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Mary Macgregor

The Battle of Philippi

The Triumvirs began to rule on the 1st January 42 b.c. But neither Antony nor Octavius was able to stay long in Rome, for Brutus and Cassius had still to be pursued and punished. So Antony with a large army set out for Greece to fight against the conspirators, while Octavius, also with an army, went to Sicily to attack Sextus.

Lepidus was left in Rome to watch over the welfare of the city.

Octavius did not conquer Sextus, but in August he left Sicily to join Antony in Greece. They found Brutus and Cassius, each with his army, encamped in a strong position at Philippi in the north of the country.

The rebels, for such Rome now called the two conspirators, were in no haste to fight, for they had a plentiful supply of food for their armies, which was constantly renewed by the fleet which they commanded.

Antony and Octavius had no fleet, and their supply of provisions was uncertain; for it was brought to them by the country folk, who were not able to give them easily all that was necessary.

Before the armies met, Brutus was one night sitting alone in his tent, after his soldiers had gone to their quarters.

It was late and the light was dim, for he was not working, but brooding, as he had begun to do since the death of Cæsar.

Suddenly he felt that he was no longer alone in the tent, and looking up, he saw that a strange figure was standing close beside him. In silence Brutus and his unknown guest gazed the one at the other, until at length Brutus spoke.

"What are you," he demanded, "of men or gods, and upon what business come to me?"

"I am your evil genius, Brutus," a sombre voice replied, "you shall see me at Philippi."

The words sounded almost as a threat, but Brutus answered steadily, "Then I shall see you."

As he spoke the figure vanished. Brutus at once called his servants and asked them if they had heard any one enter the camp, but none of them had either heard or seen the mysterious stranger.

Soon after this Brutus and Cassius resolved to put their fortune to the test. They hung out a scarlet coat in their camp as a signal of battle.

The soldiers of Antony were at the time busy digging trenches, which they hoped would stop provisions from the sea reaching the enemy.

Cæsar, as Octavius was now called, was not with Antony, but being ill, was in his camp, a short distance away. His soldiers seem not to have seen the scarlet coat in the camp of the enemy, for they made no preparations for battle. Even when they heard shouts and the clash of arms coming from the direction of the trenches, they paid no attention to the confused noises. If they had bestirred themselves, the result of the battle might have been different.

Cassius had fallen upon Antony's men as they worked in their trenches, but he had been repulsed. Then, following up their advantage, the soldiers of Antony had captured his camp.

Meanwhile Cassius had drawn up his soldiers behind the camp, but when the enemy attacked his cavalry, it suddenly gave way and fled toward the sea.

When his infantry also began to waver, Cassius snatched an eagle from a standard-bearer who had turned to flee, and himself thrust it in the ground and tried to rally his men.

But his troops refused to be rallied, and in a short time Cassius found himself deserted, and was forced to ride off the field with only a few followers. He halted on a hill from which he could see the battlefield.

Brutus meanwhile had attacked Cæsar's army, and all but captured Cæsar himself. For he had been carried out of the camp only a few moments before the soldiers of Brutus dashed into it.

The first thing their eyes fell upon was the litter in which Cæsar had been resting. Supposing that he was still lying there, the soldiers hurled their darts at it, and a rumour at once arose that Cæsar was killed. But it was soon discovered that the general had fled, that his litter was empty.

And now a sad mistake took place. Brutus, eager to tell Cassius of his victory, sent off a body of cavalry to find him and tell him the good tidings.

Cassius saw the horsemen riding across the plain, and thinking that it might be the enemy in search of him, he sent one of his followers to reconnoitre.

When the messenger reached the horsemen he was greeted heartily. Some hastily dismounted to gather around him and tell the story of their triumph, others shouted or clashed their arms.

Cassius was watching anxiously from the distance, and he imagined that his follower had been captured by the enemy. Then he thought that Brutus must have been defeated, perhaps even had been slain, and he determined that he himself would live no longer. Without waiting to learn the truth, Cassius stole into an empty tent and stabbed himself.

When the sad news was told to Brutus, he was greatly grieved. "The last of the Romans has fallen," he cried in his sorrow, "for it is not possible that the city should ever produce another man of so great a spirit."