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The Last Days of the Republic: Octavian, Antony, and Cleopatra

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Author: Elizabeth Mazurek
A lecture on the Second Triumvirate and final years of the Roman Republic

"In the major conflicts of the Republic no social camps of oppressors and oppressed faced each other; thus, these conflicts did not result in violent changes in the Roman social order."

~Geza Alfoldy

The End of Caesar's Career

Social Reform was the substance of the crisis but not a motivating factor in the military conflict

  1. Oligarchy was opposed to reforms of Julius Caesar.
  2. There was concern over:
    1. Land reform
    2. Veterans
    3. Slave relations
    4. Italian citizenship
    5. Political rights of the equestrians.
  3. No coalition of social interest groups ever formed.
  4. The slave rebellion was separate from the provincial rebellion.
  5. Substance of the crisis had lain in a power struggle between opposed and fluid political interest groups.

Marc Antony and Octavian

Antony becomes "the man of the hour" in the wake of Caesar's assassination.

  1. As Caesar's fellow consul, he was ostensibly in charge after Caesar's assassination.
  2. Antony gets the senate to ratify Caesar's reforms, grant amnesty to the assassins, and to grant Caesar a grand public funeral.
  3. At the funeral, Antony whips the mob into a frenzy with Caesar's bloody toga and wax image of his corpse with oozing wounds.
    1. The crowd was already well disposed to Caesar because he had been generous to Rome and Romans in his will.
    2. The assassins flee Rome in fear of the mob.
  4. Cicero believed Antony was trying to consolidate his own power.
    1. He relies on Marcus Lepidus to raise a legion for him outside of Rome to take with him to the province.
  5. Regardless, Antony has to share his power with Octavian, Caesar's primary heir.
    1. Octavian was only 18 in 44 BCE, and he was off in Greece.
    2. Octavian rushes back, and finds that Antony had been spending his inheritance, claiming it was state funds.
    3. Octavian uses his new name, G. Iulius Caesar Octavianus, to rally Caesar's veterans around him.

Photos by Barbara McManus, Image courtesy of the VROMA project at http://www.vroma.org

The Formation of the 2nd Triumvirate - Antony, Octavian, Lepidus

  1. As the first triumvirate, the 2nd was based on ambition and mutual distrust, not friendship or respect.
    1. All three were unpopular with the senate.
    2. They met in Bologna to negotiate a deal.
  2. Triumvirate then ratified in Popular Assembly.
  3. They had the power for 5 years to make laws and to nominate magistrates for elections.
  4. Proscriptions - financially and politically motivated - were issued, since they needed money for a campaign in the East against the "liberators."
    1. 130-300 senators, and 2000 equestrians were proscribed.
    2. They used the excuse that they were avenging Caesar's murder.
    3. Death of Cicero, 43 BCE
    4. They then packed the senate with their own clients.
  5. The triumvirate's first act in office: the deification of Caesar.

Battle of Philippi, 42 BCE

Roman Campaigns, 44-30 BC

This map was prepared to accompany theThe Romans from Village to Empireby Mary T. Boatwright, Daniel Gargola and Richard J.A. Talbert, Oxford University Press, 2004.

Copyright 2004, Ancient World Mapping Center:
This item may be reproduced and redistributed freely for non-profit, personal or educational use only. For all other uses, you must obtain prior, written permission from the copyright holder(s). The authorship, copyright and redistribution notices may not be removed from the map or altered

The end of the "liberators" and the clash of the two largest Roman armies in history

  1. The "liberators," Brutus and Cassius, vs. the "avengers," Antony and Octavian
  2. The "liberators" had been just as ruthless as their opponents, looting their provinces and neighboring territories for troops and money.
  3. The armies met at Philippi, with Brutus defeating Octavian, but Antony defeating Cassius, and the triumvirs triumphed overall.
  4. Triumvirs win, split empire into three parts.
    1. Octavian in the West - has control of Italy
    2. Antony in the East - the rich provinces
    3. Lepidus was given only Africa, because of suspected disloyalty, basically taking him out of the picture.

Octavian in the West vs. Antony in the East

  1. Octavian courts the Roman Senate

  2. Marc Antony courts Queen Cleopatra.

    1. maried Octavian's sister, Octavia 40 BCE

    2. "married" Cleopatra 37 BCE

  3. Fall of Marc Antony

    1. Failed Parthian campaign in the East

    2. Divorces Octavia, separating himself from Octavian

Antony-Cleopatra Coin

Coin minted in 41 BCE, depicting Antony on one side and Cleopatra on the reverse.
Photo by Barbara McManus, Image courtesy of the VROMA project at http://www.vroma.org

Battle of Actium, 31 BCE

  1. Octavian declares war on Egypt
    1. Ideology of a foreign war vs. a civil war
    2. Octavian emphasizes Antony's Egyptian ties: unRoman.
  2. Defeat of Antony and Cleopatra
  3. Cleopatra last monarch of the old Hellenistic world, the Ptolemic kingdom of Egypt

"In the major conflicts of the Republic no social camps of oppressors and oppressed faced each other; thus, these conflicts did not result in violent changes in the Roman social order."

~Geza Alfoldy

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