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Ides of March spark a civil war

The power vacuum left by Caesar begins a scramble for power between Octavian and Marc Antony.

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Video transcript

- [Narrator] We finished the last video with the assassination of Julius Caesar on the Ides of March, March 15th, 44 BCE. And you might remember, it was done by factions opposed to Julius Caesar who that one, he had gotten too much power, but even more, he was using that power to, in a lot of ways, at least from their point of view, undermine their authority, that he was a populist, and as a populist he was undermining the power of the aristocracy. And so they get together and they assassinate him. Now you can imagine that all sorts of turmoil emerges from that. At the time of the assassination, Julius Caesar and Mark Antony are co-consuls. You might remember Mark Antony from the previous video, one of Julius Caesar's generals in Gaul. He was also put in charge of the Italian Peninsula when Julius Caesar went to go and take on his opponents, take on Pompey in Greece. And so Mark Antony is the remaining consul, and he says, "Well, what do I do? "Do I immediately try to punish these conspirators?" In particular, you have Brutus, Brutus and Cassius, who were considered two of the leaders of the conspiracy, and he decides instead of putting the Senate into further turmoil, he tries to have a little bit of a compromise and doesn't immediately punish them. And they're able to go from Rome and then go to the East, where they are the de facto leaders of the eastern provinces. But then in 43 BCE, things get a little bit more interesting. Julius Caesar in his will, he declares that his nephew, Octavian, or will be shortly known as Octavian, who's 18 years old at the time of the death on the Ides of March, that he is, in his will, should be his adopted son, and so makes him the natural heir of Julius Caesar. Now, Antony, who's also one of Julius Caesar's right hand men throughout and is one of his strong supporters as he came to power, he also, in a lot of ways, could've claimed, "Well, I have some rights here "to some of the power that Julius Caesar has gotten," and then there was a third figure, Lepidus, and this is a picture of him right over here. This is actually a picture of the three. This is Mark Antony, this is Octavian, and this is Lepidus, and Lepidus was also a significant supporter of Julius Caesar. So the three of them get together, and this is Lepidus's timeline right over here, each of these timelines show the lifespans of these characters, so you can see when they were born and when they died. You get a sense of their ages and when they happened to pass away. And so these three characters get together, and they form a triumvirate, and this triumvirate is called the Second Triumvirate, 'cause you might've remembered the First Triumvirate between Julius Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus, and that was an informal agreement. This one actually gets legal backing, and not only do they form this triumvirate, but they're given incredibly powerful power over the Roman Republic. And they decide to go after the conspirators. So in 68, sorry, (laughs) so in 42, I don't know what my brain is doing, in 43, the triumvirate is formed, and so in 42, they eventually are able to meet the conspirators who killed Julius Caesar, and they meet them at the Battle of Philippi, which is right over, let me do this in a color you can see, the Battle of Philippi, where they're able to defeat the conspirators. So after the defeat of the conspirators, they essentially divide the republic, although it really is an empire, they divide the republic between them. Antony, Mark Antony, he becomes the ruler, the de facto ruler of the East. Mark Antony becomes the de facto ruler of the East, and then he actually is the nominal ruler over Gaul as well, but then he put someone else in charge there. And as we'll see over the course of this 17, this tumultuous 17 year period, Mark Antony really has a lot of his control and influence in the East. But they've essentially split the empire between the three of them. And right at that split, Octavian doesn't get so much of the empire, but we'll see that'll change shortly where he's able to be in control of the western half of the empire in a matter of a few years. So after that, then in 41, and this is where Cleopatra enters into the picture, and she always makes this a little bit more colorful, Mark Antony decides that he wants to meet with Cleopatra. So he's now leading the East. He starts leading it from Athens. Then he moves where he governs from to Ephesus, and he calls Cleopatra, and he already knows her, he's met her several times, to come meet him here in Tarsus. And here in Tarsus, and then they go back to Alexandria, a romance starts between Mark Antony and Cleopatra, one of the most famous romances in all of history. Remember, this is the same Cleopatra who had a romance and a child likely through Julius Caesar. And Mark Antony and Cleopatra will actually have three children together, and two of which were conceived in this time period right over here, this period around 41 BCE. So this is where we are on the timeline right over there. But then in 40 BCE, the Parthians invade. And you might remember the Parthians. This is another very significant, you really could consider them a peer empire to the Romans. On this map, you're only seeing the very left or the most westward tip of the Parthian Empire. They had control of, when you remember the Achaemenid Empire, the Seleucid Empire, of most of Persia. They are a significant empire that was really a check on ancient Rome. And so they decide to invade. They decide to invade. And the Romans already have trouble with the Parthians. You might remember Crassus, one of the first three triumvirs, members of the triumvirate. He went and, while fighting the Parthians, that's where he was killed, and so the Romans had had some interest in going after them, and now you have the Parthians who are taking it to the Romans. They've taken it on the offense. So Antony, he goes from, when he finds out about this, and he's apparently in charge of the East, so it's a bit of an embarrassment for him, he goes to Tyre, which is the remaining significant holding that the Romans have. While he's in Tyre, he finds out that his wife, he does have a wife, so this thing that he has with Cleopatra is really an affair, his wife is embroiled in a civil war with Octavian. And the civil war, and you'll see there's this general issue throughout especially the later stages of the Roman Republic and even the Roman Empire, that as Rome expands, it needs these armies, and one of the things that they promise these soldiers are, "Hey, after you serve, when you're a veteran, "we're gonna give you some land so you can be a nice farmer "or at least landlord, other people might do the farming, "and you can have slaves and all the rest." Now, in order to keep doing that, you keep needing new land. So Octavian, in order to make some of these veterans happy, was giving away land, some of which was already, I guess you could say owned, by existing Romans. So Mark Antony's wife was using that really as an excuse to try to vie for power. And just to be clear, even though there was this triumvirate between Octavian, Antony, and Lepidus, things were tense from the beginning between Antony and Octavian. Both of them, both of them saw themselves as natural heirs to Julius Caesar. Antony says, "Hey, this young little 18 year old upstart, "what has he done to deserve this empire? "I've been beside Julius Caesar the entire time." Octavian is here saying, "Hey, I am now officially "Julius Caesar's adopted son." He takes on the name Caesar. "I am the rightful heir to Julius Caesar's power." And so sitting here in Tyre, Antony decides, "Okay, let me go take on Octavian." So he decides to go and lay siege to Brundisium in order to defend his wife, even though he obviously didn't care too much about his wife's honor. And it's over there, they're essentially at loggerheads. He tries to go into the civil war. His wife, Antony's wife, dies. Octavian and Antony decide, "Okay, okay. "Maybe we should not be fighting each other so much." And so they decide once again to be friends, and then they really at that point decide to split the empire more formally between East and West, where, in the triumvirate, you have Mark Antony still getting the East. You have Octavian being in control of the West, including the Italian Peninsula, and then Lepidus gets Africa. And you have Lepidus getting Africa right over here. So I'll leave you with that. There's a little moment of, it looks like a little bit of peace, between Mark Antony and Octavian. But as we'll see in the next video, it's about to get a lot worse. The big picture from here is that they were able to take care of the conspirators, but now they're starting to squabble. The triumvirate is starting to squabble, especially Mark Antony and Octavian. Lepidus was always kind of the, I guess you could say, the third wheel here. It was always between Antony and Octavian. Cleopatra has a romantic relationship with Antony. She's aligned with Antony. At the same time, and remember, Cleopatra, she's considered the richest woman in the world at this time. She is the pharaoh of Egypt. And remember, Egypt, even though the people were Egyptian, Cleopatra is part of the Ptolemaic Dynasty. She is Greek, but what makes her interesting is that she takes on a lot of the trappings and she learns to speak Egyptian. So she's quite popular from, I guess, relatively speaking terms, with the Egyptian people. And the other thing to keep in mind is we have these Parthians. These Parthians have just laid another insult on the Romans right over here when they invaded Syria and are able to take over this territory. And this is especially annoying to Mark Antony, who is supposed to be in charge of the East.