Mark Antony Defeats Caesar’s Assassins at Philippi

Today on October 23, 42 BCE, Mark Antony and Octavian finally avenge Caesar’s assassination after defeating Brutus at the Battle of Philippi.

The Battle of Philippi was a two-part climatic battle that followed the assassination of Julius Caesar. Less than two years earlier, Caesar was stabbed to death by a group of Senators on the Ides of March. The two main conspirators who led the assassination were Gaius Cassius and Marcus Brutus. They quickly fled to the eastern province of Macedonia along with the other republicans. The Senators took control of all the Eastern provinces from Greece to Syria and prepared for civil war. Meanwhile, Octavian (Caesar’s adopted son), Mark Antony (his most loyal friend and commander) and Lepidus formed the Second Triumvirate. The three men took control of the western provinces, vowing to hunt down Caesar’s assassins. They raised a massive army consisting of 19 legions (well over 100,000 soldiers).

Brutus and Cassius assembled a formidable army as well, establishing a strong defensive position just west of the city of Philippi. The republicans built their camp and fortifications on the high ground with mountains to the north and an impassable marsh to the south. Antony and Octavian arrived in early October and launched an initial frontal assault on October 3. Octavian’s troops were repulsed and fled the field in a disorderly fashion, allowing Brutus to raid his camp and take three of his legion standards. Other the other hand, Antony was successful in breaking through Cassius’s lines but was forced to withdraw in support of Octavian. The first battle ended inconclusively.

Antony began constructing a massive causeway over the marshes in an attempt to outflank his enemy’s position. Three weeks later on October 23, Brutus launched an assault on the causeway which turned into a full-scale engagement. The close-quarter infantry battle that ensued was bloody on both sides; however, Brutus’s men broke first. As they fled, Antony’s cavalry quickly surrounded them. With few options left, Brutus committed suicide on the battlefield and his army surrendered. The Second Triumvirate eventually collapsed following the Battle of Philippi, plunging the empire back into civil war.

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