LIKE HECTOR THE HERO
Strong winds had driven Cicero’s ship back to Leucopetra. There, staying at the house of a friend while he waited for the weather to improve, he met a group of Rhegium businessmen who had just come down from Rome. They informed him that “Antony had made an astonishing change, and was doing all things and managing all public affairs at the will of the Senate.”¹
Antony gave the appearance of only busying himself with official business. In particular, he made arrangements for a new statue of Caesar to be set up on the Rostra. At the same time, his brother Lucius, as a tribune of the plebs, had a law passed, the lex Antonia agrarian,for the finalization of the business of allotting land to Caesar ’s ex-soldiers. This law provided for a seven-man commission, headed by Antony and including Lucius, to administer the settlement program. All this seemed to be aimed at countering Octavian’s claims that Antony was neglecting Caesar’s memory.
The men from Rhegium also told Cicero that they had heard whisperings at Rome that were not particularly complimentary to him. Cicero’s intention to depart from Italy was no secret, and some people had suggested that in doing so he was deserting his country. There was even one rumor that Cicero was going to Greece merely to be a spectator at the upcoming Olympic Games at Olympia. Thinking both suggestions equally monstrous, and heartened by the news indicating that Antony had been tamed, Cicero decided to hurry back to Rome to take a leadership role in the Senate and “bring things to a happy settlement.”²
Cicero worked his way back around the western coast of Italy, retracing his earlier route, and on August 16 arrived at Elea. Three miles from the town, at the mouth of the Heles River, several merchant ships sat waiting for tide and wind to carry them out to sea. Brutus and his stepson Bibulus, as well as Cassius and a number of their friends and servants, were aboard those ships, having only recently made tearful farewells from their womenfolk as they set off for Greece. When word was conveyed to the ships that Cicero had returned to Italy and was in the town, Brutus and his party put back to shore.
Brutus was overjoyed to see Cicero and to learn that he intended going back to Rome and once again taking his front-bench seat in the Senate with the other “consulars.” Brutus and Cassius also had heard that Antony had seemed to moderate his ways. But they did not trust him, and suspected that he still harbored monarchic ambitions. He had certainly not softened his antagonistic attitude toward Brutus and Cassius; in word and deed, Antony had actively increased the rift between them.
On August 4, Brutus and Cassius had written to Antony, “Consider again and again what you are undertaking, and what support you have for it. And be sure to remember, not how long was Caesar’s life, but how short his reign.” This was not so much a threat, for they were in no position to threaten anyone, but a bald reminder that history does not treat tyrants kindly. “We attach less value to your friendship than to our lives,” the pair had added in conclusion.³
Escape abroad had come to seem their only recourse. Now, wishing Cicero every success at Rome, and promising to maintain regular contact from the East, Brutus and Cassius again put to sea. Like Hector the Trojan hero, they would never see their wives again.