PART THREE

AFTERMATH AND RETRIBUTION

XVI

MARCH 16, 44 B.C.

PLEADING FOR THE REPUBLIC

The city awoke, well before dawn as usual, with many among the population probably wondering whether they had dreamed that Caesar was dead, that he had indeed been cut down in the Theater of Pompey the previous day.

As the sun rose over the eerily quiet city, it became clear to Mark Antony and Marcus Lepidus, hiding with friends, that “the conspirators had assembled on the Capitol and had no further design on anyone,” so the pair slipped back to their own homes.¹ On the Capitoline Mount, Brutus and Cassius stayed put, still wary about leaving the security of the sanctuary.

Some of the conspirators’ friends and relatives, “who were now able to reach the sanctuary for the first time,” brought them food, drink, and word that all was quiet in the city. From these men, a delegation was chosen to seek out Antony and Lepidus. As the sole remaining consul, Antony was now the most senior official of the Roman state. Lepidus, as the former Master of Equestrians, could potentially command the loyalty of the armed ex-legionaries on Tiber Island, who had obeyed his initial summons the previous morning, and also of the disarmed former soldiers elsewhere in the city. The Liberators’ delegates were instructed to “discuss how to secure unity, plan for political freedom, and avert the disasters that would overtake their country if they failed to agree.”²

This delegation duly met with Antony and Lepidus during the day. That pair must have exchanged notes and agreed on a shared strategy prior to meeting with the delegates, for they presented a unified front. In these discussions, the Liberators’ delegates deliberately refrained from praising the murder of Caesar, but they asked that it be accepted now that the deed had been done, and suggested that they all move on. They urged that compassion be shown to the perpetrators of the murder. If anyone was to be pitied, they said, it was Rome. Antony and Lepidus, said Appian, wanted to avenge Caesar, and would have preferred to have seen the assassins arrested and executed. But they “were nervous that the rest of the Senate was swinging toward” the Liberators.³

Appian said that Antony and Lepidus were particularly worried about the assassin Albinus. The province that he was due to take command of, Cisalpine Gaul, bordered Italy, and contained several legions, with which Albinus could control affairs at Rome. Antony and Lepidus decided to see how events turned out, in the meantime trying to devise a way of winning control of the legions in Cisalpine Gaul.

“We shall take no action that stems from private enmity,” Antony told the delegates, even though, as Antony reminded them, he and Lepidus had sworn an oath to both protect Caesar and avenge him. “We shall examine the matter with you in the Senate and shall deem whatever course you may jointly approve to leave the community unpolluted.”

Antony issued an edict, as consul, and sent runners all around the city to promulgate it, calling a meeting of the Senate for dawn the next day. Still wary of being cut down in the Senate chamber the same way that Caesar had been, or perhaps on the way to or from the Senate, Antony specified that the House meet at the Temple of Tellus, the Temple of Earth, which was close to his house.

Antony also issued orders, as consul, that the magistrates post guards in the city during the hours of darkness—these would have been slaves or freedmen, or perhaps the magistrates’ lictors—and “to place their official seats at intervals in public and preside though it were daytime.” Fires were duly lit throughout the city, but little legal business was done that night, with many of the magistrates being Liberators. In the light of the fires “the associates of the murderers went hurrying round all night to the houses of the senators, pleading for them and the Republic of their ancestors.” At the same time, delegates of the ex-soldiers in the city used the opportunity to also visit members of the Senate, “issuing threats” that the land grants either given or promised to them had better not be withdrawn.

All through the night, tension gripped the city.

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