The Vision of Brutus
As soon as the triumvirs had thus taken all the power into their own hands, they began to think of avenging their private wrongs; and they drew up long lists of the people that were to be slain. In this, they followed the example of Marius and Sulla, instead of showing themselves generous and forgiving like Julius Cæsar.
To satisfy one another's demands, they were all forced to sacrifice some of their relatives and friends. Lepidus gave up his brother to the vengeance of his colleagues; Antony did the same with his uncle; and Octavius consented to the death of his friend Cicero.
When these plans were settled, the triumvirs marched towards Rome, and took possession of the city by force. Then their soldiers began to kill all the citizens whose names stood upon the proscription lists. Many tried to escape, and among them was Cicero, although he was so ill at the time that he had to be carried in a litter.
The soldiers pursued the orator, and soon overtook him. Knowing that all resistance would be useless, Cicero thrust his head meekly out of the litter, and it was struck off with a single blow. The men also carried away his right hand, because Antony had said that he would like to have the hand which had written such angry speeches against him.
Antony and his wife, Fulvia, are said to have received these ghastly presents with lively tokens of joy. Fulvia even pierced the dead orator's tongue with her golden hairpin, in revenge for his having ventured to speak ill of Antony. But this unfeeling woman was soon punished for her cruelty. Her husband, who had not scrupled to kill a friend, soon deserted her, and she finally died of grief and loneliness.
More than two thousand Roman citizens were murdered at this time to satisfy the cruelty of the triumvirs. Many others escaped death only by leaving the country. We are told that one young man carried off his aged and infirm father on his back to save him from his pursuers. Father and son reached a place of safety, where they staid in hiding until they could return to Rome without danger. They were warmly welcomed when they came back, and every one had a kind word to say to the brave young man who had not forsaken his father, although his own life was threatened too.
At the very head of the triumvirs' proscription lists, stood the names of Brutus and Cassius; but these murderers of the great Cæsar were absent, and therefore could not be killed. Brutus had gone to Athens, in Greece, where he persuaded many of the Romans who were studying there to join his army in Macedonia.
It was here that Brutus, a very poor sleeper, once had a strange dream. A specter appeared to him while he slept, and solemnly said: "Brutus, I am thy evil genius; thou shalt see me again at Philippi!"
Shortly after this, Brutus was camping at Philippi, with an army. On the eve of a great battle, he is said to have seen the same specter, who now warned him that his end was near. The battle of Philippi was a very serious one; for Brutus, Cassius, and all their friends were on the one side, while Mark Antony, Octavius, and many other Romans were on the other.
Before very long, however, Cassius and his men were defeated, and he killed himself, without waiting for the end of the battle. Brutus was at first victorious; but a few days later he, too, was defeated. While he was striking madly right and left, his friend Lucilius sprang forward.
Lucilius had seen that Antony's men were trying to capture Brutus; so he threw himself before his beloved general, crying aloud that he was Brutus. While he was being taken to Antony's tent, where the mistake was soon discovered, the real Brutus escaped.
Fearing that he would be overtaken and made prisoner, Brutus vainly implored his friends and slaves to kill him; then, in despair, he fell at last upon his own sword. When Brutus thus put an end to his life he was only forty-three years of age, and had survived Cæsar about two years.