XVII. HOW THE REPUBLIC BECAME AN EMPIRE.
When Cæsar had planned to go to Parthia, he sent in that direction some of his legions, which wintered at Apollonia, just over the Adriatic, opposite Brundusium, and with them went the young and sickly nephew whom Cæsar had mentioned in his will as his heir. While the young man was engaged in familiarizing himself with the soldiers and their life, a freedman arrived in camp to announce from his mother the tragedy of the Ides of March. The soldiers offered to go with him to avenge his uncle's death, but he decided to set out at once and alone for the capital. At Brundusium he was received by the army with acclamations. He did not hesitate to assume the name Cæsar, and to claim the succession, though he thus bound himself to pay the legacies that Cæsar had made to the people. He was known as Caius Julius Cæsar Octavianus, or, briefly, as Octavius. [Footnote: Octavius was son of Caius Octavius and Atia, daughter of Julia, sister of Julius Cæsar, and was born Sept. 23, B.C. 63. His true name was the same as that of his father, but he is usually mentioned in history as Augustus, an untranslatable title that he assumed when he became emperor. His descent was traced from Atys, son of Alba, an old Latin hero.] Cæsar had bequeathed his magnificent gardens on the opposite side of the Tiber to the public as a park, and to every citizen in Rome a gift of three hundred sesterces, equal to ten or fifteen dollars. These provisions could not easily be carried out except by Antony, who had taken possession of Cæsar's moneys, and who was at the moment the most powerful man in the republic. Next to him stood Lepidus, who was in command of the army. These two seemed to stand between Octavius and his heritage.
Octavius understood the value of money, and took possession of the public funds at Brundusium, captured such remittances from the provinces as he could reach, and sent off to Asia to see how much he could secure of the amount provided for the Parthian expedition, just as though all this had been his own personal property.
Thus the timid but ambitious youth began to prepare himself for supreme authority. When he reached Rome his mother and other friends warned him of the risks involved in his course, but he was resolute. He had made the acquaintance at Apollonia of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, then twenty years of age, who afterwards became a skilful warrior and always was a valuable adviser, and now he determined to make a friend of Cicero. This remarkable orator had already been intimate with all the prominent men of his day; had at one time or another flattered or cajoled Curio, Cassius, Crassus, Pompey, Antony, and Cæsar, and now, after thoroughly canvassing the probabilities, he decided to take the side of Octavius, though he was loth to break with either Brutus or Antony. His weakness is plainly and painfully presented by his own hand in his interesting letters, which add much light to the story of this period. [Footnote: James Anthony Froude says: "In Cicero, Nature half-made a great man and left him uncompleted. Our characters are written in our forms, and the bust of Cicero is the key to his history. The brow is broad and strong, the nose large, the lips tightly compressed, the features lean and keen from restless intellectual energy. The loose, bending figure, the neck too weak for the weight of the head, explain the infirmity of will, the passion, the cunning, the vanity, the absence of manliness and veracity. He was born into an age of violence with which he was too feeble to contend. The gratitude of mankind for his literary excellence will forever preserve his memory from too harsh a judgment." - "Cæsar, a Sketch," chapter xxvii.]
Octavius gathered together enough money to pay the legacies of Cæsar by sales of property, and by loans, in spite of the fact that Antony refused to give up any that he had taken. He artfully won the soldiers and the people by his liberality (that could not fail to be contrasted with the grasping action of Antony), and by the shows with which he amused them. Thus with it all he managed to make the world believe that he was not laying plans of ambition, but simply wished to protect the state from the selfish designs of his rival. In this effort he was supported by the oratory of Cicero, who began to compose and deliver or publish a remarkable series of fourteen speeches known as Philippics, from their resemblance to the four acrimonious invectives against Philip of Macedon which the great Demosthenes launched at Athens during the eleven years in which he strove to arouse the weakened Greeks from inactivity and pusillanimity (352-342 B.C.).
Cicero entered Rome on the first of September, and delivered his first Philippic the next day, in the same Temple of Concord in which he had denounced Catiline twenty years before. He then retired from the city, and did not hear the abusive tirade with which Antony attempted to blacken his reputation. In October he prepared a second speech, which was not delivered, but was given to the public in November. This is the most elaborate and the best of the Philippics, and it is also much more fierce than the former. The last of the series was delivered April 22, 43. Antony was soon declared a public enemy, and Cicero in his speeches constantly urged a vigorous prosecution of the war against him.