« ForrigeFortsett »
B.C. 36.] OCTAVIA AND ANTONY. 289
epoch of this transformation was the aadileship of Agrippa, whose appointment to the inferior office added dignity to his work. Highways, sewers, aqueducts, fountains, baths, gymnasia, the circus, temples, and other public buildings were formed or restored at a lavish cost, which did not preclude the addition of largesses in money and an unlimited supply of oil and salt, and, that the people might enjoy their public pleasures with decency and comfort, the services of the barbers were made free to all. The expense of these works was supplied, in part at least, by the spoil of the Illyrian campaigns, which are also said to have defrayed the cost of the public library which Pollio opened to the citizens, while another was founded by Octavian himself out of the spoils of the Dalmatian war, and named in honour of his sister Octavia. But these sources alone must have been inadequate without the splendid munificence of the prince and statesmen, who felt that their generosity would be well rewarded by immortal fame,—an example of the use of wealth from which our own age has still much to learn. Nor must the chief share of the honour be grudged to Octavian himself. "If the coffers of the generous sedile were drained, we may surmise that the triumvir freely opened his own hoards to supply the deficiency. For, grateful as the Romans might be to the agent through whom these bounties were dispensed, it was to Octavian himself that they attributed the principal merit of the design; and it may be presumed, when a rough soldier like Agrippa proposed that the innumerable works of art concealed in the villas of the wealthy should be amassed in museums for the gratification of the public, that he obeyed the master impulse of another hand, only slightly veiled from general observation."*
All this time it was the policy of Octavian to preserve friendly relations with Antony, in spite of provocations of the grossest nature both to the state, himself, and his family. Octavia, who continued to watch from Rome over the reputation of her unworthy husband, saw in the Parthian War the means of reviving that nobler flame which never seems utterly extinct in the breast of the brave warrior. In the spring succeeding the retreat from Parthia (b.c. 35), when Antony was in Syria, preparing for a new campaign, she went as far as Athens on the way to meet him, witli costly presents, arms, and money for his troops, and a chosen band of 2000 men, splendidly equipped, to form his body-guard. The reward of this devotion was a letter from Antony, commanding her to stay at Athens. The sympathy which all Rome felt for the nobleminded lady, whose generosity was thus insulted, was succeeded by religious abhorrence of Antony, when the triumphal rites, sacred to the deities of the Capitol—the one spot of all the world divinely appointed as the seat of empire—were paraded in solemn mockery amidst the temples of subjugated gods, and before the eyes of the despised Egyptians and Oriental Greeks. While the sovereign people saw their provinces added to a tottering kingdom, which only existed by the sufferance of their own generals, Octevian felt a personal wrong, amounting to a defiance, in the recognition of Caesarion, for it seemed to challenge his own rights as Caesar's heir. Nor can we doubt that he was well informed of the vast projects of dominion which Cleopatra did not scruple to avow. For, amidst all her voluptuous pleasures, the Egyptian queen was possessed by an ambition worthy of the last descendant of Alexander's famous general. It was to preserve her kingdom that she had fascinated first Caesar and then Antony. Her connection with her present lover seems to have grown into a real passion; but those outrageous excesses, which have astounded every succeeding age, were deliberate inventions for maintaining the bond which she trusted would lift her to the throne of all the world. She pledged her oath to her favourites by the decrees she would dictate from the Capitol.
• Merivale, vol. iii. p. 298. The historian justly points to the edict passed in Agrippa's sedileship for the banishment of astrologers and soothsayers, (of whose corrupting immoralities, as well as gross impostures, we learn much from Horace,) as promoting the morals and even the tranquillity of the city. Even the freest states may be provoked into bringing similar proceedings within the compass of their police law.
Vol. in. u
At length, in B.C. 33, the rivals began to exchange not only complaints, which negociation might possibly have removed, but sarcasms, which gave the final provocation to war. Antony was the first to collect his forces, on the pretext of another Parthian campaign; but, after securing an ally on that side in the King of Media, he marched from Syria into Asia Minor. At Ephesus he was met by Cleopatra, and they advanced together to Samos, the rendezvous of the army and splendid fleet of Egypt. The Ionian island, where, five hundred years before, the praises of wine and love had been sung by Anacreon, while Polycrates feasted a former King of Egypt, witnessed orgies amidst which there was no Amasis to lift the voice of warning.* At the close of winter they moved on to Athens, where Antony again assumed the character
• Sec VoL I. p. 137.
B.C. 32.] WAR DECLARED AGAINST EGYPT. 29]
of the patron god of a gorgeous Dionysiac festival, at the verytime when his friends at Rome were provoking a crisis. The consuls of B.c. 32, who—in accordance with the agreement between the triumvirs—were partisans of Antony, began their year of office with a vehement harangue against Octavian in the Senate. At the moment, he was absent from Rome, pretending that his life was in danger from the new consuls. On his return, he convened the Senate, stationed guards at the door, and entered surrounded by an escort of friends with daggers beneath their cloaks. Assuming his accustomed place of honour between the consuls, he delivered a bitter invective against Antony and his partisans, and promised to make a formal accusation at a future meeting of the Senate. The consuls fled to Antony, who gladly availed himself of the likeness to Caesar's receiving the fugitive tribunes, and, assembling the senators in his train, he made his formal reply to the charges of Octavian. But most of his Roman followers deserted to his rival; among these were Plancus, whose repeated tergiversations had generally been ominous of the turns of fortune, and Titius, who had been the instrument of an act of which Octavian specially complained, the murder of Sextus Pompey. Both these officers had been among Antony's most trusted confidants, and were privy to the contents of his will. Titius informed Octavian that the document was in the custody of the Vestal Virgins. He had left to Cleopatra and her children the inheritance of what belonged to the Republic as well as to himself, and directed his body to be buried with hers at Alexandria. Octavian had now only to watch, while affecting to moderate, the tide of public indignation. It was loudly demanded that Antony should be declared a public enemy; but Octavian was too wise to drive the friends of his rival to despair, and to bring on himself the odium of a new civil war. He preferred to appear as the champion of the Republic against an insolent potentate and her leader in the conquest of the last of the ancient kingdoms of the East, and to make Antony the confederate of a foreign enemy. Attired in the antique garb of a Fetial herald, he took his stand at the gate of Bellona's temple, surrounded by the people in their military dress, and declared war against the Queen of Egypt (b.c. 32). Antony received the declaration of war at Athens, where Cleopatra was sharing his warlike counsels as well as his pleasures in spite of the remonstrances of his Roman friends, and her jealousy had been inflamed by the praises which her rival had so lately earned from the Athenians. The final proof of Antony's subjection to her yoke was now given by the divorce of Octavia; and the insult, not to Caesar only, but to the moral sense of all Rome, was aggravated by the harsh execution of the act. Driven from her husband's house by officers sent to Rome for the purpose, the noble woman took under her care the children left behind by Antony, Fulvia's as well as her own, while the fickle Athenians transferred their public honours to Cleopatra.
The triumvirate expired at the close of this year; and Octavian, without any attempt to renew it, entered upon his third consulship on the 1st of January, B.c. 31.* It was in the guise of the constitutional first magistrate, that he left Rome, to lead the forces of the Republic against Cleopatra and the traitor who abetted her in the war. Antony had already stationed his forces along the western shore of Greece, with his head-quarters at Patrae in Achsea. Octavian's first act, in imitation of Caesar's bearing towards Pompey, was to send a letter to Antony, proposing that his troops should be withdrawn from the coast, that they might meet to confer in safety; but Antony rejected the proposal with the significant allusion to the loss of the third member of the old triumvirate:—"Who then shall stand umpire between us, if either breaks the agreement?" He knew that negociation was only named in order that he might have the odium of its rejection; and his mind was now made up to stake the empire he now held against that which he hoped to win. His armaments seemed to justify his resolution. His general on land, Canidius Crassus, commanded a hundred thousand legionaries and 12,000 cavalry, besides the immense hosts of Asia under their own princes. But they were not concentrated on any chosen field of battle; for Antony had determined to risk the decisive engagement on the sea. His magnificent fleet consisted of 500 ships, many with no less than ten banks of oars; but so imperfectly manned, that landsmen of all occupations had been suddenly pressed into the service. Few attempts were made to train these motley and seasick crews, which were decimated through famine in the crowded ports; but it is hard to believe that Antony had so far forgotten the Roman general in the Oriental despot as to declare that, "while the oars were sound, there should be no want of oarsmen, as Ions as there was a population in Greece" (Orosius). On the other hand, Octavian had collected the light Liburnian galleys, so famous for ages past in the hands of the bold mariners of the Adriatic;
* His election was an act of hostility to Antony, to whom he had promised the consulship for this year.
B.C. 31. J POSITION OF ACTIUM. 293
lis crews had been trained in repeated encounters with the fleets of Sextos Pompey, and Agrippa was at their head. Under such a chief, these handy ships and dexterous crews were a match for the unwieldy strength and twofold numbers of the enemy. The land forces of Octavian consisted of 80,000 legionaries, and a cavalry about equal to that of Antony; and the absence of a motley host of auxdiaries was no element of weakness.
Though Antony had resolved to fight at sea, he permitted Caesar's navy to gain the command of the Adriatic and Ionian waters, and even to annoy his coasts. Octavian transported his army unhindered to Toryne on the coast of Epirus, a station opposite the islet of Paxus, south-east of Corcyra. This island, the key of the Adriatic, was taken without a blow, and became his naval head-quarters. The chief citizens of Rome were gathered round their consul, at once adding prestige to his cause and giving security for the tranquillity of the capital; and he had reason to expect a large defection from those who were still with Antony. Having completed his preparations, Octavian sailed from Corcyra to " Freshwater Bay" (Glykys Limen), at the mouth of the river Acheron; and his army and fleet met at Port Comarus, about ten miles north of the entrance to the Ambracian Gulf.
This land-locked basin, which, with the Maliac Gulf on the eastern coast, forms a broad isthmus in the midst of Northern
Plan Of Actium.
Greece, lies on the 39th parallel of north latitude. Its true mouth is formed by a break in the chain of mountains running parallel to the coast, between the lofty headlands of La Scara in Epirus and Madonna* in Acarnania (see the Plan). But the lower ground outside of these capes forms a bay on the Epirot shore, interpene
* From the ruins on this cape, which now bear the name of Azio, D'Anville supposed that it was the true Actium, but this opinion is satisfactorily refuted by Colonel Leake.