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- Biography and early life of Mark Antony
- Political duties: alliance with Julius Caesar and the Second Triumvirate
- Personality and characteristics
Key Facts And Information
Let’s find out more about Mark Antony!
- The Roman politician and general Marcus Antonius, commonly known as Mark Antony, was an ally of Julius Caesar and a rival of Octavian. He played a great role in the transformation of the Roman Republic from a constitutional republic into the autocratic Roman Empire. As Julius Caesar's friend and right-hand man, he gave the funeral oration after Caesar's assassination which turned the tide of popular opinion against the assassins.
- Mark Antony is widely known for his love relationship with the beautiful, seductive queen of Egypt, Cleopatra. His deeds have been romanticised by authors such as Shakespeare. However, his contribution to the Roman Empire extends beyond just his love affairs.
- He was born on January 14 around the year 83 BC. His parents were Marcus Antonius Creticus – who fought against the pirates in the Mediterranean, and his mother Julia was Julius Caesar’s cousin.
- During his formative years, the young Mark received an education that comprised the study of philosophy and rhetoric (considered a fundamental skill for any successful politician in the Roman state).
- However, although he had friends that belonged to both the high and lowers ranks of society, Mark Antony always preferred dwelling in the company of actors and courtesans.
- In particular, his friendship with Publius Clodius Pulcher and Curio got Mark Antony in great debt and trouble.
- In fact, according to Plutarch, a Greek philosopher, the young men indulged in heavy drinking and in the pursuit of unrestrained pleasures, women and gambling.
- By the time he was twenty years old, such reckless behaviour and habits brought him a debt of two hundred and fifty talents, which today corresponds to almost five million dollars.
- Some accounts claim that he was an extremely greedy man and that he even stole goods from citizens in order to partially pay back his debts. In fact, Plutarch accuses him of stealing from the Vestales, the Ops Temples, and of forging Caesar’s accounting papers. Since he did not have any money to pay his creditors, Mark Antony fled to Greece where he continued studying oratory and indulging in military exercises.
- As a young man, Mark Antony’s primary ambition was that of having fun and of dedicating himself to the most pleasurable things in life. Only when he reached the age of twenty-four, family pressures and social expectations pushed him towards more ambitious pursuits.
- In 57 BC, Aulus Gabinius convinced Mark Antony to join the expedition in Syria as the commander of cavalry: the mission consisted of reassigning the Egyptian throne to Pharaoh Ptolemy XII, and it is exactly during this period that he met Cleopatra VII, who at the time was only 14 years old.
- Three years later, in 54 BC, he joined Caesar’s Army for the conquest of Northern Gaul.
- It is necessary to note that Caesar was the most powerful man in Rome, and he formed the First Triumvirate, a dictatorship made of three people composed by himself, Pompey and Crassus.
- However, the Triumvirate did not have a successful outcome: in fact, it failed to resist the test of time, and Antony was ordered by Caesar to represent him in Rome against Pompey and fight for the control over the republic.
- Notwithstanding the attempt, Mark Antony was banished from Rome and met Caesar on the Rubicon. In this instance, Caesar proclaimed “alea iacta est” (i.e. ‘the die is cast’), crossed the Rubicon with his army, and began his march on Rome with the intention of taking over the government.
- Caesar rapidly reached victory, and Mark Antony was appointed his second in command and governor of Italy.
- As a consequence, Antony and Caesar were consuls in 44 BC. In March of the same year – after having proclaimed himself “dictator for life”. Caesar was stabbed and murdered in the Senate, and instead of reintroducing the republic, numerous riots gave way to a civil war. In fact, considering Caesar had designated his great-nephew Octavian as his successor, it is no surprise that he and Mark Antony inevitably clashed over the control of Rome.
- Nonetheless, in order to restore peace, Mark Antony, Octavian, and Aemilius Lepidus created the Second Triumvirate: they also (I) fought against those who had plotted against Caesar’s death, including Brutus and Cassius, who were murdered at Philippi in 42 BC, and (II) divided the Roman territories amongst themselves. Whilst Lepidus was assigned North Africa, Octavian gained control over the Western part of the Roman Empire, and Mark Antony’s domain extended on the Eastern part.
- In order to consolidate such agreement, Mark Antony married Octavian’s sister, Octavia. For a period of time, the two consorts lived in Athens, where Mark Antony exhibited an exemplary behaviour.
- However, the future Augustus was not satisfied with the amount of power he had and strived to assert his position as Caesar’s legal heir. For this reason, he created much propaganda in order to destroy his opponent. The matters between the two dictators became worse when Mark Antony divorced Octavia in order to marry and pursue his love with Cleopatra. From their union, five children were born.
- Therefore, by claiming he had put his hands on Mark Antony’s will, Octavian spread the rumor that his enemy intended to nominate Cleopatra’s children as the heirs to his throne. Such statement changed the opinion that the Romans had in regards to Antony since they started to believe that he was trying to install Cleopatra as the ruler of Rome. Having such alibi, Octavian felt confident enough to wage war against Mark Antony at Actium.
- According to some sources, the battle reported many casualties: 2,500 of Octavian’s soldiers were killed, whereas Mark Antony lost around 5,000 men and 200 of his ships either sunk or were captured. Since Octavian’s army was much stronger and was winning the battle - Mark Antony’s army retreated.
- Having been the protagonist of such a great defeat, Mark Antony committed suicide. His beloved Cleopatra killed herself soon after discovering the fate of her husband.
- Having successfully wiped out his opponent, Octavian became the only ruler in Rome and was ready to implement his ambition of transforming the capital into an empire.
- Plutarch offers his readers a physical account of Mark Antony by describing him as a charming man that loved exhibitionism and being at the centre of attention. He was said to have a noble appearance, a strong, well-trained body and a handsome face.
- Mark Antony’s personality is incredibly complex, and various opinions with regards to his character exist.
- In fact, during his youth, he did not demonstrate any political ambitions: rather, he exhibited friendly, rough, direct, and easygoing behaviour.
- According to Welch, whenever Mark Antony felt that his security or his objectives were threatened, he would pull out of the problem by blaming other people: in fact, he was willing to place blame on a convenient scapegoat or to disregard previous loyalties, however important they had been.
- However, his unorthodox behaviour gained him much favour amongst the ‘common’ and low classes within society. Plutarch offers a detailed account of Mark Antony’s general behaviour:
- What might seem to some as very insupportable - his vaunting, his raillery, his drinking in public, sitting down by the men as they were taking their food, and eating, as he stood, off the common soldiers’ tables, made him the delight and pleasure of the army. In love affairs, also, he was very agreeable: he gained many friends by the assistance he gave them in theirs, and took other people’s raillery upon his own with good-humour.
- His generous ways, his open and lavish hand in gifts and favours to his friends and fellow-soldiers, did a great deal for him in his first advance to power, and after he had become great, long maintained his fortunes, when a thousand follies were hastening their overthrow.
- One instance of his liberality : he had ordered payment to one of his friends of twenty-five myriads of money or decies, as the Romans call it, and his steward wondering at the extravagance of the sum, laid all the silver in a heap, as he should pass by.
- Antony, seeing the heap, asked what it meant; his steward replied, “The money you have ordered to be given to your friend.” So, perceiving the man’s malice, said he, “I thought the decies had been much more; ’tis too little; let it be doubled.”
- Moreover, Mark Antony had not only been enamoured with Cleopatra. As a matter of fact, some sources like to define him as ‘womaniser’, and suggests that because of the large debts he had accumulated during his youth, some of his marriages were ‘conceived’ with the intention of resolving his financial hardships and providing him with ‘political advantage’.
- In fact, he divorced several times. His wives were respectively Fadia, Antonia (his cousin), Fulvia (who had already been married to two Mark Antony’s friends), Octavia (Augustus’ sister), and Cleopatra (however, his marriage to her was never formally recognised by Rome).
- It is widely believed that Antony’s behaviour changed drastically when he met Cleopatra, who managed to seduce him with her grandiose lifestyle as well as dramatic appearances and looks.
- In fact, the Roman leader lost his ability to take decisions and he became dependent on her - emotionally and materially.
- According to Plutarch, in the eyes of Mark Antony, Cleopatra was a kind of a living Venus.