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The last days of Cicero.

But within a month from the date at which the correspondence stops Cicero knew that his last chance was gone. The inaction of Octavian after the victory of Forum Gallorum puzzled Decimus Brutus, Plancus, and Cicero almost equally. He declined to hand over any legions to Decimus Brutus, or to join him in the pursuit of Antony; but he did not commit any act of positive hostility against him. There were, however, sinister rumours. An epigram of Cicero's, to the effect that the young man was to be "complimented, promoted, and—got rid of;" was said to have been retailed to Octavian, and he had replied that he had no intention of being got rid of. Other reports asserted that Pansa's wound had been poisoned by his physician at Octavian's suggestion. Others, again, that he was negotiating with Cicero, with a view to holding the consulship as his colleague.1 All that was certainly known was that he was keeping his whole force in hand, and shewed no sign of intending to lay down his command. Successive decrees of the senate had invested him with imperium, the praetorian, and then the consular rank, and had given him the privilege of standing for the consulship long before the legal age. But after the victory at Forum Gallorum the tone of the senate towards him altered. His name was ostentatiously omitted in the complimentary vote of thanks to the army, and when presently some of his officers appeared in the senate with a formal demand to be allowed to stand for the consulship at once, the demand was rejected. The senate trusted for protection to two legions which were being sent from Africa by Cornificius; but Octavian at once started for Rome in person at the head of his army. There were no troops between him and Rome, or in Rome itself; to withstand him. The legions from Africa arrived indeed about the same time as he did, but their officers almost immediately surrendered them to him. Cornutus, the praetor urbanus, committed suicide in despair, and the senate and city were alike at his disposal. Cicero, among the rest, had to make a somewhat pitiful submission, and after one attempt to organize an opposition, on a false report that the Martia and fourth legion had deserted Octavian, he retired to Tusculum and disappeared from public life.

The only question for him and his brother now was whether they would be allowed to live unmolested in a private station. Octavian soon made it evident that he meant relentlessly to punish his uncle's murderers. He was elected consul on the 19th of August with his cousin Q. Pedius. By his direction Pedius brought in a law condemning all the assassins of Caesar, and the tribune Casca was the first victim under it. The law did not touch Cicero personally, but events quickly followed that made his death certain. What Octavian had now to deal with was the force collected in Gaul. By this time Antony had been joined not only by Lepidus, but by Plancus from Celtic Gaul, and by Pollio from Baetica. He had therefore a formidable force. Decimus Brutus was now a condemned man, and was besides entirely powerless; for when Plancus joined Antony nearly all the troops of Decimus Brutus did the same. He was almost alone, and was making desperate efforts to find his way to Marcus Brutus in Macedonia. So that when Octavian, leaving the care of the city to Pedius, started once more for the north, though his object was nominally to crush Decimus Brutus, he had nothing to do but to prevent his reaching Ravenna, and force him back to Gaul, where he was arrested and put to death by Antony's order. The real question for Octavian was how to deal with Antony. He had resolved on coming to terms with him, and after a certain amount of negotiation, he met him and Lepidus on a small island in one of the tributaries of the P0, not far from Bononia, and agreed to share the Empire as "triumvirs for the reconstitution of the state." They were to be appointed for five years, and as a preliminary were to draw up a list mutually agreed upon of men who were to be declared outside the law, and liable to be put to death at at once. The obedient people of Rome accordingly voted the appointment on the 27th of November, and the first exercise of their dictatorial powers was the publication of an edict and a provisional list of men to be thus "proscribed." The first list had been forwarded to Pedius before the actual publication of the edict,2 and Cicero, who was at Tusculum, soon learnt that his own name, and those of his brother and nephew, were on it. The last scene shall be told in the words of Plutarch.

1 See pp. 253, 254.

2 The edict was not put up till the triumvirs entered Rome; but Cicero's name was among those forwarded before (App. B. C. iv. 4). For the text of the edict, see App. iv. 8-11.

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