XXVIII

APRIL 22, 44 B.C.

OCTAVIAN SEEKS CICERO’S SUPPORT

Antony left Rome in the middle of the month, leading a large party of retired soldiers, apparently from the 8th Legion and possibly also the 7th, who had been living at Rome in expectation of settlement on rural land. With the veterans marching in good order behind a standard, Antony headed south to Casilinum in Campania, where a new military colony had been laid out by military surveyors who had been mapping colonies like this one in Italy and southern Gaul for the past two years.¹

Antony was to spend two weeks in Casilinum, personally plowing the sacred furrow that defined the new colony’s limits.² Some of the land allotted to veterans following Caesar’s death was public land, but contrary to the initiative that Brutus had proposed on March 17—that all existing farmowners who were dispossessed of their land for the settlement of ex-soldiers should receive fair compensation—under Antony’s settlement program some existing farmers dispossessed of their land for soldier settlement would not receive any compensation.

With Antony out of town and the Senate in recess, Octavian decided to use the break to cement the friendship of the most eloquent and arguably most influential voice in the Senate: Cicero. Accompanied by his mother and stepfather and a number of friends, Octavian also left Rome and traveled down to the Bay of Naples to pay Cicero a friendly visit at his Puteoli villa.

“Octavius is here with me,” Cicero noted in a letter to his friend Atticus, written on the evening of the twenty-second. Cicero observed that Octavian was “most respectful and friendly” toward him. He said that Octavian’s friends were calling the young man Caesar, as his adoption in Caesar’s will provided. “But Philippus [Octavian’s stepfather] does not, so neither do I.”³

At this point, Cicero was suspicious of Octavian’s motives, and doubted that the youth would support a return of the Republic and its democratic institutions. “My judgment is that he cannot be a good citizen. There are too many around him. They threaten death to our friends [the Liberators] and call the present state of things intolerable. What do you think they will say when the boy comes to Rome, where our Liberators cannot go safe? They have won eternal glory, and happiness too in the consciousness of what they did”—murdering Caesar. “But for us,” Cicero lamented, “if I am not mistaken there is only humiliation ahead.”

Cicero’s pessimism stemmed from the latest news of Antony’s recent activities at Rome. “The things I hear from Rome! And the things I see here!” A decree had been posted all over the capital by Antony, under Caesar’s seal, announcing that all Sicilians were now Roman citizens according to a law passed some time previously by the Comitia. Yet Cicero had no recollection of any such law being passed by the Comitia while Caesar was alive. Cicero’s information was that Antony had received a massive bribe from Sicily to promulgate this invented law.

Another Antonian decree had restored Galatian territories confiscated from King Deiotarus by Caesar when Deiotarus had supported Pompey during the Civil War. Cicero believed that Antony’s wife, Fulvia, had been behind that; again, a large sum of money would have changed hands. “There are any number of such things” being done by Antony, Cicero complained. But no one had either the incontestable evidence or the courage to accuse Antony of forging Caesar’s decrees.

“I fear the Ides of March have brought us nothing except joy and a satisfaction for our hatred and grief,” Cicero wrote glumly to his friend. That hatred had been of Caesar; the grief that Cicero referred to had been caused by Caesar. “So, I long to be away.”

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