The Origin of the “Don’t Invade Russia in the Winter” Rule

While Octavian was prancing around after Sextus Pompey, Antony went to war against Parthia. And for once, he didn’t start it. Fortunately, Antony had been spending some time in Alexandria, and with the help of a certain Egyptian queen, Antony was able to repel the invasion. To make sure they didn’t try it again, he led an attack against the Parthian homeland itself. Antony started his campaign late in the year and decided to leave his siege engines and baggage behind with the intention of returning for them later. The Parthians thought Christmas had come early, and circling behind him, systematically destroyed them all. Due to this case of stunningly bad planning, the campaign ended in disaster at the city of Phraaspa when Antony lost thousands of soldiers in a retreat due to the cold weather. (This will later be known as the “don’t invade Russia in the winter, you bleeding moron” rule.) Altogether Antony lost a quarter of his troops to the elements and disease. But after all, seventy-five percent is still a passing grade.

With Antony looking like an idiot, the unmemorable member of the triumvirate, Lepidus, thought his moment had finally come. He mentioned that it might be a wee bit unfair that he had the smallest third of the empire, and if you please, sir, could he have some more? Lepidus succeeded in at last becoming memorable by uniting Antony and Octavian in their decision to boot him out of the triumvirate. The greedy bastards didn’t want to share. Exiled to a small town, Lepidus lived out the rest of his completely forgettable life under house arrest.

Never one to let a sleeping dog lie, Antony decided to take a second stab at the Parthian problem in 34 BC. This time he decided to go after neighboring Armenia instead. (They looked easier to conquer. And his ego was still bruised.) Naturally, this being fought between the Romans and Armenians, it is still considered a part of the Parthian War. Because, you know, if the Parthians had wanted to join in they could have… right? Anyway, Antony made short work of capturing the King of Armenia and holding a triumph. But because he wanted to show off for Cleo he held the triumph in Egypt. After all, he knew she had a thing for conquerors.

The Romans were shocked that Antony would break tradition and not hold his triumph in Rome. (They were even willing to import an elephant.) But no, instead he had to sit on a pair of gold thrones with Cleo and divide up the booty. Antony gave Cleo Egypt (which was technically already hers if you think about it), Syria, and Cyprus to share with her son Caesarian. Antony also recognized Caesarian as the son of Caesar and gave him the title King of Kings. Needless to say, Octavian was not pleased about this. Pissed as hell, he said that Antony was giving away territory to non-Romans, and more importantly was trying replace Octavian with Caesarian. He was right, too. So in 34 BC the second triumvirate was officially over.

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Don’t You Know There’s a War On?

With the last of the assassins taken care of, the Triumvirate got around to the serious business of re-assigning the spoils of war. Antony got the richer Eastern provinces (because he won—not that he rubbed that in or anything) and Southern France. Octavian slunk back to Italy with his tail between his legs with the veterans, but as a consolation prize he was given Spain (and Cisalpine Gaul was merged into Italy because there were just too many Gauls). Lepidus the easily forgotten got Africa and was quite happy with it too. Fortunately, before the triumvirate had time to get bored, a new enemy reared his ugly head: Sextus Pompey.

Sextus Pompey was the youngest son of Pompey the Great (remember him? He got the elephant stuck in the gate.) and grew up fighting the resistance against Caesar. When Caesar died, he was a bit at a loss of who to resist next, but when Octavian stepped up to the plate, he was more than happy to oblige. He got his best armies ready only to have to wait while the triumvirate chased Brutus and Cassius around. Then they were gone and he was ready once again. Only Antony’s brother Lucius decides to cause the Perusine War instead.

The Perusine War happened when Lucius who was a Consul grew tired of the unrest caused by proscriptions, confiscations, and the grain shortage caused by our man, Sextus in Rome. Since Octavian was out losing more battles (and probably getting all the good food which couldn’t make it around Sextus’s blockade) Lucius and Fulvia (Antony’s wife) decided to take matters into their own hands and took over Rome behind Octavian’s back. Besides, they didn’t like him too much anyway. This didn’t work out so well in the end as the troops came back and trapped them in the city of Perusia. In February they ran out of food (which put them right back where they started) and they had to surrender. Showing a masterly understanding of where the true responsibility for the uprising lay, Octavian spared both of their lives, then had the occupants of the city butchered. Furthermore, Lucius was sent to govern Spain—because it worked out real well last time he was left in charge. Fulvia was just exiled, but died a year later which was said to have brought peace between Octavian and Antony. I’m sure she would have been thrilled.

At long last, Sextus Pompey finally got his chance to square off against Octavian. Of course, Octavian’s first act was to marry Scribonia, a relation of Sextus, in the vain hope to just keep the fighting to the usual squabbles at holidays and reunions. While the marriage did provide him with his only child, Julia, it only lasted a year (he divorced her the same day Julia was born). It did, however, lead to the Misenum treaty in 39 BC where Sextus agreed to lift his blockade of Italy in exchange for Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily, and the Greek Peloponnesus. He was also promised a future consulship, priesthood, and money.

Somehow, it didn’t take. Octavian and Antony found they could only work together when working against someone else. Besides, they were greedy little bastards. In 38 BC Octavian tried to take back Sicily. He was defeated. In 37 BC he tried again. It didn’t work that time either. And don’t even ask about 36 BC. Octavian was a bit of a slow learner. Fortunately, his best general Agrippa wasn’t and he finally succeeded in defeating Sextus and harrying him around the globe. In 35 BC, Sextus was finally caught by one of Antony’s minions and executed without a trial. It marked the end of an error. From now on, Antony and Octavian would have no one to fight but each other.

Triumvirate: Take Two

Since the first triumvirate worked so well (for Caesar anyway) Octavian decided it might behoove him to give it a try. Naturally, the first person he thought of was public enemy number one: Antony. Once more things were revised to Antony good, assassins bad, populace confused. Of course, a triumvirate needs three people, so Octavian asked Lepidus, the governor of Transalpine Gaul and not a very memorable figure, to be their third.

Being the trusting folks that they are, they met on an island in the middle of a river, in full view of all their soldiers to set things up. (And they wonder why it fell apart…) First and foremost they divided up the empire. Antony got East and North France. Lepidus got Spain and South France. Octavian got Africa, Corsica, Sardinia, and Sicily. Octavian was pretty smug about this since he won four countries and the others only two. (But Antony and Lepidus pulled a fast one on him—his countries were the crappy ones. At least he made up for it by marrying Antony’s step-daughter.)

Combining all three armies, the triumvirate marched on Rome with their demands, where they were made legal rulers by the Senate. Learning from their last alliance, Antony and Octavian knew better than to sit around in Rome distrusting each other (it only leads to death threats) so they decided to pick a common enemy. Having already taken down one Brutus, they decided to make a clean sweep and defeat the original.

Antony and Octavian marched east to Philippi in 42 BC to confront Brutus and Cassius once and for all. Unfortunately, they quickly found themselves cut off from a retreat to Italy by a fleet that would not allow them access to either reinforcements or food. Brutus and Cassius sat back and waited for them to starve (or kill each other considering their track record.) For once, Antony displayed a remarkable flash of ingenuity, and remembering the swampy bog that had once been Rome, he began to “civilize” the impassable marsh which flanked them. Before the food ran out, he had created a causeway to their supplies.

This meant there was a battle after all, but fate seemed to be deciding things via coin toss. Brutus’s army defeated Octavian soundly, but Antony demolished Cassius’s. This stalemate might have dragged out longer if Cassius had not gotten word that Brutus was defeated. Believing all to be lost, he killed himself. When Brutus found out about Cassius’s death, he too committed suicide. This just goes to show that in some matters you do not trust the messenger. Or at least check for a pulse. (You should be learning from this, Antony!) Thus ended the “most noblest Roman of them all.”