By Jean Marie Carey

By the fall of 42 BCE, a little more than two years after they had assassinated Julius Caesar, the Roman senators Brutus and Cassius had managed to raise more than 80,000 troops still loyal to the idea of the Republic. The inevitable showdown between these forces and those of similar size commanded by Mark Antony and Octavian took the form of two pitched battles separated by an interval of three weeks, on the plain of Philippi in northern Greece. Cassius suffered defeat at the hands of Antony and Octavian at Philippi and immediately afterward committed suicide. On 23 October, Brutus lined up his troops for a final go at his opponents, and was also vanquished. Soon afterward, he too took his own life.

The conflicted character of Brutus, a traitor to his personal friend Caesar who seemed nonetheless to sincerely oppose the replacement of the Republic with a tyrant, has been an intrigue to writers and artists since.

Octavian of course later became Augustus himself, confronting and defeating Mark Antony in the Battle of Actium in 31 BCE.

Reference: Don Nardo, “Battle of Philippi.” The Greenhaven Encyclopedia of Ancient Rome. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2002,  266.

The Temple of Dendur, 15 BCE. Ocatavian, as ruler of Egypt, had himself depicted in the traditional regalia of the pharaoh. As Caesar Augustus, he had many temples erected in the Egyptian style, honoring Egyptian deities. This small temple also honored the goddess Isis and beside her Pedesi and Pihor, deified sons of a local Nubian chieftain. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 68.154.

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Meeting of Mark Antony and Cleopatra, 1696-1770. National Gallery, London. Photo: University of California, San Diego.

Michelangelo Buonarroti, Brutus, c. 1539. Museuo nazionale del Bargello, Florence.

Marble portrait bust of the emperor Gaius Julius Caesar Germanicus, known as Caligula. Caligula commissioned this portrait of himself in the appearance of Octavian. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund, 1914. Acessiion Nr. 14.37.

Domenico Cresti, Banquet of Octavian and Livia, 1599. Painted fresco made for Grand Duke Ferdinando at Salone Pubblico, Villa medicea, Artimino. Scala Archives, Florence.

Further Reading:

Si Sheppard. Philippi 42 BC: The Death of the Roman Republic. London: Bloomsbury, 2008.

Kirsty Corrigan. Brutus: Caesar’s Assassin. Barnsley, United Kingdom: Pen and Sword, 2015.


Fragmentary bronze portrait of the emperor Caracalla

Roman, ca. A.D. 212–217 (Mid-Imperial, Severan)

Height 8 ½ in. (21.6 cm)

This portrait depicts Caracalla as a grown man, when he was sole emperor. He succeeded his father, Septimius Severus, who died at York in A.D. 211 during campaigns in northern Britain. Caracalla only reigned for six years before his own death near Carrhae in northern Mesopotamia while campaigning against the Parthians.

From the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Detail from the Arch of Constantine, Rome.

Constantine’s arch commemorates his victory over Maxentius at the battle of the Milvian Bridge, in 312 AD. The arch uses spolia, so it re-uses earlier decorative fragments to put upon the new arch. Similarities can be seen on the Arch of Septimius Severus.

Roman marble bust of Antoninus Pius.

Antoninus Pius was born in 86 AD and died in 161 AD. He was Roman Emperor from 138 AD through to his death, and was happily married to Faustina the Elder. Together they bore four children (two sons and two daughters); one of the daughters was Faustina the Younger, who went on to marry emperor Marcus Aurelius, who succeeded Antoninus’ title.


The Roman Emperor

The roll of Emperors spans more than 500 years of Roman History. All of those listed below bore the title; ten of the most famous are pictured above. The list has been simpilfied by excluding certain usurpers, claimants and co-emperors of little importance. The emperors’ reigns varies enormously. The Golden Age of Augustus lasted 41 years, and Theodosius II served for 42 years; but in the troubled years of 68-69 AD, Galba, Otho and Vitellius averaged less than six months on the throne. By the end of the 4th Century, during the reign of Honorius, the empire had been permanently divided, with separate rulers for the West, in Rome, and for the East, in Constantinople. 


Hey I’ve been in Lyon with some friends this summer. On the top of the town. And it’s suuuuper nice. Here are some sketches from there !:) Also I wanted to try some new stuff. Being looser and a bit dirtier aha:) Not sure where I’m going with it but still it was fun !