THE MUTINA BATTLES
Eight miles southeast of Mutina, on April 14, a hectic and bloody battle took place between Antony’s forces and senatorial forces sent to relieve Albinus’s army, which had been besieged inside Mutina for the past four months.
On April 15, Servius Sulpicius Galba, one of the Senate ’s generals and one of Caesar’s assassins, sat down in his headquarters tent and dashed off a quick note to Cicero at Rome to tell him about the battle the previous day. Hirtius was encamped near Mutina with two legions. Pansa and Octavian were coming up to reinforce him with four legions of new recruits, and Hirtius had sent Galba a hundred miles south to hurry them up.
On the night of April 13-14, Pansa, Octavian, and Galba were only a dozen miles from Mutina when they were met in the night by the Martia Legion and two senatorial Praetorian cohorts formed by Hirtius that Hirtius had sent to strengthen their otherwise raw army on the road. The next day, as the combined senatorial army marched up the Aemilian Way to join Hirtius at his camp, Mark Antony withdrew from his entrenchments around Mutina with two of his four legions, together with two Praetorian cohorts and thousands of cavalry. Antony’s intent was to prevent the senatorial reinforcements linking up with Hirtius.
Keeping his infantry at the village of Forum Gallorum, modern-day Castelfranco, Antony sent his cavalry scouting ahead. “When Antony’s cavalry came into sight there was no holding the Martian Legion and the Praetorian cohorts,” Galba proudly wrote. Pansa had no choice but to follow with two legions of recruits, and this drew Antony out of the village with all his infantry. The Battle of Forum Gallorum was fought on the highway, between marshes on one side of the road and wood-land on the other. “Both sides fought as fiercely as men could fight, ” said Galba. On Galba’s right, the Martians threw back Antony’s 35th Legion. But Pansa’s left wing gave way. The senatorial army was forced to retreat to its marching camp back down the road, which Octavian held with twolegions.¹
Late in the day, having achieved his objective, Antony marched away, back toward his lines at Mutina. His troops were singing a victory song when suddenly Hirtius arrived on the scene with his two remaining legions and charged. Antony’s infantry were routed. It was the middle of the evening by the time Antony and his cavalry could escape, courtesy of the darkness and the marshland. Hirtius’s troops captured both eagle standards of Antony’s legions, the 2nd and the 35th, and sixty subunit standards. “It is a victory! ” wrote the exhausted Galba, who had been in the thick of the early fighting.²
Five days later, after news reached Rome of the Battle of Forum Gallorum, which cost thousands of lives, the Senate finally declared Antony an enemy of the state. That same day, after the combined senatorial armies advanced on Mutina, Albinus made his expected breakout, fighting his way through Antony’s encirclement. Antony, vastly outnumbered, was forced in a bitter running battle to retreat to the north, with his army in tatters.
This was a senatorial victory, but the price was heavy. The consul Hirtius was killed in the fighting on April 21, as was Albinus’s deputy Pontius Aquila, another of Caesar’s assassins. The remaining consul, Pansa, was seriously wounded. Although expected to recover, Pansa died several days later. Pansa’s quaestor, Manlius Torquatus, suspected the attending physician, Glycon, of poisoning Pansa, and arrested him. It would be rumored that Octavian, who visited Pansa on his deathbed, had paid the physician to administer poison to the wounded consul, for Octavian could sorely use a vacant consulship.
Albinus pursued Antony north with his legions and Pansa’s units. But while Antony had been rebuffed, with the death of the two consuls the Republic had suddenly and unexpectedly become a rudderless ship.