XXVII

APRIL 14, 44 B.C.

THE AEDILE’S REFUSAL

The eight-day Ludi Ceriales, a festival celebrating Ceres, goddess of the harvest, was in full swing. Many of the festivities were taking place in the countryside, but on the last day, April 19, there would be “games” at the circus at Rome to culminate the festival.

Young Octavian, determined to celebrate his great-uncle’s legacy and to promote his own position, knew that in the months leading up to Caesar’s death the Senate had promulgated a particular decree—among the many ingratiating decrees it made to honor Caesar at that time—that at all festival games in the future the Dictator’s throne of gold and ivory should be prominently displayed in the official box of the director of the games, to represent Caesar’s presence when he was away from Rome. No provision for Caesar’s throne had been made for these Ludi Ceriales games, but now that Octavian was at Rome he set his mind on having the measure adopted at all games from then on.

The next games would be on May 12, for the Ludi Martiales festival. The official responsible for organizing those games and acting as their director was an aedile named Critonius. So Octavian informed Critonius that he wished to have Caesar’s throne displayed at the Ludi Martiales games and asked him to make provision for it. The aedile Critonius clearly sympathized with the Liberators and their view of Caesar, for he flatly refused Octavian, declaring that he “would not tolerate honor being paid to Caesar at hisexpense.”¹

Octavian would not accept this response from Critonius and promptly “brought him before Antony as consul,” at Antony’s house, asking him to rule that the aedile must adhere to the Senate decree. Antony, who was preparing to leave Rome within the next few days, impatiently advised Octavian that he would place the matter before the Senate and let them decide whether the decree in question was still valid.²

Octavian knew that the Senate was unlikely to meet again until late May or June, after a month occupied almost entirely by holy days, and that would be too late for a decision about displaying Caesar’s throne at the games of May 12. Besides, Octavian believed that the decree must still be in force, for, on March 17, had not the Senate resolved that all Caesar’s past acts remained valid? According to Appian, Antony’s response thoroughly irritated Octavian.

“ Refer it,” Octavian countered, “but I shall display the throne so long as the decree is in force.”³

Antony was incensed, and forbade Octavian to do any such thing. Again Octavian went away humiliated by Mark Antony.

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