Shakespeare's Julius Caesar Inquiry: Edited Selections from Book IV of Appian's Civil Wars

Mr. Steel


106 … Cassius and Brutus were encamped [in the hills], the former on the southern and the latter on the northern of the two. They did not advance against the retreating army of Norbanus because they learned that Antony was approaching, Octavian having been left behind at Epidamnus on account of sickness. …


107 Brutus and Cassius were satisfied with the position and proceeded to fortify their camps, but Antony moved his army rapidly, wishing to anticipate the enemy in occupying Amphipolis as an advantageous position for the battle. When he found it already fortified by Norbanus he was delighted. Leaving his supplies there and one legion, under the command of Pinarius, he advanced with the greatest boldness and encamped in the plain at a distance of only eight stades from the enemy, and straightway the superiority of the enemy's situation and the inferiority of his own became evident. … Antony's audacity, although he was driven to it by necessity, confounded the enemy when they saw him pitch his camp so near them and in such a contemptuous manner as soon as he arrived. …


108 In this way both sides had fortified themselves, in the meantime making trial of each other by cavalry skirmishes only. When they had done all that they intended and Octavian had arrived … he and Antony prepared for battle forthwith. Brutus and Cassius also drew out their forces on their higher ground, but did not come down. They decided not to give battle, hoping to wear out the enemy by want of supplies. There were nineteen legions of infantry on each side, but those of Brutus and Cassius lacked something of being full, while those of Octavian and Antony were complete. … [T]hey did nothing for several days. Brutus and Cassius did not wish to engage, but rather to continue wasting the enemy by lack of provisions, since they themselves had abundance from Asia, all transported by the sea from close at hand, all the enemy had nothing in abundance and nothing from their own territory. …


109 Mindful chiefly of these facts Brutus and his generals protracted the war. Antony, fearful of the delay, resolved to force them to an engagement. He formed a plan of effecting a passage through the marsh secretly, if possible, in order to get in the enemy's rear without their knowledge, and cut off their avenue of supply from Thasos. … Cassius was amazed at the ingenuity as well as the secrecy of this work, and he formed the counter design of cutting Antony off from his redoubts. …


110 When Antony saw this about noon, instantly, with rage and fury, he turned his own army, which was facing in another direction, and led it against … Cassius … . While he was making this audacious charge, obliquely and up hill, across the space that separated the two armies, the soldiers of Brutus were provoked at the insolence of the enemy in dashing boldly athwart their front while they stood there armed. So they charged on their own account, without any order from their officers, and killed with much slaughter … all they came up with. The battle once begun they charged upon the army of Octavian, also, which was drawn up opposite, put it to flight, pursued it to the camp which Antony and Octavian had in common, and captured it. Octavian himself was not there, having been warned in a dream to beware of that day.


111-112 When Antony saw that battle was joined he was delighted because he had forced it, for he had been in trouble about his supplies … . So he continued his charge, as he had begun it, on the run, and advanced under a shower of missiles, and forced his way till he struck the troop of Cassius which had not moved from its assigned position and which was amazed at this unexpected audacity. … All this was done swiftly … [and] … [a]s the camp was in a strong position it was guarded by only a few men, for which reason Antony easily overcame them. Cassius' soldiers outside the camp were already being beaten, and when they saw that the camp was taken they scattered in disorderly flight. The victory was complete and alike on either side, Brutus defeating the enemy's left wing and taking their camp, while Antony overcame Cassius and ravaged his camp with irresistible courage. There was great slaughter on both sides, but by reason of the extent of the plain and the clouds of dust they were ignorant of each other's fate. When they learned the facts they recalled their scattered forces. Those who returned resembled porters rather than soldiers, and did not at once perceive each other nor see anything clearly. Otherwise either party would have flung down their burdens and fiercely attacked the others carrying off plunder in this disorderly fashion. According to conjecture the number of killed on the side of Cassius, including slave shield-bearers, was about 9000, and on the side of Octavian double that number.


113 When Cassius was driven out of his fortifications and no longer had even a camp to go to, he hurried up the hill to Philippi and took a survey of the situation. As he could not see accurately on account of the dust, nor could he see everything, but only that his own camp was captured, he ordered Pindarus, his shield-bearer, to fall upon him and kill him. While Pindarus still delayed a messenger ran up and said that Brutus had been victorious on the other wing, and was ravaging the enemy's camp. Cassius merely answered, "Tell him that I pray his victory may be complete." Then, turning to Pindarus, he said, "What are you waiting for? Why do you not deliver me from my shame?" Then, as he presented his throat, Pindarus slew him. This is one account of the death of Cassius. Others say that as some horsemen were approaching, bringing the good news from Brutus, he took them for enemies and sent Titinius to find out exactly; that the horsemen pressed around Titinius joyfully as a friend of Cassius, and at the same time uttered loud hurrahs; that Cassius, thinking that Titinius had fallen into the hands of enemies, said, "Have I waited to see my friend torn from me?" and that he withdrew to a tent with Pindarus, and Pindarus was never seen afterward. For this reason some persons think that he killed Cassius without orders.

Thus Cassius ended his life on his birthday, on which, as it happened, the battle was fought, and Titinius killed himself because he had been too late; 114 and Brutus wept over the dead body of Cassius and called him the last of the Romans, meaning that his equal in virtue would never exist again. He reproached him for haste and precipitancy, but at the same time he esteemed him happy because he was freed from cares and troubles, "which," he said, "are leading Brutus, whither, ah, whither?" He delivered the corpse to friends to be buried secretly lest the army should be moved to tears at the sight; and himself passed the whole night, without food and without care for his own person, restoring order in Cassius' army. In the morning the enemy drew up their army in order of battle, so that they might not seem to have been beaten. Brutus, perceiving their design, exclaimed, "Let us arm also and make believe that we have suffered defeat." So he put his forces in line, and the enemy withdrew. Brutus said to his friends, jestingly, "They challenged us when they thought we were tired out, but they dared not put us to the test." …


117 Brutus assembled his army and addressed it as follows: "In yesterday's engagement, fellow-soldiers, you were in every respect superior to the enemy. You began the battle eagerly, although without orders, and you utterly destroyed their far-famed fourth legion on which their wing placed its reliance, and all those supporting it as far as their camp, and you took and plundered their camp first, so that our victory far outweighs the disaster on our left wing. But when it was in your power to finish the whole work, you chose rather to plunder than to kill the vanquished; for most of you passed by the enemy and made a rush for his property. We are the superior again in this, that of our two camps they captured only one, while we took all of theirs, so that here our gain is twice as great as our loss. So great are our advantages in the battle. How far we excel them in other respects you may learn from our prisoners — concerning the scarcity and dearness of provisions among them, the difficulty of procuring further supplies, and how near they are to absolute want. … When, therefore, you see them eager to fight, bear in mind that they are so pressed by hunger that they prefer death by battle. We will make it part of our plan that hunger shall engage them before we do, so that when it is necessary to fight we shall find them weakened and exhausted. Let us not be carried away by our ardour before the proper time. Let no one think that my generalship has become sloth rather than action, when he casts his eye on the sea behind us, which sends us all this aid and provisions and enables us to win victory without danger if you wait and do not mind the insults and provocations of the enemy, who are not braver than ourselves, as yesterday's work shows, but are trying to avert another danger. Let the zeal which I now desire you to repress be shown abundantly when I ask it. The rewards of victory I myself will pay you in full when it shall please the gods that our work be finished. And now for your bravery in yesterday's engagement, I will give to each soldier 1000 drachmas and to your officers in proportion."

After speaking thus he distributed the donative to the legions in their order. Some writers say that he promised to give them also the cities of Lacedaemon and Thessalonica to plunder.


119 Meanwhile Octavian and Antony, seeing that Brutus was not willing to fight, assembled their men, and Antony addressed them thus: "Soldiers, I am sure that the enemy claim in their speeches a share of yesterday's victory because they drove some of us and plundered our camp, but they will show by their action that it was wholly yours. For I promise you that neither to‑morrow nor on any subsequent day will they be willing to fight. It is the clearest proof of their defeat yesterday and of their lack of courage, that like those who have been vanquished in public games, they keep out of the arena. Surely they did not collect so numerous an army in order to pass their time in fortifications in the desert parts of Thrace. But they built their fortifications when you were still approaching because they were afraid; and now that you have come they adhere to them because of yesterday's defeat, for which also the older and more experienced of their generals in utter despair committed suicide, and this act is itself the greatest proof of their disaster. Since, therefore, they do not accept our challenge and come down from the mountain, but trust to their precipices instead of their arms, be valiant, O my soldiers of Rome, and force them to it again as you forced them yesterday. Let us consider it base to yield to those who are afraid of us, to keep our hands off such sluggards, or, soldiers as we are, to be men weaker than walls. We did not come hither to pass our lives in this plain, and if we delay we shall be in want of everything. If we are well advised we shall prosecute the war sharply, in order that peace may be of the longest duration possible.


120 "We, who have not incurred you censure for the onset and the plan of yesterday's battle, will devise fresh opportunities and means for this end. Do you, on the other hand, when you are asked, repay your generals with your valour. Nor must you be troubled, for a moment, by yesterday's plundering of our camp, for wealth consists not in the property we hold, but in conquering with might, which will restore to us as victors not only what we lost yesterday, which is still safe in the enemy's possession, but the enemy's wealth in addition. And if we are in haste to take these things let us hasten to bring on a battle. What we took from them yesterday balances what we lost, and perhaps more, for they brought with them all that they had extorted and plundered from Asia, while you, coming from your own country, left at home everything in the way of luxury, and brought with us only what was necessary. If there was anything lavish in our camp it was the property of your generals, who will gladly give it all to you as a reward for your victory. However, as compensation even for this loss we will give you an additional reward of 5000 drachmas for each soldier, five times as much to each centurion, and twice the latter sum to each tribune."


121 Having spoken thus, he marshalled his men again on the following day. As the enemy would not come down even then, Antony was disgusted, but he continued to lead out his men daily. …


122 The task of Octavian and Antony became pressing, hunger was already felt, and in view of the magnitude of the coming famine the fear of it grew upon them more and more each day. … As they could not rest under so great an impending danger, and as their other artifices were of no avail, they ceased offering battle in the plain and advanced with shouts to the enemy's fortifications, and challenged Brutus to fight, reviling and scoffing at him, intending not so much to besiege him as by a mad assault to force him to an engagement.


123 But Brutus adhered to his original intention, and all the more because he knew of the famine … , and of the enemy's desperation for want of supplies. He preferred to endure a siege, or anything else rather than come to an engagement with men desperate for hunger, and whose hopes rested solely on fighting because they despaired of every other resource. His soldiers, however, without reflection, entertained a different opinion. They took it hard that they should be shut up, idle and cowardly, like women, within their fortifications. Their officers also, although they approved of Brutus' design, were vexed, thinking that in the present temper of the army they might overpower the enemy more quickly. Brutus himself was the cause of these murmurs, being of a gentle and kindly disposition toward all — not like Cassius, who had been austere and imperious in every way, for which reason the army obeyed his orders promptly, not interfering with his authority, and not criticising them when they had learned them. But in the case of Brutus they expected nothing else than to share the command with him on account of his mildness of temper. Finally, the soldiers began more and more openly to collect together in companies and groups and to ask each other, "Why does our general put a stigma upon us? How have we offended lately — we who conquered the enemy and put him to flight; we who slaughtered those opposed to us and took their camp?" Brutus took no notice of these murmurs, nor did he call an assembly, lest he should be forced from his position, contrary to his dignity, by the unreasoning multitude, and especially by the mercenaries, who, like fickle slaves seeking new masters, always rest their hopes of safety on desertion to the enemy.


124 His officers also kept irritating him and urging him to make use of the eagerness of the army now, which would speedily bring glorious results. If the battle should turn out adversely, they could fall back to their walls and put the same fortifications between themselves and the enemy. Brutus was especially vexed with these, for they were his officers, and he grieved that they, who were exposed to the same peril as himself, should capriciously side with the soldiers in preferring a quick and doubtful chance to a victory without danger; but, to the ruin of himself and them, he yielded, chiding them with these words, "I seem likely to carry on war like Pompey the Great, not so much commanding now as commanded." I think that Brutus restricted himself to these words in order to conceal his greatest fear, lest those of his soldiers who had formerly served under Caesar should become disaffected and desert to the enemy. This both himself and Cassius had suspected from the beginning, and they had been careful not to give any excuse for such disaffection toward themselves.


125 So Brutus led out his army unwillingly and formed them in line of battle before his walls, ordering them not to advance very far from the hill so that they might have a safe retreat if necessary and a good position for hurling darts at the enemy. In each army the men exchanged exhortations with each other. There was great eagerness for battle, and exaggerated confidence. On the one side was the fear of famine, on the other a proper shame that they had constrained their general to fight when he still favoured delay, and fear lest they should come short of their promises and prove weaker than their boastings, and expose themselves to the charge of rashness instead of winning praise for good counsel, and because Brutus also, riding through the ranks on horseback, showed himself before them with a solemn countenance and reminded them of these things in such words as the opportunity offered. "You have chosen to fight," he said; "you have forced me to battle when I could conquer otherwise. Do not falsify my hopes or your own. You have the advantage of the higher ground and everything safe in your rear. The enemy's position is the one of peril because he lies between you and famine."

With these words he passed on, the soldiers telling him to trust them and echoing his words with shouts of confidence.


126 Octavian and Antony rode through their own ranks shaking hands with those nearest them, urging them even more solemnly to do their duty and not concealing the danger of famine, because they believed that that would be an opportune incitement to bravery. "Soldiers," they said, "we have found the enemy. We have before us those whom we sought to catch outside of their fortifications. Let none of you shame his own challenge or prove unequal to his own threat. Let no one prefer hunger, that unmanageable and distressing evil, to the walls and bodies of the enemy, which yield to bravery, to the sword, to despair. Our situation at this moment is so pressing that nothing can be postponed till to‑morrow, but this very day must decide for us either a complete victory or an honourable death. If you conquer you gain in one day and by one blow provisions, money, ships, and camps, and the prizes of victory offered by ourselves. Such will be the result if, from our first onset upon them, we are mindful of the necessities urging us on and if, after breaking their ranks, we immediately cut them off from their gates and drive them upon the rocks or into the plain, so that the war may not spring up again or these enemies get away for another period of idleness — the only warriors, surely, who are so weak as to rest their hopes, not on fighting, but on declining to fight."


127 In this way Octavian and Antony roused the spirit of those with whom they came in contact. The emulation of the troops was excited to show themselves worthy of their commanders and also to escape the danger of famine, which had been greatly augmented by the naval disaster in the Adriatic. They preferred, if necessary, to suffer in battle, with the hope of success, rather than be wasted by an irresistible foe.

Inspired by these thoughts, which each man exchanged with his neighbour, the spirit of the two armies was wonderfully raised and both were filled with undaunted courage. They did not now remember that they were fellow-citizens of their enemies, but hurled threats at each other as though they had been enemies by birth and descent, so much did the anger of the moment extinguish reason and nature in them. Both sides divined equally that this day and this battle would decide the fate of Rome completely; and so indeed it did.


128 The day was consumed in preparations till the ninth hour, when two eagles fell upon each other and fought in the space between the armies, amid the profoundest silence. When the one on the side of Brutus took flight his enemies raised a great shout and battle was joined. The onset was superb and terrible. They had little need of arrows, stones, or javelins, which are customary in war, for they did not resort to the usual manoeuvres and tactics of battles, but, coming to close combat with naked swords, they slew and were slain, seeking to break each other's ranks. On the one side it was a fight for self-preservation rather than victory: on the other for victory and for the satisfaction of the general who had been forced to fight against his will. The slaughter and the groans were terrible. The bodies of the fallen were carried back and others stepped into their places from the reserves. The generals flew hither and thither overlooking everything, exciting the men by their ardour, exhorting the toilers to toil on, and relieving those who were exhausted so that there was always fresh courage at the front.

Finally, the soldiers of Octavian, either from fear of famine, or by the good fortune of Octavian himself (for certainly the soldiers of Brutus were not blameworthy), pushed back the enemy's line as though they were turning round a very heavy machine. The latter were driven back step by step, slowly at first and without loss of courage. Presently their ranks broke and they retreated more rapidly, and then the second and third ranks in the rear retreated with them, all mingled together in disorder, crowded by each other and by the enemy, who pressed upon them without ceasing until it became plainly a flight. The soldiers of Octavian, then especially mindful of the order they had received, seized the gates of the enemy's fortification at great risk to themselves because they were exposed to missiles from above and in front, but they prevented a great many of the enemy from gaining entrance. These fled, some to the sea, and some through the river to the mountains.


129 The enemy having been routed, the generals divided the remainder of the work between themselves, Octavian to capture those who should break out of the camp and to watch the main camp, while Antony was everything, and attacked everywhere, falling upon the fugitives and those who still held together, and upon their other camping-places, crushing all alike with vehement impetuosity. Fearing lest the leaders should escape him and collect another army, he despatched cavalry upon the roads and outlets of the field of battle to capture those who were trying to escape. …They surrounded the fortified positions and escarpments, hunted down the fugitives, and kept watch upon those inside. Others pursued Brutus himself. Lucilius seeing them rushing on furiously surrendered himself, pretending to be Brutus, and asked them to take him to Antony instead of Octavian; for which reason chiefly he was believed to be Brutus trying to avoid his implacable enemy. When Antony heard that they were bringing him, he went to meet him, with a pause to reflect on the fortune, the dignity, and the virtue of the man, and thinking how he should receive Brutus. As he was approaching, Lucilius presented himself, and said with perfect boldness, "You have not captured Brutus, nor will virtue ever be taken prisoner by baseness. I deceived these men and so here I am." Antony, observing that the horsemen were ashamed of their mistake, consoled them, saying, "The game you have caught for me is not worse, but better than you think — as much better as a friend is than an enemy." …


130 Brutus fled to the mountains with a considerable force, intending to return to his camp by night, or to move down to the sea. But since all the roads were encompassed by guards he passed the night under arms with all his party, and it is said that, looking up to the stars, he exclaimed:— "Forget not, Zeus, the author of these ills," referring to Antony. It is said that Antony himself repeated this saying at a later period in the midst of his own dangers, regretting that when he might have associated himself with Cassius and Brutus, he had become the tool of Octavian. …


131 On the following day Brutus, seeing the enemy still lying in wait for him, and having fewer than four full legions, which had ascended the mountain with him, thought it best not to address himself to his troops, but to their officers, who were ashamed and repentant of their fault. To them he sent to put them to the test and to learn whether they were willing to break through the enemy's lines and regain their own camp, which was still held by their troops who had been left there. These officers, though they had rushed to battle unadvisedly, had been of good courage for the most part, but now, for some divine infatuation was already upon them, gave to their general the undeserved answer that he should look out for himself, that they had tempted fortune many times, and that they would not throw away the last remaining hope of accommodation. Then Brutus said to his friends, "I am no longer useful to my country if such is the temper of these men," and calling Strato, who was one of his friends, gave him the order to stab him. While Strato still urged him to deliberate, Brutus called one of his servants. Then Strato said, "Your friend shall not come short of your servants in executing your last commands, if the decision is actually reached." With these words he thrust his sword into the side of Brutus, who did not shrink or turn away.


132 So died Cassius and Brutus, two most noble and illustrious Romans, and of incomparable virtue, but for one crime; for although they belonged to the party of Pompey the Great, and had been the enemies, in peace and in war, of Gaius Caesar, he made them his friends, and from being friends he was treating them as sons. The Senate at all times had a peculiar attachment to them, and commiseration for them when they fell into misfortune. On account of those two it granted amnesty to all the assassins, and when they took flight it bestowed governorships on them in order that they should not be exiles; not that it was disregardful of Gaius Caesar or rejoiced at what had happened to him, for it admired his bravery and good fortune, gave him a public funeral at his death, ratified his acts, and had for a long time awarded the magistracies and governorships to his nominees, considering that nothing better could be devised than what he proposed. But its zeal for these two men and its solicitude for them brought it under suspicion of complicity in the assassination — so much were those two held in honour by all. By the most illustrious of the exiles they were more honoured than Sextus Pompeius, although he was nearer and not irreconcilable to the triumvirs, while they were farther away and irreconcilable.



Your Assignment:


Look for similarities and differences between Shakespeare's retelling and Appian's account of the final battle between the forces of Brutus and Cassius on the one hand, and Octavian and Antony on the other. Why might Shakespeare have changed some things? Write 3 paragraphs minimum (Good students will write more).