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Asinius Pollio and Augustus

Author(s): A. B. Bosworth
Source: Historia: Zeitschrift fr Alte Geschichte, Vol. 21, No. 3 (3rd Qtr., 1972), pp. 441-473
Published by: Franz Steiner Verlag
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Zeitschrift fr Alte Geschichte.
In Tacitus' account of the succession debate, which followed the apotheo-
sis of Augustus (September 17, A. D. 14), considerable attention is given to
a famous altercation between Tiberius and Asinius Gallus. The historian
adds a parenthetical comment. Gallus, we are told, had long been hated by
the emperor, tanquam ducta in matrimonium Vipsania, M. Agrippae
quondam Tiberii uxorfuerat, plus quam civilia agitaret Pollionisque Asiniiferociam
retineret.I Ferocia is the key word. Asinius Gallus inherited it from his father,
Pollio, and had ambitions beyond the station of a private citizen. The provo-
cative attitude of the son has had important consequences for the reputation
of the father. Asinius Pollio has been absorbed by modern scholarship into
the ranks of the Augustan opposition, and represented as a rancorous and
ferocious defender of the failing tradition of republican libertas.2 This hostili-
ty to the regime of Augustus has been developed in a recent and justly cele-
brated study of Appian, in which a strongly hostile historiographical bias
against Caesar's heir is attributed to the lost histories of Asinius Pollio.3 Pol-
lio's truculent hostility to the restored republic seems a hypothesis en-
trenched and unshakeable, defended as it is by formidable authorities. None
the less the evidence is susceptible of a quite different interpretation. The fig-
ure of Pollio can be removed from the republican opposition, and the re-
moval sheds an interesting light on the history and propaganda of the trium-
viral period.
The verdict upon the ferocia of Asinius Gallus is not unique to Tacitus.
It recurs in exactly the same context in Dio's account of the succession
Tac. Ann.
See, above all, Sir Ronald Syme, The Roman Revolution (1939),
482 if. (henceforward RR);
Tacitus (1958) 1 136 ff.; 'Livy and Augustus', HSCP 64 (1959) 27 ff. See also E. Kornemann, 'Die
historische Schriftstellerei des C. Asinius Pollio', Jahrbucher fur classische Philologie und Pddagogik 22
Suppl. (1896) 590-600; E. W. Mendell, 'The epic of C. Asinius Pollio', YCS 1 (1928) 201-3, and,
more guardedly, J. Andre, La Vie el L'Oeuvre d'Asinius Pollio (Paris 1949), pp. 24-5.
a E.Gabba, Appiano
e la .Storia delle Guerre Civili (Florence 1956), especially pp. 79 ff., and 229 if.
There is a modified treatment in his recent commentary on book V of the Emphylia: Appiani Bel/o-
rtum Civilium Liber Quintus a ctura di E. Gabba (Florence 1970), pp. xvii ff. (henceforward Gabba,
B. C. V).
debate.4 Dio inserts an anticipatory notice of Gallus' arrest and death in 30
A.D., and, like Tacitus, he adduces his marriage with Vipsania as the reason for
Tiberius' hatred. What of the ferocia of Pollio and his son? Once more Dio
echoes Tacitus, but with a significant difference. Asinius Gallus, he says, al-
ways employed his father's plain speaking, even beyond what was in his own
interest.r Dio has nothing about Gallus' extravagant ambitions, and it seems
that Tacitus put in a reference to them (plus quam civilia agitaret) merely to
anticipate his disgression about the three consulars declared capaces imperii
by Augustus., In any case the vaulting ambition is attributed by Tacitus to
Gallus alone, and it is Pollio'sferocia and nothing more that his son is said to
have inherited. Now in Dio Pollio's ferocia is glossed as zrapp?or/a, the Athe-
nian virtue of blunt or even insulting speech. Pollo's outspokenness was fa-
mous, if not proverbial. His onslaughts on Cicero are carefully transmitted for
us by the elder Seneca, and mordant comments are preserved, criticising the
archaisms of Sallust and the Patavinitas of Livy. Even Caesar was arraigned
for carelessness and mendacity in his Commentaries.7 These polemics extend-
ed beyond the sphere of literary criticism. Pollio applied himself with equal
facility to the art of political abuse, and prepared pamphlets attacking
L. Munatius Plancus, which were to be published only after the latter's
death.8 Activities of this type are certainly examples of ;rapporlia, but
zapprataa alone is not sufficient to brand Polio as a malcontent, hostile to
Augustus and his regime.
It is, however, argued thatferocia in Tacitus has a connotation of political
rebelliousness, of resistance to the princeps,9 and this attribution offerocia to
Polio would therefore imply that Tacitus thought him hostile to the reign-
ing family. Now it is quite certain that Tacitus does use terms like ferox and
ferocia as part of his arsenal of adjectives for the description of rebels and mu-
tineers. He speaks of thefrrocia of the mutinous German legions in 14 A. D.
(Ann. I 45,1), and Civilis' Batavians, he says, swelled up with both superbia
' Dio LVII 2,5-7. The immediately preceding proposal of Tiberius to divide the empire into
three parts differs significantly from the studiously indefinite statement in Tacitus to the effect that
he would undertake the administration of whatever portion of the state the senate committed
to him (Ann. I 12,1). Dio's tripartite division is far more explicit and unconvincing (cf. E. Hohl,
Hermes 68 (1933) 114: Syme, Tacilus II 690). His version of the intervention of Asinius
Gallus, however, runs on exactly the same lines as in Tacitus, and it must derive ultimately from
a common source.
6 Dio LVII 2,5 zcapp1aioz deiarot O a?rpvq Katz rd
avryopov XpaC,sAvo;.
6 Tac. Ann. I 13,2-3. On this curious passage see Syme, JRS 45 (1955) 22 ff. and Tacilus
II 694.
The evidence for Pollio's literary treatises is amassed by Andre, Op. cit. pp. 85-101.
8 Plin. NH Ipraef. 31 = Malcovati Oratorum Romanorum Fragmenta (ORF2) 174 F 39.
H. W. Traub, 'Tacitus' Use of Ferocia' TAPA 84 (1953) 250 ff., accepted with reservations
by Syme, Tacitus II 544 and by Gabba, Appiano
. . ., p. 244.
Asinius Pollio and Augustus 443
(Hist. IV 19,1). Politically recalcitrant individuals can also be
described as ferox, the elder Agrippina" for instance or the consul of 65
A. D., M. Vestinus Atticus.12 It is none the less an overstatement that the
concepts of ferocia and political rebelliousness are coextensive. Tacitus uses
ferocia in a wide variety of contexts, and very often there can be no sugges-
tion of political opposition.'3 Indeed the closest parallel in Tacitus to the de-
scription of Asinius Gallus is positive evidence that a man could be bothferox
and a friend of the emperor. In 17 A. D. Cn. Calpurnius Piso was appointed
legate of Syria, and Tacitus immediately characterises him as ingenio violentum
et obsequii ignarum, insitaferocia a patre Pisone (Ann. II 43,2). Intransigent and
recalcitrant Piso certainly was, as is amply demonstrated by his invective
against the Athenians and his inveterate hostility towards Germanicus."'
None the less Piso had been employed for long years in the service of Augus-
tus. In his final plea for his son he was able to call upon his 45 years in the im-
perial service and a consulship shared with Tiberius in 7 B. C.15 At his trial
Tiberius too described him as patris sui legatum atque amicum (Tac. Ann. III
12,1). Of his long career we know only that he was proconsul of Africa at
some date uncertain and legate of Tarraconensis in 9/10 A. D.,"6 but that he
served Augustus and was loyal to him cannot be called into question. In Pi-
so's case then inherited truculence was no bar to his receiving the high dis-
tinction of a consulship shared with a member of the imperial family, nor to
his governing one of Augustus' major consular provinces. Similarly, when
Tacitus speaks of Pollio'sferocia, there is no reason to infer that he thought
him a political malcontent. Elsewhere he speaks of him in fairly neutral
terms, emphasising his distinction as an orator and as the grandfather of con-
sulars."7 He is, however, once mentioned by Tacitus in a context which quite
The elder Cato used precisely the same terminology to condemn the predatory foreign policy
of Rome in 168 B. C. (Gell. VI 3,14 - ORF2 8 F 163).
Tac. Ann. II 72,1 cf. IV 52,2; VI 25,2. 12 Tac. Ann. XV 68,3.
Traub himself (p. 257) has difficulty with Agrippa Postumus, whom Tacitus describes as ro-
bore corporis tolide ferocem (Ann. I 3,4). Here Tacitus is merely emphasising the brutish physical
strength of the young prince, and there is no hint of political recalcitrance; the following phrase
indeed implies the opposite, nullius lamen
caomper/um. Similarly Livy, from whom Tacitus
here borrows his terminology, describes T. Manlius as praeva/idum ci stolide ferocem viribus suis.
Again it is strength and brutishness that is emphasised; like Agrippa Postumus, the son of
L. Manlius Imperiosus was rough and unschooled, but certainly not politically rebellious
whole incident in Livy is an examplc of pie/as.
Tac. Ann. II 55; 69,1; 75,2; 78,1.
Tac. Ann. III 16,4 'per quinque et quadraginta annorum obsequium, per collegium consu-
latus quondam divo Augusto parenti tuo probatus et tibi amicus'.
Strabo II 5,33 (130)
Africa. Tac. Ann. III 13,1
Spain; for the date see G. Alfoldy, Fasi
Hispanienses pp. 10-11, who cites CIL
2703 with Syme's supplement.
Tac. XI 6,2 and 7,2 (coeval of Messalla Corvinus); XIV 40,3
(proavus of Asinius Marcellus);
III 75 (avus of Asinius Saloninus). In the latter passage Tacitus ranks Agrippa and Pollio as equal
excludes him as a political opponent of Augustus. In Cremutius Cordus' cele-
brated speech in defence of freedom of conscience in historical writing we
find a list of writers of impeccable loyalty who had praised the memory of
Brutus and Cassius. Asinius Pollio is sandwiched between Livy and Messalla
Corvinus, and Cremutius, who was on trial for maiestas, could not have so
mentioned him if he had any sort of reputation as hostile to the dynasty. It
would have prejudiced his own case.'8
Pollio'sferocia cannot be used as evidence for his political attitudes. Simi-
larly inconclusive is the rest of the evidence adduced for his membership of
the Augustan opposition. It will be best to start 0'ar8epov 7rpo'epov with a
late and dramatic incident. Augustus' lavish performances of the lusus Troiae
came to an abrupt halt when Asinius Pollio gave a bitter speech in the senate,
protesting that his grandson, Aeserninus, had broken a leg in a recent dis-
play."' Here is an incident in which Polio criticised an institution revived
and beloved by Augustus, and it is worth notice that his intervention caused
its discontinuance. His opposition was therefore effective.20 Now the date of
the incident should be specified. The victim of Augustus' patriotic display
was Polio's grandson and protege, M. Claudius Marcellus Aeseminus.2' Ae-
serninus was marked out by the veteran orator as his successor at the bar,
and the elder Seneca witnessed a session at which the elderly Polio gave in-
struction and correction to his grandson, still a boy.22 We know further that
Aeserninus was praetor peregrinus in 19 A. D.,23 and, given a normal passage
through the cursus, his birth should be placed in 11 B. C. In that case, the
date for his accident is at earliest the lusus Troiae of 2 B. C.,24 and the bitter
in distinction, as does an inscription of Puteoli - Cn. Asinio Pollionis et Agrippae nepoli patrono
publice (CIL X 1682).
18 This argument holds whether one takes the speech of Cremutius as extracted ultimately from
the ac/a senatus or as a free composition by Tacitus. It is further implied in the context that Pollio
en joyed the princeps' favour - 'uterque' (Pollio & Messalla Corvinus) opibusque et honoribus per-
viguere' (Ann. IV 34,4).
1 Suet. Aug. 43,2 = ORF2 174 F 25; cf. Andre op. cit. pp. 24,71. For the lusus Troiac see Schnei-
der, RE XIII 2059.
20 Syme, RR p. 482, remarks in this context that Pollio had acquired
for himself a privileged
position - "too eminent to be muzzled without scandal".
He was the grandson of M. Claudius M. f. M. n. Marcellus Aeserninus, consul of 22 B. C.,
and the son of Pollio's daughter Asinia; cf. PIR2 C 928.
22 Seneca Exc.
2-4. The
wording (Marcellus, quamvis puer) implies
that Pollio's
grandson had not yet
assumed the toga virils.
Date supplied by the Fasti Arvalium
CIL 12 p. 70
= I. I.
XIII 1,298.
Dio LV 10,6 gives the date. Aeserninus would then have been 9 years old, none too young
for participation in the lusits Troiae. Gaius had participated in the display to celebrate the dedica-
tion of the Theatre of Marcellus when he was at the tender age of 7 (Dio LIV 26,1 13 B. C.).
Andre p. 24 n. 7 missed the performance of 2 B. C. and dated the incident to 13, probably beforc
Aeserninus' birth; the mistake is repeated by Malcovati ORF2 p. 521, despite Schneider RE XIII
Asinius Pollio and Augustus 445
speech before the senate was delivered towards the end of Pollio's life. It is
dangerous, however, to generalise from this incident. It proves that on occa-
sion Augustus himself could bear the brunt of Porno's
it does not in-
dicate consistent hostility to the princeps and all his works. Indeed the success
of his expostulations indicates that Pollio had considerable influence with
Augustus and could afford an occasional outburst against him.25
There is another incident, also from the twilight of Poflio's life, which
suggests that he enjoyed Augustus' esteem. When Gaius died in 4 A. D.,
Polio proceeded with a dinner party unaffected by the news. The upshot was
a letter from Augustus, expressing regret non civiliter tantum, sed etiam fami-
liariter, quod in tam magno et recenti luctu suo homo carissimrus sibipleno convivio coen-
asset. PoWlo retorted by pointing out that he had eschewed all manifestations
of grief at the death of his son, Herius, and that a friend should not be ex-
pected to display more sorrow than a father.26 The language used implies
strongly that Augustus looked on him as a friend, enough at least to be sur-
prised by the failure properly to observe the death of his grandson.
The case of Timagenes of Alexandria is also less significant than might ap-
pear on the surface. Timagenes had been expelled from Augustus' house for
persistent witticisms against the imperial family, and he took refuge under
the patronage of Polio.27 Augustus had renounced his amicitia, but the affair
was not particularly serious. In fact the expulsion gave Timagenes a succs de
scandale, and Seneca says baldly that no door other than Caesar's was closed
to him.28 Moreover Augustus made no objection to Timagenes' notoriety or
to Porno's patronage, and of his sentiments on the matter we have only a
politely ironical jest, warning Porno that he might himself be bitten by his
unpredictable protege.29 The incident had no political importance. Augus-
tus' withdrawal of amicitia meant only that a prominent Greek literary figure
was in need of a fresh patron, and Pollio adopted him as a client, as he had
done with L. Ateius Philologus after the death of Sallust.30 The Timagenes
affair then sheds some light on Pollio's activities as a patron of the arts, but it
is hardly evidence for his political attitudes. The exchange with Augustus on
2065. Nothing however excludes a date after 2 B. C. for the incident. There is no reason to limit
the number of celebrations to the four mentioned by Dio (in 40, 29, 13, and 2 B. C.); according to
Suetonius (Aug. 43,2) the lusus Troiae was performedfrequentissime. 2 B. C. should merely be re-
garded as a terminus ante quem non for Aeserninus' accident.
25 Compare the rebuff delivered to Tiberius by Cn. Piso (Tac. Ann. I 74,5). Like Pollio, he had
sufficient auctoritas to check the princeps without detriment to his own standing.
Seneca Exc. Contr. IVpraef. 5.
Seneca De Ira III 23,4-8; Contr. X 5,21-2 (FGrHist 88 T 2-3).
Seneca IOc. cit. 23,5-6 'inimicitias gessit cum Caesari; nemo amicitiam eius extimuit'.
Seneca loc. cit. 23,8
sO Suet. de gramm. 10,4. Another of the historians in Pollio's clientca seems to have been the
sophist, Asinius Pollio of Tralles (Suda s. v. HnXAka = FGrHist 88 T 4).
this occasion, it should be noted, displays the same intimacy as the letter after
Gaius' death, and is evidence for friendship rather than enmity. In this con-
text it is perhaps relevant that Pollio appeared for the defence of L. Nonius
Asprenas,3' a
friend of Augustus, whose
for poisoning in 9
B. C. threw the princeps into an unpleasant dilemma, the necessity to choose
between the conflicting obligations of law and friendship.32 Pollio's appear-
ance for the defence does not, of course, prove friendship for Augustus, but
it serves as useful corroborative evidence. If he had been unremittingly hos-
tile to the princeps, it is highly unlikely that he would have taken on a brief so
close to his interests.
There is no more evidence for Porio's political views in his later years.33
Nothing of value can be adduced from the scanty attested fragments of his
Histories except his well known animus against Cicero.34 Nor does his fa-
mous criticism of Livy's Patavinitas imply that he objected to the moral and
patriotic tone of the works of the Patavian historian.36 Quintilian, who cites
the gibe, understands it to refer to Livy's diction, although he confesses him-
self at a loss to find any provincial elements in his style.36 This does not mean
that we should look for non-literary reasons behind Polio's criticism, argu-
ing that he must have risen above obvious and trivial criticisms. We have ex-
amples of his attacks upon Saliust which are by no means free of triviality;
Sallust is reprobated for using transgredi instead of transfretare to describe a
crossing by sea.37 There is no reason to suppose that his criticism of Livy had
any more cogent basis. Certainly one cannot invoke Pollio's hypothetical
hostility to Augustus to elucidate the remark. The balance of probability is
that he was sniping at the style of a rival, not condemning his historiograph-
ical aims.
Quint. Inst. X 1,22. Pollio's opponent was the notorious Cassius Severus (Plin. NH XXXV
164), and the speeches of the two advocates were preserved as models for posterity. cf. ORF2 174
F 35-8, Andre p. 72. 32 Suet. Aug. 56,3.
s The Pollio who in 22 B. C. entertained Herod's sons, Alexander and Aristobulus (Jos. AJ
XV 343), could conceivably have been Asinius Pollio. A more likely identification is with Vedius
Pollio, who had experience in the east and had presumably developed contacts there when he gov-
erned Asia, apparently in 31/30 B. C. (cf. Syme
51 (1961) 30 with Addendum). Even if the
host of these princes was Asinius Pollio, it sheds no light on his political alignment.
8" Peter, HRR II 67-70, lists six fragments certainly derived from the Histories and one proba-
bly (F 6 = Strabo IV 3,3 (193)). Peter's F 8 (Priscian VIII 19 p. 386 K) is merely attributed to "Asi-
nius"; there is no indication that it derived from the Histories. A speech is equally probable as the
source. This uncertainty should be stressed in view of the conclusions about the terminal date of
the Histories drawn from this fragment (cf. Gabba, Appiano . . . p. 243).
cf. Syme, RR pp. 485 if., HSCP 63 (1959) 27 if., Gabba, Appiano ... pp. 84 f. For the oppo-
site point of view see P. G. Walsh, Livy pp. 267 ff., Andre pp. 89 ff.
36 Quint. I 5,56; cf. VIII 1,3 -'et verba omnia et vox huius alumnum urbis oleant, ut oratio
plane Romana videatur, non civitate donata'.
Gell. X 26: cf. Suet. degramm. 10X14 for Pollio's criticisms of the archaisms in Sallust.
Asinius Pollio and Augustus 447
If, however, we go back to the outbreak of war in 32 B. C., Pollio's behav-
iour seems to take on a different light. He was the sole neutral, we are told, in
the last contest of all.38 Whether or not Pollio was alone in his neutrality is a
moot point; at least no source attests it.39 The important question is the in-
terpretation of his withdrawal from the Actium campaign. Did it, or did it
not spring from a bitter disillusionment with both sides in the conflict? Now
the sole source for this incident is Velleius Paterculus (II 86,3), and his con-
text and terminology repay attention. After an encomium on Octavian's cle-
mency after Actium Velleius adds an appendix highlighting what he calls a
memorabile dictum of Pollio. The orator, he explains, had remained in Italy af-
ter the pact at Brundisium, and had never associated himself with Antony's
faction after the deplorable affair with Cleopatra. Accordingly, when Octavi-
an invited him to join his staff, he retorted that his services to Antony were
the greater, Antony's benefactions to him the more celebrated; therefore he
would withdraw himself from the struggle and become the spoil of the vic-
tor. The whole tone of the dictum is exculpatory. One is led to infer that be-
cause of Antony's benefactions Pollio seemed obliged to take his side in the
crucial struggle. The riposte was that, despite appearances, the debt to An-
tony was squared, and there were no remaining obligations ofpietas. This re-
mark can be set in its context. In the prelude to the Actium campaign it
seems that Antony was canvassing his former partisans and issuing pam-
phlets accusing of ingratitude those who failed to take his side. At any rate
PoWo produced a pamphlet contra maledicta Antonii.40 The contents are un-
known, but it is a reasonable assumption that in it Porio rebutted charges of
ingratitude and made counter-accusations of his own. A similar production
is attested from Pollio's younger contemporary and forensic rival, M. Vale-
rius Messalla Corvinus, who published a work contra Antonii litteras together
with what seem to be companion pieces, de statuis Antonii and possibly de vec-
tigalium Asiae constitutione.41 Literary broadsides of this type admirably suited
the propaganda of Octavian, who would have welcomed the spectacle of
S8 Syme, Tacilus I 136; cf. RR p. 291.
Tacitus strongly implies that Cn. Calpurnius Piso played no role in the war of Actium. He ap-
parently lived in retirement after the battle of Philippi until Augustus selected him as his colleague
for 23 B. C. (Tac. Ann. II 43,2). Augustus later claimed that 700 senators accompanied him in the
Actium campaign (RG 25,2). The triumviral senate contained 300 more senators, and of these re-
latively few can have been allowed to depart with Sosius and Ahenobarbus in 32 B. C. despite Oc-
tavian's (retrospective) promise of free passage (Dio L 2,7). There must have been senators other
than Pollio who withheld themselves from the conflict.
Charisius p. 80,2 K
ORF2 174 F 40.
Charisius pp. 129,7; 104,18; 146,34
ORF2 176 F 16-19; cf. Peter HRR II LXXX. Unedi-
fying scandal about Cleopatra may have formed part of the contents (Plin. NH XXXIII 50 = F
Antony's past adherents justifying their refusal to side with him in the final
conflict. Pollo moreover uttered a public statement, disassociating himself
from his former benefactor. Such statements would have been encouraged
by Octavian, and once more Messalla Corvinus supplies a parallel. This for-
mer supporter of Brutus and Antony paid a delicate compliment to his final
patron; at both Philippi and Actium he had chosen the better side.'2 Antony
was implicitly disowned. Unlike Messalla Corvinus, Pollio declared his neu-
trality and remained in Italy. He could afford to. Both consularis and trium-
phalis he had no further military laurels to win, while Messalla in 32 B. C. had
both consulship and triumph ahead of him. He therefore stayed in retire-
ment, but he had disavowed and attacked his old patron, which was all Oc-
tavian could have wished from him. Po]lio's "neutrality" in 32 certainly does
not prove his independence. Rather it indicates that he had some share in the
manufacture of Octavian's propaganda, and that by 32 he was working for
the eventual victor.
There is corroborative evidence for the hypothesis. As has been observed,
the sole evidence for Pollio's attitude in 32 is Velleius Paterculus. Now Pol-
lio makes a surprising number of appearances in Velleius' work, and each
time the tone is deferential and eulogistic. The memorabile dictum of 32 is anti-
cipated and explained. After the fall of Perusia Porno had held the district of
Venetia for Antony, and won over to his side Cn. Domitius Ahenobarbus,
independent since Philippi and commanding a formidable naval force. Any
fair observer, concludes Velleius, would infer that Pollio contributed to An-
tony no less than he received.43 Previously Pollio's junction with the forces
of Antony and Lepidus (summer 43 B. C.) had been noted with the comment
that he was unswervingly loyal to the Caesarian cause." Velleius further refers
to his chequered engagements with Sextus Pompeius in Spain, and with
great charity talks of a clarissimum bellum.45 Last but not least Pollio appears
in Velleius' famous list of novi homines who had anticipated the position of the
great Sejanus. From the antique and venerable names of Coruncanius and
Corvinus the roll of honour passes to Cato the Censor, to Mummius, Marius,
Cicero, and lastly to Asinius Pollio.4Y This panegyric is remarkable. Pollio's
services to Antony are emphasised, his military failure ignored,
and finally
is represented as the equal of the greatest names in the free state, on a par with
Sejanus himself. Velleius' eulogies are not fortuitous, and they amount to far
Plut. Brut. 53,2; cf. Syme, RR p. 482.
Vell. II 76,3 'quo facto, quisquis aequum se praestiterit, sciat non minus a Pollione in Antoni-
um quam ab Antonio in Pollionem conlatum esse'.
Veil. II 63,3 'firmus proposito et lulianis partibus fidus, Pompeianis adversus'.
Vell. 11 73,2; Dio XLV 10 reveals embarrassing details of defeat and flight.
Asinius Pollio and Augustus 449
more than the iustus sine mendacio candor that he claims for them.47 Those fa-
voured by Velleius are predictably the powerful and the successful, the
friends of the ruling dynasty. Of Pollio's generation the men singled out for
especial praise are L. Arruntius,48 C. Sentius Saturninus,49 Messalla Corvi-
nus,W? and Cn. Domitius Ahenobarbus.5' These have in common the fact
that they changed from the faction of Brutus or Antony to that of Octavian,
and subsequently enjoyed high honours in the new r6gime.62 That Pollio re-
ceives equal or even greater esteem from Velleius is indicative that he was no
malcontent, nursing a ferocious independence, but rather an individual hon-
oured by the regime and venting hisfrrocia in its service.
Velleius' panegyric is illuminating and instructive, his invective perhaps
even more so. Criticism in the imperial period was a risky business, especial-
ly in the field of history, and prominent men resented attacks both on their
own dignitas and that of their ancestors.53 We can therefore be assured that
Velleius, if anyone, chose absolutely safe targets for his indignation. It comes
as no surprise that M. Lollius is arraigned for venality and treachery." He
had been a bitter enemy of Tiberius, who had a long and rancorous memo-
ry.5 Tiberius' client and historian could only follow suit. Antony and Lepi-
dus are dutifully condemned in similar strong terms." There is however a
polemic of remarkable consistency and virulence against Pollio's great con-
temporary, L. Munatius Plancus, who is reprobated for his immorality and
for his wildly vacillating political loyalties.57 In the sharpest contrast to this
chronic traitor Velleius represents Pollio as the constant supporter of the
Caesarian cause.68 There is no apparent reason for this consistent denigration
of Plancus. It has been argued that his memory was prejudiced by the hatred
his granddaughter had aroused by her vendetta against Germanicus.69 Vel-
leius, however, was writing in late 29 A. D., his history intended as an inau-
gural present for M. Vinicius, consul ordinarius in 30. Then the empress Livia
had recently died, and Plancina was probably still protected by her powerful
patronage. The recent disgrace of her bitter rival, Agrippina, seems to have
strengthened her position. At least she was immune from prosecution until
Vell. 11 116,5; cf. Syme, RR pp. 488 ff. '" Vell. II 77,3; 85,2; 86,2.
Veil. II 77,3; 92,1; cf. 105,1; 109-10 for his progeny.
'0 Vell. II 36,1; 71,1; 112,1-2. 61 Vell. II 72,3; 76,2; 84,3; cf. 10,2.
Ahenobarbus, it is true, died a few days after his desertion (Suet. Nero 3,2), but his son,
L. Domitius Ahenobarbus, enjoyed Augustus' especial esteem, reaching the consulship in 16
B. C. and securing as his bride Augustus' niece, Antonia Maior (PIR2 D
cf. Tac. Ann. IV 33,4.
54 Vell. II 97,1; 102,1.
^5 Note his outburst at the funeral of P. Sulpicius Quirinius (Tac. Ann. III 48,2).
II 60,4; 61,4; 63,1; 66,1-5.
67 II 63,3; 64,1; 67,34; 74,3; 76,2; 83,1-3; 95,3.
II 63,3; cf. 76,2-3. 69 Syme RR p. 512 n. 1.
29 Historia XXI/3
33.60 Impossible therefore that Velteius risked even an indirect assault
against her. Plancus must have been unpopular in his own right, his memory
under a cloud of official disapproval. The reason must be left for conjecture,
but one can trace coolness on Augustus' part in Plancus' appointment to the
censorship of 22 B. C. On the face of it this was a supreme honour; Plancus
was a member of the last non-imperial college of censors.6' However this
college of 22, though appointed by Augustus himself, was a catastrophic fail-
ure, marred from the outset by mishaps and disfigured by conflict between
the censors themselves. Neque ipsis honori neque rei publicae usui is Velleius'
carping verdict.62 Augustus moreover performed many of the censorial
functions in his own right, and on his return from the east in 19 B. C. he did
in fact undertake a cura morum with censorial powers.63 It looks very much as
though Augustus was deliberately humiliating the senatorial censors, en-
croaching upon their functions and preparing the way for the legislation
three years later. Then the censorial functions were taken from the senate,
which had proved itself unequal to them, and absorbed by the princeps. In
these circumstances to be chosen censor by Augustus was not a mark of sig-
nal distinction, and the violent L. Domitius Ahenobarbus was wholly obli-
vious of the deference due to Plancus the censor.64
Whatever Plancus' sins had been, Velleius' sustained polemic is proof that
by late 29 A. D. his memory was officially execrated. On the other hand the
sustained eulogy of Pollio shows that there was nothing suspect about his
career. This contrast is not confined to Velleius. In Appian also Plancus is
consistently portrayed in dark colours. The failure of the Antonian generals
to relieve Perusia is laid at his door; 65 he is accused of cowardice both when
escaping from Italy with Fulvia and at the meeting of Antony and Aheno-
barbus ;66 finally Appian gives a variant incriminating him in the unpopular
murder of Sextus Pompeius.67 Whether or not this hostile bias of Appian de-
rives ultimately from the Histories of Asinius Pollio must be reserved for
further discussion. It should be emphasised however that Pollio's attested
hostility to Plancus may have had more than personal grounds. In 43 B. C.
Porio declared in a letter to Cicero that Plancus was a close friend of his,68
Tac. Ann. III 15,1; 17,4; VI 26,3.
Dio LIV 2,1; for the full details see J. Suolahti, The Roman Censors (Helsinki 1963), pp.
62 Vell. II 95,3; cf. Dio LIV 2,2 for the collapse of the censorial dais on the day of inauguration
(cf. also Syme, RR p. 402).
63 Dio LIV 10,5; cf. LIV 30,1. The terminology of Res Gestae 6,1 is deliberately
and significant-
ly evasive; cf. A. H. M. Jones, Studies in Roman Government and Law, pp. 24-5.
6f4 Suet. Nero 4,1.
App. V 35,141; cf. Vell. II 74,3.
App. V 50,211 (cf. Vell.
76,2); App. V 55,232.
App. V 144,599 ff.
Pollio ap. Cic. ad Fam. X 33,2 'propter amicitiam, quae mihi cum Antonio non maior tamen
quam cum Planco fuit'.
Asinius Pollio and Augustus 451
and subsequently he engaged in correspondence with him over the stylistic
sins of Sallust.69 However he later wrote memoirs attacking Plancus, to be
published after the latter's death. The early amicitia was renounced,70 and the
renunciation coincided with official disapproval. The hostile memoirs could
have been evoked by Plancus' fall from favour.
Pollio then cannot have belonged to the Augustan opposition. Velleius'
high praise excludes him as an opponent of the new dispensation. There is
another relevant point. Pollio was a novus homo. The Fasti Triumphales re-
cord the praenomen of his father alone; the grandfather's name exceptionally
is omitted.71 His father, it is plausibly conjectured, was the first of the family
to attain Roman citizenship.72 Now Pollio had reached the consulship at the
early age of
36, and his own standing was secure enough. However, had he
provoked Augustus or consistently opposed his regime, it is fair to assume
that his sons and descendants would have reverted to obscurity. The
Antistius Labeo, was famous for his bitter outbursts against the princeps, and
because of his libertas got no further than the praetorship despite his emin-
ence in his chosen field.73' The fasti record no distinctions gained by his pro-
geny. In sharp contrast Asinius Gallus, Pollio's only surviving son, reached
the consulship in 8 B. C. at the earliest possible age of 33.74 Two years later
he is attested proconsul of Asia.75 Gallus moreover had been coopted into a
priesthood at an early age; at the Secular Games of 17 B. C. he was a member
of the senior college of XVviri sacrisfaciundis.76 His distinction was consum-
mated in his marriage in 12 B. C. to Vipsania, daughter of Agrippa. It is in
the highest degree unlikely that the son of one of Augustus' opponents
would have been so honoured, and there can be little doubt that Pollio, like
his polished contemporary, Messalla Corvinus, was a friend and supporter of
the princeps. That at any rate is the verdict of Seneca, who classes the Asinii
Gell. X 26,1.
cf. Andre pp. 83-4, who attributes Pollio's hostility to disgust at Plancus' political oscilla-
tions; Syme, RR pp. 512.
J. I. XIII 1,86
C. Asinius Cn. f. Pollio.
PIR2 A 1241; Gardthausen, Augustus und seine Zei I 1,110.
The date of his birth, 76 B. C., is calculated from Tacitus Dial. 34,7 and corroborated by Jer-
ome Chron. 170 b. cf. Andre p. 10 n. 1.
73a Tac. Ann. III 75,2 (according to Pomponius, Dig.
2,2,47, he refused a suffect consulship
when it was offered); for his libertas see Suet. Aug. 54 with Dio LIV 15,7 & Gell. XIII 12,14 (the
verdict of his rival, Ateius Capito). For his eminence as a jurist see PIR2 A 760.
For his birth in 41 B. C. see Serv. Ecl. 4,11, where it is said that Gallus boasted to Asconius
Pedianus that he was the child of the Messianic eclogue. This would have been an impossible
claim had he not been bom about the time of Pollio's consulship.
SIG8 780 = E&J 312; CIL IlI 7118
ILS 97.
CIL VI 32323 11. 107; 151. Also attested as XVvir s. f. in 17 B. C. is M. Valerius Messalla
Messallinus (cos. 3 B. C.), eldest son of Messalla Corvinus (CIL VI 32323 1. 152). He was
coopted at an equally early age.
452 A. B. BOSWORTii
with the families of Ahenobarbus, Messalla and Cicero, all of whom owed
what eminence they had in the state to Augustus' clemency.77
If Pollio in his later years was a friend of Augustus, various questions
spring to mind. At what stage did he transfer his allegiance from Antony to
Octavian, and how did he gain his modern reputation for republicanism?
The second is perhaps the easier question to tackle. Pollio's claim to be a re-
publican, apart from the passage of Tacitus already discussed, rests squarely
upon his three letters to Cicero, written in the spring and early summer of
43 B. C.78 Here Pollio does profess devotion to the free state, and he declares
that he has no inclination to survive it.7J We should not, however, lose sight
of the fact that these letters are the product of a particular political crisis, and
they should be examined against the rest of the Ciceronian correspondence
of this period, in particular the letters of Plancus. Nor should it be forgotten
that these letters are addressed to Cicero, the most vigorous and vocal defen-
der of the republic. In such a context expressions of patriotism and loyalty to
the free state should be treated with extreme scepticism.
Pofflio's three letters fall between March 16 and June 8 of 43 B. C., a period
beginning a month before Antony's defeats at Forum Gallorum and Mutina,
and ending soon after the junction of the forces of Antony and Lepidus in
Gallia Narbonensis. During that period Pollio was governor of Hispania Ul-
terior, commanding the army of three legions which he had used against
Sextus Pompeius. The other Caesarian commanders in the west were Lepi-
dus in Hispania Citerior and Narbonensis, and Plancus in Gallia Comata. In
the spring and summer of 43 B. C. the crucial question was whether they
would unite with the armies of the consuls and Decimus Brutus or
join with
Antony to prevent the dissolution of the Caesarian faction, and it is Pollio's
political attitude in this crisis that his letters purport to
explain but in fact ob-
scure. But before examining Pollio's letters in detail it will be useful to exam-
ine some other contemporary views of his position so as to set his own
claims in perspective.
Seneca de clem. I 10,1; cf. Syme, RR p. 512 'Pollio, as well as Messalla, will be rcckoned
among the profiteers of the Revolution'.
78 The fullest exposition is E. Kornemann, Jabrbucher fur classiscAb Philologie und Padagogik 22
Suppl. (1896) 590 ff; cf. Syme RR p. 180, Andre p. 19. For a more sceptical, if eccentric, view see
J. Carcopino, Cicero; The Secrets of bis Correspondence, pp. 514 ff.
7@ ad Fam. X 31,3 'ita si id agitur ut rursus in potestate oninia unius sint, quicumque is est, ei me
profiteor inimicum, nec periculum est ullum quod pro libertate aut refugiam aut deprecer'. ad
Famn. X 33,5 'nam neque deesse nequc superesse rei publicae volo'.
Asinius Pollio and Augustus 453
The most striking feature is perhaps the silence of the sources about Pol-
lio's activities in 43. Decimus Brutus is the only correspondent of Cicero
who mentions him, and what he says is despite its brevity disquieting. The
first and crucial reference comes in a letter dated April 29, shortly after the
death of Pansa.80 Brutus asks Cicero to confirm the wavering loyalty of Lepi-
dus, that homo ventosissimus, and prevent a union with Antony. He continues:
nam de Pollione Asinio puto te perspicere quidfacturus sit. multae et bonae etfirmae
sunt legiones Lepidi et Asini. The explanatory force of nam should be stressed.
Brutus begs Cicero to intercede with Lepidus, "for as regards Polio I think
that you see what he intends to do". The sentence explains why Lepidus' ad-
herence to the state is so vital. Pollio is not expected to desert the Caesarian
cause, and, if his legions are augmented by those of Lepidus, Brutus will be
in desperate straits. That is the drift of the next sentence; "Lepidus and Asi-
nius have many excellent battle-trained8l legions". Brutus then renews his
plea for pressure to be put on Lepidus, and he asks that Plancus be exhorted
now that Antony is routed, he hopes that Plancus will not fail the
state. There is no hint that Cicero should approach Polio, and the tone of the
letter is clearly pessimistic about his loyalty.82 But Brutus, it seems, was not
the only pessimist. When in February 43 negotiations with Antony broke
down and a tumultus was declared in Italy, Lepidus and Plancus were invited
to join the consuls in the extermination of Antony.83 Pollio was not men-
tioned in the senatus consultum, and later he was to complain bitterly about the
"? Cic. ad Fam. XI 9, written at Regium during the pursuit of Antony.
The sense of firmac here must be "reliable in battle" rather than "loyal to the state". Plancus
later in the year complains of the weakness of his army, one veteran legion to eight of recruits; 'ita
universus exercitus numero amplissimus est, firmitate exiguus' (ad Fam. X 24,3). Firmitas in this
context means battle-effectiveness. Similarly, when Polio says 'tris legiones firmas habeo' (ad
Fam. X 32,4), he means merely that they are veterans; as he goes on to explain, their loyalty to the
state could not be depended upon.
So Watson, Cicero: Selected Letters, p. 589; Carcopino, op. cit. p. 512. There is another inter-
pretation of this passage, dating back to Manutius (accepted by Tyrell & Purser, Correspondence of
Cicero VI 124). Te perspicere is referred to Cicero's friendship (?) with Pollio; Brutus' meaning is
then interpreted - "I ask you to exhort Lepidus; I do not ask you to do the same with Pollio, for
he is a friend of yours, and you have better knowledge of his actions". Brutus' expression in that
case is very elliptical and the transition to the troops of Lepidus and Pollio quite inexplicable. Mo-
reover it is highly uncertain whether Pollio and Cicero could at any stage have been regarded as in-
timate friends. The references to Pollio in Cicero's correspondence are few and show no great
warmth (ad Fam. I 6,1; Att. XII 38,2; 39,1); Pollio's own professions of friendship are a littlc
muted (ad Fam. X 31,6), and in view of his later vendetta against Cicero's memory they should
be treated with some scepticism. It should be noted also that Brutus asks Cicero to intercede
with Plancus (ad Fam. XI 9,2), and the friendship of Plancus and Cicero is lavishly proclaimed
by both correspondents. That Brutus had no faith in Pollio is clear from the context and
the other evidence coheres.
Dio XLVI 29,5-6; cf. Cic. Phil. VIII, 1-2.
454 A. B. BOSWORTr
omission.84 In Further Spain there were three veteran legions, and their
effective weight would have been at least as great as Plancus' forces.85 The
fact that they were not called upon is eloquent testimony that their comman-
der was not expected to side with the army of the free state. There is even
more decisive evidence in the letters of Plancus. The commander of Gallia
Comata showed understandable reluctance throughout May and June 43 to
engage Antony without reinforcements, and we find him promising success
should he be joined by the legions of Octavian or the army from Africa.85
There is complete and significant silence about Polio and the Spanish le-
gions, and it must be that Plancus had from the outset eliminated him as a
potential ally. That is not surprising. Pollio owed his present position to the
patronage of Caesar, and as a novus homo he could expect nothing but eclipse if
Cicero won his campaign and eradicated the Caesarian party. On the other
hand Plancus was better entrenched, designated for the consulship in 42
B. C.,87 and, whichever side eventually won, he could by timely adherence
extort his prize, a triumph for his operations against the Raeti. PoWlio had less
scope for manoeuvre; his fortunes clearly rested with Antony.
After these preliminaries we may turn to what Pollio in fact says. The first
letter (March 16) strikes a note of self-justification, apparently in reply to an
earlier letter of Cicero, now lost, which must have expressed surprise at the
absence of news from Spain and requested a statement of Pollio's attitude to
the war.88 Poflio explains his silence as due to a breakdown of communica-
tions; his letter carriers had been intercepted by brigands or by Lepidus'
agents (ad Famn. X 31,1). Now however the sailing seasons has begun, and
he declares his intention of keeping up
regular correspondence with Cicero
(31,1). After an oblique reference to some villain unknown, whose overtures
he is determined to resist,89 the letter proceeds
to a statement of Polro's po-
litical standpoint; natura autem et studia trabunt me ad pacis etlibertatiscupidita-
Desire forpax and libertas must have sounded incongruous in the
ad Fam. X 33,1 'atque utinam eodem s. c. quo Plancum et Lepidum in Italiam arcessistis me
quoque iussissetis venire'.
For Pollio's three
see ad Fam. X
Plancus had three
of veterans and one
of recruits (ad Fam. X 24,3); earlier he had claimed five legions (X 8,6).
ad Fam. X 21,6; 23,6; 24,8.
Nicolaus of Damascus, FGrHist 90 F 130, XXII 77; Dio XLIII 51,2; cf. ad Fam. X 1,1; 3,3;
6,3; 10,2. 88 adFamr.X31,1 &6.
The older hypothesis that Antony is here referred to has been discarded, and the individual
identified as Pollio's quaestor, L. Cornelius Balbus (cf. Tyrell & Purser VI 69). However, when
Pollio has complaints to make about Balbus, he does not hesitate to denounce him by name (ad
Fam. X 32,1-3). Here the studiously indefinite expression suggests that Pollio is replying to ex-
hortations from Cicero and maybe reproducing his terminology. Certainly Antony had been in
communication with Pollio (ad Fam. X 32,4; XI 11,1), and it was his overtures that Cicero would
be most eager for Pollio to reject.
Asinius Pollio and Augustus 455
mouth of a prominent Caesarian, and so we find Pollio explaining himself.
He is no war-monger. He was reluctant to take sides in the civil war of 49
B. C., but he was driven into Caesar's camp by his influential enemies.90 Cae-
sar's subsequent generosity made claims upon his fides and pietas, and forced
him to undertake certain unpopular jobs, which none the less he showed
were performed with reluctance. The odium he thereby incurred gave him
personal experience how wretched life is under a despotism. He therefore de-
clares his undying opposition to anyone attempting to establish a similar
dominatio. Pollio, then, declares himself a reluctant Caesarian with personal
experience of the bitterness of monarchical rule. There is, he implies, no-
thing inconsistent in his advocacy of pax and libertas. It should be added that
Pollio does not in this letter argue that Antony is aiming at dominatio. He
merely states his general opposition to despotism, and gives no hint of his as-
sessment of the current political crisis.
The next objection Pollio had to meet was why he had done nothing so far
in the crisis. He admits that Pansa had recently sent him a letter urging him
to submit his army to the consular authority, but Lepidus, he claims, is an in-
surmountable obstacle, blocking the coast road to Italy and publicly declar-
ing sympathy with Antony. PoWlo now implies that he has no intention of
joining the Antonian camp. He states that he will only surrender his prov-
ince to an accredited agent of the senate, and as a guarantee he adduces his
refusal to surrender the 30th legion to Antony and Lepidus.91 This leads up
to a recapitulation of Pollo's political standpoint: qua re eum me existima esse,
qui primum pacis cupidissimus sim (omnis enim civis plane studeo esse salvos), deinde
qui et me et rem publicam vindicare in libertatem paratus sim (31,5). The termino-
logy here deserves examination, for it embodies two antithetical slogans cur-
rent in the ideological warfare of 43 B. C. Peace and the salvation of Roman
citizens was the theme song of the advocates of conciliation with Antony.
Most strikingly it recurs in Lepidus' final dispatch to the senate and Roman
X 31,3 'cum vero non liceret mihi nullius partis esse, quia utrubique magnos inimicos habc-
bam, ea castra fugi in quibus plane tutum me ab insidiis inimici sciebam non futurum'. This inimi-
cus was probably Cato, whom Pollio had prosecuted in 54 B. C. ORF2 174 F 15-18 (esp. Sen.
Conkr. VII 4,7), Andre p. 68.
91 There is no warrant for Carcopino's assertion (op. cit. p. 515 n. 1) that Pollio gave in and sur-
rendered the 30th legion. The only evidence is Appian's statement that Pollio had two legions in
Spain (B. C. III 46,190). This figure might be a confusion with the two legions Pollio eventually
brought to Antony (App. III 97,399); so Andre p. 17 n. 11 and P. A. Brunt, CR NS 11 (1961) 100
n. 3. But Appian's legionary numbers seem underestimates. Plancus, for instance, is given three le-
gions instead of the four he in fact possessed (App. III 46,190 97,399; cf. ad Fam. X 24,3). The fig-
ure for Lepidus' legions, moreover, varies bctween four (III 46,190) and seven (III 84,348). For
discussion and attempts to reconcile these discrepancies, see H. Botermann, Die Soldaten und die
romische Polilik in der Zeit von Caesars Tod bis zur Begrtindung des zweiten Triumvirats: Zetemata 46
(Munich 1968), pp. 199-201.
people. There Lepidus claims that he was forced by his army to unite with
Antony:- exercitus cunctus . . . me tantae multitudinis civium Romanorum salutis
atque incolumitatis causam suscipere, ut vere dicam, coegitY2 In February of the
same year Q. Fufius Calenus had urged compromise with Antony for the
sake of securing peace and the safety of Roman citizens.93 Cicero's reaction
to such propaganda was predictably violent, his reply being a categorical
statement that peace with Antony and the liberty of the Roman people were
mutually exclusive.94
PoJlio, then, repeats the propaganda of reconciliation, and at this point his
policy seems to have become identical to that of Lepidus and Plancus. On
March 20 the senate received a communication from the governors of the
two Gauls, recommending peace with Antony. Cicero replied in two letters,
couched in scathing terms to Lepidus and in a more reasonable tone to Plan-
CUS,95 but the tenor of the letters is the same - peace is only possible with the
complete annihilation of the Antonian forces. Pollio's advocacy of peace
puts him in the same camp, and indeed the adoption of a programme of re-
conciliation was a logical move for all Caesarian army commanders. The de-
claration of war in February had put them all in an embarrassing position.
To help the consuls
Antony was to destroy the Caesarian faction,
while to join forces with him was an act of war against the state. A com-
promise was the only safe way out.
Pollio however declares himself for libertas as weHl as peace, the exact op-
posite of Cicero's repeated protestations. But the phrase, vindicare in liberta-
tem, is notoriously flexible in meaning. Any party leader, especially when
successful, could invoke it against his enemies. Caesar, as is well known, re-
presented the crossing of the Rubicon as an act to free the state from the do-
mination of a faction, and the catchword was generously used by his heir.96
There was nothing to prevent the supporters of conciliation using the con-
cept of libertas to justify their standpoint, and Lepidus does seem to repre-
sent his junction with Antony as a move towards libertas as well as peace.97
Antony was not the only potential despot,
and joining
him could be
sented as a movement against Cicero, the Romulus from Arpinum.98
Pollio in this letter does not state that Antony is a threat to libertas.
92 ad Fam. X 35,1 (30 May). "3 Cic. Phil. VIII 4,13.
Cic. Pbil. XIII 1,1 'a principio huius belli, p. c., quod cum impiis civibus suscepimus, timui
ne condicio insidiosa pacis libertatis reciperandae studia restingueret'.
96 ad Fam. X 27 (Lepidus); X 6 (Plancus).
9 Caes. BC I 22,5; Res Gestac 1,1; Mattingly, Coins of the Roman Empire in the British Museum I
112, nr. 691 = E&J 18. For a list of vacuous and emotive appeals to libertas see Ch. Wirszubski,
Liberias as a Political Idea at Rome, pp. 1034.
ad Fam. X 35,1.
Velleius II 72,2 implies that Brutus and Cassius had intended to establish a dominatio.
Asinius Pollio and Augustus 457
The use of the concept is not inconsistent with the terminology of
reconciliation, and throughout Pollio commits himself to no hostile action
against Antony.
The letter ends with a complaint. Polio has been given no advice from Ci-
cero whether or not to lead his army into Italy. He therefore has decided on
his own initiative to set out from his province. A covering letter has been
sent to Pansa, explaining his plans and a copy enclosed for Cicero (31,6). Un-
fortunately this copy has not survived. The motives for Poflio's alleged in-
tention to move are therefore unknown. It should be remarked that this re-
solve to leave Further Spain is inconsistent with the previous statement that
Lepidus was blocking the route to Italy.99 We must therefore assume either
that Pollio intended to defy Lepidus (of which he gives no hint),'?? or that
Pollio's intention was not to join the consular army besieging Mutina. It is a
puzzling end to a peculiarly evasive letter.
Pollio's next communication is undated, but it seems to have been
sent immediately after receipt of the news of the relief of Mutina, which
reached Further Spain after an interval of forty days.10' Here Pollio laments
that he was not summoned to the defense of Italy. With Plancus' help
he would have shaken Lepidus out of his vacillation and prevented the
devastation of Italy (ad Fam. X 33,2). How he thought that laudable aim
could have been achieved is uncertain; perhaps he envisaged the Caesarian
commanders working in common to impose a reconciliation on both sides.
The question however remains purely academic, for Pollio in spite of his ear-
lier declaration did not take the field. Lepidus, he explains, was still poten-
tially hostile, and, even if he had braved his opposition, there would have
been further risks. Had he made an appearance after the battle, his actions
might have been subjected to hostile interpretations because of his friend-
ship with Antony (an important testimony to his Caesarian loyalties l). What-
ever Pollio's intentions had been on March 16, it is evident that he had not
led his forces from Spain.
There are worse inconsistencies to come. Pollio claims that he had sent off
envoys in April from Cadiz, to ask for instructions, and these envoys had
taken ship on the very day that battle was joined; nulla enim post hiemem fuit
ante eam diem navigatio
This contradicts Pollio's statement in his letter
of March 16 that the sea was already navigable,'02 and indeed he had sent off
@ Carcopino (op. cit p. 515) goes so far as to suggest that Pollio's letters were selectively edited
to emphasise the contradictions.
Lepidus' attitude had not changed since March; cf. ad Fam. X 33,2.
ad Fam. X 33,5 'maxime tamen doleo adeo longo et infesto itinere ad me veniri, ut die quad-
ragesimo post aut ultra etiam quam facta sunt omnia nuntientur'.
102 ad Fam. X 31,1 'nunc vero nanctus occasionem, postea quam navigari coeptum est, cupidis-
sime et quam creberrime potero scribam ad te'.
communications to both Pansa and Cicero. Now he claims that there
was no navigation until the next month. That is not all. Pollio says
that he had disposed his troops in winter quarters in Lusitania with no
suspicions of the future civil conflict (33,3). In March, however, he
admitted having received a letter from Pansa, urging him to place his
army at the disposal of the state (31,4), and it is incongruous to say the least
to find Poflio in April disclaiming any earlier suspicions of the impending
civil war. Clearly he is justifying his failure to move during the Mutina
campaign, and equally clearly he is writing without reference to his earlier
letter. His excuses therefore are not only lame but also demonstrably
There is a further peculiarity in the letter. Pofllo seems resentful of the
speed with which the campaign of Mutina reached its climax. Both parties
were so eager to force an issue that it seemed that their worst fear was that
the state might escape damage (33,3). This haste had precluded his taking
any part in the hostilities. Despite his chagrin at the speed of the campaign
Pollio is far more bellicose in this letter than he had been on March 16. He
has learned of the deaths of the two consuls, of Antony's ignominious flight
from Mutina, of his intention to incite the slaves and subject nations of the
empire, should he fail to secure an accommodation with Lepidus. Pollio's re-
action to the news is decisive; this time there is no hesitation, no request for
advice and authorisation. All holders of imperium must act on their own ini-
tiative to save the state from conflagration.103 Pollio announces himself
about to depart, and promises to expound his decision in his next letter. The
present missive ends with an expression of patriotism'04 and a complaint
about the tardiness of the news.
This outburst of activity comes explicitly after the arrival of the news of
Mutina, a severe defeat for Antony, which had driven him
temporarily to
desperate measures.105 At this juncture his position must have appeared inse-
cure in the extreme, certainly shaky enough for PolWio to be justified in mak-
ing belligerent noises from Spain. The forces of the repubLic were in a win-
ning position, or at least must have seemed so from Further Spain,
and Pol-
lio could hardly afford to withhold himself from the final phase of the strug-
gle. Plancus' activities in Gaul seem to have run parallel. Up to April his let-
ad Fam. X 33,5 'quae si vera sunt, nemini nostrum cessandum est nec exspectandum quid
decernat senatus; res enim cogit huic tanto incendio succurrere omnis qui aut imperium aut no-
men populi Romani salvum volunt esse'.
1I4 ad Fam. X 33,5 'nam neque desse neque superesse rei p. volo'. Plancus makes a similar
profession of devotion in a letter written at roughly the same time (X 21,6 - 15 May; compare
X 8,7).
105 For the rumours mentioned by Pollio (X 33,4) that Antony was recruiting slaves, see the
statement of Decimus Brutus (ad Fam. XI 13,2).
Asinius Pollio and Augustus 459
ters are full of caution. Despite frequent expressions of loyalty108 his activi-
ties are directed only to consolidating his province and raising troops. He
makes no effort to move from his province and is adamant that the worst of
crimes in this situation is rash action.'07 On April 26 Plancus crossed the
Rh6one and began to march south. A day or two later news arrived of the re-
lief of Mutina.108 It is clear that what caused Plancus' tardy departure was the
news of Antony's first defeat at Forum Gallorum (April 15). This was suffi-
cient to induce him to take his forces closer to the area of hostilities, and the
news of the relief of Mutina (April 21) stimulated him to send an embassy to
Lepidus to arrange common action (ad Farn. X 11,3). Even Lepidus, it
seemed, was momentarily stirred to a decision to bar Antony from his pro-
vince.109 In the weeks following MutinaAntony's position was at its weakest,
and it was clearly in the interests of the Caesarian governor to side, ostensi-
bly at least, with the armies of the state. Polio least of all could afford to back
the wrong side, hence his chagrin at the long delay of the news of Antony's
We move to Pollio's final letter, dated June 8. A good half of it is devoted
to a lurid exposition of the delicts of his quaestor, L. Cornelius Balbus, who
had defected to King Bogud of Mauretania."10 Subsequently he goes on to
ask once more for instructions
nunc, quod praestat, quid me velitisfacere consti-
tuere (X 32,4). There follows a description of his efforts to keep his three le-
gions intact and uncorrupted by the canvassing of Antony and Lepidus.
These troops, he says, should be regarded as conserved for the state, and a
guarantee that he would have done whatever he was commanded. We are
back to Polio's complaints of March 16 that no direction has been given by
the senate. There is no reference to his previous proud resolution to take the
field. On the contrary, Pollo says outright that he has never crossed the
boundaries of his province but rather limited his activities to restraining
desertion (32,4). The tone of the letter is quite different from the somewhat
bellicose expressions of a fortnight before. The forthright statement that all
holders of imperium should act to save the state has been replaced by a tame
request for further orders. Something has happened, and clearly the decisive
event is the union of the forces of Lepidus and Antony, which took place on
106 ad Fam. X 4,3; 7,2;
See, above all, his dispatch to the senate (X 8,1-6). This was sent to Rome towards the end
of March, for Cicero's reply reveals that it arrived in the city on the morning of April 8 (X 12,2).
Despite all his claims that he was fully prepared to take the field (X 8,6; 7,2) Plancus remained im-
mobile for a month.
108 X 9,3 - crossing of the Rhonc; X 11,2 - arrival of the news of the relief of
"09 X 15,1-2. Lepidus' favourablc response to the emissaries came some time before May 12.
X 32,1-3.
May 29.111 The balance of power had swung once more, in Antony's favour,
and Polro's response was to adopt a neutral posture, waiting for events to
move decisively again. Plancus too planned a strategic withdrawal from Nar-
bonensis on the evening after the junction of the two armies. By June 4 he
was back across the river Isara with his bridges prudently broken behind
him."2 Once in his province he resisted overtures from Antony,"3 but wise-
ly refrained from any hostile action, even after the arrival of Decimus Bru-
tus. His last recorded words to Cicero are a request for further reinforce-
ments."4 Plancus, like Pollio, was waiting for some decisive turn of events
before committing himself irrevocably.
There is another parallel with Plancus. Pollio ends with yet another com-
plaint. His efforts, he hopes, will bear fruit if the state is saved, but if the state
and the majority of the senate had known him sufficiently, greater benefits
would have accrued through him.,'1 On the surface this is a complaint of
lack of recognition, comparable with the lament that he had not been sum-
moned by senatus consultum to the defence of Italy (X 33,1). There might how-
ever be underlying resentment that no concrete honours had been voted
him. Plancus' letters contain persistent pleas to Cicero to defend his digni-
tas.116 These pleas were far from superfluous. Plancus had a substantial fac-
tion in the senate hostile to him, and in April P. Servilius Vatia Isauricus
went out of his way to obstruct the passage of a vote of honours for him."7
Honours were coveted, and after the battle of Mutina a high distinction
could be achieved. Both the consuls had succumbed and the suffect consul-
ship was open to ambition. The young Octavian's agitation is too well
known to need illustration here,"18 but it should be stressed that he was not
the only contender. Even Plancus, who was consul designate for 42 B. C.,
felt at one stage so uncertain of his future that he requested to be appointed
Hirtius' successor."9 Porno equally might have expected an accelerated con-
sulship in return for his services and his army, and the senate's neglect was a
matter for bitterness.
After the letter of June 8 nothing more is heard from Pollio. His corres-
pondence with Cicero breaks off with professions of fidelity and determina-
tion to remain in his province. In fact Porno did stay in Further Spain for
For the date see X 23,2. Lepidus' final dispatch to the senate (X 35) is dated May 30.
X 23,1-3.
X 23,5.
X 24,8.
"11 X 32,5 'sed res publica si me satis novisset et maior pars senatus, maiores cx me fructus tulis-
set'. 11" X 7,2; 11,1; 17,3; 21a,7.
Cic. ad Fam. X 12,34; ad M. Brutum
For his insulsa
Plancus is an eloquent witness
X 24,6; cf. Syme, RR pp.
119 X 21a,7 'tantum te rogo, in Hirti locum me subdas ct ad tuum amorem et ad meam obser-
Asinius Pollio and Augustus 461
two months more, but in August he crossed the frontier at last and moved to
Gaul with two legions. There he joined Antony and persuaded Plancus to
add his forces to the winning side. The exact chronology is unknown, thanks
to the termination of Cicero's correspondence, but the fullest source, Ap-
pian, places Pollio's intervention after Octavian's march on Rome and the
passing of the Lex Pedia.120 According to Appian, Octavian had previously
written to both Pollio and Plancus, recommending them to work for the uni-
ty of the Caesarian cause. This incident is suspect, connected as it is with the
highly tendentious death-bed advice of Pansa, purportedly warning Octa-
vian against the machinations of the senate and recommending all Caesarians
to form a unified front.'21 But whether or not Octavian sent out preliminary
feelers to the Caesarian generals is immaterial. The march on Rome was am-
ple proof that the coalition against Antony had collapsed. Further hesitation
was unnecessary and undesirable. Polio joined Antony in the autumn, and
reinforced his allegiance by inducing Plancus, still apparently his friend,122 to
desert the dying cause of the republic. His adherence was late but welcome,
and the proper reward came in due course. In November 43 the dynasts met
near Mutina and composed their differences. In the course of the settlement
the city magistracies were designated five years ahead,'23 and one of the be-
neficiaries was Pollio, designated consul ordinarius for 40 B. C. Similarly Plan-
cus not only had his consulship confirmed for 42, but heralded it with the ce-
lebration of a triumph on December 29, 43.124 In both cases a timely adher-
ence to the winning side was amply rewarded.
Pollio's activities in 43 B. C. are best interpreted as political opportunism.
He was a novus homo, and depended on patronage for further advancement. It
was therefore essential to back the right side. Accordingly Pollio only made
a decisive move when it became clear how the crisis would resolve itself. His
earlier enthusiasm to take the field after the relief of Mutina was premature,
quickly forgotten when the forces of Antony and Lepidus coalesced. The ex-
pressions of patriotism in the letters to Cicero must be understood against
this background. Pollio's utterances of support forpax and libertas were deli-
berately evasive, so as neither to commit himself to positive action nor to in-
App. BC III 97; Liv. Per. CXX; Vell. II 63,3 apparently places the union with Antony some
time previously, but his account is brief and highly tendentious. In particular there is no reference
to Octavian's march on Rome, and his first consulship is mendaciously dated afler the agreement
with Antony and Lepidus (II 65,2).
121 App. III 81, 330 mentions approaches to Plancus and Pollio. This passage follows on from
III 80, 326, a reference taking up the deathbed speech of Pansa (III 75-6). On the dubious authen-
ticity and propaganda implications of this speech see F. Blumenthal, 'Die Autobiographic des Au-
gustus', Viener Sltdien 35 (1913) 269 f., Gabba, Appiano . . . pp. 171 f.
122 cf. ad
X 33,2. 123 App. IV 2,7.
Fasti Capitolini and Barberini,
I. I.
XIII 1,86 f. & 567; cf. ILS 886 =
E &J 187.
cur accusations of treason. Like Plancus, he was forced to play a waiting
game, and certainly he should not be censured either for his preliminary
wavering or for his ultimate adherence to the winning side. But neither do
his professions of patriotism to Cicero entitle him to be credited with repub-
lican sentiments.
In 43 B. C. Pollio chose the side which suited his political interests. There
was on his part no hankering after the lost free state and certainly no
desire for martyrdom. His benefactor was Antony, and accordingly we
find him operating in Cisalpine Gaul in command of Antonian forces both
during and after the Perusine war.126 None the less, his previous activity
shows clearly that he might have transferred his allegiance to Octavian at
any time, had it suited his purposes. Now I argued earlier that Pollio had
become alienated from Antony by the time of the Actium campaign, and
that his subsequent career makes more sense if he is regarded as a friend
of the first princeps. We have to do with a change of sides, and the crucial
problem is to specify the date at which Pollio moved from one side to the
We can establish a terminus post quem in the pact of Brundisium, concluded
in September 40 B. C.126 Before that Pollio was actively engaged in hostili-
ties and invective against Octavian,127 and a few months before Brundisium
he had annexed the republican admiral, Ahenobarbus, for Antony's cause.128
Afterwards his activities are more obscure. The main source is Velleius, who
claims that after Brundisium Porio remained in Italy, and took no part in the
deplorable escapades in the east.'29 This information is defective, for, as is
well known, Pollio withdrew to the Balkans shortly after the pact and cam-
paigned successfully against an Illyrian tribe, the Parthini, eventually cele-
brating a triumph over them.'30 Now Velleius omits all reference to the cam-
paign and triumph, which is surprising, given his predilection for Pollo.
His standing is uncertain; it is conjectured that he was either a legate or a promagistrate
(Broughton, MRR II 372-3; 377-8). That he belonged to a board of IIIviri agris dividundis is a hy-
pothesis resting on the dubious authority of the Vergilian commentators, most probably a wild
deduction from the subject matter of the Eclogues; cf. H. Bennett, AJP 51 (1930) 334 ff.,
Broughton, MRR II 377.
For the date see Kromayer, Hermes 29 (1894) 556 ff., Syme, CQ 31 (1937) 41 n. 1.
App. V 20,80; 33,130; 50,212; Vell.
76,2. For Octavian's obscene pamphlets and Pollio's
pointed rejoinder, see Macrob. II 4,21. This dictum must be datcd to the Perusine campaign; cf.
51 (1930) 329, Syme, RR p. 211, Gabba, Appiano . . ., p. 237.
Vell. II 76,2; App. V 50,212.
Dio XLVIII 41,2; Fasti Capitolini & Barberini,
I. I.
XIII 1,86 f., 342, 568.
Asinius Pollio and Augustus 463
Further, his treatment of PoWlo's triumviral activities seems at least partially
aimed at exculpating him from Antony's charges of ingratitude; the winning
of Ahenobarbus is explicitly presented as Pollio's greatest service to Antony,
and Velleius in this passage anticipates the famous dictumw of 32 B. C.131 It
could be that PoWlo's Balkan campaigns were inconsistent with the picture
Velleius was attempting to draw, and that the benefits from them had ac-
crued to Octavian, not to Antony. An argument from silence is dangerous in
an author as brief and selective as Velleius, but other evidence can be
brought to bear, indicating that after Brundisium Pollio was serving Octa-
It is essential to determine which province Pollio governed after his con-
sulship. The pact of Brundisium divided the Roman world, and the line of
division fell at Scodra, roughly at the mouth of the Drin and halfway up the
Adriatic coast.'32 Macedonia in the south fell to Antony's portion and Illy-
ricum in the north to Octavian. Which did Pollio occupy? The generally ac-
cepted view, powerfully endorsed by Syme, is that he governed Macedo-
nia.133There are two fundamental supporting arguments. The first, that Pollio
as Antony's man must have governed Antony's province, does not here con-
cern us. The present argument is to determine whether or not Pollio was An-
tony's man after his consulship, and the identification of the province is
merely one step in the proof. In any case it will not be forgotten that after the
capitulation of Perusia Antony's brother, Lucius, was dispatched by Octa-
vian to Spain, apparently with powers overridingthose of the two incumbent
proconsuls.'34 His previous hostility was apparently no barrier. Syme's
weightiest argument, however, is that the Parthini were located in the hin-
terland of Dyrrhachium, some forty miles south of Scodra and therefore in
Antony's sphere of influence. The homeland of the Parthini was certainly
south of the line of demarcation,'35 but did Pofllo need to have held Mace-
donia in order to have qualified for a triumph over them? That is the crucial
point, and it requires careful consideration.
Ever since the outbreak of civil war in 49 B. C. the Dalmatian coast had
been in a very volatile state. In 48/7 Gabinius had been attacked by the indi-
76,3 (quoted n. 43); cp. II 86,3.
182 App. V 65,274; cf. Dio XLVIII 28,4; Liv. Per. CXXVII; Plut. Ant. 30 & 61.
13a Syme, 'Pollio, Saloninus and Salonae', CQ 31 (1937) 39 ff., RR pp. 222 f., Broughton, MRR
II 387-8, Gabba, Appiano. . ., p. 238 (cf. B. C. V, p. 130). For older treatments see Drumann -
Groebe, Geschichie Roms, II 8 f., Gardthausen, Augustus undseine Zeit, 1 1,236, Tarn, CAHX 49.
134 App. V 54,229.
l35 Caes. B. C. III 11, 41, 42; App. V 75,320; Plin. III 22,145; Strab, VII 7,8 (326); Mela
The dedications to luppiter Parthinus found at Uzice, south of Belgrade (CIL III 8353; 14613),
have no evidential value for the location of the Parthini, cf. E. Swoboda, Klio 30 (1937) 290-305,
and, more concisely, Syme, CQ 31 (1937) 42 n. 3.
genous tribes of Illyricum and forced to take refuge in Salona.136 A year or
two later P. Vatinius was commissioned to bring the rebels to heel, and his
correspondence with Cicero is eloquent of the hardships of the struggle with
the mountain peoples.137 Vatinius' programme of pacification was interrupt-
ed by the murder of Caesar and the renewed outbreak of civil war. His army
was annexed by Brutus,138 and the Illyrian tribesmen supported the libera-
tors as the most likely guarantors of their independence. The Parthini in par-
ticular were attached to Brutus and sent a detachment of cavalry to fight at
Philippi.'39 After Philippi, then, the majority of the tribes of the Dalmatian
coast would have been in revolt, fearing reprisals for their support of Pom-
pey and the liberators. The Parthini were clearly at the hub of the sedition,
but the bulk of the unrest was in Dalmatia, the theatre of Vatinius' opera-
tions and Octavian's province since the pact of Brundisium. Illyricum was a
better base for pacification than Macedonia, whose administrative centre was
separated from the insurgents by the Pindus range. If Pollio had held Illyri-
cum, he might easily have crossed the provincial boundary and defeated the
Parthini in Macedonia.140 In the relatively relaxed atmosphere after Brundi-
sium the two dynasts may have been less sensitive about their borders than
they were later to be.141 But, even if Poflio had adhered scrupulously to the
lex Cornelia maiestatis, the Parthini had no such scruples. Nothing prevented
them from crossing in force to help their fellow insurgents. Pollio could easi-
ly have exterminated an expeditionary force of this nature, inflicting suffi-
cient casualties to qualify for a triumph. The fact, then, that he celebrated a
triumph over the Parthini is certainly not conclusive evidence that his pro-
vince was Macedonia.
Indeed there is a striking parallel in Octavian's own Illyrian campaigns
(35-3 B. C.). Octavian announced in a dispatch to the senate that he had
tamed various chronically troublesome tribes. There follows a list of names,
most of them unattested elsewhere and impossible to locate, but
peoples are
included named HfepOerpvcrar and
Now it is very unlikely
that the
of Appian and Octavian are identical to the Parthini
defeated by pollio.143 The form is unique and unattested elsewhere.144 But
App. Ill. 12,36; Cic. ad Atl. XI 16,1.
App. 111. 13,37-8; Cic. ad Fam. V 10; cf. Broughton, MRR 1I 310.
X 6,13; App. Ill.
13,39. 139
App. IV 88,373; V 75,320.
cf. Syme, CQ 31 (1937) 43; K. M. T. Atkinson, Historia 9 (1960) 451.
1'" Appian suggests fear of encroaching upon Antony's provinces as a reason for Octavian's
failure to pursue Sextus Pompeius; V 127,525 0 1 ir nV adAAorptav
Trlv 'Avzoviov
XvAaa6aevos ,upfla)11v.
App. Ill. 16,46.
143 E. Swoboda, Octavian und Illyricum (1932) pp. 86 f., W. Schmitthenner, Historia 7
(1958) 202.
In other contexts Appian uses the form
(Ill. 2,4; BC V 75,320).
Asinius Pollio and Augustus 465
the Taulantii are a very different case. Their location is certain, attested since
Thucydides in the vicinity of Epidarnus/Dyrrhachium.145 Certainly their
homeland was in the immediate neighbourhood of that of the Parthini, well
inside Antony's province. In that case, either Octavian violated the frontier
and extended his operations to Macedonia, or he inflicted a defeat on Taulan-
tian tribesmen inside Illyricum. There is no reason why Polio should not
have done the same.
We therefore have to examine the rest of the evidence to decide which
province Pollio held. One datum can be summarily dismissed. According to
the Vergilian commentators Pollio captured the city of Salona in the course
of his campaign.146 This statement is associated with two glaring errors,
namely that Pollio commanded a Germanicus exercitus, and that he celebrated
his triumph before his consulship. The capture of Salona, then, occurs in a
dubious context, and there is no hint in any historical source that the city had
been lost. In 48 B. C. it had successfully resisted a joint attack by Dalmatian
tribesmen and the Pompeian, M.
that it later succumbed is un-
attested and most unlikely. In all probability the capture of Salona is a fabri-
cation, the intention to supply a derivation for the name of Pollio's son, Sa-
loninus, who had been put forward as a candidate for the child of Vergil's
Messianic Eclogue.148 We must move to more reliable evidence, but such is
24,1; Ps-Scylax 26; Eratosthenes ap. Steph. Byz. sv.
Strab. VII 7,8
(326); Aelian VH XIV 1; Ptol. III 12,4; Mela II 3. Pliny (NH III 144) says that at one time the
Taulantii were found between Epidaurus and Scodra, and this was gratefully seized by Fluss, RE
IV A 2527 (so Schmitthenner, op. cit. p. 202), to explain Octavian's operations against them. It is
clear, however, that Pliny is speaking of the distant past ('praeterea multorum Graecorum defi-
ciens memoria, nec non et civitatum validarum'), and he may -well be referring to the Taulantian
expansion of the early Hellenistic period. But it is certain that by the time of Augustus the Taulan-
tians had contracted to their old domicile. Strabo attests them in the vicinity of
rhachium, as does Aelian and even Byzantine writers (Zosimus V 26,1; Procop. Gotb. 1 1,13; Zon-
aras IX 25). Lucan, it should be noted, places the Taulantii in the hinterland of Dyrrhachium in
the course of his description of the fighting of 48 B. C. (Pharr. VI 16).
146 Serv. Ecl. 3,88; 4,1; 8,12; Schol. Bern. Etl. 4 praef.; 8,6; Porphyrio ad Hor. Odes II
Caes. B. C. III 9; Dio XLII 11,1; cf. Carcopino,
c le mysrte de la 4e iclogue
(1930), p.
146 So Syme, CQ 31 (1937) 42 ff., who argues persuasively that Saloninus cannot legitimately be
derived from Salonae ("it is nothing more nor less than an impeccable derivation from the perfect-
ly respectable gentile name 'Salonius' "). It is over-sceptical, however, to deny that Pollio had a
son named Saloninus; the name ran in his family (Tac. Ann. III 75,1), and at least one other of his
sons died young and virtually unattested (Sen. Exc. Contr. IV praef. 5). Since the appearance
of Syme's article Andre has built upon this alleged capture of Salonae and produced the
hypothesis that Pollio commanded a combined military operation, sponsored jointly by
Octavian and Antony ('Quelques points obscurs de la vie d'Asinius Pollion', REL 25 (1947)
142 if.); cf. also G. Alfoldy, Bevolkerung und Gesellschaft der romitchen Provinz Dalmatien (1956),
pp. 101 f.
30 1-listoria XXI/3
unfortunately not forthcoming. Appian records an expedition against the
Parthini, launched by Antony after his arrival in Athens in autumn 39.149
Now it is not impossible that Pollio commanded this razzia as proconsul of
Macedonia; the Fasti Capitolini give no year for his triumph, which could
have been celebrated in October of either 39 or 38 B. C.'r0 Probability how-
ever inclines towards 39. In his eighth Eclogue Vergil describes Pollio's ap-
proach through Illyricum and north Italy, and it is clear from his language
that a triumph had already been decreed.16' Now the Eclogues were appa-
rently completed in 39 B. C. The evidence is admittedly derived from the
Vergilian commentators, but they are here coherent and probably derive ul-
timately from the learned Asconius Pedianus.'62 In that case Pollio will have
celebrated his triumph in October 39, and Vergil earlier in the year anticipat-
ed the celebration. If the triumph was held in 39, Pollio cannot have com-
manded Antony's punitive force. Dio, it may be added, places Pollio's victo-
ries firmly in 39, again before Antony reached Athens. Indeed Antony's ex-
pedition is best explained as a response to an earlier success of Pollio. If a
marauding army of Parthini had been defeated in Illyricum, it would have
been logical for Antony to have continued operations by attacking their
homeland in Macedonia.
We are left with a few scattered pieces of evidence, but the consensus is
that Pollio's province was Illyricum. Horace speaks ot a Delmaticus triumpbus
(Odes II 1,26), but thds is inconclusive. The Dalmatians were ethnically dis-
persed over a wide area, weU beyond the later Roman province of Dalma-
tia.'5 Moreover Macedonicus triumphus would have been recalcitrant to any
lyric metre used by the poet. Florus, however, is more difficult to dismiss.
He has only one brief paragraph about Dalmatia,'"' referring in passing to
Asinius Pollio, who mulcted the Delmatae of land, arms and cattle. In the
same context he mentions C. Marcius Figulus, who in 156 B. C. had burned
the city of Delminium and operated in the general area of Narona2156 Florus
App. V 75,320. For the date see Kromayer, Hermes 29 (1894) 556. It appears that, when An-
tony left Italy after the peace of Misenum, he had already produced a daughter by Octavia (Plut.
Ant. 33; cf. PIR' A 884).
1"0 I. I. XIII 1,86. Pollio's triumph comes between that of L. Marcius Censorinus on Jan. 1,40,
and that of Ventidius Bassus on Nov. 27, 38.
1'" Verg. Eel. 8,12-3 'atque haec sine tempora circum inter victricis hederam tibi serpere
162 For Vergil's inception of the Eclogues at the age of 28 see Serv. Ecl. praef. 3, 26 H; Probus,
Ecl. praef. 323,13; 329,5 H (Asconius). For their completion in three years see Schol. Bern. Vita
25; Serv Aen. praef. 2,9 H. The combination gives 42-39 as the period of composition;
Buchner, P. Vergilius Maro (1957), p. 33.
155 cf. Syme, CQ 31 (1937) 42.
'5' Florus II 25 (IV 10).
Liv. Per. XLVII; App. Ill. 11,31-2; Obsequens 16; cf. Polyb. XXXII 14,2.
Asinius Pollio and Augustus 467
also mentions the mining operations of C. Vibius
Postumus, Tiberius'
legate in A. D. 6-9 and probably the first governor of the newly
established province of Dalmatia.166 The Delmatae dealt with by Figulus
and Postumus were unequivocally in Illyricum, which fell to Octavian at
Brundisium, and it is a natural inference that Pollio's area of competence
was the same.
The evidence of Dio points in the same direction. He lists the
foreign wars
of 39 B. C., beginning with Ventidius' great victory at the Cilician Gates,
continuing with a note on Pollio's victory over the Parthini, and concluding
with the exploits in Spain of Pollio's colleague, Cn. Domitius Calvinus.157
Dio unfortunately does not mention Poflio's province, but he can be supple-
mented from Velleius. Velleius too gives a list of the military adventures af-
ter the peace of Misenum. In the east he mentions Ventidius' victory, like
Dio emphasising the death of the Parthian prince, Pacorus.168 Next Velleius
moves to Octavian, who in this period, he says, toughened his armies by fre-
quent campaigns in Illyricum and Dalmatia, while in Spain Domitius Calvi-
nus restored old traditions of discipline.169 The sequence in Velleius is identi-
cal to that in Dio, but the expeditions in Illyricum and Dalmatia are explidtly
placed in Octavian's portion. It is hard to resist the conclusion that these
campaigns in Illyricum were fought by Pollio, who was therefore Octavian's
If Poflio did hold Illyricum, it perhaps requires some explanation why he
does not figure in Appian's Illyrica, which gives a continuous, if haphazard,
history of Roman operations in Illyricum down to Octavian's campaigns of
35-3 B. C. In aU probability the omission is accidental. Appian's narrative
proceeds briefly and erratically through the operations of Vatinius, ending
with his surrender to Brutus immediately before the Philippi campaign.160
The narrative breaks off at this point, and Appian changes sources, moving
to the autobiography of Augustus, from which he excerpted his account of
the fighting of 35-3 B. C.l16 In the interval came Pollio's campaign of 39, and
it has fallen out of Appian's narrative thanks to his abrupt change of source.
Augustus, it may be added, was preoccupied with his own achievements, or
lack of them, and will not have gone out of his way to publicise the earlier
victory of Pollio.162
1'6 Dio LVI 15,3 with Boissevain's note adloc.; Vei. 11 116,2.
Dio XLVIII 3941,6 (Ventidius); 41,7 (Polio); 42 (Calvinus).
168 Vell.
78,1; cf. Dio XVIII 41,34.
Vell. II 78,3; cf. Dio XVIII 42,2.
App. IIM. 13,39. The change comes abruptly at 111. 14,42.
III. 14,42 is explicit testimony that Appian used the autobiography at first hand; cf. Gabba,
Appiano . . ., pp. 215 ff.
III. 15,43 ov yap dAAoTpIa ; npQUe;
o6 ?eflaaTrS
468 A. B. BoswoRTH
There is another, more important, omission in Appian. There is no refer-
ence in book V of the Emphylia to Polio's triumph over the Parthini. This
may of course be sheer carelessness or selectiveness on Appian's part. It is,
however, often, and plausibly, argued that this portion of his work is de-
rived from the Histories of Pollio himself,163 and it may well be that Pollio
too omitted or slurred over his own triumph. Velleius, it has been observed,
has nothing about the triumph, although he gives PolIio a consistently fa-
vourable press elsewhere. This common silence may well mean that there
was something discreditable about the triumph. Now, if Pollio had changed
sides in 40 B. C. and governed Illyricum for Octavian, he would have been
highly vulnerable to Antony's later charges of ingratitude. He had not even
MessalUa Corvinus' excuse that Antony had polluted himself by his liaison
with Cleopatra. The best plan therefore was to emphasise his merits in win-
ning over Ahenobarbus to Antony, and to slide over the triumph won in
Octavian's service.
I conclude that the province Pollio took over in late 40 B. C. was Illyri-
cum, and that he had recently changed sides. It remains to find a motive, and
that motive is best looked for in the Perusine campaign. It is well known that
in the winter of 41/40 B. C. Antony's brother and wife were besieged in Pe-
rusia by Octavian and his two generals, Salvidienus Rufus and Agrippa.'64
At nearby Fulginiae the Antonian relief forces had mustered but failed to
raise the siege. At the head of these forces were Ventidius and Polio with le-
gions from the two Gauls, supplemented by Antonians from the newly esta-
blished veteran colonies under the command of Plancus, Crassus, Ateius and
others.'65 It is an interesting exercise to determine the forces involved in
these transactions. The figures derive from Appian and cannot be taken as
absolutely precise, but they do permit a rough approximation of the relative
strengths of both sides. Now before the pact of Brundisium Octavian dis-
posed of rather more than 40 legions.'68 Of these 11 had been recouped from
Gabba, Appiano . . ., pp. 189 ff., B. C. V pp. xxxvii-xlii. Much of the argument here,
based on the hypothesis of a bias in Pollio hostile to Octavian's propaganda, seems to me
misguided. However, the contrast of light and dark between the portraits of Pollio and Plancus
in Appian BC V is indicative that the source is at least highly favourable to Pollio (Gabba,
Appiano . . ., p. 199 n. 1).
App. V 35,140; Syme RR, p. 211, Andre, REL 25 (1947) 139 ff.
App. BC V 50,208. Plancus is attested settling veterans at Beneventum (ILS 886 =
187; cf. App. V 33,130). There were numerous settlements of Antonian legionaries in Italy during
the spring and summer of 41 (App. V 14,58; Dio XLVIII 5-6), and it is a reasonable assumption
that P. Canidius Crassus was in charge of land distributions like Plancus at Beneventum and
L. Memmius at Luca (ILS 887 = E&J 188). According to Appian 33,130 Ateius had some job in
Gaul, probably a similar veteran settlement.
1"6 App. V 53,221. I. Hahn, Acta Aniiqua 17 (1969) 215-6, does not accept Appian's figure,
arguing that this grand total is inconsistent with the figures for the individual army corps listed
Asinius Pollio and Augustus 469
Gaul after the death of Fufius Calenus early im 40 B. C., and two more had
been captured from Plancus during the retreat from Perusia.'67 There remain
some 27 legions, comprising the forces of Octavian and L. Antonius,168
which had amalgamated after the siege. Of these the troops of Lucius were
in the minority; during the siege he did not hazard a pitched battle because
his troops were numerically inferior and for the most part raw recruits.'69
Octavian, then, had a numerical superiority over the army in Perusia,
but perhaps not very great, say 15 or 16 legions against 11 or 12. On
the other hand we know that the Antonian relief forces amounted to
13 legions, all veterans
These, when taken with the
beleaguered forces at Perusia, amounted to a clear superiority of numbers,
which would have been overwhelming had the troops of Calenus been
Despite their numbers the Antonians were half-hearted in the extreme in
their efforts to relieve Perusia. When Octavian began his circumvallation
(autumn 41), the Antornian generals, though summoned to relieve the city,
retreated before they could effect a junction. Accordingly they took up se-
parate waiting positions at Ravenna, Ariminum and Spoletium, held in
check by relatively small forces (App. B. C. V 33). After Lucius' abortive at-
tempt on January 1, 40, to break through the blockade, the relieving gene-
rals conferred at Fulginiae. There Plancus allegedly counselled delay, his ad-
vice prevailing over the more bellicose attitude of Ventidius and Pollio
(App. V 35, 139 ff.). It is quite possible that on this occasion Plancus did
counsel delay, but the previous months of inactivity cannot be laid at his
earlier in the text. On his calculations Octavian could only have amassed 29 legions before
Brundisium. Unfortunately Hahn makes no allowance for the recruiting which took place
during the Perusine war. Octavian is only allowed the four Campanian legions he possessed
in the summer of 41 (App. V 24,96) and Lucius his original six consular legions (V 24,95).
lt is almost inconceivable that in the desperate crisis of the Perusine war both sides should
have refrained from recruiting extra legions. Appian at any rate claims that the whole of
Italy rose in arms, dividing between Lucius and Octavian (V 27,106), and in these
circumstances a great increase in the legionary totals is only to be expected. A total of forty
legions, including the troops of Lucius and Fufius Calenus, does not seem excessive. (Even
if Hahn's figures arc accepted, Octavian's forces at Perusia were still outnumbered by the
Antonians 19 legions to 10.)
App. V 24,95; 51,215 (Calenus); 50,219 (Plancus).
'68 cf. App. V 46-7 for the absorption of the Antonians into Octavian's forces.
App. V 32,127
A,E6KlM OftOt' Cp Uaxrv n
Toiq 7replKaO17;E'Votg,
cIMivoas Kat rAeoza
oiJat Kal
T6 aAEov.
170 App. V 50,208.
Gabba, B. C. V, pp. liii
Iv, claims that the Antonian troops were 'nettamente inferiori' to
the Caesarians, but his argument is quite apriori and in particuLlar he gives no totals for the oppos-
ing forces.
door. Plancus had relatively few troops, a mere two legions. The robur
exercitus was in the hands of Pollio, who controlled seven legions,172
over half the strength of the relieving forces. Now PoIlio must have been
the dominant partner in the alliance of Antonian generals, and he must
have born much of the responsibility for the failure to relieve Perusia.
It should be emphasised that it was above all Ventidius who was
prepared to risk battle in January 40. He did indeed take the offensive, but
his army was countered by larger forces in the hands of Agrippa and
Salvidienus, and he was forced to retreat.173 Octavian's main forces were
still investing Perusia, and he could not denude the circumvallation
of troops for fear of another break out. The intercepting forces of
Agrippa and Salvidienus were therefore relatively small, and Ventidius
could not have been outnumbered had Pollio been with him. Ventidius'
venture, then, was on his own initiative, and, it
seems, unsupported by his
According to Appian the Antonian generals failed to take decisive action
because they had no clear statement of Antony's attitude towards the war in
Italy.174 Antony in fact did not make any public declaration of his position
throughout the winter of
B. C., and indeed he detained a deputation of
veterans in Alexandria during that winter.'17 It is difficult, however, to see
how he could have made a firm pronouncement in favour of his brother. Oc-
tavian had made desperate attempts to avoid an outbreak of war, and capitu-
lated wholly to the demands of Lucius and Fulvia that Antony's veterans be
settled in their colonies by Antony's men.176 A declaration for his brother on
the part of Antony would have been a declaration of war, and he had no just
grounds for taking such a step. A letter, possibly forged, had authorised the
Antonians in Italy to do battle, if their leader's dignitas were impaired,
phrase highly ambiguous and pregnant with sinister connotations.177
Even here there was no casus belli; Octavian had made no hostile move
whatsoever against his triumviral colleague. That is not to say that
Vell. 1176,3.
App. V 35,139-40 otf& acik Tro6v Otenibtov a1ov'Cevo0 ALO
a$vovra AeKsOV
av'r6v 6=avre,; ......t zavr(ovTov 6'
'Ayp17Mov Te Kai
peTa 6rd,asvw htr
n;s&ovo; e.iaav /47 KVKAWEOCV, KaL E; OVAKWLto'V T XOPIOVr !4eKAvaV.
App. V 32,126; 33,131 arv sCV Jicvp( Kal 6&xovo4s ; 'AvrTwv(ov
For what
follows see H. Buchheim, Die Orientpolitik des Triumvirn M. Antonius (Heidelberg 1960),
pp. 30-34.
175 App. V 52,216; Dio XLVIII 27,1 claims that Antony was ignorant of nothing that took
place in Italy, while Plutarch (Ant. 30,1) implies, far less credibly, that Antony knew nothing of
the hostilities in Italy until Perusia had in fact fallen.
App. V 14,54 if; Dio XLVIII 6-7.
App. V 29,112 roAqAetv av r'V avT'oi5
Asinius Pollio and Augustus 471
Antony would not have welcomed the annihilation of his young rival.
The time for it was ripe. Octavian was intensely unpopular on all
sides, his armies mutinous, and Italy blockaded by the navies of Staius
Murcus and Domitius Ahenobarbus.178 Lucius must have had his
brother's tacit consent at least, and this he blazoned forth, adopting the
cognomen Pietas to enforce his claims to be working for his brother.179
The Italian colonists certainly were convinced, and flocked to his
standards under the impression that his promises had his brother's
Despite these favourable conditions the Antonian generals failed to move.
Pollio and Ventidius could not stop Salvidienus joining with Agrippa and
Octavian in Italy, and Salvidienus, it should be noted, had a relatively small
army of six legions.'81 Subsequently two half-hearted attempts were made to
relieve the siege and both failed. After Perusia capitulated, the Antonians
could only retreat north and evade battle. The Perusine war had proved di-
sastrous for them. Instead of securing the final ruin of Octavian it had rein-
forced his position with the army not only of Lucius but of Fufius Calenus.
For this failure Pollio must bear a large share of responsibility. His army
was the most numerous, seven veteran legions, and at no stage is it attested
as doing anything at all decisive. Moreover, Antony's disapprobation can be
inferred from the careers of the protagonists. Ventidius was to lead Antony's
armies against the Parthians, while Plancus governed Syria and Asia.182 Pollio
on the contrary passed over to Octavian after Brundisium, and it seems
that Antony regarded him as the chief culprit in the recent fiasco. The
App. V 15-17; Suet. Aug. 14; Dio XLVIII 7,4-5. cf. Buchheim, op. cit., p. 33.
Dio XLVIII 5,4; cf. Sydenham, Roman Republican Coinage, nrs. 1171 if. = E&J 7 a coin of
L. Antonius with the obverse legend M ANTONIVS IMP III VIR R. P. C. and on the reverse
PIETAS COS. At Perusia sling shots invoked the name of the Antonian leader (CIL XI 6721,1 M
180 Dio XLVIII 6,5 Kai yap Kai Tn) MdpKp TaiVra an'OeKCUV
By contrast Appian
underplays Lucius' appeals to his brother, and instead represents him as a disinterested republican,
opposed to despotism in any form and ready to take up arms against Marcus himself, should the
interests of the state require it (V 19,74; 30,118; 39; 43; 54). It is moreover hinted that Antony
disapproved of the hostilities in Italy. Appian strongly hints that the letter produced by Manius
was a forgery (V 29,112). He also gives prominence to the false statement of Antony's estranged
quaestor, M. Barbatius Pollio, and stresses its effect upon public opinion (V 31,120). The
whole tenor of Appian's narrative is consistent with the claim of the Antonian generals that
the attitude of their party leader was in doubt. Much of this material must derive ultimatcly
from Pollio himself.
App. V 31,121 f.; cf. V 24,96 for Salvidienus' six Spanish legions.
Dio XLVIII 24,3; 26,3; Sydenham, Roman Republican Coinage, nrs. 1190-1 (Asia
40/39); App. V 144,599 (Syria 35); cf. Drumann
Groebe IV 226, Hanslik, RE XVI
549 f.
winning over of Ahenobarbus was not sufficient compensation for the loss
of Perusia.
On item remains for discussion. Pollo, it is alleged, acted as Antony's ne-
gotiator at Brundisium,183 in the same year as the capitulation of Perusia, and
this position of apparent trust seems inconsistent with the hypothesis that re-
lations were cool at this time between the two. But the only source linking
PolIio with the Brundisium negotiations is Appian, always a questionable
authority where PoWlo's actions are concerned. Appian moreover makes it
clear that it was not Antony who chose him as his respresentative. After the
diplomatic initiative of L. Cocceius Nerva, Octavian's own legionaries
continued the approach to conciliation, sending emissaries to both
commanders; a0rlot 6' av3ro!f npoa6o86Evot KOKK2tOV UE'V J? OK61OV
adzqOlV, EK 6E ir&v 'Av'rwviov HoAAova Kat MatKtvav EK T'rdv KakraPO.'84
It was Octavian's own men who chose Pollio as delegate in the
negotiations for peace. They had observed his activities during the siege
of Perusia, and presumably regarded him as friendly to the idea of an
accommodation. We cannot infer that Antony had any hand in choosing
him for the embassy. Soon the triumvirs were reunited and a marriage
pact agreed on amid mutual congratulation. The work of the peace
embassy then ended, and Antony and Octavian divided the world anew
without the help of the military diplomats, and presumably without
The conference ended in September or October, 40 B. C., and the consuls
abdicated towards the end of the year.186 In the meantime the triumvirs had
entered Rome, each celebrating an ovation in honour of the peace. It was a
time of political intrigue, and there were casualties, not least the great Salvi-
dienus Rufus, who had plotted against his patron and benefactor- so Antony
magnanimously revealed.'87 At the end of the year the ex-consuls departed
to provinces, Calvinus to Spain and Pollio to Illyricum. Asinius Pollio now
governed Octavian's province, and he is attested no more in the entourage
of Antony. After Perusia it was prudent to change to the side which pro-
mised further advancement, and Pollio accordingly fought
Octavian, re-
ceiving his triumph at his hands. Retirement could then supervene. Pollio
could live out his life as patron and leader of literature, highly honoured by
the princeps and the founder of a distinguished line. Desultor civilium bellorum
Syme, RR p. 217, Andre p. 22, Gabba, Appiano . .
., p.
184 App. V 64,272 f.
185 App. V 65; Dio XLVIII 28,34; Plut. Ant. 30-1; Liv. Per.
CXXVII; Vell. II 76,4.
186 Dio XLVIII 32,1.
Liv. Per. CXXVII; Vell. II 76,4; Dio XLVIII 33,1-3; Suet.
Aug. 66,2; App.
f. cf.
Syme, RR p. 220, Buchheim, op. cii. pp. 39 f.
Asinius Pollio and Augustus 473
is the title of Q. Dellius, and it has stuck to him ever since MessallaCorvinus
first coined it. Others merited the appellation equally richly, and among their
number was C. Asinius Pollio.
University of Western Australia, Nedlands A. B. Bosworth