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II: Part 5

This webpage reproduces part of
The Epitome of Roman History


published in the Loeb Classical Library,

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
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II: Part 7

Lucius Annaeus Florus

The two books of the Epitome,
extracted from Titus Livius,
of all the wars of seven hundred years

Book II (continued)

XIIII. The War of Caesar Augustus.1
XV. The War round Mutina.
XVI. The War round Perusia. The Triumvirate.
XVII. The War against Cassius and Brutus.
XVIII. The War against Sextus Pompeius.

 p299  [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] XIIII. The State under Caesar Augustus

IIII, 3 The Roman people, after the murders of Caesar and Pompeius, seemed to have returned to their former state of liberty; 2 and they would have done so if either Pompeius had left no children or Caesar no heir, or, what was still more fatal than either of these circumstances, if Antonius, once Caesar's colleague and afterwards his rival in power, had not survived to cause fire and storm in the succeeding age. 3 For Sextus Pompeius sought to recover his father's inheritance, with the result that there was alarm over the whole sea; Octavius sought to avenge his father's death, and Thessaly was again to be  p301 disquieted; 4 Antonius, fickle as ever, either refused to tolerate Octavius as the successor of Caesar, or else, for love of Cleopatra, degenerated into a king, and . . .​2 For the Roman people could find no salvation except by taking refuge in subservience. 5 It was, however, a ground for congratulation that, in that great upheaval, the chief power passed into the hands of none other than Octavius Caesar Augustus, who by his wisdom and skill restored order in the body of the empire, everywhere paralyzed and confused, 6 which certainly would never have been able to achieve coherence and harmony unless it had been controlled by the will of a single ruler which formed, as it were, its soul and mind. 7 In the consul­ship of Marcus Antonius and Publius Dolabella,​3 while fortune was already transferring the Roman Empire to Caesar, diverse and manifold confusion afflicted the State. 8 Just as, in the annual revolutions of the heavens, the constellations by their movements cause thunder and make known their changes of position by storms, so, in the change which came over the Roman dominion, that is, the whole world, the body of the empire trembled through and through and was disturbed by every kind of peril, by wars, civil, foreign, and against slaves, by land and by sea.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] XV. The War round Mutina

IIII, 4 The first cause of civil dissension was Caesar's will; for his second heir, Antonius, furious because Octavius had been preferred to himself, had engaged in an implacable war to prevent the adoption of  p303 that high-spirited youth. 2 Looking upon Octavius, who was under eighteen years of age, as a lad of tender years and a fit and easy victim of injustice, and upon himself as enjoying all the prestige of his long service with Caesar, Antonius proceeded to destroy his inheritance by embezzlement, to pursue him with personal insults, and to hinder his adoption into the Julian family by every device in his power; 3 finally, he took up arms openly with the object of crushing his youthful rival and, having formed an army, besieged Decimus Brutus, who, in Cisalpine Gaul, was opposing his movements. 4 Octavius Caesar, however, winning popularity from his youth, his wrongs, and the dignity of the name which he had assumed, recalled the veterans to arms, and — what is scarcely credible — though he was holding no office, attacked the consul, 5 released Brutus by relieving Mutina, and captured Antonius' camp. On this occasion indeed he also showed his gallantry by an act of personal courage; for, though bleeding and wounded, he took an eagle from the hands of a dying standard-bearer and bore it back upon his shoulder to the camp.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] XVI. The War round Perusia

IIII, 5 The distribution of lands to the soldiers was the cause of another war; 2 for Caesar assigned land to his father's veterans as a reward for their services. Though the nature of Antonius was always evil, on this occasion his wife Fulvia, girding herself with the sword of her husband's service, egged him on yet more. He had, therefore, stirred up further hostilities by rousing the farmers who had been dispossessed  p305 of their lands. 3 He was thereupon declared a public enemy not merely in the judgment of private citizens but by the votes of the whole senate, and Caesar, attacking him, drove him within the walls of Perusia, and by the humiliating device of starvation, against which he tried every expedient, finally reduced him to surrender.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] The Triumvirate

IIII, 6 Although Antonius by himself was a sufficient menace to peace and to the State, Lepidus joined him and thus, as it were, added fire to fire. What could be done against two consuls and two armies? Caesar was forced to become a party to a horrible compact. The three leaders were as different in their aims as in their characters. 2 Lepidus was actuated by a desire for wealth, which he might expect to gain from confusion in the State; Antonius desired vengeance upon those who had declared him an enemy; Caesar was spurred on by the thought that his father's death was still unpunished and that the survival of Cassius and Brutus was an insult to his departed spirit. 3 Under a compact for these objects peace was concluded between the three leaders. At Confluentes between Perusia and Bononia​a they joined hands, and the armies saluted one another. The formation of the triumvirate followed a bad precedent,​4 and with the overthrow of the constitution by arms, the Sullan proscription came back. Its most remarkable act of atrocity was the murder of as many as a hundred and forty senators. 4 Shocking, brutal and pitiable deaths in every part of the world awaited those who escaped. What lamentation can do justice to the disgrace involved in the  p307 proscription by Antonius of his uncle Lucius Caesar, and of his brother Lucius Paulus by Lepidus? 5 It had long been customary to expose on the rostra at Rome the heads of those who had been executed; but, even so, the citizens could not restrain their tears when they saw the severed head of Cicero on those very rostra which he had made his own, and men rushed to gaze upon him as once they were wont to crowd to listen to him. 6 These crimes were the result of the proscription-lists of Antonius and Lepidus; Caesar contented himself with proscribing his father's murderers, for fear lest his death might be considered to have been deserved if it had remained unavenged.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] XVII. The War against Cassius and Brutus

IIII, 7 Brutus and Cassius seemed to have cast forth Caesar from the throne like another King Tarquin; yet by that very act of murder they destroyed that liberty, the restoration of which was their dearest wish. 2 After the deed had been committed, being, not without reason, afraid of Caesar's veterans, they had immediately left the senate-house and taken refuge in the Capitol. They were not without the courage to avenge Caesar, but they were as yet without a leader. 3 So, since it was manifest what a calamity was threatening the State, the idea of vengeance was rejected, though the murder met with disapprobation. 4 Therefore although on the advice of Cicero an amnesty was passed, yet, to avoid offending the gaze of the sorrowful populace, the murderers had withdrawn to Syria and Macedonia, the provinces which had been assigned to them by Caesar, the  p309 very man whom they had murdered. Thus revenge for Caesar was delayed rather than stifled.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 5 The governing power having been distributed between the triumvirs rather as it could be than as it should be, Caesar and Antonius prepared to make war on Cassius and Brutus, while Lepidus remained behind to guard the capital. 6 Brutus and Cassius, having collected vast forces, had occupied the same ground as had been fatal to Gnaeus Pompeius.​5 On this occasion too threatening signs of impending disaster were not lacking. 7 A swarm of bees settled on the standards; the birds which usually feed upon corpses flew round the camp, as though it were already their prey; 8 and an Ethiopian who met the troops as they were marching to battle was only too clearly an omen of disaster. Also, while Brutus himself was meditating at night, according to his custom, with a lamp at his side, a gloomy phantom presented itself, and on being asked who it was replied, "I am your evil genius," and then vanished from his wondering sight. 9 In Caesar's camp birds and victims had with equal clearness given every promise of better fortune. The most striking incident was that Caesar's physician was warned in a dream that Caesar should quit his camp, which was on the point of being captured. And this actually happened; 10 for when the battle had begun and both sides had been fighting for some time with equal ardour and, though on one side both generals were present, on the other side one​6 had been kept away by illness, the other​7 by fear and cowardice, yet the  p311 invincible good fortune both of the avenger and of him who was being avenged supported their cause, as the result of the battle proved. At first the issue was so doubtful that, danger threatening both sides alike, 11 the camp of Caesar was captured on the one hand and that of Cassius on the other. But how much more powerful is fortune than valour, and how true it is, as the dying Brutus said with his last breath, that virtue exists not in reality but in name only!​8 A mistake decided the victory in this battle. 12 Cassius, at a moment when the wing of his army had given way, on seeing the cavalry returning at full speed after the capture of Caesar's camp, thought that they were in flight and made his way to some higher ground. 13 Here, when the dust and confusion and the approaching darkness prevented him from seeing what had happened, and a scout whom he had sent out to obtain news was slow in bringing it, thinking that his cause was lost, he made one of those who were standing by cut off his head. 14 Brutus, having lost his second self by the death of Cassius, in order that he might not fail in carrying out every detail of their compact (for it had been agreed that neither of them should survive the battle), presented his side to one of his companions that he might plunge his sword into it. 15 Who can but wonder that these wise and brave men did not die by their own hands? But it was perhaps a further example of their adherence to their philosophical principles, that they should not stain their hands with blood, but that, for the destruction of their brave and pious lives, though the decision to die was their own, they should employ the hands of others to execute the crime.

 p313  [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] XVIII. The War against Sextus Pompeius

IIII, 8 Though Caesar's assassins had been thus removed, Pompeius' family still survived. One of his young sons had fallen in Spain, but the other had escaped by flight, and after collecting the survivors of their unsuccessful war and also arming the slave-prisons, was holding Sicily and Sardinia. He had also occupied the central sea​9 with his fleet. 2 But how great the difference between him and his father! The latter had exterminated the Cilician pirates, his son protected himself by piracy. He ravaged Puteoli, Formiae, Vulturnum, in a word, the whole coast of Campania, the Pontine marshes, Aenaria and even the mouth of the river Tiber. Then, meeting with Caesar's fleet, he burnt and sank it and not only Pompeius himself, but also Menas and Menecrates, base slaves whom he had put in command of his fleet, made sudden raids in search of plunder along all the coasts. 3 In return for all these successes he made a sacrifice of a hundred bulls with gilded horns at Pelorum and flung a living horse with an offering of gold into the straits as gifts to Neptune, in order to induce the ruler of the sea to allow him to reign in his domain. At last the danger became so great that a treaty of peace was concluded with the enemy — if a son of Pompeius can be called an enemy. 4 How great was the joy (though it was short-lived), when an agreement was made on the embankment on the shores of Baiae permitting his return and the restitution of his property, and when, at his invitation, they dined on board his ship, and railing against his fate, he said, "There are keels (carinae) where I live"​b — a  p315 witty remark,​10 seeing that his father had lived in Carinae, the most fashionable quarter of the capital, while his own home and his household gods tossed in a ship. 5 But owing to the incivility of Antonius and because the spoil from Pompeius' property, of which Antonius had been the purchaser, had been squandered, the entry of Sextus into possession of his estates could not be sustained; thus Pompeius began to back out of the pact of agreement. So recourse was had to arms again, and a fleet was now equipped with all the resources of the Empire against the young leader. Preparations for it were made on a magnificent scale; 6 for by cutting through the track of the Herculean Way and digging up the shore,​11 the Lucrine Lake was turned into a harbour and the Lake of Avernus added to it by cutting away the ground between, in order that manoeuvring on these quiet waters the fleet might practise a semblance of naval warfare. 7 The young commander was brought to action by this superior force and defeated in the Sicilian straits, and would have carried with him to the grave the reputation of a great leader if he had attempted nothing further; but it is a characteristic of genius never to lose hope. 8 When his position became desperate, he fled away and made sail for Asia, only to fall there into the hands of the enemy and to suffer imprisonment and undergo the most wretched fate which can befall a brave man, namely, death by the sword of the executioner at the bidding of his foes. 9 There had been no such pitiable  p317 flight since that of Xerxes; for he who had been but lately lord of three hundred and fifty ships fled with six or seven and with the lights extinguished on his flagship, after throwing his rings​12 into the sea, casting anxious looks behind him, though his only fear was lest he should fail to meet with death.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Called in the text "The State under Caesar Augustus."

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2 There is a lacuna in the best MSS. at this point.

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3 44 B.C.

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4 i.e. that of the previous triumvirate of Julius Caesar, Pompeius and Crassus.

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5 See note on p280.

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6 Augustus.

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7 Antonius. Plutarch (vit. Ant. 28) merely observes, "according to some, Antonius was absent from the battle and did not reach the field until his men were already in pursuit of the enemy."

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8 This quotation is singularly inept, since virtus was used by Brutus in the sense of moral virtue, whereas Florus interprets it in the sense of military valour.

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9 Medium mare seems to mean the sea in the middle of the Roman Empire, i.e. in the neighbourhood of Italy.

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10 It is impossible to keep up the play upon the word carinae (keels), which was also the name of a district of Rome.

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11 i.e. by removing the narrow strip of land which separated the Lucrine Lake from the sea and carried the road (Via Herculea) between Baiae and Puteoli.

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12 The meaning appears to be that Sextus Pompeius threw away his rings so that he might not be recognized by them if he were captured. Some commentators think that the reference is to the fetters worn by the rowers (anulus is used by Martial XIV.169, in this sense), which were removed that they might make no noise.

Thayer's Notes:

a The placename means what we might think, a confluence of rivers, and the Peutinger Table puts an "ad confluentes" on the Via Aemilia 12 miles W of Ariminum, somewhere around where it crosses the Rubicon; this would put it in the area of Savignano sul Rubicone or its frazione S. Giovanni in Compito: and the latter is where it was set in 1991 by a team of Italian scholars, although apparently just on literary and topographical grounds, with no archaeological remains to support it. Looking at a modern map, Savignano is not "between Perusia and Bononia"; but in the mind of a Roman traveler, who would get from one to the other by a branch road from Perugia to the Flaminia, then the Flaminia to the Adriatic coast and on to Rimini, then the Aemilia from there, the location is accurate.

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b A bizarrely botched translation; the Latin is much simpler. Hae sunt carinae meae: "These are my keels (Carinae)."

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Page updated: 29 Oct 08