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The Battle of Philippi


Roman legionary standard. Reenactment group XXX Traiana Ulpia Traiana Victrix (Italy). Photo Jona Lendering. Appian of Alexandria (c.95-c.165) is 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 and additions in green by Jona Lendering. A satellite photo of the town and its plain can be seen here.
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[§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.

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Bust of Marc Antony. Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest (Hungary). Photo Jona Lendering.
Marc Antony (Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest)

[§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.


Bust of Augustus as high priest. Museo Nacional de Arte Romano, Mérida (Spain). Photo Marco Prins.
Bust of Octavian/Augustus as high priest. Museo Nacional de Arte Romano, Mérida.

[§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.



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Online 2005
Revision: 22 Dec. 2007
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