November 26, 2014, by Esther Eidinow

The Lex Titia…

As part of the Nottingham Anniversaries through Coins project, Mike Welbourn describes how, on this day, 26th November, in 43 BC, the lex Titia was passed at Rome.

By this law a board of three men was given complete control over the Roman state. The lex Titia turned Rome into a de facto dictatorship, and one might argue that this date represents the end of the Roman Republic.

In 44 BC Caesar had declared himself dictator perpetuo (dictator for life). The result of this decision was his assassination by a group of senators on 15th March (the Ides), 44 BC. Two men sought to fill the position thus vacated by Caesar. One was Marc Antony, Caesar’s co-consul in 44 BC, and a loyal ally and lieutenant of the dead dictator. The other was the nineteen year-old Octavian, Caesar’s great-nephew whom he had adopted in his will.

Both men sought to secure the loyalty of Caesar’s legionary veterans. Antony attempted this through granting the soldiers land; Octavian by fulfilling Caesar’s bequest of money to each citizen. In addition, Octavian could make use of his position as son of the dictator to gain sympathy among the soldiers, since Caesar had been a popular commander. Octavian eventually gained the upper hand in the battle for the hearts and minds of Caesar’s veterans. Antony’s position was further weakened by political attacks made upon him, most famously by the famous orator Cicero. Antony sought to secure his position by obtaining the governorship of a province.

When the Senate offered him Macedonia for 43 BC, he rejected it and instead attempted to take Cisalpine Gaul (i.e. northern Italy) by force in December, 44 BC. He besieged the governor, Decimus Brutus, at Mutina. The following year the Senate sent the consuls Hirtius and Pansa, along with Octavian – who had control of a force of Caesar’s veterans and had been granted an extraordinary command – to deal with Antony, who was defeated at the Battle of Mutina in April, 43 BC.

However, rather than destroy Antony, Octavian began negotiations to form an alliance with him, since his immediate goal was to unite the Caesarian faction in order to seek revenge against those who had murdered his adoptive father. To this end, Octavian sent envoys to Rome to negotiate his elevation to one of the vacant consulships (Hirtius and Pansa both having perished at Mutina) and to have revoked the decree rendering Antony a public enemy. When the Senate refused these demands, in August 43 BC Octavian marched on Rome with his legions and obtained both objectives by force. In addition, he obliged his co-consul (and cousin) Quintus Pedius to pass the lex Pedia, a law declaring Caesar’s assassins enemies of the state.

In November 43 BC, Octavian met with Antony. At this meeting they agreed to the formation of a three-man board which would take control of affairs at Rome and prosecute a war against Caesar’s assassins. They were styled triumviri rei publicae constituendae (the three men for organizing the republic). This board of triumvirs was to consist of themselves and another loyal Caesarian, Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, who had been Caesar’s magister equitum (master of the horse – in essence a dictator’s second-in-command).

The triumvirs defeated what remained of Caesar’s assassins at the Battle of Philippi in October 42 BC but the alliance later collapsed, allowing Octavian eventually to rise to the top of the Roman world as Rome’s first emperor, Augustus.

Image by Kelly Grimshaw: two bronze coins of Augustus and two legionary denarii of Marc Antony.

Posted in AnniversariesCaesarClassical receptionClassicsClassics and popular culturecoinsOctavianRoman cultureRoman historyRoman LawUncategorized