B2 High-Intermediate US 54 Folder Collection
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Fortune is one of the most mysterious forces in nature.
It influences our lives before our birth and will continue to exude its power long after
we are gone.
So much rides on fortune's whims.
She can be quick to give generously, and often even quicker to ravage terribly.
In history, the Mongols seemed to have had Fortune on their side, when nearly the whole
world was at their feet.
They were even able to gather a force of 140,000 men to cross the sea and take Japan.
Yet, Fortune does no man's bidding forever.
Her fickle hand decided to strike a blow against the Mongols in the form of a monstrous typhoon.
Japan had expected an enormous invasion, but instead Fortune delivered thousands of dead,
bloated bodies.
Because of this, Fortune appears an almost paranormal force.
The ancient Romans recognized this, choosing to see luck in the form of the goddess Fortuna.
For her they built temples, worshipping her in the hopes of winning her whimsical favour.
Animals were sacrificed and their entrails scrutinised, all with the aim of decoding
a message from her.
Yet, Fortuna was not so easily amused.
Earthquakes, famines and pestilence still visited the Romans as they did elsewhere.
The legendary figures of Roman genius would have come to nought without Fortune's favour.
These characters were lucky to have been in the right place at the right time.
Without these rare instances of fate, Rome would have fallen to dust, joining the remnants
of so many other nameless nations.
This, therefore, is the story of how two men acted out the roles assigned to them by the
goddess Fortuna, to the extent that they would build a new stage for Western civilization
to play out all of its spectacular dramas.
The legend goes that Rome, through its founders Romulus and Remus, was born on the teat of
a wolf.
Both the inhabitants of the city-state and the world accepted this as historical truth.
After all, there was definitely something of the wolf in the Romans.
A restlessness nature that beckoned them to conquer and devour everything in their path.
In fact, it was believed that Rome was destined to conquer the entire world.
One man believed that it was only through him that Rome could achieve its rightful glory.
This man was Julius Caesar.
Julius Caesar was a scion of an ancient, noble family.
A family which, in spite of its proud pedigree, had little more than a few sliverings of gold
and a dubious claim to be a descendant of the goddess Venus to show for it.
This distasteful fact would fester in Caesar's breast like a sickness throughout his life.
This sickness had but one cure: success in all things.
Yet, Caesar was a Roman.
And, in Rome, a free republic, all citizens were considered equal.
And so, how can one rise to the top, when there is no top to rise to?
However, as is often the case, some citizens were more equal than others.
As a member of the old nobility, that had existed since the ancient time of Kings, Caesar
was amongst these men.
Yet, their capacity for wielding power was equal to that of the lowliest street urchin.
In this, Rome found its pride: here, a citizen was only worth his merit.
Merit usually being quite crudely counted in the number of heads cut off and enemies
So be it.
Julius Caesar would use his reputation and genius to excel in this way, and in doing
so create a legacy which would take nearly one thousand years to match in the inexorable
deeds of Genghis Khan.
As a young man, though, Caesar's career prospects were bleak to say the least.
His family, though noble, was associated with the losing side of a bloody civil war.
This meant that Caesar spent the first few decades of his life dredging through the monotony
of civil service.
At the age of 31, whilst serving as a treasury secretary in Spain, he is said to have cried
underneath a statue of Alexander the Great.
A lamentable image considering that Alexander had the world at his feet by Caesar's age,
whereas he was but a frustrated, middling civil servant.
He was meant for so much more than his current lot in life.
Undeniably, Caesar's ego was immense.
Thus, the Republic's lack of appreciation for his talents was intolerable.
And, it was not just the Republic who failed to recognise his worth.
Sometime before his time in Spain, when he was but a young man, Caesar was kidnapped
by pirates.
Knowing that they had a noble prisoner in Caesar, the pirates demanded the great sum
of 20 talents, a contemporary unit of measurement, in exchange for his safe return.
By all standards, this was a princely ransom.
After all, a single talent was the equivalent of around 30kg of silver.
Such a fee was not to be taken lightly.
Any other man from a down-on-their-luck noble family might have worried over their ability
to source such an amount.
But not Caesar.
Rather, he was outraged.
20 talents of silver was a pitiful sum for a man of his quality.
He demanded that he was worth 50 at the very least.
The pirates took the chastisement with good cheer, even when their uppity captive promised
in no uncertain fashion that he would crucify them all.
The ransom was duly paid and another profitable kidnapping concluded.
However, it would soon be clear that Julius Caesar was not a man to make idle threats.
He quickly assembled a small fleet in Greece and pursued the pirates.
One can only imagine their surprise when their one-time captive and haughty aristocrat surrounded
them with a flotilla of ships.
Outmanned and enveloped, the pirates surrendered to Caesar.
Eager to save their lives, all dropped onto bended knee and begged for mercy.
Caesar, steely eyed and sharp of mind, was the sort of man who understood the balance
between abject slaughter and clemency.
The handing out of mercy could make a man more powerful.
After all, such was the prerogative of a king to his subjects.
So, the pirates got their mercy: as their bodies were hammered to crosses, their throats
were slit.
A quick death.
That was Caesar's mercy, a mercy which the Republic would feel soon enough.
It had always been Caesar's ambition to be the very best.
The incident with the pirates was just a taster of his capabilities, and of his wrath.
However, let it not be doubted that Caesar was anything less than a man of charisma.
In fact, it was his charisma which allowed him to progress through the fearlessly competitive
society of the Romans.
Threats and bribery, the more heavy-handed methods of forging alliances, were not the
only ways to get things done.
Factional friendships, familial alliances and even finding your way into the right women's
beds were ways which an ambitious citizen could put his charisma to good use.
Not to forgot the blessing of the Goddess Fortuna.
It was through these methods that a middle-aged Caesar gained the ultimate position within
the Republic, Consul, a role equivalent to that of a modern day president or prime minister.
Yet, even that was not good enough for Caesar.
By using the power that position bestowed upon him, he was able to acquire for himself
a governorship for when his term in office was over.
This governorship would allow him to be free of legal prosecution.
For as a Consul Caesar had made many enemies: beatings and ritual humiliations were all
part of his political programme.
One time, when in disagreement with his co-Consul, Marcus Bibulus, Caesar had ordered a bucket
of excrement to be poured over his head during a speech.
The last thing that Caesar wanted was for these unfortunate incidents to come back to
haunt him later.
After all, he was by no means finished.
Now well into his forties, Caesar was about to embark upon his life ambition - the one
which, even as a child, he had known he had been destined for - global conquest.
Through a series of antagonizing moves, Caesar managed to provoke the tribes of Gaul into
attacking him.
Gaul, situated north of Rome, encompassed an area similar to that of modern day France.
By luring them into an attack, Caesar had the excuse he needed to initiate a massive
campaign of conquest.
Within just a few years, Caesar and his armies burned 800 cities to the ground, indiscriminately
slaughtering all those within their walls.
For those who escaped the blow of the sword, enslavement followed.
It has been estimated that these slaves numbered more than one million during the initial conquest
The area would subsequently be opened up as a new slave market for Rome, which provided
its rapacious citizens a stable stream of servants, gladiators and prostitutes.
His legions, in the course of the war, killed over one million men and enslaved a million
A bloody mid-life crisis if ever there was one.
Thus, with the conquest of Gaul complete, there was nothing left but for Caesar to finally
have his triumph, and for the festivities to begin.
This was the moment Caesar had been waiting for.
Little did he know that fate would once more test his resolve.
On his way back to Rome, Caesar and his legions camped on the banks of the Rubicon river.
This was the boundary to the sacrosanct Roman city, where no army was allowed to march except
with the consent of the Senate.
This permission Caesar requested, so that he may parade his men through the streets
of him home city and bask in the glory of his success.
Messengers hurried letters to the gates of Rome.
Denial of such a request was unusual.
However, Caesar's enemies had been busy in his absence.
The foremost of Caesar's enemies was a man called Marcus Cato.
As a leading member of the Senate, he had amassed a strong following who regarded Julius
Caesar's personal ambitions as dangerous to the Republic.
Their concerns were made all the more justified when Caesar had attempted to secure the re-election
to Consul in absentia whilst fighting the Gauls.
Why should they allow this overmighty citizen to proclaim his greatness in a city where
equality was prized?
So, when the messengers returned to Caesar's camp, the response of the Senate echoed these
very sentiments.
Julius Caesar was to return to the capital as a private citizen, alone.
Or, be declared an enemy of the state.
Caesar understood the intimate maneuverings of Roman politics better than most.
This was a stunt meant to humble him.
Such had been the fate proscribed in the past to all men who had become too great for the
likings of the Senate.
Thoughts of a future marred by legal harassment, defamation, financial bankruptcy and eventual,
ignominious, retirement coloured Caesar's mind.
But, unlike those before him, Caesar refused to see his honours come to nothing.
Looking out to his legions, Caesar would have seen an army of tried and tested killers.
Men who had been hardened by an unimaginably grueling campaign.
But, more importantly, men whose hardships Caesar had shared in: as their leader, he
had dug trenches and built fortifications with them, starved with them, bled with them
and so forged an unbreakable bond of brotherhood.
If it were his command, these soldiers would follow him to fiery gates of Hell.
Caesar summoned his men.
They wanted their triumph just as much as he did.
As their commander spoke to them it would have become increasingly clear that the only
way to achieve their deserved glory was to follow Caesar into civil war.
Legend goes that as the army was just about to cross the Rubicon, Caesar ordered them
to halt.
He walked to the where the land met the river and stared into the water for a long time,
reflecting on all that had happened in his life to bring him to this point.
Why Caesar decided to cross the Rubicon is a question which has haunted historians for
Perhaps it was at this moment that he would have realised that with just one more step
he would be destroying the old order of Rome.
In fact, the established order of the entire classical world.
All would go up in smoke.
In doing so, a new world would be birthed into existence: the world of Caesar, and with
it the first clear evolutionary step towards the modern, Western world.
How many more would have to die in order to achieve this...?
With this thought, Caesar wakened from his moment of reflection.
His lieutenants had gathered close to him.
When he finally spoke, Caesar uttered the legendary words: “The die is cast.”
Every step from the Rubicon hence was a blitzkrieg.
Within days, the senators fled and Caesar marched in triumph into Rome with his troops.
He was master of the city, and soon of the Roman empire in its glorious entirety.
The fleeing senators went on to establish rebellions in Spain and Greece.
Caesar and his legions, fuelled by yet another victory, quickly caught up with them and crushed
them all in turn.
Pompey the Great, leader of the senators' armies, fled to Egypt.
Pompey had once been a close friend and son-in-law to Caesar, having married his now long-dead
daughter, Julia.
Upon the shores of Egypt, Caesar found the Pharaoh's men awaiting him.
They presented him with the gift of a wicker basket.
It guarded a gory contents.
When Caesar opened it, the severed head of Pompey, his friend and enemy, stared up at
Caesar instantly flew into a fit of rage and sorrow.
This was far from the reaction that the Egyptians had expected.
By ordering the slaughter of Pompey, the Pharaoh Ptolemy had crossed the line: a line which
separated the affairs of Romans from the rest of the world.
Pompey had been Caesar's to judge.
Storming the palace of Alexandria, Caesar immediately put Pompey's assassins to death.
Later that night, a second offering was delivered.
Plutarch records it as having been secretly smuggled into the palace, rolled up inside
a carpet.
This time, Caesar was honoured with a far more pleasant gift.
From out of the unfurled rug stepped the 21-year-old rebellious sister-queen of the God-King Ptolemy,
the infamous seductress Cleopatra.
After a single night with Caesar, he would help her to topple Ptolemy and become sole
ruler of Egypt.
In Egypt, Caesar shed whatever remained of his Republican pretensions.
By helping his now mistress Cleopatra to the throne, Caesar sat alongside her as a God-like
His egotism had catapulted him to new and unexpected heights: he was no longer a man,
but a God-King in the making, ruler of the greatest empire that there had ever been.
When Caesar's Indian Summer with Cleopatra finally drew to a close, it was time to crush
the last few remaining rebels of the Republic.
And the best had been saved for last.
Cato had watched the fallout of his allies' submissions from his North African villa.
Caesar knew how to play the card of clemency.
So the hand of friendship had been offered to all who fought against him in the Civil
This had left a bitter taste in the ideologically sentimental mouth of Cato.
Only a king had the power to spare - and Caesar was no king.
One evening Cato sat in his villa, discussing philosophy with his son and their friends.
Wine was drunk and merriment made.
To all, it seemed like a normal evening.
However, when Cato retired to his room later than night, he knew that he must prevent himself
from ever becoming subject to that great tyrant Julius Caesar.
Pulling his dagger from his sheath, he placed it to his gut and violently thrust inwards.
Yet, Cato did not expire immediately.
The wails of his agony drew the attention of his son and the resident doctor.
They found him, collapsed on the floor, covered in blood with his bowels in his hands as they
tumbled out of his cavity.
Barely breathing, he stared up at them.
Frantically, they started to stuff his intestines back into his body, in an attempt to bandage
him up and save his life.
Cato, sensing their intention, pushed them away then reached inside of himself.
In his last act of resistance, he ripped open his bloody wound and finished the deed.
Thus ended the Republic in a pile of blood and guts on the floor.
The Civil war was over.
A new senate - controlled by Caesar - was instated.
Finally, they would grant him many triumphs.
Like no man before him, he was celebrated.
Parades and triumphal games were held across the city.
Hundreds of beasts and thousands of slaves were slaughtered in Caesar's honour and
for the entertainment of the masses.
A river of blood ran through the city of Rome, and bathing in its murky waters was Gaius
Julius Caesar - the man who would soon be proclaimed Dictator for life and absolute
master of the Roman empire.
However, Fortuna's fickle grasp took his arm one day on his way to work.
Stepping out from the shadows, a gypsy seer whispered into Caesar's ear and said: “You
will be killed on the ides of March.”
On the fated day, the 15th of March, Caesar once more saw the gypsy woman on his way to
the Senate house.
Remembering her warning, he laughed: “The ides of March have come!”.
Smirking, the woman retorted: "Aye, Caesar.
But not gone."
That day in the Senate house, under a statue of Pompey, the daggers of all the senators
were thrust deep into Julius Caesar.
In a moment which would colour artistic imagery for centuries, Caesar fought off multiple
daggers before he fell to his knees, weakened but still breathing.
Only one senator's dagger remained unbloodied.
Brutus, the man raised by Caesar and suspected of being his bastard son.
It was when his dagger plunged into Caesar's breast that the will to resist dissipated.
To Brutus, Caesar muttered his famous last words: “Not you too, my boy.”
On a funeral bed of a bloodied and tattered toga, Caesar's corpse remained as the assassins
hurried to the centre of the city to proclaim the liberty of the Republic.
However, the people of Rome saw no cause for celebration.
They ran to their homes and prepared themselves for the inevitable.
Rome had bled the world for hundreds of years, and now it was her turn to suffer.
Caesar had brought peace and glory to the city.
With his death, all of this would tumble.
Families would fracture and divide; neighbours would betray neighbours; friends would be
soaked in the blood of their dearest.
Civil war had once again come to Rome.
The head of this bloody beast would be Gaius Octavian, Julius Caesar's nephew, adopted
son and chosen heir.
Little did he know that his time had come so early.
All across the Empire, people shaved their heads in mourning for the great man Caesar.
For Octavian, these shaven heads were the death knell for his childhood.
Still undergoing military training, he was in the Balkans when his people beckoned him
to flee.
They told him of his uncle's execution and warned him that he would be killed on sight
by Caesar's enemies should he set foot in Italy.
Yet, just like his uncle, Octavian was a man who carved out his own destiny.
Before the year was done, he would be master of Rome, commanding Caesar's veterans as
his own private army.
And, he was only 18 years old.
However, Octavian was by no means unopposed.
There had been another contender for the mastery of the Roman world: a highly capable lieutenant
of Julius Caesar by the name of Marc Antony.
There was also the rich and influential Marcus Lepidus, another member of the Roman elite.
In order to consolidate his power, Octavian was forced to form a shaky alliance, known
as the second triumvirate, with these two men.
With their help, he was able to secure the financial and military backing required to
combat his uncle's assassins, who were by now known as the Liberators.
As for the Liberators themselves, they had assembled a large army in Greece, with many
in Rome suspected of nurturing sympathy for their cause.
This weed of sympathy would be ripped from the ground with bloody, vengeful talons.
Embodying the bloodlust of the Roman sigil, Octavian and Antony instituted a program of
organized murder to rid themselves of all their political enemies at home.
These were called the proscriptions.
Every morning in the forum, the centre of the city, a list of the traitors' names
would be publicised.
By sunset, the names were marked on tombs, and a series of heads spiked onto stakes in
the forum.
These events moved in tandem with the Roman sun: with each new sunrise a new list of names,
and with each sunset an exhibition of decapitated heads.
With this cycle of death came paranoia and suspicion: Roman citizens would wake up every
morning, never knowing if that night a soldier would burst through their door and spill their
blood over their families' dinner.
And, they were right to worry.
For even Octavian and Antony's friends were struck down in the bloodshed.
Cicero, the legendary orator, friend and financier of Octavian, found his way onto one of these
fatal lists for having had insulted Marc Antony.
It was clear to all that no one was beyond the reach of the proscriptions.
All in all, around 300 senators and more than 2,000 members of the nobility were proscribed
enemies of the state.
And so it was that the remaining senators were tamed through fear.
They posthumously proclaimed Julius Caesar a God, thus bestowing upon Octavian the title
of son of God.
Octavian, Antony and Lepidus had secured their power base in Rome.
Now, they were ready to meet the Liberators on the field and destroy the old republic
once and for all.
The venue for the final showdown would be the Battle of Phillipi.
The man tasked with leading the Liberators' legions was Marcus Junius Brutus, the final
senator to stab Caesar, who was also most likely his illegitimate child.
Whether or not he knew this to be a possible act of patricide is disputed.
Chroniclers recorded that, in the lead up to the final battle, Brutus was visited by
a shadowy phantom one night.
When he had asked, “Who art thou?”, the immense spectre was reported as having answered:
“Thy evil spirit, Brutus, and thou shalt see me at Phillipi.”
Later, when camped on the grounds near Phillipi with his legions, Brutus saw the phantom again.
This time the humanoid being said nothing, only looked at him before vanishing.
To the superstitious mind of a Roman, this was a bad sign.
Yet, Brutus was not the only one to receive a ghostly premonition that night.
In the opposing army, Octavian dreamt of an apparition who warned him to “flee the camp”.
The following day, Brutus' men split off from the main army and launched a surprise
attack on Octavian's troops.
Caught unawares, they were immediately defeated.
18,000 bodies turned the ground red.
Brutus had sent the camp into a frenzy, as his own men divulged to plunder and the despoiling
of the dead.
By the time Octavian's tent was reached, Caesar's heir was gone.
Despite this loss, there still remained a great number of men to populate the battlefield.
Both armies are estimated to have totalled in excess of 400 thousand soldiers and auxiliaries.
Battles of this proportion were extremely rare.
A few miles from Octavian's camp, the Liberators' fleet had intercepted their enemies' reinforcements
and cut off their supplies.
Two legions drowned in the sea.
That evening, the Liberators toasted their success with the dead men's wine.
This left the collation in a precarious situation.
Although Octavian had escaped Brutus' ambush, seemingly on the advice of paranormal intervention,
he and Antony were now holed up amongst marshes and mountains with little in the way of provisions
for around 200,000 men.
This is a fact which Brutus would have been well aware of.
The battle had now changed from one of swords and shields to one of stomachs.
His legions, with access to the sea, were well-provided for.
It seemed as though the outcome was secure.
However, the goddess Fortuna had other plans.
As the siege of the stomachs dragged on, the Liberators' mercenaries began to desert.
Increasingly on edge, Brutus and the other Liberators fought over how best to proceed,
in fear of a complete collapse of the army.
Rather than wait for the collations' inevitable starved surrender, they prepared for an attack.
Meanwhile, Marc Antony's men was on the move.
Leaving Octavian to protect the front, Antony made for Brutus' flank.
Despite their hunger, his legions sought to unnerve their opponents.
When Liberator soldiers taunted them for their lack of supplies, Antony's men threw bread
made from roots over their fortifications.
After all, these men were grizzled veterans of Julius Caesar, with some having served
him under in the bloody days of Gaul.
Hunger was but another cost of victory.
Such an act of defiance caused more factional dissent among the liberators.
With morale collapsing, it was no longer enough to simply outlast their opponents.
With more men and a better position, now was the time to strike.
Although the dark omen brought by the phantom haunted Brutus' mind, he was forced to concede
to the majority: he was but a Republican, and only tyrants like Caesar disregard their
So it was that on the 23rd, the two armies met in battle.
Unusual for the standards of the period, the bulk of the fighting was hand to hand.
The nature of the terrain and the stakes of the battle made missiles and archers redundant.
Just as this Civil War had started bloody, it would end bloody.
The number of the fallen was not recorded, but when the Liberators surrendered, there
were only 14,000 men there to do so.
However, before they did, Brutus issued one final command.
He is said to have asked one of his men to hold a sword aloft, so that he could run into
Lost in his cause, and inspired by the martyrdom of Cato, Brutus chose not live in Caesar's
And so, the sword smashed into his body.
His death would have been instant.
With that action ended the bloodiest campaign in Roman history.
However, the civil war was not yet over.
Three hungry and ambitious men now stood over the empire, each ready to devour it.
Lepidus took the most modest slice, settling for the wealthy provinces of North Africa.
Between the two of them, Octavian and Antony divided the rest.
Antony lay claim to the riches of the Roman East, where he would would eventually make
Alexandria his new capital.
On the other side, Octavian took Spain, France and Italy, maintaining Rome as his seat of
Yet, before the meal was over, friction had already started to putrefy this great banquet
of land and peoples.
Despite the grandeur of his gains, Marc Antony was displeased with Octavian's dominion.
He chastised Lepidus' modesty, for having handed Spain over to Octavian.
Now that their enemies were dead, there was little need for the alliance.
Antony fostered a deep rivalry with Octavian.
In his mind, their success at Philippi had been his alone: Octavian had spent the war
in his tent or running from it, whilst his lieutenant, Agrippa, had led the army.
It was true, Octavian was not a military genius like his adopted father.
His skills lay in the management of people.
At this, he was a master.
This was a fact which Antony would soon learn.
When Octavian returned to Rome, he was already making preparations against Antony's inevitable
In order to maintain the loyalty of Ceasar's veterans, he dispossessed many of the people
in central Italy of their land, so that it may be reassigned to his soldiers.
This reward had been long-promised, and now the debt was settled.
However, this move understandably infuriated those who lost their land.
Seizing the opportunity, Marc Antony's brother, Lucius, gathered the support of the dispossessed
and a majority of the senators, and led a revolt against Octavian.
As would be a theme of Octavian's reign, the opposing forces were no match for his
veterans and their able commander, the ever-loyal officer Agrippa.
Whilst Lucius was spared for his relation to Antony, the 300 senators who he was allied
with were transformed into an august assembly of heads.
Yet, more macabre decorations for the Roman forum.
Thus was Octavian's power cemented in Rome.
Now, it was time to turn his attention to the empire.
Octavian was not the sort of man to allow for potential rivalries to foster and grow
out of control.
His ambition, after all, was of the abrasive sort.
As such, Marcus Lepidus would have to be dealt with.
That being said, Octavian could also be merciful.
Lepidus' loyalty and modesty was duly rewarded.
After bribing his soldiers so as to wrestle North Africa out of his hands, Lepidus was
allowed a comfortable retirement in his villa.
With him safely tucked away out of the glare of the political spotlight, Octavian could
now focus on destroying Marc Antony.
After some time, rumours of Antony trickled through the streets of Rome.
People began to whisper that the once great Roman lieutenant had abandoned himself, seduced
by the wiles of Cleopatra.
By taking the beguiling Egyptian queen as a mistress, Antony ruled alongside her as
a God-King.
It was said, disdainfully, that he would dress himself in the attire of a God and indulge
in lavish parties and the effeminate luxuries of the East.
Worse yet, the streets were alive with talk of Antony having become Cleopatra's pet.
He was said to have been at her beck and call: whenever she desired a foot massage, it was
his hands who did the job.
This was all the more terrible considering that he had abandoned his Roman wife, Octavian's
own sister, Octavia, and their children in Rome.
Before too long, everyone in Rome knew of how far Antony had fallen.
"Going native" was an unforgivable crime to the proud Romans.
Combined with his faithlessness to his family, it was easy for Marc Antony to be painted
as a man of low morals.
Octavian did not need to do much to ensure that Antony's name kept being dragged through
the mud.
He merely had to fan the flames.
The more people spoke, the more quickly the conclusion was reached: Cleopatra was going
to use Marc Antony to make themselves King and Queen of the Roman world.
Whilst Antony entertained himself with the golden pleasures of the Goddess Isis, Octavian
was rebranding his own identity - as champion of the Roman people.
After all, Fortuna had presented him with a stage on which to play.
Moreover, 'noble champion' was not a difficult role to fulfil.
Indeed, the drama was a tragedy: the Roman people had been betrayed the faustian Marc
Antony, who had sold his soul to Cleopatra in exchange for her wealth and beauty.
Antony was playing this part well.
After winning a military victory in the east, he had snubbed Rome, choosing to parade his
trophies in Alexandria instead.
His villanry reached new lows when he proclaimed that he was planning on dividing the Roman
East amongst his children.
These were not his lands to give away, as he was supposed to be their guardian on behalf
of the Roman people, and not their master.
Furthermore, he had declared Caesarion, the bastard child of Julius Caesar and Cleopatra,
the legitimate heir to Caesar, thus branding Octavian a usurper.
These traitorous revelations were Octavian's stage cue.
He must now play the part of Rome's hero: the defender of her liberty and the righteous
hand of justice.
In doing so, he shed off the skin of the iron-handed youth, transforming himself into the champion
of Rome against foreign tyranny.
Octavian, once again, called upon the services of his close friend and lieutenant Agrippa
to follow him into battle in the East.
Their force would be outnumbered by Marc Antony, who was confident in a victory over Julius
Caesar's whelp.
Historical rumour recalls the story of a two-headed snake almost 100 feet long being incinerated
by lightening in central Italy just before the battle.
As snakes were associated with Egyptian royalty, this great spectacle portended the gruesome
downfall of Antony and Cleopatra.
Meanwhile, on the Western coast of Greece, at Actium, Antony and Cleopatra assembled
two formidable fleets of large warships, estimated at around 230 vessels which were vastly larger
than Octavian's.
However, this upper-hand was lost when, just before the battle, one of Antony's generals
defected to Octavian, bringing with him the enemy's battle plans.
The advantage was lost.
Antony's fleet was set ablaze under a storm of firebrands.
Unable to do anything, he watched on as 200 of his ships sank, friends and soldiers still
aboard, to the bottom of the Mediterranean.
On top of this, it seems as though Love was proving herself a fickle friend, as Cleopatra
abandoned Antony, being the first to retreat.
Relinquishing all hope, Antony left his large warship for a smaller vessel so as to flee
back to Alexandria.
Within a week, all of Antony's forces had surrendered.
Cleopatra and Antony no longer had any support.
It is believed that, under the mistaken impression that Cleopatra was already dead, Antony committed
suicide by stabbing himself with his sword.
Just before he died, a messenger is said to have arrived informing he that Cleopatra still
As his lifeforce ebbed away, his friends carried him to her monument, in which she was hiding,
where he died in her arms.
When Octavian finally reached Alexandria, Cleopatra was taken prisoner.
Upon learning that she was destined to be paraded through the streets of Rome as part
of Octavian's triumph, Cleopatra killed herself.
Death was a more noble fate that being publicly stripped of one's titles and humiliated
as a trophy.
Traditionally, it has been retold that she ended her life with a poisonous asp bite to
the breast.
However, according to modern historians, it is more likely that Cleopatra drank a deadly
cocktail of poisons and opium to induce a far quicker and far less painful eternal sleep.
And so, with her end, the two-headed snake was dead.
Not only that, but all of Antony and Cleopatra's children (barring the ones Antony had fathered
by Octavian's sister) were murdered - for the safety of the Roman world.
This of course included Caesarion, the troublesome would-be heir of Caesar.
After such bloodshed, as contemporary poet Horace said, it was now “time for a drink”.
In the days that followed, Octavian hosted an enormous triumph in Rome.
Endless spoils of war, as well as animals, slaves and entertainers were transported to
the city from all across the world.
After all, one of the wealthiest provinces of the age - Egypt - had just been annexed
to the empire.
Even the triumphs of his adopted father, Caesar, would have paled in comparison.
Yet, Octavian was about more than just material splendour.
To showcase his godliness to the people, he had hundreds of shrines erected throughout
the city.
Behind his own house, a beautiful marble temple of Apollo was built.
The location, of course, was no coincidence - it was meant to show Octavian's personal
association with the God of Light.
His house would become a temple in its own way too.
As everyone in Rome was destined to pay a visit if they wished to advance themselves
in society.
Octavian, after all, now held the keys to every door - having waded through blood to
do so.
In due course, the Senate would present him with the name Augustus - “the illustrious
one” - which from then on would be used as the official title of the princeps of the
Roman empire.
Augustus Caesar now stood as the most powerful man that had ever lived.
As absolute master of an estimated 45 million people, roughly 15 percent of the world's
population lived and breathed under the rule of this one man.
With his cruelty exhausted upon the acquisition of absolute power, he set out to build a peace
which would last for generations.
There would be wars to come, with most of them concluding in orderly resolution.
Augustus expanded the borders of the empire even further, to the extent that the Mediterranean
became but a Roman lake.
By defining the borders of the Roman Empire so masterfully, he bestowed upon her his most
splendid gift: pax Augusta, a period of relative peace which would last for roughly 200 years.
The Goddess Fortuna surely smiled upon Rome.
Unlike his enemies, Augustus died at the old age of 75.
Surrounded by his wife, family and friends in the same house that his natural father
had died in, he is recorded as having said: “Have I played my part well?
If so, applaud as I exit.”
These were not his last words, however, for those he directed to his wife: “Remember
our union, Livia, for as long as you live - and so farewell.”
And with that endearing human touch ended a spectacular career and a genius of a man.
However, he knew that in his exit the curtain would not be drawn on the stage.
For even as the illustrious one's eyes were closing for the last time, a sword found its
way to the throat of his grandson in order to consolidate the power of the new leader,
Under his rule, Rome would experience depravity sinking to new lows, a standard only to be
sunk even lower, to the deepest depths of the earth, by his descendents.
Yet, through the succeeding reigns of paedophiles, rapists and serial killers, Augustus' legacy
would endure and live on for over a millenia and a half.
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The Dark History of the House of Caesar: The Rise | Ancient Rome Audio Documentary

54 Folder Collection
Amy.Lin published on January 11, 2020
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