Philippi (42 BCE)

Battle of Philippi (42 BCE): decisive battle in the war between the republican assassins of Caesar and his avengers, the triumvirs, who won. As a consequence, Rome was destine to become a monarchy.

Summary

In October 42 BCE, two Roman armies approached each other near Philippi, a city in Macedonia. The first army belonged to Brutus and Cassius, the assassins of Julius Caesar and defenders of the Roman republic It arrived from the southeast. A bit later, the triumvirs Marc Antony and Octavian arrived from the west, wishing to avenge the assassination of Caesar. The first army used Neapolis (modern Kavala) as its supply base, and had to cross mountains to get its food to the battlefield; the second army used Amphipolis, which was even more distant. The clash was in the first place a struggle of the supply corpses.

Because Brutus and Cassius had occupied the best positions (two little hills west of Philippi), Marc Antony tried to circumvent Philippi by building a causeway through the wetlands to the south of the city. Had he succeeded, he would have cut off his enemies' line of communication. But Cassius discovered it and built a transverse dam. While his opponent was thus occupied, Marc Antony unexpectedly ordered his men to storm Cassius' camp. They were very successful, and Cassius, believing that all was lost, committed suicide before he had learned that Brutus had at the same time defeated the army of Octavian and had captured the camp of Marc Antony and Octavian. In other words, both sides had won a victory and suffered a defeat.

A second clash was decisive: a couple of days later, Marc Antony and Octavian were able to lure Brutus into a battle that he ought not have accepted. In the end, the triumvirs were victorious.

Eleven years later, Octavian defeated Marc Antony at Actium and became sole ruler of the Roman world, accepting the surname Augustus.The double battle at Philippi had been more than just a fight between rival factions: it had been about the future of the republic, which would become a monarchy.

Below is the account of the battle by Appian of Alexandria (c.95-c.165), the author of a Roman History and one of the most underestimated of all Greek historians. His history of the Roman Civil Wars survives in its entirety. The fourth book, section 105-138, contains an excellent account of the double battle of Philippi.

The translation was made by Horace White; notes by Jona Lendering.


Appian, Civil Wars, 4.105-138

The first battle of Philippi

[105] Philippi is a city that was formerly called Datus, and before that Crenides,note because there are many springs bubbling around a hill there. Philipnote fortified it because he considered it an excellent stronghold against the Thracians, and named it from himself, Philippi. It is situated on a precipitous hill and its size is exactly that of the summit of the hill. There are woods on the north through which Rhascupolisnote led the army of Brutus and Cassius. On the south is a marsh extending to the sea. On the east are the gorges of the Sapaeans and Corpileans, and on the west a very fertile and beautiful plain extending to the towns of Murcinus and Drabiscus and the river Strymon, about 65 kilometers. Here it is said that Persephone was carried off while gathering flowers, and here is the river Zygactes, in crossing which they say that the yoke of the god's chariot was broken, from which circumstance the river received its name. The plain slopes downward so that movement is easy to those descending from Philippi, but toilsome to those going up from Amphipolis.

The battlefield seen from Philipi, with the two hills in the distance.

[§106] There is another hill not far from Philippi which is called the Hill of Dionysus, in which are gold mines called the Asyla. Two kilometer farther are two other hills, at a distance of 3¼ kilometer from Philippi itself and 1½ kilometer from each other. On these hills Cassius and Brutus were encamped, the former on the southern and the latter on the northern of the two. They did not advance against the retreating army of Norbanusnote because they learned that Antony was approaching, Octavian having been left behind at Epidamnus on account of sickness. The plain was admirably suited for fighting and the hill-tops for camping, since on one side of them were marshes and ponds stretching as far as the river Strymon, and on the other gorges destitute of roads and impassable. Between these hills, 1½ kilometer apart, lay the main pass from Europe to Asia as between gates. Across this space they built a fortification from camp to camp, leaving a gate in the middle, so that the two camps became virtually one. Alongside this fortification flowed a river, which is called by some the Ganga and by others the Gangites, and behind it was the sea, where they could keep their supplies and shipping in safety. Their depot was on the island of Thasos, 20 kilometer distant, and their triremes were anchored at Neapolis, at a distance of 12½ kilometer.

Marc Antony

[§107] Brutus and Cassius were satisfied with the position and proceeded to fortify their camps, but Antony moved his army rapidly, wishing to anticipate the enemy in occupying Amphipolis as an advantageous position for the battle. When he found it already fortified by Norbanus he was delighted. Leaving his supplies there and one legion, under the command of Pinarius, he advanced with the greatest boldness and encamped in the plain at a distance of only 1½ kilometer from the enemy, and straightway the superiority of the enemy's situation and the inferiority of his own became evident. The former were on elevated ground, the latter on the plain; the former procured fuel from the mountains, the latter from the marsh; the former obtained water from a river, the latter from wells freshly dug; the former drew their supplies from Thasos, requiring carriage of only a few kilometers, while the latter was 65 kilometers from Amphipolis. Still it seems that Antony was compelled to do as he did, for there was no other hill, and the rest of the plain, lying in a sort of hollow, was liable to inundation at times from the river; for which reason also the fountains of water were found fresh and abundant in the wells that were dug there. Antony's audacity, although he was driven to it by necessity, confounded the enemy when they saw him pitch his camp so near them and in such a contemptuous manner as soon as he arrived. He raised numerous towers and fortified himself on all sides with ditches, wall, and palisade. The enemy also completed their fortification wherever their work was defective. Cassius, observing that Antony's advance was reckless, extended his fortification at the only place where it was still wanting, from the camp to the marsh, a space which had been overlooked on account of its narrowness, so that there was now nothing unfortified except the cliffs on Brutus' flank and the marsh on that of Cassius and the sea lying against the marsh. In the center everything was intercepted by ditch, palisade, wall, and gates.

Octavian

[§108] In this way both sides had fortified themselves, in the meantime making trial of each other by cavalry skirmishes only. When they had done all that they intended and Octavian had arrived (for, although he was not yet strong enough for a battle, he could be carried along the ranks reclining in a litter), he and Antony prepared for battle forthwith. Brutus and Cassius also drew out their forces on their higher ground, but did not come down. They decided not to give battle, hoping to wear out the enemy by want of supplies.

There were nineteen legions of infantry on each side, but those of Brutus and Cassius lacked something of being full, while those of Octavian and Antony were complete. Of cavalry the latter had 13,000 and the former 20,000, including Thracians on both sides. Thus in the multitude of men, in the spirit and bravery of the commanders, and in arms and munitions, was beheld a most magnificent display on both sides; yet they did nothing for several days.

Brutus and Cassius did not wish to engage, but rather to continue wasting the enemy by lack of provisions, since they themselves had abundance from Asia, all transported by the sea from close at hand, all the enemy had nothing in abundance and nothing from their own territory. They could obtain nothing through merchants in Egypt, since that country was exhausted by famine, nor from Spain or Africa by reason of Pompeius,note nor from Italy by reason of Murcus and Domitius. Macedonia and Thessaly, which were the only countries then supplying them, wouldn't suffice much longer.

Brutus

[§109] Mindful chiefly of these facts Brutus and his generals protracted the war. Antony, fearful of the delay, resolved to force them to an engagement. He formed a plan of effecting a passage through the marsh secretly, if possible, in order to get in the enemy's rear without their knowledge, and cut off their avenue of supply from Thasos. So he arrayed his forces for battle with all the standards set each day, so that it might seem that his entire army was drawn up, while a part of his force was really working night and day making a narrow passage in the marsh, cutting down reeds, throwing up a causeway upon them, and flanking it with stone, so that the earth should not fall away, and bridging the deeper parts with piles, all in the profoundest silence. The reeds, which were still growing around his passage-way, prevented the enemy from seeing his work.

After working ten days in this manner he sent a column of troops by night suddenly, who occupied all the strong positions within his lines and built several redoubts at the same time. Cassius was amazed at the ingenuity as well as the secrecy of this work, and he formed the counter design of cutting Antony off from his redoubts. He carried a transverse wall across the whole marsh from his camp to the sea, cutting and bridging in the same manner as Antony had done, and setting up the palisade on the top of his mounds, thus intercepting the passage made by Antony, so that those inside could not escape to him, nor he render assistance to them.

[§110] When Antony saw this about noon, instantly, with rage and fury, he turned his own army, which was facing in another direction, and led it against the cross-fortification of Cassius between his camp and the marsh. He carried tools and ladders intending to take it by storm and force his way into Cassius' camp.

While he was making this audacious charge, obliquely and up hill, across the space that separated the two armies, the soldiers of Brutus were provoked at the insolence of the enemy in dashing boldly athwart their front while they stood there armed. So they charged on their own account, without any order from their officers, and killed with much slaughter (as natural in a flank attack) all they came up with. The battle once begun they charged upon the army of Octavian, also, which was drawn up opposite, put it to flight, pursued it to the camp which Antony and Octavian had in common, and captured it. Octavian himself was not there, having been warned in a dream to beware of that day, as he has himself written in his Memoirs.

The battlefield, seen from Octavian's camp

[§111] When Antony saw that battle was joined he was delighted because he had forced it, for he had been in trouble about his supplies he judged it inadvisable to turn again toward the plain, lest in making the evolution his ranks should be thrown into disorder. So he continued his charge, as he had begun it, on the run, and advanced under a shower of missiles, and forced his way till he struck the troop of Cassius which had not moved from its assigned position and which was amazed at this unexpected audacity. He courageously broke this advance guard and dashed against the fortification that ran between the marsh and the camp, demolished the palisade, filled up the ditch, undermined the works, and killed the men at the gates, disregarding the missiles hurled from the wall, until he had forced an entrance through the gates, and others had made breaches in the fortification, and still others had climbed up on the débris. All this was done so swiftly that those who had just now captured the fortification met Cassius' men, who had been at work in the marsh, coming to the assistance of their friends, and, with a powerful charge, put them to flight, drove them into the marsh, and then at once wheeled against the camp of Cassius itself. These were only the men who had scaled the fortification with Antony, the remainder being engaged in conflict with the enemy on the other side of the wall

[§112] As the camp was in a strong position it was guarded by only a few men, for which reason Antony easily overcame them. Cassius' soldiers outside the camp were already being beaten, and when they saw that the camp was taken they scattered in disorderly flight. The victory was complete and alike on either side, Brutus defeating the enemy's left wing and taking their camp, while Antony overcame Cassius and ravaged his camp with irresistible courage. There was great slaughter on both sides, but by reason of the extent of the plain and the clouds of dust they were ignorant of each other's fate. When they learned the facts they recalled their scattered forces. Those who returned resembled porters rather than soldiers, and did not at once perceive each other nor see anything clearly. Otherwise either party would have flung down their burdens and fiercely attacked the others carrying off plunder in this disorderly fashion. According to conjecture the number of killed on the side of Cassius, including slave shield-bearers, was about 9,000, and on the side of Octavian double that number.

[§113] When Cassius was driven out of his fortifications and no longer had even a camp to go to, he hurried up the hill to Philippi and took a survey of the situation. As he could not see accurately on account of the dust, nor could he see everything, but only that his own camp was captured, he ordered Pindarus, his shield-bearer, to fall upon him and kill him. While Pindarus still delayed a messenger ran up and said that Brutus had been victorious on the other wing, and was ravaging the enemy's camp. Cassius merely answered, "Tell him that I pray his victory may be complete." Then, turning to Pindarus, he said, "What are you waiting for? Why do you not deliver me from my shame?" Then, as he presented his throat, Pindarus slew him.

This is one account of the death of Cassius. Others say that as some horsemen were approaching, bringing the good news from Brutus, he took them for enemies and sent Titinius to find out exactly; that the horsemen pressed around Titinius joyfully as a friend of Cassius, and at the same time uttered loud hurrahs; that Cassius, thinking that Titinius had fallen into the hands of enemies, said, "Have I waited to see my friend torn from me?" and that he withdrew to a tent with Pindarus, and Pindarus was never seen afterward. For this reason some persons think that he killed Cassius without orders.

Thus Cassius ended his life on his birthday, on which, as it happened, the battle was fought, and Titinius killed himself because he had been too late.

[§114] Brutus wept over the dead body of Cassius and called him the last of the Romans, meaning that his equal in virtue would never exist again. He reproached him for haste and precipitancy, but at the same time he esteemed him happy because he was freed from cares and troubles, "which," he said, "are leading Brutus, whither, ah, whither?"

He delivered the corpse to friends to be buried secretly lest the army should be moved to tears at the sight; and himself passed the whole night, without food and without care for his own person, restoring order in Cassius' army. In the morning the enemy drew up their army in order of battle, so that they might not seem to have been beaten. Brutus, perceiving their design, exclaimed, "Let us arm also and make believe that we have suffered defeat." So he put his forces in line, and the enemy withdrew. Brutus said to his friends, jestingly, "They challenged us when they thought we were tired out, but they dared not put us to the test." 

[The story is interrupted by a description of a naval engagement in the Adriatic Sea.]

Map of the second battle of Philippi

[§121] Marc Antony marshalled his men again on the following day. As the enemy would not come down even then, he was disgusted, but he continued to lead out his men daily. Brutus had a part of his army in line lest he should be compelled to fight; and with another part he guarded the road by which his supplies were conveyed.

There was a hill very near the camp of Cassius, which it was difficult for an enemy to occupy, because by reason of its nearness, it was exposed to arrows from the camp. Nevertheless, Cassius had placed a guard on it, lest any one should make bold to attack it. As it had been abandoned by Brutus, the army of Octavian occupied it by night with four legions and protected themselves with wickerwork and hides against the enemy's bowmen. When this position was secured they transferred ten other legions a distance of more than a kilometer toward the sea. 750 meter farther they placed two legions, in order to extend themselves in this manner quite to the sea, with a view of breaking through the enemy's line either along the sea itself, or through the marsh, or in some other way, and to cut off their supplies. Brutus counteracted this movement by building fortified posts opposite their camps and in other ways.

The wetlands

[§122] The task of Octavian and Antony became pressing, hunger was already felt, and in view of the magnitude of the coming famine the fear of it grew upon them more and more each day, for Thessaly could no longer furnish sufficient supplies, nor could they hope for anything from the sea, which was commanded by the enemy everywhere. News of their recent disaster in the Adriatic having now reached both armies, it caused them fresh alarm, as also did the approach of winter while they were quartered in this muddy plain. Moved by these considerations they sent a legion of troops to Achaea at once to collect all the food they could find and send it to them in haste. As they could not rest under so great an impending danger, and as their other artifices were of no avail, they ceased offering battle in the plain and advanced with shouts to the enemy's fortifications, and challenged Brutus to fight, reviling and scoffing at him, intending not so much to besiege him as by a mad assault to force him to an engagement.

[§123] But Brutus adhered to his original intention, and all the more because he knew of the famine and of his own success in the Adriatic, and of the enemy's desperation for want of supplies. He preferred to endure a siege, or anything else rather than come to an engagement with men desperate for hunger, and whose hopes rested solely on fighting because they despaired of every other resource. His soldiers, however, without reflection, entertained a different opinion. They took it hard that they should be shut up, idle and cowardly, like women, within their fortifications. Their officers also, although they approved of Brutus' design, were vexed, thinking that in the present temper of the army they might overpower the enemy more quickly. Brutus himself was the cause of these murmurs, being of a gentle and kindly disposition toward all - not like Cassius, who had been austere and imperious in every way, for which reason the army obeyed his orders promptly, not interfering with his authority, and not criticising them when they had learned them. But in the case of Brutus they expected nothing else than to share the command with him on account of his mildness of temper. Finally, the soldiers began more and more openly to collect together in companies and groups and to ask each other, "Why does our general put a stigma upon us? How have we offended lately - we who conquered the enemy and put him to flight; we who slaughtered those opposed to us and took their camp?" Brutus took no notice of these murmurs, nor did he call an assembly, lest he should be forced from his position, contrary to his dignity, by the unreasoning multitude, and especially by the mercenaries, who, like fickle slaves seeking new masters, always rest their hopes of safety on desertion to the enemy.

[§124] His officers also kept irritating him and urging him to make use of the eagerness of the army now, which would speedily bring glorious results. If the battle should turn out adversely, they could fall back to their walls and put the same fortifications between themselves and the enemy. Brutus was especially vexed with these, for they were his officers, and he grieved that they, who were exposed to the same peril as himself, should capriciously side with the soldiers in preferring a quick and doubtful chance to a victory without danger; but, to the ruin of himself and them, he yielded, chiding them with these words, "I seem likely to carry on war like Pompey the Great, not so much commanding now as commanded."

I think that Brutus restricted himself to these words in order to conceal his greatest fear, lest those of his soldiers who had formerly served under Caesar should become disaffected and desert to the enemy. This both himself and Cassius had suspected from the beginning, and they had been careful not to give any excuse for such disaffection toward themselves.

[§125] So Brutus led out his army unwillingly and formed them in line of battle before his walls, ordering them not to advance very far from the hill so that they might have a safe retreat if necessary and a good position for hurling darts at the enemy. In each army the men exchanged exhortations with each other. There was great eagerness for battle, and exaggerated confidence. On the one side was the fear of famine, on the other a proper shame that they had constrained their general to fight when he still favoured delay, and fear lest they should come short of their promises and prove weaker than their boastings, and expose themselves to the charge of rashness instead of winning praise for good counsel, and because Brutus also, riding through the ranks on horseback, showed himself before them with a solemn countenance and reminded them of these things in such words as the opportunity offered. "You have chosen to fight," he said; "you have forced me to battle when I could conquer otherwise. Do not falsify my hopes or your own. You have the advantage of the higher ground and everything safe in your rear. The enemy's position is the one of peril because he lies between you and famine."

With these words he passed on, the soldiers telling him to trust them and echoing his words with shouts of confidence.

[§126] Octavian and Antony rode through their own ranks shaking hands with those nearest them, urging them even more solemnly to do their duty and not concealing the danger of famine, because they believed that that would be an opportune incitement to bravery. "Soldiers," they said, "we have found the enemy. We have before us those whom we sought to catch outside of their fortifications. Let none of you shame his own challenge or prove unequal to his own threat. Let no one prefer hunger, that unmanageable and distressing evil, to the walls and bodies of the enemy, which yield to bravery, to the sword, to despair. Our situation at this moment is so pressing that nothing can be postponed till tomorrow, but this very day must decide for us either a complete victory or an honourable death. If you conquer you gain in one day and by one blow provisions, money, ships, and camps, and the prizes of victory offered by ourselves. Such will be the result if, from our first onset upon them, we are mindful of the necessities urging us on and if, after breaking their ranks, we immediately cut them off from their gates and drive them upon the rocks or into the plain, so that the war may not spring up again or these enemies get away for another period of idleness - the only warriors, surely, who are so weak as to rest their hopes, not on fighting, but on declining to fight."

[§127] In this way Octavian and Antony roused the spirit of those with whom they came in contact. The emulation of the troops was excited to show themselves worthy of their commanders and also to escape the danger of famine, which had been greatly augmented by the naval disaster in the Adriatic. They preferred, if necessary, to suffer in battle, with the hope of success, rather than be wasted by an irresistible foe.

Inspired by these thoughts, which each man exchanged with his neighbour, the spirit of the two armies was wonderfully raised and both were filled with undaunted courage. They did not now remember that they were fellow-citizens of their enemies, but hurled threats at each other as though they had been enemies by birth and descent, so much did the anger of the moment extinguish reason and nature in them. Both sides divined equally that this day and this battle would decide the fate of Rome completely; and so indeed it did.

[§128] The day was consumed in preparations till the ninth hour, when two eagles fell upon each other and fought in the space between the armies, amid the profoundest silence. When the one on the side of Brutus took flight his enemies raised a great shout and battle was joined. The onset was superb and terrible. They had little need of arrows, stones, or javelins, which are customary in war, for they did not resort to the usual manoeuvres and tactics of battles, but, coming to close combat with naked swords, they slew and were slain, seeking to break each other's ranks. On the one side it was a fight for self-preservation rather than victory: on the other for victory and for the satisfaction of the general who had been forced to fight against his will. The slaughter and the groans were terrible. The bodies of the fallen were carried back and others stepped into their places from the reserves. The generals flew hither and thither overlooking everything, exciting the men by their ardour, exhorting the toilers to toil on, and relieving those who were exhausted so that there was always fresh courage at the front.

Finally, the soldiers of Octavian, either from fear of famine, or by the good fortune of Octavian himself (for certainly the soldiers of Brutus were not blameworthy), pushed back the enemy's line as though they were turning round a very heavy machine. The latter were driven back step by step, slowly at first and without loss of courage. Presently their ranks broke and they retreated more rapidly, and then the second and third ranks in the rear retreated with them, all mingled together in disorder, crowded by each other and by the enemy, who pressed upon them without ceasing until it became plainly a flight. The soldiers of Octavian, then especially mindful of the order they had received, seized the gates of the enemy's fortification at great risk to themselves because they were exposed to missiles from above and in front, but they prevented a great many of the enemy from gaining entrance. These fled, some to the sea, and some through the river Zygactes to the mountains.

[§129] The enemy having been routed, the generals divided the remainder of the work between themselves, Octavian to capture those who should break out of the camp and to watch the main camp, while Antony was everything, and attacked everywhere, falling upon the fugitives and those who still held together, and upon their other camping-places, crushing all alike with vehement impetuosity. Fearing lest the leaders should escape him and collect another army, he despatched cavalry upon the roads and outlets of the field of battle to capture those who were trying to escape. These divided their work; some of them hurried up the mountain with Rhascus, the Thracian, who was sent with them on account of his knowledge of the roads. They surrounded the fortified positions and escarpments, hunted down the fugitives, and kept watch upon those inside. Others pursued Brutus himself. Lucilius seeing them rushing on furiously surrendered himself, pretending to be Brutus, and asked them to take him to Antony instead of Octavian; for which reason chiefly he was believed to be Brutus trying to avoid his implacable enemy. When Antony heard that they were bringing him, he went to meet him, with a pause to reflect on the fortune, the dignity, and the virtue of the man, and thinking how he should receive Brutus. As he was approaching, Lucilius presented himself, and said with perfect boldness, "You have not captured Brutus, nor will virtue ever be taken prisoner by baseness. I deceived these men and so here I am." Antony, observing that the horsemen were ashamed of their mistake, consoled them, saying, "The game you have caught for me is not worse, but better than you think - as much better as a friend is than an enemy." Then he committed Lucilius to the care of one of his friends, and later took him into his own service and employed him in a confidential capacity.

[§130]  Brutus fled to the mountains with a considerable force, intending to return to his camp by night, or to move down to the sea. But since all the roads were encompassed by guards he passed the night under arms with all his party, and it is said that, looking up to the stars, he exclaimed:

"Forget not, Zeus, the author of these ills"

referring to Antony. It is said that Antony himself repeated this saying at a later period in the midst of his own dangers, regretting that when he might have associated himself with Cassius and Brutus, he had become the tool of Octavian. At the present time, however, Antony passed the night under arms with his outposts over against Brutus, fortifying himself with a breastwork of dead bodies and spoils collected together. Octavius toiled til midnight and then retired on account of his illness, leaving Norbanus to watch the enemy's camp.

[§131] On the following day Brutus, seeing the enemy still lying in wait for him, and having fewer than four full legions, which had ascended the mountain with him, thought it best not to address himself to his troops, but to their officers, who were ashamed and repentant of their fault. To them he sent to put them to the test and to learn whether they were willing to break through the enemy's lines and regain their own camp, which was still held by their troops who had been left there. These officers, though they had rushed to battle unadvisedly, had been of good courage for the most part, but now, for some divine infatuation was already upon them, gave to their general the undeserved answer that he should look out for himself, that they had tempted fortune many times, and that they would not throw away the last remaining hope of accommodation. Then Brutus said to his friends, "I am no longer useful to my country if such is the temper of these men," and calling Strato, the Epirote, who was one of his friends, gave him the order to stab him. While Strato still urged him to deliberate, Brutus called one of his servants. Then Strato said, "Your friend shall not come short of your servants in executing your last commands, if the decision is actually reached." With these words he thrust his sword into the side of Brutus, who did not shrink or turn away.

Julius Caesar

[§132] So died Cassius and Brutus, two most noble and illustrious Romans, and of incomparable virtue, but for one crime; for although they belonged to the party of Pompey the Great, and had been the enemies, in peace and in war, of Gaius Julius Caesar, he made them his friends, and from being friends he was treating them as sons. The Senate at all times had a peculiar attachment to them, and commiseration for them when they fell into misfortune. On account of those two it granted amnesty to all the assassins, and when they took flight it bestowed governorships on them in order that they should not be exiles; not that it was disregardful of Gaius Caesar or rejoiced at what had happened to him, for it admired his bravery and good fortune, gave him a public funeral at his death, ratified his acts, and had for a long time awarded the magistracies and governorships to his nominees, considering that nothing better could be devised than what he proposed. But its zeal for these two men and its solicitude for them brought it under suspicion of complicity in the assassination - so much were those two held in honour by all. By the most illustrious of the exiles they were more honoured than Sextus Pompeius, although he was nearer and not irreconcilable to the triumvirs, while they were farther away and irreconcilable.

[§133] When it became necessary for them to take up arms, two whole years had not elapsed ere they had brought together upward of twenty legions of infantry and something like 20,000 cavalry, and 200 ships of war, with corresponding apparatus and a vast amount of money, some of it from willing and some from unwilling contributors. They carried on wars with many peoples and with cities and with men of the adverse faction successfully. They brought under their sway all the nations from Macedonia to the Euphrates. Those whom they had fought against they had brought into alliance with them and had found them most faithful. They had had the services of the independent kings and princes, and in some small measure even of the Parthians, who were enemies of the Romans; but they did not wait for them to come and take part in the decisive battle, lest this barbarous and hostile race should become accustomed to encounters with the Romans.

Most extraordinary of all was the fact that the greater part of their army had been the soldiers of Gaius Caesar and wonderfully attached to him, yet they were won over by the very murderers of Caesar and followed them more faithfully against Caesar's son than they had followed Antony, who was Caesar's companion in arms and colleague; for not one of them deserted Brutus and Cassius even when they were vanquished while some of them had abandoned Antony at Brundusium before the war began. The reason for their service, both under Pompey aforetime and now under Brutus and Cassius, was not their own interest, but the cause of democracy; a specious name indeed, but always hurtful. Both of the leaders, when they thought they could no longer be useful to their country, alike despised their own lives. In that which related to their cares and labours Cassius gave his attention strictly to war, like a gladiator to his antagonist. Brutus, wherever he might be, wanted to see and hear everything, having been a philosopher of no mean note.

[§134] Against all these virtues and merits must be set down the crime against Caesar, which was not an ordinary or a small one, for it was committed unexpectedly against a friend, ungratefully against a benefactor who had spared them in war, and nefariously against the head of the state, in the senate-house, against a pontiff clothed in his sacred vestments, against a ruler without equal, who was most serviceable above all other men to Rome and to its empire. For these reasons Heaven was incensed against them and often forewarned them of their doom. When Cassius was performing a lustration for his army his lictor placed his garland upon him wrong side up; a Victory, a gilded offering of Cassius, fell down. Many birds hovered over his camp, but uttered no sound, and swarms of bees continually settled upon it. While Brutus was celebrating his birthday at Samos it is said that in the midst of the feast, although not a ready man with such quotations, he shouted out this verse without any apparent cause:

                                                  ...Cruel fate
Hath slain me, aided by Latona's son.note

Once when he was about to cross from Asia to Europe with his army, and while he was awake at night and the light was burning low, he beheld an apparition of extraordinary form standing by him, and when he boldly asked who of men or gods it might be, the spectre answered, "I am thy evil genius, Brutus. I shall appear to thee again at Philippi." And it is said that it did appear to him before the last battle.

When the soldiers were going out to the fight an Ethiopian met them in front of the gates, and as they considered this a bad omen they immediately cut him in pieces. It was due, too, to something more than human, no doubt, that Cassius gave way to despair without reason after a drawn battle, and that Brutus was forced from his policy of wise delay to an engagement with men who were pressed by hunger, while he himself had supplies in abundance and the command of the sea, so that his calamity proceeded rather from his own troops than from the enemy. Although they had participated in many engagements, they never received any hurt in battle, but both became the slayers of themselves, as they had been of Caesar. Such was the punishment that overtook Cassius and Brutus.

[§135] Antony found the body of Brutus, wrapped in the best purple garment, burned it, and sent the ashes to his mother, Servilia, Brutus' army, when it learned of his death, sent envoys to Octavian and Antony and obtained pardon, and was divided between their armies. It consisted of about 14,000. Besides these a large number who were in the forts surrendered. The forts themselves and the enemy's camp were given to the soldiers of Octavian and Antony to be plundered. Of the distinguished men in Brutus' camp some perished in the battles, others killed themselves as the two generals had done, others purposely continued fighting till death. Among these men of note were Lucius Cassius, a nephew of the great Cassius, and Cato, the son of Cato. The latter charged upon the enemy many times; then, when his men began to retreat, he threw off his helmet, either that he might be recognized, or be easily hit, or for both reasons. Labeo, a man renowned for learning, father of the Labeo who is still celebrated as a jurisconsult, dug a trench in his tent the size of his body, gave orders to his slaves in reference to the remainder of his affairs, made such arrangements as he desired for his wife and children, and gave letters to his domestics to carry to them. Then, taking his most faithful slave by the right hand and whirling him around, as is the Roman custom in granting freedom, he handed him a sword as he turned, and presented his throat. And so his tent became his tomb.

[§136] Rhascus, the Thracian, brought many troops from the mountains. He asked and received as his reward the pardon of his brother, Rhascupolis, from which it was made plain that from the beginning these Thracians had not been at variance with each other, but that seeing two great and hostile armies coming into conflict near their territory, they divided the chances of fortune in such a way that the victor might save the vanquished. Porcia, the wife of Brutus and sister of the younger Cato, when she learned that both had died in the manner described, although very strictly watched by domestics, seized some hot embers that they were carrying on a brazier, and swallowed them. Of the other members of the nobility who escaped to Thasos some took ship from thence, others committed themselves with the remains of the army to the judgment of Messala Corvinus and Lucius Bibulus, men of equal rank, to do for all what they should decide to do for themselves. These came to an arrangement with Antony and Octavian, whereby they delivered to Antony on his arrival at Thasos the money and arms, besides abundant supplies and a great quantity of war material, there in store.

[§137] Thus did Octavian and Antony by perilous daring and by two infantry engagements achieve a success, the like of which was never before known; for never before had such numerous and powerful Roman armies come in conflict with each other. These soldiers were not enlisted from the ordinary conscription, but were picked men. They were not new levies, but under long drill and arrayed against each other, not against foreign or barbarous races. Speaking the same language and using the same tactics, being of like discipline and power of endurance, they were for these reasons what we may call mutually invincible. Nor was there ever such fury and daring in war as here, when citizens contended against citizens, families against families, and fellow-soldiers against each other. The proof of this is that, taking both battles into the account, the number of the slain even among the victors appeared to be not fewer than among the vanquished.

[§138] Thus the army of Antony and Octavian confirmed the prediction of their generals, passing in one day and by one blow from extreme danger and famine and fear of destruction to lavish wealth, absolute security, and glorious victory. Moreover, that result came about which Antony and Octavian had predicted as they advanced into battle. Their form of government was decided by that day's work chiefly, and they have not gone back to democracy yet. Nor was there any further need of similar contentions with each other, except the strife between Antony and Octavian not long afterward, which was the last that took place between Romans. The events that happened after the death of Brutus, under Sextus Pompeius and the friends of Cassius and Brutus, who escaped with the very considerable remains of their extensive war material, were not to be compared to the former in daring or in the devotion of men, cities, and armies to their leaders; nor did any of the nobility, nor the Senate, nor the same glory, attend them as attended Brutus and Cassius.

This page was created in 2005; last modified on 18 August 2017.