4. Octavian v. Antony, 44 to 30 BC

OctavianBoy JuliusCaesarCoin BrutusCoin Triumvirs SextPompeyCoin Agrippa AugustusCoin Livia Augustan-ProvinceMAP

Octavius, the boy: having lost his father when he was four, his great-uncle Julius Caesar (coin, right) became a much-admired influence on him.

The head of Julius Caesar adorns a coin probably minted 44 BC – an early example of the use of portraiture rather than sacred imagery.

Marcus Junius Brutus had this coin bearing his portrait minted to mark the assassination of the “tyrant” Julius Caesar on the Ides of March 44 BC.


Oponents of the Second Triumvirate


Marcus Tullius Cicero’s (106–43 BC) obdurate defense of the Republic ultimately cost him his life, when the triumvirs initiated

a purge of their opponents.


Pompy the Great’s son SextusPompeius honored his dead father and brother on the reverse of a coin (both faces below) issued in 42 BC.


Octavian’s sister Octavia, (above) whom Mark Antony (left) had married to cement the triumvirate, was set aside by him when he illegally took Cleopatra (seen here on a coin) as wife and effectively became king of Egypt. The famous pair’s campaign for domination of Rome was quickly crushed by Octavian.


Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, admiral, governor and administrator, was Octavian’s close friend and, in effect, second man in Rome. As admiral of Octavian's fleet, he destroyed Cleopatra's fleet under Antony's command at Actium in 31 BC.

Octavian became Caesar Augustus in 27 BC making his second (some sources say third) wife Livia Drusilla Rome's First Lady, soon to be styled as Augusta. She came to him with two sons from a previous marriage, Tiberius and Drusus, but bore Augustus no children. Their often turbulent union was to last 52 years, until his death.


The members of the Second Triumvirate (from top): Octavian, 

Marcus Antonius (Mark Antony),

and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus.

Octavian had Julius Caesar and Cleopatra's son Caesarion murdered, but Antony's children with Cleopatra were spared. The daughter Cleopatra Selene married King Juba II of Numidia, who had been  royal hostage of Rome until his adulthood.

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Illustrations © Oliver Frey; Maps © Roger M. Kean    © 2010–2016 Reckless Books, England