Battle of Philippi

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The Battle of Philippi was the final battle in the Wars of the Second Triumvirate between the forces of Mark Antony and Octavian (the Second Triumvirate) against the forces of Julius Caesar's assassins Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus in 42 BC, at Philippi in Macedonia. The Second Triumvirate declared this civil war to avenge Julius Caesar's murder.

The battle consisted of two engagements in the plain west of the ancient city of Philippi. The first occurred on the first week of October; Brutus faced Octavian, while Antony's forces were up against those of Cassius. At first, Brutus pushed back Octavian and entered his legions' camp. But to the south, Cassius was defeated by Antony, and committed suicide after hearing a false report that Brutus had also failed. Brutus rallied Cassius' remaining troops and both sides ordered their army to retreat to their camps with their spoils, and the battle was essentially a draw, but for Cassius' suicide.

A second encounter, on 23 October, finished off Brutus's forces, and he committed suicide in turn, leaving the triumvirate in control of the Roman Republic.

Contents

Prelude

After the murder of Caesar, Brutus and Cassius (the two main conspirators, also known as the Liberatores) had left Italy and taken control of all Eastern provinces (from Greece and Macedonia to Syria) and of the allied Eastern kingdoms. In Rome the three main Caesarian leaders (Antony, Octavian and Lepidus), who controlled almost all the Roman army in the west, had crushed the opposition of the senate and established the second triumvirate. One of their first tasks was to destroy the Liberators’ forces, not only to get full control of the Roman world, but also to avenge Caesar’s death.

The triumvirs decided to leave Lepidus in Italy, while the two main partners of the triumvirate (Antony and Octavian) moved to Northern Greece with their best troops (a total of 28 legions). They were able to ferry their army across the Adriatic and sent out a scouting force of eight legions (commanded by Norbanus and Saxa) along the via Egnatia, with the aim of searching for the Liberators' army. Norbanus and Saxa passed the town of Philippi in eastern Macedonia and took a strong defensive position at a narrow mountain pass. Antony was following, while Octavian was delayed at Dyrrachium because of his ill-health (which would accompany him throughout the Philippi campaign). Although the triumvirs had been able to cross the sea with their main force, further communications with Italy were made difficult by the arrival of the Liberatore admiral Ahenobarbus, with a large fleet of 130 ships.

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