted it. Caesar's arrangements for the future were ratified, but no inquiry was to be made into the circumstances of his death.

An unexpected turn was given to affairs by the arrival in Italy of Octavius, Caesar's grand-nephew, a young man in his nineteenth year, whom the dictator had named as his heir. His fidelity in carrying out the generous provisions of Caesar's will, his tactful course, and the fact that he bore the name of their late leader drew to him so many of Caesar's veterans that Antony, for fear of losing all his troops, hastily left Rome for the North with the forces which were still loyal to him.

Antony had secured by law the transfer to himself of Cisalpine Gaul, which had originally been assigned to Decimus Brutus, one of the conspirators. His purpose now was to drive out Brutus and take possession of the province. The senate called Octavius to its assistance and sent him with Hirtius and Pansa, the two consuls of the year 43, to the relief of Brutus. Antony was worsted at Mutina. But the victory was dearly bought. Hirtius and Pansa were killed.

Octavius was so aggrieved at the assignment of the vacant position of commander-in-chief to Brutus that he came to an understanding with Antony and his ally Lepidus, and in 43 BC the three men formed a compact, commonly known as the second triumvirate, which was later ratified by law, and gave them even more extensive powers than Pompey, Caesar, and Crassus had exercised twenty years before. Their return to Rome was followed by a reign of terror which rivaled that of Sulla.

Cicero was one of the early victims of their fury. Cicero's political course was based upon a new method of securing strength for the social fabric. Gaius Gracchus had exalted the middle classes at the expense of the nobility, Sulla had restored the supremacy of the senate, and thereby antagonized the middle classes. Now Cicero sought to unite both senators and knights in a joint defense of the cause of law and order. His efforts were as futile as theirs had been, because the 'Roman empire had outgrown the old regime, and because ambitious leaders had been taught by the examples of Sulla, of Marius, and of Pompey to look to the sword, and not to the ballot, as the source of political power.

From 47 to his death in 44 Caesar was dictator. Cicero mourned the downfall of the republic, and took little part in public affairs. He attended meetings of the senate, but rarely spoke. This policy of silence was interrupted (in 46) by the oration for Marcellus, an extravagant eulogy of the dictator's clemency in pardoning one who, like the orator himself, had taken the side of Pompey against Caesar. To Cicero's grief at the state of his country were added troubles 79 of a domestic nature. His wife, Terentia, to whom he had written so affectionately when an exile (Ep. 9), after thirty years of wedded life was divorced. He married a young woman named Publilia, but soon separated from her. But the crowning sorrow was the death of his daughter, Tullia, which almost crushed him. It was only by devoting himself with tremendous energy and concentration to literary labors that he was able to forget his public and private cares. In these last years of his life he turned out an enormous amount of work, mostly on philosophical subjects.

Cicero had been the head and front of the senatorial opposition, and however vainglorious he may have been of his consulship, however weak during his year of exile, and vacillating when the war broke out between Caesar and Pompey, in this period he rose to the full stature of a brave man of action and a statesman. Antony's aggressions became so intolerable that Cicero, in the hope of discrediting and finally defeating him, uttered that remarkable series of invectives known as the fourteen Philippics. His scathing denunciation of Antony in his Philippic orations, his brave letters to the governors of provinces, encouraging them to stand firm for the senatorial cause, and his bold leadership of the senate made him the heart and soul of the lost cause. In the end the sole effect of Cicero 's efforts was to arouse the implacable hatred of Antony. Within a few months Antony and Octavian reached an understanding, and with Lepidus formed the Second Triumvirate. Each of the three made a list of men whom he considered dangerous to the new regime, and these, to the number of some thousands, were put to death. As might have been expected, Cicero's name appeared on the list of the proscribed by Antony. Cicero started to leave Italy, but was overtaken by cavalry at his estate near Formise and beheaded, Dec. 7, 43. He did not long survive the republic which in his consulship he had saved and throughout his life had served with all his wonderful talents.

The bravery of Cicero in this last struggle of the republic a century later not undeservedly called forth from Velleius Paterculus this enthusiastic eulogy of Cicero and denunciation of Antony: "Thou hast robbed Cicero, Mark Antony, of the light of life, but of a light obscured by the clouds of trouble - of his declining years, and of a life which would have been more wretched under thee as prince than was death under thee as triumvir, but the fame and the glory which his deeds and words brought him thou hast rather exalted than taken from him. He lives and will live in memory for all time, and so long as this world, ruled by chance or by providence, or however it be governed, so long as this world shall last whose significance, structure, and constitution, he was almost the only Roman to discern, to comprehend, and to set forth in a clear light by means of his eloquence, it will take with it through the ages the praise of Cicero, and in times to come all men will execrate thy crime against him, and the human race shall disappear from the earth before the name of Cicero dies."

Meanwhile the two republican leaders, M. Brutus and Cassius, had withdrawn to the East to take possession of their provinces, and were exerting themselves to the utmost to prepare for the struggle which they knew to be inevitable. In the autumn of 42 BC they had brought together at Philippi a force of nineteen legions of foot soldiers and twenty thousand horsemen. Here they were met by the triumvirs and defeated. Brutus and Cassius took their own lives, and the struggle to reestablish the republic was at an end. The Roman World Divided between Octavianus and Antony. In the division of territory which followed the victory, Octavius, or Octavianus as he was called after his adoption by Caesar, took Italy and the West, Antony the East, with Alexandria as his capital. Lepidus had to content himself with Africa, and played henceforth a minor role.

The compact between Octavianus and Antony, broken only by temporary misunderstandings, ran for ten years, but the rivalry between the two men was too intense to allow the arrangement to be permanent. It was believed too at Rome that Antony and Cleopatra were planning to set up a rival power in the East. The great naval battle near Actium in 31 BC was, therefore, a struggle between the East and the West, and the victory of Octavianus over Antony and Cleopatra established once for all the supremacy of the West.

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 13:28:31 ZULU