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Octavian was still making his way back to Rome from Apollonia (current Albania) after learning of the assassination. Shortly after starting out, he had received a message that Caesar had adopted him as his son in his will. As word of this spread, support for Octavian began to grow among the soldiers who were loyal to Caesar and were now in need of a leader who would look after their interests.
Octavian decided to try to add to his political support. So he asked his stepfather to set up a meeting with Cicero, who was an old family friend even. Even though he was often a political opponent of Caesar Octavian knew that Cicero had not been directly involved in the plot to assassinate Caesar, but he was not sure what his position was on it.
Once they were seated, Octavian began, “I expect that there’ll be ten thousand soldiers at a camp just outside of Rome next week to show their support for me and to pay their respects to Caesar.“
Cicero was surprised. “Ten thousand soldiers, you say. Antony isn’t going to like that!”
“Let me ask you this, Father Cicero. How could Antony expect those who loved Caesar to support him when he actually had dinner with Cassius on the evening of the assassination? The soldiers are disappointed with Antony. They’re unhappy about his lack of loyalty to Caesar.”
“So, do you think you can be Caesar’s heir apparent?” asked Cicero.
“Due to the very fact that Caesar has adopted me as his son, many soldiers are telling me that they’ll support me as his political heir. I know I can.”
Cicero reacted. “Caesar made you his heir, as a family member, as his adopted son. Is there a place in his will where he made you his political or military heir?”
“His will doesn’t say, but that’s a position I can assume, if I choose to, by stating my commitment of vengeance for his murder. Antony didn’t seek vengeance, so I’ll do it.”
“Are you now declaring vengeance on Antony as well?” Cicero was surprised at Octavian’s brashness.
“Who knows?” said Octavian. “He may have been in on the plot! If he was, that’d be so despicable that I can’t even find the words to describe it.”
Cicero looked at Octavian. “Now that you’ve stated your position. Let me tell you what I think. My situation is, of course, different than yours in regard to vengeance. The conspirators believed that Caesar was murdering the Republic by gathering too much power. They believed their assassination of him was a matter of self-defense for the Republic.
“When I met with them, I remarked to Cassius, ‘A pity you didn’t invite me to dinner on the Ides of March. Let me tell you there would’ve been no leftovers.’ What I meant by that was that Antony should have been assassinated as well. But Brutus disagreed. He told me that if they’d murdered Antony too, it would’ve been seen as an assassination due to rival political parties rather than the overthrow of a tyrant. He said it would definitely have started another civil war.
“I disagreed vehemently with Brutus and those that agreed with him. I said that the case could’ve been made that Antony was so closely aligned with Caesar that it was necessary to rid the country of him as well. After speaking with Brutus and Cassius for a while, I became convinced that they had no plan to fill the vacancy created by the death of Caesar.
“The conspirators assumed that the rule of the Republic would flow back into the hands of the Senate and the consuls, and everything would go back to the way it was. They failed to understand the loyalty of the soldiers and the people to Caesar and the wiliness of Antony.
“Perhaps I showed arrogance when I told them that I would’ve spoken much more passionately than Brutus and would’ve done a better job speaking to the people than he did. And so, I became frustrated with them and their lack of resolve. That’s why I’m here, spending time at my villa, and I don’t have any immediate plans to return to Rome.”
Cicero added, “I believe, Octavian, that you will have more to fear from Antony right now than from Brutus and Cassius. When Antony finds out that ten thousand soldiers are on the outskirts of Rome to show their support for you, he’ll see you as his enemy.”
“You’re right, Father Cicero,” said Octavian. “Antony may turn out to be my greatest enemy ‘right now’.”