Antony, Octavius, Caesar’s adopted son, not yet twenty, and their ally, the experienced old politician, Lepidus, sat at a table in Antony’s house. They were examining a long list of names.
‘These are the ones who will die,’ said Antony. ‘The ones whose names are ticked.’
‘Your brother must die too, Lepidus,’ said Octavius. ‘Do you agree to that?’
‘I do…’ said Lepidus.
‘Mark him down Antony,’ said Octavius.
‘On condition that your sister’s son, Publius, won’t live either, Mark Antony,’ said Lepidus.
‘He won’t live.’ Antony ticked his nephew’s name. ‘Look, with a pen I condemn him. But Lepidus, go to Caesar’s house and bring the will and we’ll examine it to see what we can avoid paying out.’
‘Will you be here?’ said Lepidus.
‘Either here or at the Capitol,’ said Octavius.
When he had left Antony shook his head. ‘He’s a lightweight, without any merit: fit only to be sent on errands. Is it fitting that in dividing the three-fold world of Europe, Africa and Asia, among us, he should be one of the three to share it?’
‘Well you were the one who chose him, and listened to his opinion about who should die when we were planning our purge.’
Antony sighed. ‘Octavius, I’m older than you. ‘And although we’ve given him this honour to take some of the load off us, he will bear his load like a donkey bears gold – to groan and sweat beneath it, either led or driven as we direct: and having taken our treasure to where we want it, we’ll take his load off him and retire him, like the unloaded donkey, to shake his ears and graze in meadows.’
‘You can do what you like, but he’s an experienced and brave soldier,’ said Octavius.
‘So is my horse, Octavius, and for that I give him food. It’s a creature that I teach to perform on the battlefield, to turn, to stop, to run straight, every motion governed by what I want. And Lepidus is just the same. He has to be taught and trained and told what to do. A boring fellow, someone who likes objects, art and imitations, without any independent thought. Don’t talk about him as anything but a tool. And now, Octavius, on to more important matters. Brutus and Cassius are raising forces. We must gather our own together immediately. So we must organise our allies, secure our friends, make the most of our resources, and go and sit in council without delay, to work out what our unknown dangers may be and those that we already know about, deal with.’
‘Let’s do that, then,’ said Octavius, ‘because we are surrounded by enemies, and I’m afraid some of them who seem to be our friends are full of mischief,’