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.
Continuing Death of Antony and Cleopatra,
our selection from A History of Rome by Henry George Liddell published in 1855. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages. The selection is presented in eleven easy 5 minute installments.
Previously on Death of Antony and Cleopatra.
Time: August 30 BC
Place: Alexandria, Egypt
Meanwhile Antony had been running riot. In possession of Caesar’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 Caesar. 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 Caesar. 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 Aemilian 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 Caesar’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 Caesarean 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 Aemilius 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 Caesar’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.