THE LAST DAY OF BRUTUS’S GAMES
Early in July, the month that now bore Julius Caesar’s family name, the Ludi Apollinares, the week-long festival at Rome organized and paid for by Brutus, had gone off without a hitch. They were “most magnificent and costly,” according to Plutarch.¹ “They were indeed magnificent,” Appian concurred.² But Brutus was not there to see how well his money was spent, or to receive public credit for his munificence. To make matters worse, in Brutus’s absence Mark Antony had assigned his brother Gaius the job of carrying out Brutus’s duties as city praetor, so even though Brutus had paid for and organized the shows, it was Antony’s brother who sat in the director’s box and took the credit for these magnificent Ludi Apollinares games.³
Knowing this, the absent Brutus, in an attempt to turn the affair to his political advantage, had paid for a large group of spectators to be recruited who, when the games were at their height, began to loudly demand the return of Brutus and Cassius to Rome, trying to whip the entire crowd into joining their demand. But an even larger mob suddenly appeared, crowding into the circus and preventing the games from continuing until Brutus’s people shut up. With the majority of spectators only interested in enjoying a free day at the games, “the demand faded away.”⁴ Brutus’s tactic failed.
This latter band of demonstrators also had been paid to play their disruptive role, but not by Mark Antony, the man who could have been expected to have been behind their appearance. Their employer was actually young Octavian, who had either gotten wind of the plans for this pro-Liberator demonstration or had made preparations for prompt action should such an event occur.⁵ As Brutus had previously warned Cicero, Octavian was not someone to be underestimated.
Following the Ludi Apollinares, Mark Antony dispatched his brother Gaius to Macedonia with a copy of the decree that gave him command of five of the six legions encamped there. Gaius Antonius also carried his elder brother’s orders for those legions and many auxiliary cavalry alae, or wings, stationed with them to make their way to Italy by the fastest means possible.⁶
This army of thirty thousand legionaries and thousands of cavalry was instructed by Antony to base itself at the port city of Brundisium, in the south of Italy. Officially, Antony said that he was bringing the army to Brundisium “to have it available against emergencies.” Antony’s enemies would have immediately perceived his intent as that of using this army against Albinus in Cisalpine Gaul. Antony himself made it clear that he was not just grandstanding by bringing this army across the Adriatic. “Jove willing, ” he told his Praetorian tribunes, “we shall use it as needs dictate.”⁷