Treaty of Misenum

Octavian Chronicle #8, Treaty of Misenum-39, tells the whole story.
In the spring of 39 BC, Octavian and Mark Antony, accompanied by Maecenas, Asinius, and Plancus, met with Sextus Pompey and his advisors near the port city of Misenum on the north shore of the Bay of Naples. Sextus had taken control of Sicily and was using his powerful navy to block the grain ships from the east from sailing to Rome. He was starving Italy. Octavian wanted to reach an agreement with Sextus solely to buy time to build up his navy in preparation for a war against him.


At noon, the next day, Antony and Octavian were standing on the shoreline platform with Asinius, Plancus, and Maecenas. They were looking out at Sextus’ huge ship docked next to his shipside platform.

Antony said, “He doesn’t trust us enough to come on land.”

“He shouldn’t. We marched down here with a large army,” said Octavian. “He has ships. We have legions.”

“Here he comes,” said Maecenas. “Libo and Menodorus are with him.”

Sextus spoke up right away from his platform. “So, my understanding is that the three of us will be the new triumvirate as equal partners, and I’ll be admitted to share equally in the government in place of Lepidus.”

“No! We didn’t agree to anything like that,” Octavian yelled back. “We discussed recalling Lepidus from Africa. That’s all.”

Sextus shouted, “Then we’re done talking!” He turned around and walked back toward his ship.

“Stupid pirate,” muttered Octavian. He turned to Maecenas. “See what you can work out with Libo. Antony and I will have to walk away because Sextus did.”

“I will,” said Maecenas. He turned and yelled over to Libo, “Let’s talk.”

Libo waved and shouted back, “We didn’t come this far to have it end like this.”

Later in the day, after meeting with Libo, Maecenas, Asinius and Plancus arrived back at their headquarters tent and sat with Antony and Octavian. Maecenas said, “Sextus wants all the Pompeians who fled to him to be allowed to return to Italy in safety and get their property back.”

Antony looked at Octavian and asked, “What do you think?”

“He’s asking for too much. We have little property to spare because we need it for our soldiers.”

“We’re going to have to do something,” said Maecenas. “What if we agree to give them back half of their property? Most of their farms are large. One-half should satisfy them.”

Octavian thought for a second, then said, “Let’s do this. Let’s offer them one-quarter of their property.” Maecenas was about to protest, but Octavian put up his hand and continued, “Instead of offering it to Sextus, we’ll put the offer in writing directly to the Pompeians. They must be nervous about the trustworthiness of Sextus since he had Murcus murdered.”

Plancus said, “When you consider that he had Bithynicus murdered too, the Pompeians could be very worried that Sextus might keep the properties for himself.”

Antony said to Octavian, “Why don’t we have the documents drawn up, and we’ll sign them right away.”

“Alright,” said Octavian, “but they are to be handed to Libo instead of Sextus.”

“I agree,” said Antony.

Hours went by. It was nearly dark when Asinius, Maecenas, and Plancus returned. Antony smiled and said, “Come in, lads. Sit down. We’re anxious to hear what you have to say.” Then he turned to his servant and said, “Bring us some wine.”

Asinius spoke first. “You were right, Caesar! Libo told us that Sextus became angry when he handed the signed documents directly to the Pompeians instead of to him. He accused everyone except Menodorus of being a traitor. But the Pompeians accepted the offer and urged Sextus to agree to it.”

Antony had a big smile on his face. “So the Pompeians were suspicious of Sextus just like our Caesar thought.” He looked at Octavian and said, “Good work, lad!”

Octavian nodded. He had that familiar gleam in his eye.