The Battle of Philippi

42 B.C. The Vindication of Caesar

"Now as never before, liberty and popular government were the issues of the struggle.... One side was trying to lead them to autocracy, the other to self-government" (Roman History47.39.2; LCL 5: 197).

The Beginning

  • The battle of Philippi started with Antony and Gaius Octavian on one side, trying to avenge Caesar and bring back order, and Brutus and Cassius on the other side, leading the Republican cause after the death of Caesar.
  • Antony had control over the army and Octavian was popular among the senators
  • Antony's soldiers began pledging allegiance to Octavian, giving him more power.
  • They formed the second triumvirate with Lepidus, which gave them power over 19 legions
  • On the other side, Brutus and Cassius raised 17 legions
  • Cassius set up his camps on two hills above the plain of Philippi and Brutus set up at the food of the mountains about 2.7 km apart
  • Antony and Octavian set up camps 1.5 km away from Cassius's camp.
  • Antony and Octavian were at a disadvantage now, so they were going to have to take the first move.
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Battle Part I

  • Antony and Octavian tried, unsuccessfully to draw out the other side, after this they decided to cross the marsh and cut off the republicans supply line.

  • Cassius heard about the plan so he built a wall blocking them from crossing.

  • Antony led an assault and destroyed Cassius’s fortifications.

  • Brutus was fighting Octavian’s legions

    while this was happening Octavian was sick and stayed out of the fighting and avoided being captured with the rest of the troops.

  • When Cassius lost his camp, Brutus sent him reinforcements, but Cassius thought they were enemy troops. When he saw them he committed suicide.

The first battle of Philippi ended with the loss of 9,000 soldiers as well as the loss of Cassius on the side of the Republicans and Octavian's army lost more than twice that many soldiers.

Battle part II

  • After regrouping from the first battle, the two sides were back at it.
  • Brutus remained in place and waited to see if the other side would run out of provisions.
  • Antony and Octavian started taunting Brutus and his forces. His soldiers couldn’t take it and they gave in and followed them into the plain.
  • Antony then took advantage of the battle field and strategically placed his legions to corner Brutus’s forces.
  • They fought hand-to-hand, but Brutus had stretched his men too thin.
  • Antony broke through the center of Brutus’s ranks. Brutus then fled to the mountains while Antony chased after him, and Octavian attacked the camp.
  • After his troops begged for mercy, Brutus committed suicide. The battle had ended and Julius Caesar’s death had been avenged.
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  • Antony was hailed as emperor.
  • Antony left with 8 legions to go campaign in Parthia while Octavian returned to Italy with only 3.
  • The death toll is estimated at 40,000 men, including many of Rome’s best soldiers.
  • This battle involved the largest number of troops used in battle up to that point
  • It’s conclusion issued in a new era of Roman government.
  • Although Antony was hailed as the victor at the end of the battle of Philippi, he and Octavian later battled for the position of emperor at the battle of Actium, which Octavian won.
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