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Octavius returns to Rome -- Consternation among the Italians -- Confiscation and Division of the Land -- Beginning of Trouble with Lucius Antonius -- Outrages committed by the Soldiers -- Octavius powerless to prevent them -- The Killing of Nonius -- Insubordination and Desertion, and the Causes thereof

[12] As Octavius was journeying to Rome he became dangerously ill at Brundusium, and a rumor gained currency that he was dead. On his recovery he returned to the city and showed to Antony's friends the letters Antony had written. The Antonians directed Calenus to give Octavius the two legions, and wrote to Sextius in Africa to turn that province over to him. This was the course of the Antonians while, as it appeared that Lepidus had not been guilty of any serious wrong, Octavius transferred Africa to him in exchange for his former provinces. He also sold the remainder of the property confiscated under the conscriptions. The task of assigning the soldiers to their colonies and dividing the land was one of exceeding difficulty. The soldiers demanded the cities which had been selected for them before the war as prizes for their valor. The cities demanded that the whole of Italy should share the burden, or that the cities should cast lots with the other cities, and that those who gave the land should be paid the value of it; but there was no money. They came to Rome in crowds, young and old, women and children, to the forum and the temples, uttering lamentations, saying that they had done no wrong for which they, Italians, should be driven from their fields and their hearthstones, like people conquered in war. The Romans mourned and wept with them, especially when they reflected that the war had been waged, and the rewards of victory given, not in behalf of the commonwealth, but against themselves and for a change of the form of government; that the colonies were established so that democracy should never again lift its head, -- colonies composed of hirelings settled there by the rulers to be in readiness for whatever purpose they might be wanted.

[13] Octavius explained to the cities the necessity of the case, but he knew that it would not satisfy them; and it did not. The soldiers encroached upon their neighbors in an insolent manner, seizing more than had been given to them and choosing the best lands; nor did they cease when Octavius rebuked them and made them numerous other presents. They were contemptuous in the knowledge that their rulers needed them to confirm their power, for the five years' term of the triumvirate was passing away, and army and rulers needed the services of each other for mutual security. The chiefs depended on the soldiers for the continuance of their government, while, for the control of what they had received, the soldiers depended on the permanence of the government of those who had given it. Believing that they could not keep a firm hold unless the givers had a strong government,1 they fought for them with good-will, necessarily. Octavius made many other gifts to the indigent soldiers, borrowing from the temples for that purpose, for which reason the affections of the army were turned toward him. The greater thanks were bestowed upon him both as the giver of the land, the cities, the money, and the houses, and as the object of denunciation on the part of the despoiled, and as one who bore this contumely for the army's sake.

[14] Observing this, Lucius Antonius, the brother of Antony, who was then consul, and Fulvia, the wife of Antony, and Manius, his procurator during his absence, resorted to artifices to delay the settlement of the colonies till Antony should return home, in order that it might not seem to be wholly the work of Octavius, and that he might not reap the thanks alone, and Antony be bereft of the favor of the soldiers. As this could not be done, on account of the haste of the soldiers, they asked that Octavius should take the colony leaders of Antony's legions from Antony's own friends, although the agreement with Antony yielded the selection to Octavius exclusively. They made it a matter of complaint that Antony was not present.2 They brought Fulvia and Antony's children before the soldiers, and, in envious terms, besought them not to forget Antony or allow him to be deprived of the glory or the gratitude due to his service to them. The fame of Antony was then at its maximum, not only among the soldiers, but among all others. The victory of Philippi was considered wholly due to him, on account of Octavius' illness. Although Octavius was not ignorant that it was a violation of the agreement, he yielded as a matter of favor to Antony, and appointed friends of the latter as colony leaders for Antony's legions. These leaders, in order that they might appear more favorable to the soldiers than Octavius was, allowed them to commit still greater outrages. So there was another multitude from other communities, neighbors of the dispossessed ones, suffering many injuries at the hands of the soldiers, and crying out against Octavius, saying that the colonization was worse than the proscription, since the latter was directed against foes, while the former was against inoffensive persons.

[15] Octavius knew that these citizens were suffering injustice, but he was without means to prevent it. There was no money to pay the value of the land to the cultivators,3 nor could the rewards to the soldiers be postponed, on account of the enemies who were still on foot. Pompeius ruled the sea and was reducing the city to famine by cutting off supplies. Ahenobarbus and Murcus were collecting a new fleet and army. The soldiers would be less zealous in the future if they were not paid for their former service. It was a matter of much importance that the five years' term of office was running out, and that the good-will of the soldiers was needed to renew it, for which reason he was willing to overlook for the time being their insolence and arrogance. Once in the theatre when he was present, a soldier, not finding his own seat, went and took one in the place reserved for the knights. The people pointed him out and Octavius had him removed. The soldiers were angry. They gathered around Octavius as he was going away from the theatre and demanded their comrade, for, as they did not see him, they thought that he had been put to death. When he was produced before them they supposed that he had been brought from prison, but he denied that he had been imprisoned and related what had taken place. They said that he had been instructed to tell a lie and reproached him for betraying their common interests. Such was the example of their insolence in the theatre.4

[16] Having been called, about that time, to the Campus Martius for a division of the land, they came in haste while it was still night, and they grew angry because Octavius delayed his coming. Nonius, a centurion, chided them with considerable freedom, urging decent treatment of the commander by the commanded, and saying that the cause of the delay was Octavius' illness, not his disregard of them. They first jeered at him as a sycophant. Then, as the excitement waxed hot on both sides, they reviled him, threw stones at him, and pursued him when he fled. Finally he plunged into the river and they pulled him out and killed him and threw his body into the road where Octavius was about to pass along. The friends of Octavius advised him not to go among them, but to keep out of the way of their mad career. But he went forward, thinking that their madness would be augmented if he did not come. When he saw the body of Nonius he turned aside. Then, assuming that the crime had been committed by a few, he chided them and advised them to exercise forbearance toward each other hereafter, and proceeded to divide the land. He allowed the meritorious ones to ask for rewards, and he gave to some who were not meritorious, contrary to their expectation. Finally the crowd were confounded. They repented and were ashamed of their importunity. They condemned themselves and asked him to search out and punish the slayers of Nonius. He replied that he knew them and would punish them only with their own guilty consciences and the condemnation of their comrades. The soldiers, thus honored with pardon, rewards, and gifts, changed at once to joyful acclamations.

[17] Let these two instances serve as examples of the prevailing insubordination. The cause was that the generals, for the most part, as is usually the case in civil wars, were not regularly chosen; that their armies were not drawn from the enrolment according to the custom of the fathers, nor for the benefit of their country; that they did not serve the public so much as they did the individuals who brought them together; and that they served these not by the force of law, but by reason of private promises; not against the common enemy, but against private foes; not against foreigners, but against fellow-citizens, their equals in rank. All these things impaired military discipline, and the soldiers thought that they were not so much serving in the army as lending assistance, by their own favor and judgment, to leaders who needed them for their own personal ends. Desertion, which had formerly been unpardonable, was now rewarded with gifts, and whole armies resorted to it, including some illustrious men, who did not consider it desertion to change to a similar cause, for all parties were alike, since neither of them could be distinguished as battling against the common enemy of the Roman people. The common pretence of the generals that they were all striving for the good of the country made desertion easy in the thought that one could serve his country in any party. Understanding these facts the generals tolerated this behavior, for they knew that their authority over their armies depended on donatives rather than on law. Thus, everything was torn in factions, and the armies indulged in insubordination toward the leaders of the factions.

1 ὡς γὰρ αὐτῶν οὐ βεβαίως ἄρχοιεν οἱ δόντες. Schweighäuser detected a lacuna after the word βεβαίως, which he was enabled to fill by comparing the passage with a similar one in Book I., Sec. 96 supra, viz.: "As they [the soldiers] could not be secure in their own holdings unless all of Sulla's affairs were on a firm foundation, they were his stoutest champions," etc. He accordingly filled the gap with the words ἐπικρατήσοντες εἰ μὴ βεβαίως.

2 ἐπιμεμφόμενοι δὲ ὡς οὐ παρόντι τῷ ᾿Αντωνίῳ The meaning of these words, according to Schweighäuser, is that Antony's friends complained that Octavius was forestalling Antony in the affections of the soldiers during his absence. In his opinion, words should be inserted after ὡς to express this idea. Suggestions for filling the gap have been made by both Bekker and Mendelssohn, but they did not change the text.

3 Among the dispossessed were the poets, Vergil, Horace, Tibullus, and Propertius. Vergil's property was seized after the battle of Philippi, but was restored, as he relates in the first Eclogue. It was seized a second time after the siege of Perusia, and this time it was not restored, but he was compensated with land elsewhere. Horace's paternal estate was seized after, and in consequence of, the battle of Philippi, in which he took part on the republican side (Epistles, ii. 2. 50). It was not restored to him, but he was compensated for the loss in other ways by the influence of Mæcenas, to whom he was introduced by Vergil and Varius (Satires, i. 6. 55).

4 Suetonius (Aug. 14) relates this incident in the theatre. He says that Octavius narrowly escaped with his life, and was saved only by the sudden appearance of the man safe and sound.

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