Dimitris Stamatios | February 14, 2023
Mark Antony, in Latin Marcus Antonius (M-ANTONIVS-M-F-M-N), was a Roman politician and military man, born on January 14, 83 BC and died on August 1, 30 BC.
After a turbulent youth at the side of Curion and Publius Clodius Pulcher, he served from 57 to 52 B.C. in the army with the rank of chief of cavalry in Syria, Palestine and Egypt, under the command of Gabinius.
In 52 BC he joined Julius Caesar and fought in the Gallic War at the siege of Alesia (July-September 52 BC).
He then took part in the civil war against Pompey, and distinguished himself in particular by defending Caesar”s cause as a tribune of the plebs in 49 BC, and militarily during the victory at Pharsalus the following year.
During Caesar”s campaigns in 48-47 BC, Mark Antony was appointed master of cavalry and took charge of the administration of Italy and Rome in the absence of the dictator. He did not perform his task well and lost Caesar”s confidence for a while. However, he became his co-consul for the year 44 BC.
After the assassination of Caesar, Mark Antony, then consul, managed to maintain his power while keeping away the conspirators, but faced with the hostility of the Senate, led by Cicero and by the grand-nephew and adopted son of Caesar, Octavian, he was quickly isolated, then defeated during the civil war of Modena and declared “public enemy”.
However, he succeeded then in gathering the most important army of Occident, thanks to the rallying of Ventidius Bassus, then to those more or less voluntary of Lépide, Munatius Plancus and Asinius Pollion. In front of the revival of the Pompeian and republican cause as well as the setting aside of Octavian, he forms with this one and Lepidus an alliance to share the Roman Republic: the second triumvirate. This represents the union of the political heirs of Caesar facing the Senate and the “Republicans”, supporters of the murderers of the dictator.
The triumvirs were victorious over the Republicans at the battle of Philippi in 42 B.C. and Mark Antony, the great architect of this victory, reserved for himself the reorganization of the Eastern provinces while keeping control of Gaul.
Following the civil war of Perugia at the initiative of his third wife Fulvia and his brother Lucius Antonius against Octavian, where his supporters were defeated, the pact of Brundus and the peace of Misene divided the Roman lands in 40 and 39 BC. The West returns to Octavian while Antony is confirmed as master of the East, losing however the Gauls, Lepidus keeping Africa and Sextus Pompey the Italian islands and the Peloponnese. Antony remarried Octavia, sister of Octavian.
It devotes itself in particular to the fight against the Parthians who passed to the offensive. One of his lieutenants, Ventidius Bassus succeeded at first in pushing them back and triumphing over the Parthians, then, with the financial and military support of the main Roman vassal in the East, the Ptolemaic Egypt of Cleopatra VII, Antony organized a very large-scale offensive which turned into a rout in 36 BC, the situation returning to the status quo before the conflict. Antony then breaks definitively with Octavian, settles in Egypt, living with the queen Cleopatra, previously put on the throne of Egypt by Julius Caesar himself. Antony reorganized in ten years the whole of the Roman East and behaved as a Hellenistic prince.
Octavian, who got rid of Lepidus and Sextus Pompey in the West, poses very skillfully as a defender of the Roman civilization against the ambitions of Cleopatra and the “orientalizing deviance” of Antony, who broke up with his sister for a foreign queen, and provokes the war between the two rivals in 32 B.C
The ancient historiography is influenced by the Augustan propaganda and is globally unfavorable to Antony from the moment when he is master of the East and when he meets Cleopatra. The image of the latter is blackened in order to make of it the evil adversary of Rome and the bad genius of Marc Antoine.
The commander of Octavian”s fleet, Vipsanius Agrippa, won the battle of Actium in September 31 BC. Cornered by the Octavian legions, Antony and then Cleopatra committed suicide in early August 30 BC.
The political actions of Mark Antony with Caesar and then within the second triumvirate contributed to the fall of the Roman Republic. In 27 BC, a few years after Antony”s death in Alexandria, the Senate awarded Octavian the titles of Princeps and above all of “Augustus”, which until then had been reserved for the gods, thus marking the end of the Republican period and the beginning of the Roman Empire.
Birth and ancestry
Mark Antony was born in Rome on January 14, most probably in the year 83 BC, although 86 and 81 are sometimes advanced. His full name is Marcus Antonius Marci Filius Marci Nepos, i.e. “Marcus Antonius, son of Marcus, grandson of Marcus”. He does not have a cognomen. His people Antonia is a rather recent plebeian family. According to what Plutarch reports, it is descended from Anton (Άντων), the mythological son of the demigod Hercules created by Mark Antony, and from whom he claims to be descended.
His paternal grandfather was Marcus Antonius Orator, one of the greatest orators of his time, who made him the other main speaker in his De oratore. In 104, he was a praetor and then, the following year, a praetor in Cilicia. He was one of the first to mount a campaign against the pirates who were based in his province. This one is crowned of success. In the year 100, Caius Marius, consul for the fifth consecutive time, had to face difficulties coming from his allies, the populares, in particular the tribune of the plebs Lucius Appuleius Saturninus and the praetor Caius Servilius Glaucia, who made reign terror in Rome by making, in particular, assassinate those who tried to present themselves against them to the tribune and the consulate. Marius, worried by a situation which escaped him, abandoned his former friends and sided with the Senate, having the troublemakers and their supporters executed by means of a senatus consultum ultimum. Marius can then organize the elections and make elect to the consulate Antonius Orator, just haloed by his triumph, and Aulus Postumius Albinus. Antonius, who belongs to the moderates in the Senate, helps to repress the disorders and to make condemn the old partisans of Marius, this last dedicating him perhaps from then on a tenacious hatred for this too zealous assistance. Antonius Orator becomes then censor in 97 at the sides of Lucius Valerius Flaccus. He is the first of his people to reach these magistracies. Moreover, the ancient authors report that his pleadings meet much success. In 87, whereas he opted for the party of Sylla in the first civil war between Marius and Sylla, he was put to death by the partisans of Caius Marius, this last having put him in head of the list of those to be executed. His head is exposed on the tribune with the harangues, place of so many oratorical successes.
His paternal uncle was Caius Antonius Hybrida. Partisan of Sylla, he attacked the proscribed at the head of a gladiatorial troop, beginning to amass a great fortune. He began his military career as a legate commanding the cavalry during the wars against Mithridate VI. After Sylla”s return to Rome, Caius remained in Greece where he was supposed to maintain peace and order, he ended up looting the country and sacking several temples and sacred places. Suspicions of atrocities committed against the population, including torture, earned him his nickname “Hybrida” according to Pliny the Elder. In 76, he was indicted for his exactions by the young Julius Caesar, but escaped conviction by appealing to the tribunes of the plebs. In 70, he was excluded from the Senate by the censors. In spite of his reputation, he was elected tribune in 71, which allowed him to reintegrate the Senate, then praetor in 66 with Cicero among others, and finally consul in 63 also with Cicero. His role is troubled in the conspiracy of Catilina, although it seems that Cicero finally makes him an ally, although uncertain, rich province that Cicero gave him, where he becomes so detestable by his oppression and his extortions towards the population that he must withdraw, after having moreover undergone two shameful defeats in its borders in particular following the treason of allies of Rome them also exceeded by his attitude. In 59, Caius is accused in Rome of having taken part in the conspiracy of Catilina and financial extortion in its province. He was condemned and exiled. It seems that Caesar recalled him because he participated in the meetings of the Senate in 44.
His father was Marcus Antonius Creticus, praetor in 76 and, a year later, he received from the Senate an extraordinary commission to free the Mediterranean Sea from pirates and thus help Pompey in his wars against the king of Pontus Mithridates VI. However, he did not take his important task seriously and failed in his charge, neglecting the provinces he was supposed to protect from robberies. He is noticed by his exactions, in particular in Sicily, which cause more damage than the pirates themselves. He attacked the Cretans but they revolted and Marcus suffered a humiliating naval defeat and only saved his life by signing a shameful peace treaty. It is for this reason, it seems, that one allots to him, to make fun of him, the nickname of “Creticus”, which means the “winner of Crete”. He died there a few months later, not surviving his shame, in 72 or in 71. A few years later, in order to deal with this piracy which had many strongholds and infested the Mediterranean, Pompey was given an exceptional imperium to eliminate this threat which considerably disrupted the transport of foodstuffs to Rome from Sicily and Egypt, and threatened to starve the Italian peninsula. Plutarch describes Antonius Creticus in spite of everything as “the most just, the most honest, and even the most liberal man” whereas modern historians keep of him the image of an incompetent, falot and corrupt nobleman, but much less vicious than his brother Hybrida. Generous towards his friends although not very rich, he was very indebted at his death.
His mother was a Julia, daughter of Lucius Julius Caesar, consul in 90, opponent of Marius and also executed in 87 like Antonius Orator. Member of the family of Iulii Caesaris, she is the sister of Lucius Julius Caesar, consul in 64 and prefect of Rome in 47. They are related to the brothers Sextus Julius Caesar, consul in 91, and Caius Julius Caesar, father of Julius Caesar.
Having become a widow, Antony”s mother then married Publius Cornelius Lentulus Sura, a Roman senator from an old family who was constantly in debt and whose entire career resembled that of Antonius Hybrida: numerous embezzlements and corruptions in his youth, which he did not deny and even claimed. He was consul in 71, then the following year, he was also excluded from the Senate by the censors, for immorality, but he managed to reintegrate the Senate by becoming praetor in 63. He was then one of the main members of the conspiracy of Catilina, during the consulship of Cicero and Hybrida, of whom he was unaware that he had been turned over by his colleague, he was confounded by Cicero and then executed by virtue of the senatus consultum ultimum in force.
Moreover, Marcus Antonius has two younger brothers: Caius and Lucius.
Antony was born in a Roman Republic in crisis, shaken by civil wars and where the power tends to fall in the hands of imperatores, these generals enriched by the war and who can lean on numerous partisans to make their law reign, at a time when the conspiracies are legion. Her family, like most of the contemporaries, has eminent talents, such as her grandfather the Orator, but also many corrupt ones, especially her uncle Hybrida or her father-in-law Sura.
Youth of Mark Antony
Plutarch, a Greek author who wrote under the reign of Trajan at the beginning of the 2nd century, paints a flattering portrait of the young Mark Antony and describes him as being of “great beauty”: “the dignity and nobility of his figure announce a man of great birth; his thick beard, his broad forehead, his aquiline nose, and a male air spread over his whole person, give him much resemblance to the statues and portraits of Hercules.
Her father having died in 72-71, it is her mother Julia who raises her. Plutarch depicts her as a model Roman matron while Cicero, a contemporary, defines her in 63 as a “woman of such distinguished merit” (femina lectissima). Antony and his brothers are declared bankrupt, in view of the debts left by their father at his death, even if their new father-in-law Sura and probably their uncle Hybrida can provide for them. The execution of Sura, involved in the conspiracy of Catilina, in 63, is “the pretext and the source of the implacable hatred of Antoine against Cicero” according to Plutarch, but if the two men are perhaps not in very good terms, their relations are cordial in 53 and this until 44.
Antony received an excellent education like all young Romans from an aristocratic family. He may already have been involved in the cult of the Lupercalia, of which he is mentioned as one of the priests later in his life.
He probably fell under the dependence of Caius Scribonius Curio, known as “Curion”, who was not a supporter of Caesar in his youth, and who, according to Plutarch, dragged him “into the debauchery of women and wine, and made him contract, by expenses as foolish as they were disgraceful, debts much greater than his age would have allowed”. His enemy Cicero is even more severe on the morals of the two young men in his second Philippic, which turns out to be a violent and even hateful indictment of Antony, an attack on all levels, private and public life, old and recent: he accuses him of debauchery, homosexual relations with Curion, drunkenness, financial bankruptcy, dubious marriages and intellectual stupidity, but his accusations must be taken with much prudence.
Antony also befriended the young Caesarian Publius Claudius Pulcher, known as “Clodius”, even if Plutarch underlines that Antony remained distant with the latter, and probably did not take part in the urban violence organized by him. The two young men are older than him, Clodius being born around 93-92 and Curion around 90. He also frequented Fulvie, the wife of Clodius, before becoming that of Curion then precisely of Antoine. Although not having any known political position, Antoine thus belongs probably to the young partisans of Caesar between 62 and 58, this last being consul in 59 and related by a secret pact, known under the name of “first triumvirate”, to Pompey and Crassus.
These sulphurous friendships as well as his debts push Marc Antony to leave Italy. He studied philosophy in Athens where he learned rhetoric and eloquence, rubbed shoulders with Greek literature and acquired real talents as an orator. Plutarch specifies “that he proposes especially to imitate this Asian style, then very required, which has much of analogy with his sumptuous life, full of ostentation, and prone to all the inequalities which ambition involves after it”.
The young Antoine thus possesses a solid Hellenistic culture, an excellent physical training, but he is burdened with debts and did not carry out any remarkable action apart from his youthful antics.
Officer in Syria and Egypt (57-55)
At the end of 58 or at the beginning of 57, whereas Antoine has the age of 25-26 years, the proconsul Aulus Gabinius, of passage in Greece, proposes to him to accompany him in his province of Syria without giving him a precise function, perhaps on recommendation of Clodius. The latter has just made exile Cicero the previous year at the time of the consulate of Gabinius and without opposition of the triumvirs. Antoine refuses and claims a command, Gabinius names him then “praefectus equitum”, that is to say chief of the cavalry and begins then his military career in 57 under the leadership of an experienced man in a promising area.
Hyrcan II, then Hasmonean high priest in Judea, fled Jerusalem and turned to Gabinius to receive his help against his rivals, a certain Alexander, son of his brother Aristobulus II, and perhaps also against the latter himself, who had been captured by Pompey in 63. Mark Antony then demonstrates his valour in the combat and receives his first military distinction. According to Plutarch, “Antony goes up the first on the wall of one of the strongest places which it besieges, drives out Aristobulus of all its fortresses; and having delivered to him battle, in spite of the inferiority of its troops, it defeats it, cuts in parts almost all its army, and makes it prisoner with his son”. The revolt suppressed, the son of Aristobulus captured, Hyrcan can return to Jerusalem.
In 55, after hesitations, Aulus Gabinius passes in Ptolemaic Egypt, overriding the orders of the Roman Senate, but with the ambiguous support of Pompey, for a perilous mission in order to restore the king Ptolemy XII on the throne, in exchange for an astronomical allowance. Plutarch makes play an important role to Mark Antoine in the decision of Gabinius to go in Egypt: “Antoine, which seeks great occasions to be announced, and which wants moreover to oblige the king of Egypt, whose solicitations interested it in its favour, determines Gabinius with this company”. Beyond the ardour of the youth, Antoine is probably interested by his share of the pactole. The Greek author makes then the praise of Mark Antoine and reports these military successes recognized by the modern historians, who specify that it is also about diplomatic successes of Antoine. He is also magnanimous towards the prisoners that Ptolemy wanted to make execute.
“Gabinius made him take the front with his cavalry, after having seized the passages, makes himself master of Péluse, considerable city, of which it makes the garrison prisoner, ensures the way with the remainder of the army, and gives to the general the most firm hope of the victory. The desire which he has to acquire reputation is useful to the enemies themselves: Ptolemy, while entering Péluse, wants, blinded by hatred and anger, to massacre all the inhabitants of it; Antony opposes it, and stops the effects of his revenge. In the important battles and in the frequent fights which take place during this expedition, he gives evidence of an extraordinary courage, and of the wise foresight which is appropriate to a general. He shows it especially with brilliance, when he knows so well how to envelop and charge the enemies from behind, that he makes the victory easy to those who attack them from the front; and this success deserves to him the honors and the rewards which one awards to the value. The Egyptians are grateful to him for the humanity which he uses towards Archelaus, who was his friend and his host: necessarily obliged to fight him, he finds his body on the battlefield, and makes him a magnificent funeral. By this conduct, he leaves of him the most favorable opinion in Alexandria, and acquires, near the Romans who serve with him, the most brilliant reputation.
– Plutarch, Vies parallèles des hommes illustres, Vie d”Antoine, 3 – translation Ricard, 1840.
Pierre Renucci comments on the Egyptian campaign in which Antoine was able to distinguish himself: “It was therefore necessary to have a leader who was less a swordsman than a negotiator with nerves of steel. By succeeding in this high-risk mission, Antoine showed that he was both. In the meetings in which he participated, Antoine brought his own personal touch made of a mixture of audacity and foresight. In fact, it was a turning movement of his composition on the enemy”s rear that determined one of his victories. We will often see him concerned with sparing human lives without it being a matter of calculated magnanimity” and he concludes: “The perfect behavior of the young man in Syria and in Egypt, was it not enough to seduce”.
It is perhaps on this occasion that he meets for the first time Cleopatra, daughter of Ptolemy XII, who would have then only 14 years in 55. It is in any case what suggests the ancient historian Appian of Alexandria who writes under the Antonines: “It is said that he conceived for her, and for a long time, whereas she is only a child, a kind of desire at first sight, when he serves as chief of the cavalry under the orders of Gabinius in Alexandria”. If this attraction is real, nothing comes of it.
During this period, political confusion reigned in Rome. In 60, a secret agreement united three men: Marcus Licinius Crassus, Cnaeus Pompeius Magnus and Caius Julius Caesar. The first two were consuls together in 70 while Caesar was a bold lawyer and showed his military skills in Hispania. In 59, he was elected consul in his turn thanks to the election campaign financed by Crassus. After his consulship, Caesar obtained the proconsulship in Illyria, in Cisalpine Gaul and in Narbonnaise. He then started the conquest of the chevelue Gaul. In 55, Crassus and Pompey are again consul together, thanks this time to Caesar, who sees then his mandate extended. Rome lives henceforth under the domination of the triumvirs.
In 53, Crassus was defeated and killed by the Parthians at the battle of Carrhes. Moreover, Julia, Caesar”s daughter and Pompey”s wife, died the year before, thus breaking one of the links uniting these two great men. Caesar and Pompey quarrel then for the power and the first triumvirate ends.
Lieutenant of Julius Caesar (54-47)
Following the Egyptian adventure, one ignores what becomes Antony in the immediate future. After the end of its proconsulat, Aulus Gabinius is seen accused at the time of its return to Rome of concussion and public lèse-majesté. On Pompey”s request, it is Cicero who defends him but without managing to make him acquit of the second charge, so much the knights keep of the resentment of his action during his mandate in Syria where he denounced the shameful and usurious methods of the publicans with regard to the populations. He was then exiled and it seems obvious that those who had assisted Gabinius in Syria and Egypt would take risks to return to Rome. It is thus likely that Antony joined Caesar in Gaul as early as 54, either on the recommendation of his maternal family, of Clodius, or of Gabinius who will be recalled from exile by Caesar a few years later.
Antony probably took part in some of Caesar”s campaigns in 54 and 53, probably not in the second expedition to Brittany, but perhaps in the suppression of revolts, notably of the Eburons led by Ambiorix following the battle of Aduatuca, or of the Menapians and Trevirians still in Belgic Gaul. Being a legate at the head of a legion in 52, he probably officiated at a lower rank at least in the year 53.
One finds trace of Mark Antony in the ancient sources in Gaul, at the sides of Julius Caesar, in the year 52. It was during the siege of Alesia, when Vercingetorix attempted to leave when a Gallic relief army arrived: “the lieutenants Marcus Antonius and Gaius Trebonius, to whom the defense of the attacked districts fell, drew some troops from the more distant forts to help the legionaries on the points where they knew they were being pressed by the enemy. That Caesar quotes one of these lieutenants shows the esteem which he has for his action.
The following year, in 51, he is quaestor attached to Caesar. For that, Caesar recommended him to Cicero, who agreed to support him, and Antony probably made a stay in Rome in the winter 53-52, during which he would have been in conflict with Clodius whom he would have nearly killed according to Cicero. In the winter 52-51, Antony must again make a short stay in Rome to take part in the elections to the questure. Caesar put him at the head of his winter quarters in Gaul, leaving his camp for Bibracte at the beginning of January. For the campaign of the year 51, Caesar continued his policy of pacification by distributing his legions between his lieutenants in order to control Gaul. It is associated Marc Antoine to walk on the country of Ambiorix and to ravage the area then leaves it at Bellovaques with fifteen cohorts, in order to prevent the Belgians from forming new projects of revolt. Julius Caesar seems to appreciate the value of Mark Antony, joining him then leaving him at the head of approximately 7 500 soldiers.
During the winter 51-50, Mark Antony took his quarters in Belgian Gaul with Caius Trebonius, Publius Vatinius and four legions. He fights there in particular with his cavalry the Atrébate Commios, who leaves in exile, promising never to be in front of a Roman. He also intervened as a conciliator in a conflict between a Belgian chief and a Roman legionary.
Mark Antony had a daughter between 54 and 49, Antonia, from his wife Antonia Hybrida Minor, who was also his first cousin, daughter of Caius Antonius Hybrida. It is not known if this was Antony”s first marriage.
In Rome, the rivalry between Pompey”s supporters, led by Titus Annius Milo, and those of Julius Caesar, led by Publius Clodius Pulcher, hardened. In 52, the latter was killed in a scuffle, which led to popular riots and the burning of the Hostilia Curia. A period of anarchy began. The Senate then appealed to Pompey, who reacted with a ruthless efficiency, Milon was condemned and exiled. Once order was restored, the Senate avoided granting him the dictatorship. Under the influence of Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus and Marcus Porcius Cato, the Senate passed a law appointing Pompey sole consul in 52, which gave him extraordinary but limited powers. The people accepted this appointment and Pompey began a third consulship, against the principle of collegiality and a law of Sylla which requires a ten-year period between two consulates. However Pompey gives himself for colleague his new father-in-law Quintus Caecilius Metellus for the last five months of his mandate.
“The winter finished, Caesar, against its use, leaves for Italy with great days, in order to visit the municipal cities and the colonies, to which he wants to recommend his quaestor, Marcus Antonius, who brigs the priesthood. By supporting him of his power, not only he follows his liking for a man who is very attached to him and whom he had, a short time before, sent to seek this dignity, but also he wants to thwart a small faction which, by making fail Antonius, wishes to shake the power of Caesar, whose government expires. Although he learned on the way, and before arriving in Italy, that Antony has just been named augur, he does not believe less necessary to traverse the municipal cities and the colonies, in order to thank them for their eagerness to serve Antony, and at the same time to recommend to them his own request of the consulship for the following year ; for his enemies boast insolently of having made consuls Lucius Cornelius Lentulus and Caius Claudius Marcellus, who are to strip Caesar of all office and dignity; and of having dismissed from the consulship Servius Sulpicius Galba, although he has more credit and suffrages, only because he is bound to friendship with Caesar and has been his lieutenant. “
– Aulus Hirtius, Commentaries on the Gallic War, VIII, 47-48 – translation Nisard, 1865.
From August 50 and until the end of his life, Mark Antoine is from then on member of the college of the Augurs, “priests who predict the future by the flight of the birds”, i.e. charged to interpret the divine signs, but which have especially a considerable power of prevention, since the augurs are consulted for any event of importance. He was elected thanks to the support of Caesar, pontifex maximus, but also with the support of Cicero and the tribune Curion, who rallied to the camp of Julius Caesar when the latter honored all his debts.
In December of the same year, Antoine is elected tribune of the plebs for the year to come, taking again the role of defender of Caesar in this magistracy as Curion had been the previous year, this last one having left to join Caesar in Gaul. This one makes the intermediary between Caesar and the Senate and gives to this last one a conciliatory message on January 1, 49 BC. Two of the tribunes of the plebs, Quintus Cassius and Marc Antoine, ask for the immediate reading of it.
“Antony, hardly entered in charge, serves powerfully the political views of Caesar. He opposes initially the consul Marcellus, who assigns to Pompey the troops which are already on foot, and authorizes him to make new levies. Antoine, on the contrary, makes decree that the army which is already gathered would march in Syria, to reinforce that of Bibulus which makes the war with the Parthians, and that nobody can enroll under Pompey. Secondly, the senate having refused to receive the letters of Caesar, and to read them in the assembly, Antony, by virtue of the power given to him by the tribune, read them publicly, and made by this change of feeling with several senators, who see, in these letters, that Caesar did not ask anything but of right and reasonable. Finally, the whole affair having been reduced to this double question: “Will Pompey dismiss the legions which he commands? and very few senators having opined that Pompey should leave the command, while all the others were of the opinion that Caesar should divest himself of it, Antony having risen asks if one would not find it more convenient that Caesar and Pompey both lay down their arms, and resign together from the command.
– Plutarch, Vies parallèles des hommes illustres, Vie d”Antoine, 6 – translation Ricard, 1840.
Mark Antony became from then on an influential member of the Roman political life thanks to the support of Julius Caesar. His proposal that the two generals resign together from the command is rather well received by the senators but the consuls, as well as in particular Cato, oppose it with virulence. Always by the intermediary of Curion and Antoine, Caesar tries a new proposal: he agrees to preserve only two legions and the government of Cisalpine Gaul and Illyria, provided that one accepts his candidature with the consulate. In spite of the search for a compromise by Cicero, Cato refuses that a simple citizen imposes his conditions to the State, the new consul Lentulus gets carried away and makes expel from the Senate Curion, Cassius and Antoine by the force. The latter left Rome and joined Caesar in Ravenna.
Caesar can then present himself as the victim of the relentlessness of the conservatives and as the defender of the tribunes of the plebs. The Senate declared the country in danger and Caesar a “public enemy” by a senatus consultum ultimum.
On January 10, 49 BC, at the head of the legio XIII Gemina, Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon, the border between Cisalpine Gaul and Italy. This marks the beginning of the civil war between Caesar and Pompey.
Mark Antony received the command of five cohorts which followed the via Æmilia and the via Cassia through Arretium in Etruria towards Rome. Julius Caesar managed to rally newly raised legions against him and all of Italy, including Rome, fell into his hands in less than three months, without much resistance. The throes of civil war were avoided, Caesar being magnanimous. Most of Caesar”s political opponents, including Pompey, the consuls and many senators, left Italy for Greece.
Caesar did not succeed in being appointed dictator, but order was restored and the State reorganized: the praetor Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, known as “Lepidus”, took charge of the provisional administration of the City while Mark Antony found himself at the head of all the Caesarian troops installed in Italy as proprector.
“Antony makes himself loved by the soldiers, by exercising and eating most often with them, by giving them all the largesse that his fortune allows; but he makes himself unbearable to all his other fellow citizens, because his laziness makes him see with indifference the injustices that they experience, that he even gets angry at those who come to complain about them, and that he does not respect women of free condition.”
– Plutarch, Vies parallèles des hommes illustres, Vie d”Antoine, 8 – translation Ricard, 1840.
If Antony proves to be a reliable lieutenant for the guard of Italy, he resumes his antics, showing off with actresses and henchmen, acting casually while he is now a prominent public figure. He tarnished his image and that of his party, even if Caesar did not seem to hold it against him.
Caesar resumed military operations and control of Hispania and Marseilles, which had previously rallied to Pompey, in only three months, always showing clemency. Curion then took back Sicily before being killed in Africa. At the end of 49, Caesar, already at the head of Gaul, conquered Italy, Hispania, Sicily and Sardinia in less than a year.
Caesar turns then towards Greece where Pompey is in position of force. Caius Antonius, brother of Mark Antony, is entrusted with Publius Cornelius Dolabella the defense of Illyria against the Pompeians. But the fleet of Cornelius Dolabella is destroyed and Caius Antonius must lock himself up in the island of Curicta. He is forced to go to Pompey, his men being integrated into the Pompeian legions. Caesar did not have any more the control of the Adriatic and did not manage to transport enough troops in Epirus, Calpurnius Bibulus destroying his transport fleet.
“Antoine is then in Brindes. Counting on the value of the soldiers, it makes furnish with clauses and parapets approximately sixty longboats of large vessels, embarks there men of elite, and places them in various places along the coast; then it sends to the entry of the port two triremes built with Brindes, like to exert the oarsmen. Lucius Scribonius Libo did not see them advance so boldly that, in the hope of taking them, he detaches against them five galleys with four rows of oars. With their approach our veterans withdraw towards the port; the others, drawn by their ardour, have the imprudence to follow them. Suddenly, with a given signal, the boats of Antoine dash on all sides; from the first shock they take one of their galleys with all the oarsmen and all the soldiers which go up it, and oblige the others to flee shamefully. For more disgrace, the posts of cavalry which Antoine arranged along the coast prevent them from making water. Libo, desperate and confused, leaves Brindes and leaves the port free.”
– Julius Caesar, Commentaries on the Civil War, III, 24 – Nisard translation, 1865.
Caesar won some successes on the Dalmatian coasts but was beaten by his former lieutenant Titus Labienus at Dyrrachium. He tried to cross back into Italy, in vain. In mid-April 48, Mark Antony managed to liberate the port of Brundus and then to cross the Adriatic despite the storm with four legions and 800 horsemen. He failed north of Dyrrachium, not far from Caesar, but with Pompey between them two. He succeeds in spite of everything to circumvent Pompey and to join Caesar to reinforce him. The Pompeian forces remain however three times superior in number and Pompey has the control of the sea, and thus of the provisioning.
Caesar”s forces, besieging Pompey in Dyrrachium, soon suffered from hunger and skirmishes multiplied around Pompey”s camp. In the summer of 48, during a night attempt against Dyrrachium, Caesar was surprised by a vigorous counter-attack. The units of Caesar broke the combat in disorder and with heavy losses. Pompey did not exploit his success at Dyrrachium and let the Caesarians return to their camp. Short of food, Caesar manages to make retreat towards Thessaly and Pompey launches out in pursuit.
“In the various fights, Antoine distinguishes himself more than any other officer. On two occasions when Caesar”s troops were in full rout, he rallied them alone, brought them back against the enemies who were pursuing them; and having forced them to fight, he won a double victory. Also, after Caesar, he has the greatest reputation in the camp.”
– Plutarch, Vies parallèles des hommes illustres, Vie d”Antoine, 10 – translation Ricard, 1840.
In the plain of Pharsale, Caesar sets up the camp and awaits his adversary. Pompey has twice as much infantry and especially three to eight times more cavalry. At the time of the battle of Pharsalus on August 9, 48, Caesar commands the right wing vis-a-vis Pompey while Mark Antony is at the head of the left wing. This shows that Mark Antony is the “best officer of Caesar”.
“Caesar himself made known the high opinion he had of Antony, when at the battle of Pharsalus, which was to decide everything for him, reserving for himself the command of the right wing, he put him at the head of the left wing, as the best officer he had under his command.”
– Plutarch, Vies parallèles des hommes illustres, Vie d”Antoine, 10 – translation Ricard, 1840.
The rout is total for the Pompeian forces. Except for some intransigent senators who joined Africa, many rallied to Caesar, and many soldiers and allies of Pompey joined then the forces of Caesar. Pompey fled as for him in Egypt, but Ptolemy XIII, brother and husband of Cleopatra, and the regent Pothin, by fear of reprisals, made him assassinate as of his arrival.
Master of cavalry then consul (47-44)
Julius Caesar then led a campaign in Egypt where he dethroned the young sovereign in favour of Cleopatra VII and the youngest of his brothers, then in Asia, between the summer of 48 and the following one. Cleopatra became the mistress of Caesar and perhaps gave him a son, Caesarion. Egypt is henceforth under Roman protectorate.
As for Mark Antony, he returned to Rome with part of the Caesarian army, as master of cavalry of Caesar, then dictator. Antony is thus the first magistrate in Rome in Caesar”s absence, and he is in charge of Italy and Rome, where he must keep order. However, Antony proved to be a poor administrator and quickly became unpopular in Rome. He himself caused some unrest in the city over the issue of debt forgiveness. Caesar took steps to alleviate or consolidate the debts, but never considered cancelling them. When Cornelius Dolabella sought to have the debts forgiven, Antony followed Caesar”s example, or rather his instructions, in opposing them. Antony finds himself in a delicate situation. he cannot of himself to take firm measures without risking to cause a rupture within the Caesarian party, only Caesar has the necessary authority near the greatest number.
“Antony, uniting with Asinius, makes an open war with Cornelius Dolabella, who, resolved to make pass the law by force, seized the public place. Antoine, according to the decree of the Senate which orders that one takes the weapons against him, goes to attack it on the place; he kills many people to him, and loses himself some of his own. This action makes him odious to the multitude; and the remainder of his conduct makes him despised and hated by wise and honest people, who hate his debaucheries of table at undue hours, his excessive expenditure, his dissolutions in the most infamous places, his sleep in full day, his walks in a state of drunkenness, his meals continued well before the night, his comedies and his feasts to celebrate the nuptials of jokers and buffoons.”
– Plutarch, Vies parallèles des hommes illustres, Vie d”Antoine, 10-11 – translation Ricard, 1840.
Antony was again noticed by his antics, all the more unwelcome as the political situation was tense. In addition, it grows rich by seizing a great part of the goods of Pompey, taking advantage of its position to acquire them without disbursing the least sesterce, acting as at the time of a proscription little compatible with the policy of Caesar, and moreover, in full economic crisis. The return of Caesar becomes essential.
“Antoine took the least bad position. On closer inspection, Antony made the best use of his limited room for maneuver. In short, faced with a civil insurrection in Rome and the threat of a military rebellion in Italy, Antony was able to limit the damage until Caesar returned. It was difficult even impossible for him to make more. Its personal conduct seems less worthy of praise Antony multiplied the antics The rowdy behavior of Antony was all the more faulty that the situation of Caesar remained badly assured. It was not the moment to irritate because of foolishness. It was time for Caesar to come back.
– Pierre Renucci, Marc Antoine, 2015, pp. 112-113, 115 and 118.
“During his absence, entrusted the guard of Italy and Rome to Mark Antony, who became his master of cavalry during the exercise of his magistracy. It is a bad choice. Mark Antony did nothing to alleviate the social tensions born from the economic difficulties of the war and even stirred up discontent, in a context where worries and hopes are mixed, because one remains all winter When one of his rivals, resulting like him from the gilded youth of Rome, Cornelius Dolabella, agitates the plebs with the question of the handing-over of the debts, presenting himself by there like the heir of Clodius, Antony does not know how to react; initially, it does nothing, then employs the force, which contributes to extend the movement of discontent of as much as, in addition, it does not manage to calm the impatience of the veterans installed in Campania and which claim rewards. It is thus urgent that Caesar returns. “
– Jean-Michel Roddaz, ” Les chemins vers la dictature ” in François Hinard (dir.), Histoire romaine des origines à Auguste, Fayard, 2000, pp. 796 and 798.
On his return, Caesar dealt with the most urgent matters. Mark Antony sees his confidence withdrawn, more because of his numerous antics than for his management of Rome and Italy. He is obliged by Caesar to pay his debts. Indeed, Caesar sees to it that the goods confiscated from his adversaries are sold at their just price and especially that they are effectively paid, even by his close relations like Antoine. It is Lepidus who becomes thereafter the master of cavalry as well as co-consul of Caesar in 46, taking henceforth in load Italy and Rome, in place and place of Antoine.
“Also, when Caesar returned to Italy, he pardoned Dolabella; and having been appointed consul for the third time, he took Lepidus, not Antony, as his colleague.”
– Plutarch, Vies parallèles des hommes illustres, Vie d”Antoine, 12 – translation Ricard, 1840.
Caesar had to go back on campaign in Africa against the Pompeians, whom he defeated in 46. Mark Antony, however the best officer of Caesar, does not accompany him either in this campaign.
Antony, become again simple private individual during this disgrace, put an end to his antics and divorced also Antonia Hybrida Minor who would have had an affair with Cornelius Dolabella and he thus married the widow of Clodius and Curion, Fulvie, who belongs to a great consular family, and is a woman of power. He has a first son soon after, Marcus Antonius Minor, then a second one a few years later, Iullus Antonius.
It is possible that Antony was then a praetor, magistracy that he could have occupied between 48 and 45, the year 47 being the most logical year for a classic cursus honorum with the questorship in 52, the tribune of the plebs in 49 and finally the consulate in 44.
Julius Caesar returned briefly to Rome after his victory in Africa, brought Cleopatra to Rome and was appointed Roman dictator for ten years. He had the city embellished, put on shows and took measures favorable to the Roman knights. He left to crush a last Pompeian uprising in Hispania. He returned to Rome at the end of August 45. He celebrated four triumphs during his first return and celebrated a fifth one after Hispania and the end of the civil war.
Caesar then holds all the powers and conspiracies are plotted against him, some having even approached Mark Antony during the summer if one believes Plutarch who probably bases himself on Cicero, but it seems improbable.
“When Caesar returns from Spain, he gives on this occasion, to Antony, the greatest proof of consideration: he crosses Italy, having him at his sides in his chariot Caesar, named consul for the fifth time, gives Antony for colleague. Soon wanting to resign from the consulate and to resign it to Dolabella, he makes the opening of it to the Senate; but Antoine opposes it with so much bitterness, he says so many insults to Dolabella and receives some so much from him, that Caesar, ashamed of a so scandalous scene, gives up for the moment with this project. He does not delay however to return to it, and to want to declare Dolabella consul; but Antoine having recriminated that the omens are contrary to it, Caesar ends up giving in, and abandons Dolabella, who is very piqued.”
– Plutarch, Vies parallèles des hommes illustres, Vie d”Antoine, 13 – translation Ricard, 1840.
Julius Caesar thus chose Mark Antony to be his co-consul for the year 44, whereas Antony was only 38 years old, which signed his return in grace. On February 14, the Senate confers to Caesar the perpetual dictatorship. His power is henceforth without limit. The following day, a famous episode saw Caesar refusing twice the symbol of royalty that Antony offered him. Caesar prepared a campaign in the East against the Parthians and had to leave Rome on March 18.
Three days before, at the Ides of March, Julius Caesar was assassinated in Pompey”s Curia by a score of conspiratorial senators claiming to be “Republicans”, including Caius Cassius Longinus, Marcus Junius Brutus, Decimus Junius Brutus, Caius Trebonius and Servius Sulpicius Galba. Mark Antony is held outside the Curia during the murder. After having discovered the assassination, taking fear, he flees by throwing his toga of consul not to be recognized. However, the conspirators did not plan to kill him at Brutus” request.
From master of Rome to “public enemy” (March 44 – Nov. 43)
The conspirators panicked and fled. They intended to throw Caesar”s body into the Tiber, but for fear of Mark Antony”s reaction, they refrained from doing so. They had no plan for the continuation, thinking that to assassinate the “tyrant” would be enough to restore the Republic. The murderers went first to the Forum Romanum but they did not receive any support for their act, and then took refuge on the Capitol.
On the Caesarian side, Mark Antony barricaded himself in his residence while Cornelius Dolabella, who was to be appointed suffect consul, appeared in the Forum wearing the consular insignia and pretended to approve the murder. Lepidus, master of cavalry of the deceased, reacts also promptly, making occupy the Field of Mars then the Forum by his troops, and wishes to avenge quickly the murder. Mark Antony, getting quickly together, puts the hand on the papers of Caesar as well as on his money.
It is Mark Antony, only remaining consul, who thus holds the most important function and incarnates henceforth the legality of the Roman Republic.
The conspirators, having neither troops, nor money, nor popular support, are constrained to treat, against the opinion of Cicero, who was however not part of the conspiracy, and who implores them to attack Mark Antony before it is too late. However, a majority of the conspirators and Caesarians are favorable to a bringing together.
Thus, on the 16, Mark Antony convenes the Senate for the following day. In a tense atmosphere, with soldiers in town, a compromise is quickly found: the assassins of Caesar are amnestied, on proposal of Antony, and in return the achievements and decisions of Caesar are validated. We even see Cassius dining at Mark Antony”s and Brutus at Lepidus”.
“The next day, Antony having assembled the Senate, proposed a general amnesty, and asked that provinces be assigned to Brutus and Cassius. The Senate gave force of law to these proposals, and also decreed that all the acts of the dictatorship of Caesar were maintained. Antony leaves the Senate covered with glory: one does not doubt that he did not prevent the civil war, and handled with the prudence of a consummate politician difficult affairs, and which can involve the greatest disorders.”
– Plutarch, Vies parallèles des hommes illustres, Vie d”Antoine, 14 – translation Ricard, 1840.
This compromise is indeed a great success for Marc Antoine who succeeds in appeasing the veterans, in conciliating the majority of the Senate and appears in the eyes of the conspirators as their privileged and protective interlocutor.
Shortly afterwards, Brutus, against the advice of Cassius and Cicero, agreed that Caesar should be given a public funeral and that his will should be read and validated. At the time of the funeral of the dictator, on March 20, Antony presides as consul and, although the people are favorable to the reconciliation, the public reading of the will and perhaps the maneuvers even the speech of Marc Antony ignite the population. The ancient authors differ however on the exact role of Antony and Dion Cassius accusing him of inflaming the people whereas Suetonius specifies that he does not stir up the anger of the crowd. Some historians consider as true the fact that Antony celebrates the memory of Caesar, announces to the people favorable posthumous measures and especially provokes the riot against his assassins.
Several buildings of the Forum Romanum as well as some residences of the conspirators are burned. Panicked, the conspirators fled the next day from Rome and then from Italy. In addition, Cleopatra VII returns in Egypt, giving birth on the way to a son, known under the name of Caesarion.
On March 19, in the house of Antony, the will of Caesar is opened and read: Caius Octavius, grand-nephew of the dictator, is the principal heir and is especially adopted. The young man of 19 years is then in Illyria and thus becomes member of the gens Iulia under the name of Caius Iulius Caesar (Octavianus) or “Octavian Caesar”. Antony, like Decimus Brutus, is part of the second rank heirs.
Antony was entrusted with the sorting of the papers of Caesar and appropriated part of his fortune, which he refused to return to Octavian. He recognizes in addition Cornelius Dolabella as consul suffect. Antony makes confirm by the people the acts of Caesar and makes abolish the dictatorship. He also makes ratify a great number of bills which he declares to have found in the papers of Caesar. That ensures him a beautiful popularity. Among others, with Dolabella, he made benefit to the poor citizens of the distributions of lands, he made foresee a third category of judges to the courts which must be recruited among the centurions and allows the condemned ones for use of force, lèse-majesté, falsifications and false testimonies to appeal to the people. Under the name of Caesar, he had exiles recalled and granted Roman citizenship to Sicilians. Lepidus, with his support, became pontifex maximus, succeeding Caesar. Antony”s daughter was then engaged to Lepidus the Younger. However, for an unknown reason, the engagement was later broken off.
Antony places himself thus like the true continuator of the policy of Caesar, recovers a great part of his partisans and gains some new ones.
He constitutes an armed guard for his safety which soon reaches six thousand men. As for Brutus and Cassius, Antony, under pretext of not being able to ensure their safety in Rome, makes exempt them from their praetorian charges. He allots to them then the load of the provisioning of corn since Sicily and Asia. It is about there secondary missions unworthy of their ranks and which maintains them far from Rome, but the report of force is against them. They refuse then the governorship of secondary provinces and go to Athens.
The Senate allots to the two consuls, Antoine and Dolabella, respectively the provinces of Macedonia and Syria for year 43. Antony makes modify the distribution, being allotted the Cisalpine Gaul, where is the conspired Decimus Brutus, and the chevelue Gaul, with a part of the Macedonian legions which were to make campaign against the Parthians.
Thanks to the funds which he has, Antony proceeds to the installation of a part of the veterans of Caesar in Campania, in accordance with the provisions of this one. He leaves Rome under the control of his two brothers, Caius and Lucius. The first becomes urban prefect de facto while the second is tribune of the plebs.
Octavian arrives in Rome in May while Antony is in Campania. The two brothers of Antony cannot refuse him the right to claim the inheritance of his adoptive father. Antony and Octavian met shortly afterwards, the former receiving the latter with morgue and refusing to return Caesar”s fortune to him. Despite Antony”s opposition, Octavian was elected tribune of the plebs. He went into debt in order to be able to make the legacies promised in Caesar”s will to the people and the veterans, as well as to constitute himself a private guard. The enmity between the two men can then only increase.
Moreover, in the Senate, and in particular for Cicero, Antony seems much more dangerous than Octavian, and the latter is ready to postpone the revenge of the murder of his adoptive father to reinforce his position. Antony finds himself in a difficult and paradoxical political position, forced to hold to the compromise found at the end of March. Either he breaks with the murderers but alienates the Senate, or he maintains the compromise but gives the impression of betraying the memory of Caesar and risks losing his supporters to Octavian. Thus, the adopted son of Caesar allies himself with the Senate and certain conspirators against Caesar”s successor at the head of the State, a situation which is just as paradoxical.
“Octavian and Antony counter each other in all things, without however having yet broken openly; although really in a state of war, they save at least the appearances. Also, in Rome, all is full of disorder and confusion. They are still in peace, and already they make the war; one sees well a phantom of freedom, but the acts are those of despotism. In appearance Antony, in his capacity as consul, has the advantage, but the general affection leaned towards Octavian as much because of his father as by hope in his promises, moreover the people are tired of the great power of Antony and favor Octavian, who is still without force.”
– Dion Cassius, Roman History, book XLV, 11 – Gros translation, 1855.
Cicero began in September 44 a series of speeches against Antony, the Philippics. Octavian also played a role in the rupture between the Senate and Antony, continuing to recruit among the veterans of Caesar. Antony then left Rome in October to gain Brindes and some of the Macedonian legions. But Octavian made propaganda near the soldiers and Antony is very badly received. In November, whereas Octavian made sure the support of a great part of the veterans, he sees two of the Macedonian legions joining him in Etruria.
Antony tried to take the situation in hand at the end of November and rushed things in the Senate. He then marched on Cisalpine Gaul where the conspirator Decimus Brutus was. The latter pretended to give up his province to Antony, but he locked himself up in Modena in mid-December to resist. The Senate, led by an inflamed Cicero who supports Octavian, takes advantage of the situation to cancel the provincial decisions of Mark Antony.
The “war of Modena” is implicitly declared at the end of December, with on the one hand the Senate, but also the moderate Caesarian consuls of year 43 Vibius Pansa and Aulus Hirtius, Octavian and his legions and Decimus Brutus, vis-a-vis the only forces of Mark Antony, which besiege Modena then.
However, at the beginning of January 43, Cicero did not manage to make declare Antoine “public enemy” nor to make vote a senatus consultum ultimum establishing the state of emergency. Allies of Antoine obtain on the contrary that a delegation is sent to him. Antony must give up the Cisalpine Gaul and submit. He is ready to accept but claims the Transalpine and its legions for five years, the validity of his decisions of the year 44 and rewards for his soldiers similar to those received by those of Octavian shortly before. Cicero obtains this time the senatus consultum ultimum and the refusal of the complaints of Antony, but this one is not yet declared “public enemy”.
“Cicero, who then had the greatest authority in Rome, and who raised everyone against Antony, finally managed to persuade the Senate to send Octavian the bundles with the other ornaments of the praetorship, and to give troops to Hirtius and Pansa, to drive Antony out of Italy: they were the two consuls of that year. They attack Antony near the city of Modena, and beat him completely; but they both perish in the action.”
– Plutarch, Vies parallèles des hommes illustres, Vie d”Antoine, 18 – translation Ricard, 1840.
In Modena, Antony was in difficulty, not being able to seize the city held by Decimus Brutus and beginning to suffer from the lack of provisions. The consuls as well as Octavian then marched against Antony. This one, in numerical inferiority, engages the combat against Pansa and Octavian, which it manages to push back, but must in its turn make retreat with the arrival of the legions of Hirtius at the time of the battle of Forum Gallorum. Octavian was proclaimed imperator for the defense of the camp, whereas Pansa was mortally wounded. One week later, on April 21, in front of Modena, Antony undergoes a new defeat, with two against one. He withdrew towards the west with his cavalry and the remainders of his infantry. The losses are heavy on both sides, Aulus Hirtius died in combat while Vibius Pansa succumbed to his wounds, leaving Octavian alone victorious.
At the end of April, Antony and his partisans were declared “public enemies”. Octavian was refused the ovation proposed by Cicero, but Decimus Brutus was granted the triumph and entrusted with the mission of pursuing Antony and ending the civil war. Sextus Pompey receives the command of the fleet while Brutus and Cassius are granted respectively the important provinces of Macedonia and Syria. The Pompeian and republican cause saw there a revival. In the East, on the way to Syria, Cornelius Dolabella succeeded in defeating, capturing and executing Caius Trebonius, one of the conspirators then in Asia. But he is then beaten by Cassius Longinus who had seized the Syrian province. Dolabella committed suicide and the East was in the hands of the “Republicans”.
However, the troops of the two dead consuls refused to obey Decimus Brutus, remaining under the control of Octavian. In Liguria, Mark Antony re-established in part the situation with reinforcements led by Ventidius Bassus who joined him. Antony can pass in Narbonnaise, province of which Lepidus is the governor in addition to the Hispania quotedrieure. Lepidus tried at the beginning of the year 43 a conciliation between the Senate and Antoine. Although Caesarian convinced which had wished the death of the conspirators, it also has friendly relations with the Senate and cohabited with Sextus Pompey in Hispania, without seeking the combat, careful. However, he, or rather his officers and his troops, joined the camp of Mark Antony, who possessed from then on the greatest army of the West.
Octavian began secret negotiations with Antony in mid-May. Decimus Brutus marches on Lyon, without the legions of Octavian, to join Munatius Plancus, hostile to Antony. However, this last one, remained neutral until then, is reconciled with Antoine. Decimus Brutus is then forced to flee but is killed in the massif of Jura in the autumn by a Celtic chief, perhaps on order of Antoine, who also sees Caius Asinius Pollio joining him. Octavian was entrusted by the Senate with the war against Antony and Lepidus but was not granted the consulship he coveted. He marched on Rome rather than against the “public enemies”. The Senate relented and Octavian became consul when he was not yet twenty years old.
The Senate, including Cicero, paid for its political errors and for having underestimated Octavian. He rewarded his soldiers with public money and the agreement of a submissive Senate, and devoted himself to avenge his adoptive father. All the conspirators were condemned, as well as Sextus Pompey, by a law, the lex Pedia. Then, at the instigation of Lepidus, Octavian went to Cisalpine Gaul to meet Mark Antony.
The second triumvirate against the “Republicans” (Nov. 43 – Oct. 42)
At the beginning of November 43, Octavian, Lepidus and Antony met not far from Bologna and Modena. Suspicion reigns between the three men and it is not less than forty-three legions which are gathered around them. At the end of two days of discussions, they agree and decide to found a new magistracy for themselves provided with extraordinary powers for five years: the Triumviri Rei Publicae Constituendae or “triumvirs for the restoration of the Republic”.
Moreover, they conferred the proconsular imperium in the provinces which they shared: Antony keeps the chevelue Gaul and perhaps the Cisalpine Gaul, which normally is a part of Italy since 49, Lepidus the Narbonnaise and the Hispanic provinces and Octavian receives Africa, stake of fights between Caesarians and Republicans, and the islands of Sicily and Sardinia, controlled or threatened by Sextus Pompey. Italy remained undivided while the East was in the hands of the Republicans.
On November 27, 43, this second triumvirate is instituted by a law, the lex Titia. To complete their alliance, Octavian married the beautiful daughter of Antony: Clodia Pulchra.
The first objective of the triumvirs remains to avenge Caesar and to make war against his murderers. Before leaving in campaign, the triumvirs decide to act against the enemies of the interior and resort to a fatal procedure employed in the past: the proscription. A third of the Senate and two thousand knights appear on the first lists of proscribed. One keeps the image of Antoine directing the proscriptions and rejoicing exaggeratedly in the executions. The ancient sources are however biased by the augustan propaganda which seeks to exonerate Octavian of the most heinous crimes to rather accuse Lepidus and especially Antony.
Among the most famous outcasts condemned by Antony, Cicero was executed on December 7, abandoned by Octavian to the vindictiveness of Antony. This one also makes register on the lists of the proscribed his son Marcus Tullius Cicero, who survives, but also his brother Quintus Tullius Cicero and his nephew, both assassinated. The triumvir had his uncle Lucius Iulius Caesar proscribed. The latter was indeed opposed to the organization of public funerals of Caesar and to the policy of Antony by obtaining the repeal of his agrarian law of June 44. He did not hesitate to support the declaration as hostis of his nephew and of Lépide. He escaped death thanks to the intervention of Julia, mother of Antoine. Marcus Favonius, emulator of Cato the Younger and who took part in meetings of the “Liberators” at the sides of the conspirators and of Cicero, is also proscribed. He was imprisoned and executed after Philippi. Appian of Alexandria gives other names of proscribed persons in whose assassination Antony was involved: for example the tribune of the plebs Salvius and a former praetor Turanius. Antony also made proscribe Caius Licinius Verres, pursued by Cicero for his embezzlements in Sicily between 73 and 71 and living then in opulence in Massalia after his exile, putting the hand on his very important collection of works of art.
Brutus had Caius Antonius executed, in retaliation for the death of Cicero. Antony”s brother was governor of Macedonia last year, welcomed the conspirators and then, once the new year arrived, tried to compete for the province awarded to Brutus.
The proscription of the beginning of the second triumvirate is a considered political act making finally rather few victims and ending in January 42 BC at the end of two months. The Roman society leaves nevertheless traumatized of this episode, however less bloody and murderous than what it knew under Sylla. Many proscribed people joined Sextus Pompey in Sicily or the “Republicans” in the East.
In the summer of 42, Octavian and Antony embarked for Greece leaving Rome under the administration of Lepidus and Plancus and Sicily in the hands of Sextus Pompey, their enemy. For lack of having known to act with celerity, Cassius Longinus and Junius Brutus cannot prevent the triumvirs from seizing Macedonia. The two armies meet in Philippi, not far from the via Egnatia. Antoine led the army until there, joined then by Octavian, touched by the fever. One hundred thousand men face each other, the triumvirs having a light numerical superiority in the infantry but the republican cavalry is more numerous.
The Republicans have the advantage of the ground what forces the triumvirs to take the initiative of the combat. The first battle of Philippi takes place on October 3, 42. Antony broke Cassius”s device but Brutus prevailed over Octavian, who escaped from it, sick that day. It is the audacity and the imagination of Antoine which enable him to turn over an unfavourable situation and to prevail on Cassius. The latter commits suicide believing the battle lost, but the triumvirs remain in a difficult situation. The same day, the triumvirs lost a sea convoy with two legions in reinforcement during a one-way naval battle. After a war of attrition, Brutus is forced by his soldiers to lead the fight and the second battle takes place on October 23, and after a long balanced fight, Antony transforms the retreat of the republican army into a rout, Brutus committing suicide soon after. Antony showed himself generous towards the defeated, contrary to Octavian, who was ruthless. Fifty thousand Roman citizens died during these confrontations.
“The victory of the triumvirs, and in particular of Antoine, is total and the Roman Republic died on the battlefield of Philippi.
– Jean-Michel Roddaz, “L”héritage” in François Hinard (dir.), Histoire romaine des origines à Auguste, Fayard, 2000, p. 851 and 852-853.
” The battle of Philippi consecrated the military talents of Antoine; the glory returns to him and remains to him during ten years, as well as the prestige near the veterans who will refuse a long time to fight him “.
– Ronald Syme, The Roman Revolution, 1939, quoted in Monique Jallet-Huant, Marc Antoine, 2009, p. 153.
The three heirs of Caesar proceeded to the divinization of Caesar, erecting the temple of the Divine Caesar on the site of his pyre on the Forum Romanum. This popular measure confirms the three men, and in particular Octavian, become divi fiulius. A fourth major flaminate was created in order to take care of the cult of the divine Caesar, the first flaminate appointed was Mark Antony.
Master of the Roman East (42-32)
Following the victory of Philippi, the dominant position of Antony is reflected in the division of the Roman lands which follows: it takes in charge the reorganization of the East but also preserves its provinces of chevelue Gaul and Cisalpine, while adding Narbonnaise to it at the expense of Lepidus. The latter also loses Hispania to the profit of Octavian, and is only entrusted with Africa, seeing himself reduced to a secondary role. Italy remains undivided, but it is to Octavian that falls the heavy and unpopular task to demobilize and install the veterans on the Italian grounds.
Antony probably did not make a bad choice by taking charge of the East and the Gauls, which however moves him away from Rome. One of his lieutenants, the son of Quintus Fufius Calenus, held the Gauls for him, and several of his supporters preserved his interests in Rome such as Publius Ventidius Bassus, consul suffect in 43, Lucius Munatius Plancus, consul in 42, Lucius Antonius, the following year and Caius Asinius Pollio in 40. Many veterans settled in Italy and certain regions and cities, like Picenum and cities of the Po, are acquired to him.
The situation in the East is not flourishing because of the needs of the Republicans who pressed these areas. Moreover, the Parthian threat is always real, more especially as the Parthians supported the defeated even if they could not join Philippi in time. Antony can take again the project of Caesar to attack the Parthian Empire, to avenge Crassus and to acquire glory.
In 42, the Roman East is mainly composed of various client kingdoms and few Roman provinces. These are Macedonia, Asia, Pontus-Bithynia, Cilicia, Cyprus, Syria and Cyrenaica. On the other hand, there are a multitude of client states of Rome. In Europe, there is the tribal kingdom of Odryses of Thrace. In Anatolia, two large vassal kingdoms, Galatia and Cappadocia, and several small ones such as Paphlagonia, allies like Rhodes, Cyzic or the federal state of Lycia. In addition, there are various tyrants, including Tarsus, Amisos and Cos. In the Middle East, there is the Hellenistic kingdom of Commagene and those of Judea and Nabatene as well as some Arab principalities. Finally, in the south, there is Ptolemaic Egypt under Roman protectorate since Julius Caesar.
Antoine spends the winter 42-41 in Athens. “Philhellene, friend of the Athenians, the triumvir shows himself there under his best day. He was generous towards the Hellenic cities and was initiated into the mysteries of Eleusis.
He then went to Asia to find money, then to Bithynia and Pontus. Back in Asia Minor, he was welcomed as a god in Ephesus, a “new Dionysus”. He behaved more like a Hellenistic sovereign than a Roman imperator and demanded an exceptional financial contribution. He exempted the communities which remained faithful to the Caesarians during the civil war and compensated those which had suffered from the Republicans, such as the Rhodians and Lycians allies or the cities of Laodicea in Syria and Tarsus in Cilicia. He forgave the Roman nobles who had supported the Republican cause, except for Caesar”s assassins.
In addition, it regulates the fate of the vassal states of Rome. Ariarathe X is confirmed as king of Cappadocia after the execution of his brother Ariobarzane III on order of Cassius on the eve of Philippes. In Judea, the departure of Cassius from Syria caused disorders. Several Jewish delegations come to complain near Antoine of the sons of Antipater, Phasaël and Herod. The latter took the initiative and went to meet Antoine, gave him a large sum of money to avoid having to justify himself and the two brothers Phasaël and Herod were confirmed in their functions.
He asks the principal Eastern vassal of Rome, the queen of Ptolemaic Egypt Cleopatra VII, to return to him accounts. The triumvirs never saw the fleet of help which this one sent to them to Philippes, since it turns out that it was destroyed by a violent storm. This one, convened in Tarsus following the example of the other vassals, comes to the meeting of Antony and manages to be justified, after having invited the triumvir on board his splendid ship for a sumptuous banquet. The ancient authors place here the beginning of the famous romance between Antony and Cleopatra often described as a total submission of Antony to Cleopatra, making of the queen an evil adversary of Rome and the bad genius of Mark Antony, but the modern historians reject these considerations, underlining that all the ancient sources are from then on influenced a posteriori by the Augustan propaganda. Antony must spare Cleopatra because it is the most powerful vassal in the East and also an essential point of support to face the Parthians. The convocation of Antoine and the arrival of Cleopatra in Tarsus is the theater of “many very not romantic negotiations”.
According to some historians, before the winter of 44, Antony installed Arsinoe, Cleopatra”s sister, on the throne of Cyprus, perhaps seeking to counterbalance the queen of Egypt. However, this last one takes again the island the following year, but this assumption is not unanimous, Arsinoe having perhaps not left its exile in Ephesus where it was relegated by Caesar since 46. In 42, the triumvirs, in recognition of the assistance brought by Cleopatra in 44 to Cornelius Dolabella, grant to the son that she had of Caesar, Caesarion, the title of king. She had then sent back to him four legions cantoned in Egypt of which she was not unhappy to see them leaving Alexandria for Syria. In 41, Antoine makes carry out Arsinoé, already pretender with the throne of Egypt in 48-47 and which could benefit in the future, as in the past, from the versatility of Alexandrians. The triumvir shows himself firm also towards Cleopatra to whom he withdraws the control of Cyprus.
Antony, in his first months in the East, thus collected money, reorganized his troops, ensured the alliance of kings and princes. He also built himself a figure of Hellenistic prince, which gains him the affection of the cities and the people, but which will also play the game of the hostile propaganda of Octavian.
Antoine accompanied Cleopatra and spent the winter of 41-40 in Alexandria. He had an affair with the queen and two twins were born in 40, Alexander and Selene. According to some ancient authors, taken up by some modern historians, Antony leads a carefree life of lust in Alexandria. Antony learns that the Parthians have gone on the offensive and leaves Egypt for Syria to confront them, but after a short stay in Tyre, one of the last cities of the region still faithful, he embarks for Greece and then Italy where his supporters and those of Octavian clash.
At the end of 42, Octavian finds himself at the head of Italy with the mission of assigning land to veterans of the civil wars. This mission is very delicate and he quickly finds himself with a part of the nobility against him. Fulvia, the wife of Mark Antony, strongly desires that her husband governs Rome alone instead of sharing the power with Lepidus and Octavian. Helped by Antony”s brother, Lucius Antonius, then consul and who seems more sincere in his intentions, she encourages the anger of the senators and of all Italians indisposed by the distributions of lands made to the veterans. Octavian must then give up with the consul Lucius Antonius the load of the distribution of grounds. But the two men do not get along and threaten each other. In spite of several mediations, in particular wanted by their own soldiers, who wish that the distributions are carried out, the conflict bursts between the two men.
The other generals of Antony hesitate and leave the field free to those of Octavian. Antony, embarrassed and occupied in the East, does not give any instruction. Moreover, it undoubtedly does not want to discourage those which defend its interests and remains in a wait-and-see position. This conflict ends in February 40 by the catch of Perugia and the surrender of Lucius Antonius. The lives of Fulvie and Lucius are spared, but the latter is sent to govern a Spanish province and Fulvie is obliged to divorce Antonius. She dies soon after.
Octavian returned to Rome glorious following his victory then left for Gaul to seize the Antonian legions. He must soon face the arrival of Antony in Italy in August 40. For a few weeks, Sextus Pompey had been ravaging the Italian coasts, jeopardizing the situation of Octavian. Agrippa, in charge of Rome and Italy, pushes Pompey back, takes back some cities which rose for Antony and is part of the intermediaries who will achieve peace between Antony and Octavian. Quintus Salvidienus Rufus who was on the point of betraying Octavian for Antony, is arrested and condemned after Antony revealed it naively to his colleague. The triumvirs agree again on their respective competences following the pact of Brindes and Antony marries Octavia, the sister of Octavian. A first girl is born from this union in 39: Antonia the Elder.
Antoine is recognized as master of the East and Octavian of the West, the city of Scodra in Illyria marking the border between the two. Antony thus loses there the Gauls, Lepidus is maintained in Africa and Italy remaining undivided. Another agreement, that of Misène in 39, grants to Sextus Pompey the Italian islands as well as the Peloponnese.
Antony leaves Rome, where he will not return, for the East and the war against the Parthians.
During the civil war of the Liberators, the Republicans called on the Parthians several times to face the Caesarians, in particular against Cornelius Dolabella in Syria. The Parthian contingent led by Quintus Labienus never joined the Republican troops against the triumvirs at Philippi, and the Parthians did not immediately take advantage of the vacuum created by the civil war in the Eastern Roman system. That is due to the hesitations of the Parthian king Orodès II in spite of the requests of Labienus. It is finally the fact that Antony is in Alexandria for winter 41-40, that the only two legions defending Syria are composed of old republican troops incorporated by Antony after Philippi and which can be rallied by Labienus which finally convince the arsacid king. His son Pacorus launches the offensive, the general of Antoine is defeated then killed in Cilicia, Syria and Judea fall quickly in the hands of the Parthians of Barzapharnès. Quintus Labienus leads then the Roman troops rallied to the conquest of Anatolia.
Antoine, then in Italy following the war of Perugia, sends Publius Ventidius Bassus, his best lieutenant, against the Parthians. Ventidius arrives in Asia in spring 39. Surprising Quintus Labienus, he pursued him and forced him to battle not far from the Taurus Mountains. He won the confrontation, integrated part of the opposing forces into his own troops while Labienus was captured and then executed a little later. Antony”s lieutenant then won over a Parthian army and restored Roman authority over Syria at the end of 39 following successful lightning campaigns.
Antoine left Italy following the peace of Misène and spent the winter 39-38 in Athens. He distinguished himself by his Dionysism and was honoured by the city with Octavia, assimilated to Athena. Against his opinion, Octavian reopens the conflict against Sextus Pompey. The two triumvirs plan to meet at Brindes, but the meeting is missed, without it being known which one takes care to avoid the other.
In spring 38, the Parthians take again the offensive. Ventidius Bassus crushes again the Parthian army led by Pacorus, who is killed in combat. The lieutenant of Antoine then begins to regulate the fate of the Roman vassal states of the area which either failed or were submerged.
It is then that Antony arrives in Syria and joins his subordinate in front of the walls of Samosate, the capital of the kingdom of Commagene, ally of Rome but accused of having helped the Parthians. The city turns out to be impregnable and Antony is forced to negotiate, Commagene allying itself again with Rome without reprisals from Antony. In Judea, the Parthians of Barzapharnes made prisoners the pro-Roman leaders except Herod who managed to escape and to lead the fight against them. Helped by Antony”s lieutenant Caius Sosius, Jerusalem was retaken. Herod became king of Judea.
Antony sets out again in Athens for the winter 38-37 with his wife Octavia while Ventidius Bassus celebrates his triumph in Rome, without Antony taking shade of it. Orodès II is assassinated in the last days of the year by his son Phraatès IV which succeeds to him on the throne arsacide, this last also eliminating his remaining brothers.
Octavian is then in great difficulty vis-a-vis Sextus Pompey and solicits the assistance of his colleague by the intermediary of Mécène. Antoine agrees to meet Octavian in Taranto, in particular thanks to the insistence of Octavia in spring 37. After difficult discussions, the second triumvirate is then prolonged at the time of the pact of Taranto for five years whereas it had expired six months earlier. Octavian promised to send two legions to Antony to fight against the Parthians while the latter immediately sent ships to reinforce the Octavian fleet.
It is also agreed that Marcus Antonius Minor, Antony”s eldest son, would marry Julia. A second daughter was born from the union between Antony and Octavia at the beginning of the year 36: Antonia the Younger.
Following the example of Octavian, Plutarch claims “that Antony is happier when he makes war through his lieutenants than when he makes it in person”. Indeed, Ventidius Bassus won great victories and triumphed over the Parthians, Caius Sosius took back Judea after a difficult war and triumphed in his turn while Publius Canidius Crassus subdued Armenia. In the West, while Octavian suffered setbacks in front of Sextus Pompey, Vipsanius Agrippa carried out exploits in Gaul and then took the command in the Sicilian war where he won in 36.
Antony understands that Octavian will not keep his promise to send him legions for the war against the Parthians. He thus decides to turn to his principal vassal in the East, queen Cleopatra VII of Ptolemaic Egypt. It thus finds Cléopâtre in Antioch four years after their first connection, for reasons of political and military order. In addition to important financial means, the kingdom of Egypt will allow Antoine to reinforce its private fleet of the ships sent to Octavian.
The triumvir gets down to the task of completely reorganizing the East, with a mandate of the Senate, and gives order among the vassal States of Anatolia. In 39, it had restored Darius, son of Pharnace II according to Appien, like king of the part of Pontus close to Bithynia then with the death of the last descendant of Mithridate VI, it entrusts the kingdom of Pontus to Polémon. He imposes Amyntas in Galatia and appoints Archelaos in Cappadocia. That is added to its first decisions of the year 41. The Parthian invasion shows to which point of weakness arrived the Eastern organization of Pompey, with moreover many political and economic difficulties. The men chosen by Antony at the head of the client kingdoms are all energetic and deeply devoted to the Roman interests.
He convenes the queen in Antioch and delegates to him Cilicia, Phénicie, Cœlé-Syrie and perhaps Cyprus for the construction of ships, these provinces being either wooded areas, or coastal zones favourable for the fleet. Antony refuses on the other hand to entrust him Judea which however requests Cleopatra. These decisions of Antony do not raise any criticism in Rome, the modern historians underlining that the triumvir is legitimate in his reorganization of the East in the prospect of the war against Parthians.
Antony also married queen Cleopatra VII, recognized and adopted the twins Alexander and Selene born in 40. This union does not seem to shock during its announcement. Antony has then a third child of Cleopatra, Ptolemy. Cleopatra appears then as the principal ally of Rome in the East and the principal support of Antoine in his fight against the Parthians. The contours of a “Romano-Ptolemaic East” or a “Romano-Hellenistic” then begin to take shape for Antony.
He spent the winter 37-36 in Antioch in order to prepare the Parthian war. He gathered a huge army composed of sixteen legions, that is to say 160,000 legionnaires, 40,000 auxiliaries and horsemen. It is the largest army ever gathered in the East by Rome, with twice the manpower of Crassus in 53 and three times those of Lucullus and Sylla for the Mithridatic war.
Antony seems to want to launch out in a true conquest of Parthia, or at least to receive the submission of the king by seizing Ecbatane, the oldest Parthian capital. In addition to counting on its important army, its back positions are consolidated in Anatolia, in Syria and in Judea and Antoine can count on the support of the vassal kingdoms of Cappadocia, Pontus and Commagene. Moreover, he can count on Artavazde of Armenia following the campaign of Canidius Crassus in 37. Lastly, the sovereign of Parthes, Phraatès IV, must face a sling of a part of the royal family and the aristocracy after its bloody catch of power.
After unsuccessful negotiations with an important Parthian military chief, who finally rallies to Phraates, Antoine launches the campaign that in June by leaving Antioch with 100 000 men. It traverses nearly 1 500 kilometers in a few weeks to join the Armenian king who pushes it without delay to attack Médie Atropatène, its enemy. Antoine seeks to deliver a decisive battle to subject this kingdom and to open a way to reach quickly the heart of the Parthian kingdom. He arrives in front of the capital of Media mid-August, leaving the logistic train behind under the guard of two legions. The Parthian and Mede armies annihilate this Roman rear-guard without Antony being able to help them.
Antoine, for lack of machines of siege, must give up his project to seize the Mède city. He tries to negotiate with Phraates IV, without success. He is forced to make retreat towards the middle of October, a very difficult retreat in enemy ground, with increasing difficulties of provisioning, harassed by the Parthian cavalry and having to face the first assaults of the winter in mountainous ground. The Roman army suffered many losses. He manages after almost a month to join Armenia after having lost nearly 20 000 infantrymen and 4 000 horsemen, but succeeding in saving his army from a total rout. Plutarch reports the account of a retreat during which no less than eighteen battles were fought to make his way to Armenia. He quickly left this country for Syria, in order to ensure that his interests and his territories were preserved after his rout, losing another 8,000 men on the way. Antoine lost during his campaign the two fifths of the army which he engaged and Cleopatra comes to meet him with provisions, clothing and money.
“The retreat is heroic It is in these most delicate moments that Antoine”s courage, greatness of spirit and bravery are best displayed.”
– Jean-Michel Roddaz, “L”héritage” in François Hinard (dir.), Histoire romaine des origines à Auguste, Fayard, 2000, p. 884.
“His campaign is a dismal fiasco.”
– Peter Green (trans. Odile Demange), “Caesar, Pompey and the last Ptolemies (80 – 30 BC)” in D”Alexandre à Actium, du partage de l”empire au triomphe de Rome (323 – 30 BC), Robert Laffont, 1990 (trans. 1997), p. 884.
“One cannot minimize, in the failure of the Parthian campaign, the responsibilities of Antony – and they are important as well in the appreciation of the psychology and the mentality of the adversary as with regard to the strategy – but his courage, his prestige and his popularity near the troops, the confidence of his men enable him to overcome the difficulties and to save the essential, i.e. his army. The campaign ends in defeat, but it is not a disaster.”
– Jean-Michel Roddaz, “L”héritage” in François Hinard (dir.), Histoire romaine des origines à Auguste, Fayard, 2000, p. 885.
Sextus Pompey, defeated by Vipsanius Agrippa, managed to flee and to join Lesbos, an island of the coast of Asia. He seeks the friendship of Antony then, by learning the setbacks of this last during the winter 36-35, seeks alliances with the Eastern vassals of Rome and even the Parthians. Antony is quickly convinced of his duplicity by his lieutenants and Sextus Pompey finds the death. Octavian officially thanks Antony for the disappearance of his adversary, without it being known if Pompey was executed on his direct order, on that of Lucius Munatius Plancus or on the initiative of Marcus Titius.
The completion of this conflict also allows Octavian to dismiss Lepidus. This one tried to take advantage of the occasion to recover the forces of Sextus Pompey, but makes there a political error, and Octavian removes him from his office of triumvir and finds himself at the head of all the Western forces.
During the campaign in Media, Octavia is in Rome, where one starts to see in the alliance between Antony and Cleopatra a threat against the West and Octavian. This last reacts and sends his sister and his daughters in mission near their husband and father Antony at the beginning of year 35. It leaves Italy with only 2 000 soldiers and part of the ships lent by Antoine, seventy on the hundred and twenty, which does not respect the agreement of Taranto, which envisaged 20 000 men and the complete return of the fleet. Octavian is strong of his victory against Pompey and is the only master of the West whereas Antony is weakened by the Parthian campaign, and the young triumvir plays with Antony. If Antony accepts the reinforcements led by his Roman wife, he recognizes by there the superiority of his colleague and compromises his relation with Cleopatra whose logistic support he always needs. If he refuses, it is him which breaks the peace and puts an end to the triumvirate already weakened by the elimination of Lépide.
Antony orders to Octavia to turn back. This one thus stops in Athens and, without showing the least sign of annoyance, orders the troops which accompany it to continue their way towards Alexandria. She herself will return then to Rome. The rupture between the triumvirs is final and Antony, as for him, decides to return near his only political and military support of foreground, Cléopâtre VII.
Influenced by the augustan propaganda, the ancient sources make play with Cléopâtre a great role in this rupture. It is for her that Antony leaves precipitately Armenia for Syria, and still for her, jealous, that he breaks with Octavia and that he goes finally to Alexandria. His role in the choices of Antony, whatever it is, is considered not determining by the modern historians. Antony acts to preserve his interests and his power on the East.
During the campaign of 36 against the Parthians, the attitude of the king of Armenia makes Antoine suspicious with regard to him. The Armenian cavalry was present at the sides of the two legions which were annihilated by a medo-parthian army, but did not intervene. However, the Armenians were at war against the Medes and not against the Parthians and they joined Antony in his unsuccessful siege and finally Artavazde welcomed the harassed army of Antony after its difficult retreat.
The alliance games change on the initiative of the faithful vassal king Polemon of Pontus and Media allies itself with Rome, while the king of Armenia is suspected by Antony of having secret relations with Octavian. After talks which do not succeed, Antoine marches on Artaxata and seizes the royal family and Artavazde in 34. However, the son of this last escapes and finds refuge at the Parthians. Antoine occupies all Armenia and seizes an important booty. The borders with the Parthian kingdom are stabilized as well in the north as on the Euphrates. The kingdom of Armenia passes momentarily under a direct Roman control, Antony appointing his son Alexander Helios at the head of the kingdom. Alexander was engaged to a daughter of the Mede king and Antony recovered the ensigns lost in 36 during his rout in Atropatene Media.
In 33, the Parthians and the son of the fallen king of Armenia are for a time pushed back by the Medes supported by the forces of Antoine. However, at the time of the last Republican Civil War, whereas Antony disengages militarily the East, the Medes will be put in difficulty and Armenia temporarily lost in 30. This region then became a stake between Rome and the Parthians, each one trying from then on to impose its candidate, and the “Armenian crisis” was to be prolonged throughout the history of the Roman Empire.
Antoine is consul for the year 34 with for colleague Lucius Scribonius Libo. He resigns after one day to give the magistracy to one of his supporters, Lucius Sempronius Atratinus, who thus becomes consul suffect at the sides of Lucius Scribonius Libo, another of his supporters.
In the summer of 34, Antony celebrated his victory over Armenia in the city of Alexandria, during a sumptuous ceremony resembling a Roman triumph but in fact amounting to a bacchanalian procession celebrating the victory of the god Dionysus over Asia. This places Antony in the lineage of the Macedonian hero Alexander the Great. In the triumphal parade, Antony plays the role of Dionysus while Cleopatra is enthroned as a new Isis. In Rome, the octavian propaganda interprets, wrongly, that as a simulacrum of Roman triumph.
The triumvir acts then like the “great organizer of the East”, always with the image of Alexander. He announces to the Alexandrian people the establishment of an Eastern empire. Cleopatra VII is proclaimed queen of the kings, honor more important than the title of king of the kings awarded to Césarion, the son which it perhaps had of Julius Caesar. Antoine thus recognizes Césarion as being the only natural and legitimate son of César.
He proceeds to the “donations of Alexandria”, Cleopatra and Caesarion govern an Egypt enlarged by Cyprus and Coele-Syria, Alexander Helios keeps Armenia, Media which he must inherit by his marriage and Parthia to be conquered, Cleopatra Selene receives the old kingdom of Libya, i.e. the province of Cyrenaica, perhaps including the island of Crete, and the last son of Antony and Cleopatra, Ptolemy Philadelphus, is placed at the head of the Roman province of Syria, Phoenicia and Cilicia and becomes perhaps the suzerain of the vassal kingdoms of Anatolia. Thus, Alexander Helios takes more or less the head of the old Seleucid Empire, dressed like an Achaemenid sovereign while Ptolemy Philadelphus, proclaimed king of Syria and Asia Minor, takes on the Macedonian royal robes. With the Ptolemaic Egypt of Cleopatra and Caesarion, we find a part of the three great kingdoms of the Diadochi or the Achaemenid Persian Empire.
The titles granted by Antony do not cover any political reality and some of the children of Antony and Cleopatra “reign” on provinces which remain Roman. Moreover, a significant part of the territories “given” are not really under the control of Mark Antony, what does not escape to Cleopatra who is satisfied more prosaically to claim to her lover, in vain, Judea. Antony makes appear the name and the effigy of Cleopatra on the official money in all the Eastern Mediterranean.
For many modern historians, the Eastern policy of Antony is basically only the continuation of the policy of Pompey and Julius Caesar, who made and defeated kings-clients. However, in the case of Antony, these donations proclaim his inordinate ambitions and he sets up a personal dynasty. That reinforces its power on the spot but also ensures the Roman domination, not upsetting the principles based on the coexistence of provinces and Roman protectorates. But distorted by hostile propaganda, these “donations of Alexandria” can be used as arguments by Antony”s opponents. For Peter Green, author of a book on the Hellenistic period, “the donations do not limit themselves to claiming in an unseemly way territories which escape the control of Rome or, worse, which are already under Roman administration; they also reveal, by too clearly, that the dreams of Antony can be based on the power of Cleopatra and on the impressive resources of Egypt. The irresistible charm of the world empire is exerted once more: the sad lessons of the three centuries which have just passed were very quickly forgotten “.
There is no doubt that Octavian fears Mark Antony and his popularity, still strong in the Senate, but the triumph of Antony and the designation of Caesarion as king of the kings make him envisage a still larger danger. This young man is the only son of Caesar, and it could one day come to him the idea, if the circumstances lend themselves to it, to come to claim his paternal inheritance. Also Octavian is going to work to denigrate Antony by all the means and especially Cleopatra, the Egyptian, the one who holds him under her charms and who obliges him to give up which Octavian considers disastrous for Rome.
On January 1, 33, Octavian then consul, intervenes with the Senate to deliver himself to a first attack against Antony. He obviously rejects the recognition of Caesarion as son of Caesar and attacks undoubtedly the “establishment of the Eastern empire” and the “donations of Alexandria”.
Antony convened his generals and his army in Ephesus, where he spent the winter 33-32. It is apparently convinced that the decisions which it took are not contrary to the Roman interests and, moreover, it acted legally with the powers of triumvir having an imperium extended in the East. Following the attacks of his colleague, he wishes to justify in front of the Senate his Eastern policy and addresses to the assembly his acta.
At the beginning of 32, the message of Antony is read by the consuls Domitius Ahenobarbus and Caius Sosius, two supporters of Antony. Sosius criticizes hard Octavian, then absent from Rome to prepare his next offensive. This one returns to the Senate surrounded by armed guards and launches out in severe attacks against the policy of Antoine. The consuls cannot answer and, with a not insignificant part of the Senate, perhaps three hundred members of which a number of consular, they leave then Rome to join Antoine in Ephesus.
Antony, accompanied by Cleopatra, went then to Samos in April, where sumptuous festivals seem to take place. In May, they settled in Athens. Antony then decides to divorce Octavia at the beginning of August, breaking the last link existing between the triumvirs. It is Antony who appears at this time the most powerful. He has an army and a numerous fleet and powerful vassal kingdoms, with in particular Egypt but also Judea. Moreover, he is supported by a majority of the most prominent Roman aristocracy. But all these heterogeneous supports weaken the apparent power of the triumvir, who must face conflicts between Roman aristocrats, between Romans and Orientals, and between Egyptians and Jews. On the contrary, the cohesion is the strong point of the camp of Octavian.
The implication of Cleopatra in the conflict is badly perceived by the officers who surround Antoine, in particular by the consul Domitius Ahenobarbus. Antony is then betrayed by Munatius Plancus and Marcus Titius, at his sides for ten years and which were until then “the vilest worshippers of the queen”. They seem however to have entered in conflict against her, unless Antony discovered malpractices on their part and that they chose then to move away. The old consular perhaps also felt the wind turning. The two defectors bring back to Octavian all kinds of anecdotes on the “Alexandrian splendors” of Antony and Cleopatra which prove to be useful for the propaganda of Octavian.
They reveal especially the contents of the testament which Mark Antony deposited at the vestals. Octavian, in all illegality, seizes it and reveals the contents of it, perhaps in a somewhat convenient way to feed his propaganda. Antony affirms there under oath that Caesarion is indeed the son of Caesar, makes in addition considerable legacies to the children of Cleopatra and asks to be buried in Alexandria. Antony seems to have become an oriental prince and a stranger to Rome, whereas Octavian can set himself up as a defender of Rome and Italy.
Both sides try to manipulate the people through all kinds of procedures and extensive propaganda. Each act and each decision of the adversary is dissected, distorted and criticized. Moreover, Octavian targets particularly Cleopatra, seeking to show that she is the cause of the fall of Antony, that she “bewitched” him and that she wishes to reign on Rome. Antony attacks, among other things, the allegedly humble origins of Octavian, asserts that he was adopted by Caesar only after having had homosexual relations with him, accuses him of cowardice in battle, of being an unrepentant runner and echoes all the gossip. It is difficult to measure the impact of these propaganda on the Roman people. Each triumvir has a lot of money and agents. Most of the accusations are of bad faith. Augustan propaganda continued long after the war and strongly influenced later ancient authors.
“The official version of the cause of the war of Actium becomes simple, coherent: it is about a just war, carried out for the defense of the freedom and the peace against a foreign enemy. A stateless person seeks to undermine the freedoms of the Roman people and to deliver Italy and the West to an Eastern queen”. Antony is deprived of the consulship for the year 31 for which he was designated and the war is declared to the Ptolemaic Egypt of Cleopatra VII, and to her only; not a word on Antony. It is the beginning of the last Civil War of the Roman Republic.
Protagonist of the last Republican Civil War (31-30)
Antony held southern Greece but was dependent on supplies from Egypt and Syria and perhaps thought for a time of going on the offensive by attacking Italy. At the end of the winter 32-31, it is however always in Athens with Cleopatra and the major part of its ground troops while the bulk of its fleet is in the gulf of Ambracie. It establishes then its headquarters in Patras, and strong of its numerical superiority, with in particular nearly 700 ships, of its reserves of provisions, it seeks perhaps to attract Octavian in the Balkans to isolate it from Italy and to overcome it more easily.
Vipsanius Agrippa, Octavian”s general, at the head of the fleet, endeavoured to break the link between Antony”s main squadron in the Gulf of Ambracia and the Eastern Mediterranean, in particular Egypt. He inflicted a certain number of successive defeats to the lieutenants of Antoine. Agrippa seized Methone in the south, cutting off Antony”s supplies, then Corcyra in the north, allowing the landing of Octavian”s army on the Epirote coast and ensuring the link with Italy.
Antony let himself be surprised. He reacts only once the army of Octavian practically reached the gulf of Ambracie. From Patras, he goes to the front of the opposing army, prohibiting it to go further than the gulf. Agrippa continued his naval tactics of harassment and finished to isolate Antony of his backs, the fleet of Antony not being able to receive any more reinforcements, blocked in the gulf whose strait is very narrow. The gulf of Corinth falls shortly afterwards in the hands of Agrippa.
He then seeks to engage a ground battle against Octavian, who remains prudently in his camp at the north of the gulf. Several characters of the staff of Antony made then defection. Agrippa joined at the beginning of August Octavian. Antony tried to loosen the naval embrace around his positions. Caius Sosius then gained a small victory over a Caesarian squadron blocking the exit of the gulf but Agrippa arrived in time and beat Sosius heavily, who withdrew after heavy losses. The strategy of Agrippa placed Antony in a difficult situation, locked in the gulf of Ambracia and subjected to a very effective maritime blockade.
After the various losses in the preliminary engagements, especially on the side of Antony concerning the ships, the diseases on both sides, Antony finds himself with 230 ships including 60 Egyptian of Cleopatra. Octavian has as for him the fleet of Agrippa, composed of 400 slightly smaller ships. On the ground side, the two armies are of approximately equal size and strength, with more than 200 000 men in total.
Octavian, thus having an experienced general at the head of a superior fleet and which proved itself in the war in Sicily in 36, in the campaigns in Illyria in 35-33 and in the preliminary operations of this war, seeks so that the decisive confrontation is played on sea. He thus carefully avoided any land confrontation.
Antony can choose to withdraw with his ground army towards Macedonia, but by doing so he would sacrifice his fleet, essential element to maintain the connection with the remainder of the East. Thus, it chooses rather the naval confrontation to break the maritime blockade. He does not seem to seek a decisive victory, but to save the major part of his fleet while the army would withdraw through Greece to join Antoine in the East.
On September 2, 31, the fleet of Antony left the gulf of Ambracie and presented itself in order of battle, awaited by the squadron of Agrippa at large. Octavian knew the intentions of Antony thanks to deserters. During the naval combat which ensues, a significant part of Antony”s fleet is trapped in the fighting following a difficult but successful maneuver of Agrippa. However, the Egyptian ships of Cleopatra soon followed by a squadron comprising Antony on board manage nevertheless to force the blockade. In the evening of the battle, the two lovers succeeded in fleeing with a part of the fleet as well as the treasure while their ground army is intact and is ready to withdraw. Another squadron, commanded by Caius Sosius, succeeded in withdrawing in the gulf.
Octavian managed to transform his advantage into a decisive success. Sosius gives himself up the following day after a part of his ships is burned. From the Ténare cape, located at the extreme south of the Peloponnese, Antoine gives the order to Canidius Crassus to lead the army in Macedonia. The soldiers, demoralized to have attended the departure of their leader then in front of the surrender of the fleet, resist one time with the requests of Octavian. However, this last undoubtedly succeeds in convincing the soldiers of Antony that this one fled shamefully, too little in the army being initiated with the plan of Antony. After several days, the ground army of Antony makes defection and rallies to Octavian.
When Antony learns the defection of the flotilla of Sosius, he enters a state of deep dejection and, when he learns the defection of his army from Canidius Crassus who joins him, he understands that the war is lost.
Antony and Cleopatra landed on the North African coast between Egypt and Cyrenaica. Four legions were present but they quickly defected, plunging Antony into deep confusion, ready to commit suicide. Cleopatra tries to organize the defense of Egypt and prepares their possible escape, but her plan is foiled. Their eastern allies rallied in turn to Octavian.
Antony withdrew at first from the world, near the island of Pharos, then he joined Cleopatra to plunge back into a life of splendor in Alexandria. They take practically no measures to fight against the more and more triumphal advance of Octavian but send nevertheless several embassies to Octavian who advances towards Egypt. The latter seized Pelusa, the key to Egypt. Antony won a last cavalry battle before this city, before his last troops and the Egyptian fleet defected.
Shortly after, on August 1, 30, while he believes that Cleopatra put an end to her life and thus betrayed him, Mark Antony commits suicide at the age of 53 years. Octavian then enters Alexandria and puts Cleopatra under surveillance, authorizing her to give Antony a funeral. These are made with magnificence. Octavian probably let Cleopatra commit suicide a little more than a week after her lover, when she was nearly 40 years old. Octavian offers her a royal funeral, and she is buried near Antony.
Octavian made then assassinate Caesarion and Marcus Antonius Minor, son that Antoine had had of Fulvie. He spares on the other hand the three children that Antony had had of the queen of Egypt, Alexander, Selene and Ptolemy. It is possible that the Senate forbids then to the Antonii to carry the first name Marcus, the name of Mark Antony being dedicated to the damnatio memoriae. His day of birth, January 14, is declared evil in the Roman calendar.
Egypt became a Roman province with a special status, governed by a prefect of the equestrian order directly appointed by Octavian, the first being Caius Cornelius Gallus, then by the various Roman emperors.
Wives and offspring
Antony perhaps first married a woman of humble origin, then married in turn his first cousin Antonia Hybrida Minor, the formidable widow Fulvie, Octavia the sister of Octavian, and he finally united with Cleopatra VII.
Through his youngest daughters, Antonia the Elder and his sister Antonia the Younger, Antony becomes the ancestor of most of the members of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Through his eldest daughter Antonia of Trales, he became perhaps the ancestor of the longest-lived line of kings and co-rulers of the Bosphorus, Rome”s longest-lived client kingdom, as well as the ancestor of kings of several other vassal states of Rome. Through his daughter Selene, Antony became the ancestor of the royal family of Mauritania, another Roman client kingdom.
Cicero is the only one to mention a first household of Antoine with a certain Fadia, of very modest origin, daughter of a freedman, of whom he would have several children. If this connection is possible, it is very little probable that it is about a marriage, and it is impossible to be pronounced on possible children.
Mark Antony married Antonia Hybrida Minor at an unknown date and under unknown circumstances, before 50 A.D. She was his first cousin, daughter of Caius Antonius Hybrida. They divorced in 47 because Antonia Hybrida would have had an affair with Cornelius Dolabella, an opponent of Antony.
The couple had a child, Antonia, who was born between 54 and 49 A.D. In 44 A.D., she was engaged to Lepidus the Younger, the two future triumvirs having arranged the marriage.
However, for an unknown reason, the engagement would be broken some time later. According to Theodor Mommsen, in 36, Antonia would marry Pythodoros of Trallès, a very rich Greek Anatolian nobleman, formerly close to Pompey and older than her by twenty years. Antony was at that time looking for funds for his Parthian campaign. The couple would live in Smyrna and, in 30 or 29, Antonia would give birth to a daughter, Pythodoris of Trales. However, this identification of Antonia, daughter of Antony, with the mother of Pythodoris is uncertain. Some historians question Mommsen”s theory while others approve it.
Pythodoris of Trales became queen of Pontus in the year 13 by marrying Polemon, the faithful vassal of her late grandfather. She reigns alone on this customer kingdom of Rome in the name of her minor children with the death of her husband in 8 BC. She remarries with Archelaos of Cappadocia, him also appointed by Antoine. This alliance between two rulers customers generates the distrust of Rome and the two kingdoms are placed under Roman administration by Tiberius. Among his descendants, we find several vassal kings of Thrace, Anatolia and Caucasus and especially the dynasty reigning on the kingdom of Bosphorus from the 1st to the 4th century.
Fulvie is widow of the populists Clodius and Curion. From her first marriage, she has a son and a daughter, Clodia Pulchra. Antoine, to consolidate the fragile alliance between Octavian and him after the establishment of the second triumvirate, offers his daughter-in-law in marriage to his colleague triumvir. This one repudiates Clodia in 40 as a consequence of the war of Perouse, started by his mother. Fulvie is also forced to divorce Antoine, then exiled and dies shortly after.
The couple has two children: Marcus Antonius Minor in 47 or 46 and Iullus Antonius between 45 and 43. It is agreed in 37 that the elder son of Antony would marry Julia. However, at the end of the civil war, the first is assassinated on order of Octavian, undoubtedly because he is the official heir of Antoine. The second married Claudia Marcella Maior, the niece of Augustus by Octavia, in 21. While occupying the third rank in the succession of Augustus, he was forced to commit suicide following his affair with Julia, daughter of Augustus, in the year 2 BC. His descendants are uncertain.
After the war of Perugia, Antony divorced Fulvia and married Octavian”s sister, Octavia. On several occasions, she played the role of political advisor and negotiator between her husband and her brother. Victim of the conflict between the two triumvirs, she was repudiated by Antony in the year 32, while he had been living with Cleopatra VII for several years. Following the death of Antony, Octavia lived quietly raising her five children, as well as the children of Antony: Iullus, Alexander, Selene and Ptolemy.
The couple had two daughters: Antonia the Elder in 39 and Antonia the Younger in 36. It is probable that Augustus allows them to enjoy the paternal properties in Rome. They are both related to all the Julio-Claudian emperors, the first one being notably the paternal grandmother of Nero and the second one is the paternal grandmother of emperor Caligula and of empress Agrippina the Younger by her son Germanicus, the mother of emperor Claudius and the maternal great-grandmother and paternal great-aunt of emperor Nero.
Lastly, Antoine joined with Cléopâtre VII in 37. The two lovers already had twins in the year 40, Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene, and had a third child in 36: Ptolemy Philadelphus. The relation of Antony with Cleopatra was long of 11 years (from their meeting in – 41 to -30, to the death of Antony).
If the two sons probably die without descendants, Selene marries Juba II of Mauretania, who reigns under the Roman guardianship, in the year 20 BC. Ptolemy of Mauretania, their son, succeeded him but was executed on the orders of Caligula. He is the last representative of the dynasty of Ptolemies and the last king of Mauritania.
Antony and Cleopatra seen by the ancient authors
His contemporaries recognize him an incontestable fidelity to his friends. Mark Antony also enjoyed immense popularity with the soldiers, because of his bravery on the battlefield and his military abilities. After his defeat in Modena and his retreat in Gaul, Plutarch thus reports that Antony “is for all the soldiers an astonishing example of patience and courage: accustomed since a long time to a life of luxury and delights, he drinks without repugnance of corrupted water, and feeds on roots and wild fruits”.
For the ancient authors, it is his meeting with Cleopatra in the year 41 which makes change the character of Antoine. For example, Plutarch, who wrote a biography of Antony under Trajan, narrates an endless succession of feasts and extravagances as well as the flatteries of Cleopatra to the attention of Antony from that year. His alleged submission to Cleopatra is the essential explanation of the failure of Antony”s destiny, from the Parthian war to the final failure of Actium.
From then on, the propaganda of Augustus leaves in the imperial historiography an image of a debauchee, who abdicates in the lust, squanders the wealth of the Roman East and delivers to Cleopatra the Roman possessions. Antoine is described as having forgotten to be Roman and bewitched by Cleopatra. Seneca, during the reign of Nero, paints this portrait of Antony: “A great and capable man, but who is perverted by foreign ways and vices contrary to the Roman spirit by his love of wine and his passion for Cleopatra. Plutarch gives a similar image: “Gifted with such a character, Antony puts the height of his evils by the love which he conceives for Cleopatra, love which awakes and unleashes in him many passions still hidden and slumbering, and which extinguishes and stifles what can, in spite of everything, persist in him of honest and salutary”. Florus, under the reign of Hadrian, carries a pitiless judgment on Antony: “It is thus that an Egyptian asks the Roman Empire to a drunk general, for price of its favours. And Antony allows it to him as if the Roman is less difficult to conquer than the Parthian! He thus prepares to conquer the power, and that without hiding; but after having forgotten his fatherland, his name, his toga, his bundles, he abandons himself completely to this monster “.
The ancient historiography is globally very unfavorable to Cleopatra because inspired by the winner of Cleopatra, the emperor Augustus, and his entourage whose interest is to blacken her in order to make of her the evil adversary of Rome and the bad genius of Mark Antony. The augustan propaganda depicts her as an oriental ogress, drunk of all the passions, to divert the attention in Rome of the idea of a purely Roman civil war. Thus this judgment of the historian of the first century, Flavius Josephus: “She makes Antony the enemy of his country by the corruption of her amorous charms”. The black legend propagated by the Augustan ideology is then relayed by the poets, such as Horace, Propertius and Lucain, and the Roman historians such as Eutrope, Dion Cassius and Tite-Live, which see in her four dangers: queen, calling into question the Roman Republic, woman of character and seductress, being able to put in danger the virility and the Roman virtus, ambitious, threatening the freedom, and foreigner, Greek origin and orientality associated with the debauchery and the lust calling into question the ” Romanity “, in particular the virtue of pudicitia. The portrait that Dion Cassius draws for example is without appeal: “Cleopatra, as for her, insatiable of enjoyment, insatiable of richness, often shows a praiseworthy ambition and often also an arrogant disdain; she acquires the kingdom of Egypt by the love and, after having hoped to seize by this means of the Roman Empire, she does not obtain this one and loses that one. She dominates the two greatest Romans of her time and kills herself because of the third.
The judgment of modern historians
The British historian Peter Green, at the end of his book on the Hellenistic period, speaking of Antony and Cleopatra, points out that she is “a charismatic personality of the highest order, a leader-born figure and a ruler of inordinate ambition, who deserved better than to commit suicide in the company of that heavy-handed and dubious Roman sybarite, with his bull”s neck, his prodigiously rude manners and his silly fits of introspection. “If Cleopatra – brilliant, lively, fluent in nine languages, a mathematician and a shrewd businesswoman – feels a true respect and admiration for Julius Caesar, Antony”s sentimental hesitations, his intellectual futility and his crude excesses put her off her guard. She is obliged to deal with Antony, and she draws from him all that she can; but she does not judge necessary, it seems, to organize these entertainments as stupefying as interminable for the sober Caesar, whose spirit and brightness equal hers. It is for Antony that she imagines this gigantic and noisy parade, this descent of Cyndos until Tarsus: a vulgar bait to ferrer a vulgar man “. Peter Green paints another portrait of the Roman triumvir at the time of the meeting of Tarsus: “Cleopatra knows nothing of the limits of his tactical and strategic skills, of his great popularity with the troops; of his blue blood, an asset unfortunately counterbalanced by impecuniosity; she knows of his penchant for drink and women, and his habit of seeding children right and left, his superficial philhellenism, his prodigious vulgarity, his physical exuberance and brutal ambition as well as his Dionysian claims to divinity.” For his various portraits of Antony, Peter Green relies directly on Plutarch”s life of Antony. However, he recognizes that the ancient sources are biased by Augustus” propaganda and that Antony also acts from the beginning by political and logistical calculation. “In spite of all the romantic echoes surrounding the first meeting between the queen and Antony, the latter apparently shows himself much less malleable than one tends to make us believe. In fact, it is perhaps Cleopatra who is being exploited to some extent.
Monique Jallet-Huant, author of a biography of Antony which also closely follows the ancient sources, paints an unflattering portrait of the generalissimo and prince of the East, but other modern historians rehabilitate Antony on the contrary, such as Eleanor G. Huzar in her biography or several French historians, in particular Jean-Michel Roddaz in the last paragraphs of a work on the Roman Republican period.
Pierre Cosme, author of a biography of the victor of Actium, underlines that “the old authors insist abundantly on the depravity and the brutality of Marc Antoine. It should not be forgotten that it is about the testimony of the adversaries of Marc Antoine. One recognizes him nevertheless an incontestable fidelity to his friends and an immense popularity near the soldiers, because of his bravery on the battlefield and his military capacities “.
Yann Le Bohec, on the subject of Antony and Caesar, points out that “this character aroused even more controversy than his leader. Coming from the aristocracy, he received an excellent education and studied rhetoric in Greece. One cannot therefore be satisfied with the portrait of a bribe-taker which was proposed later. Tall and courageous, handsome and bearded, he is characterized by an exceptional temperament and is not afraid to abuse wine, men or women. The reader will understand that these tastes do not only respond to a personal choice. They express a true religiosity: if Caesar is protected by Venus, Antony seeks the support of Dionysus.
According to Jean-Michel Roddaz, Antony does not give in to the oriental mirage in the year 42 during the bipartition of the empire. Moreover, Antoine is philhellene of long date, and this well before meeting Cleopatra. According to the ancient authors, Antony is irrevocably submitted and madly in love with Cleopatra from the winter of 41-40 spent in Alexandria, but Antony then remains four years without seeing Cleopatra, which makes Jean-Michel Roddaz say “we have known lovers more impatient” and Peter Green that “the magnetism of the queen has nothing irresistible.
Moreover, its reorganization of the East, so decried by the Augustan propaganda and the ancient historiography, is judged legitimate by the modern historians, and especially effective, so much so that Augustus will be inspired thereafter.
Jean-Michel Roddaz judges thus Antony when he is master of cavalry of Caesar in 48-47: “Antony has eminent qualities of soldier and he is the best officer of Caesar at the beginning of the civil war; but he is a poor politician and is illustrated especially by his debaucheries and his extravagances. Endowed with a chivalrous spirit and naturally generous, he is covered with debts and does not know how to surround himself “. A few years later, in 42, “the battle of Philippi devoted the military talents of Antoine”. Even in the defeat, in this case at the time of the very difficult retreat of Médie in 36, Jean-Michel Roddaz points out that “it is in these most delicate moments that the courage, the greatness of heart and the bravery of Antony appear best highlighted” and after the final defeat, “once more, as in Modena or throughout the retreat of Médie, and because he knows that all is lost, Marc Antony knows how to show himself great in the test”.
Finally, even on the eve of the last battle, Antony kept important supports, having more allies among the Roman aristocracy than his adversary, even if the support which he enjoyed in Rome began to crumble before the concrete defeat of Actium. The contemporaries do not seem to have a negative image of him, that of a depraved person having ceased to be a Roman.
Jean-Michel Roddaz reports on this subject an anecdote of an ancient author and Peter Green verses of a modern Alexandrian poet:
His relationship with Cleopatra has become legendary and has been the subject of many works. Here are some of them in which the character of Mark Antony plays a central role.
The life and especially the death of Antony and Cleopatra are the subject of many paintings and drawings: see the article Cleopatra VII, “Painting”.
- Marc Antoine
- Mark Antony
- a et b Si le jour semble attesté, l”année de sa naissance n”est pas connue avec certitude. Les sources divergent sur le sujet et permettent d”envisager trois dates : 86, 83 ou 81 av. J.-C. (Chamoux 1986, pp. 13-14 et Renucci 2015, p. 37).
- ^ As recorded by a calendar inscription known as the Fasti Verulani (c. 17–37 AD) for 14 January = Degrassi, Inscriptiones Italiae 13.2.397–98, as cited by Jerzy Linderski and Anna Kaminska-Linderski, “The Quaestorship of Marcus Antonius,” Phoenix 28.2 (1974), p. 217, note 24. The religious prohibition placed by Augustus on the day, marked as a dies vitiosus (“defective” day), is explained by Linderski, “The Augural Law”, Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt II.16 (1986), pp. 2187–88. 14 January is accepted as Antony”s birthday also by C.B.R. Pelling, Plutarch: Life of Antony (Cambridge University Press, 1988), p. 299, commentary to Plutarch, Antony 73.5; Nikos Kokkino, Antonia Augusta (Routledge, 1992), p. 11; Pat Southern, Mark Antony (Tempus, 1998), p. ii; Adrian Goldsworthy, Antony and Cleopatra (Yale University Press, 2010), n.p.. According to Suetonius (Claudius 11.3), the emperor Claudius, Antony”s grandson through maternal lineage, evaded the prohibition on commemorating Antony”s birthday by calculations showing that had he been born under the Julian calendar he would have shared his birthday with Drusus, the emperor”s father. Drusus was born in late March or early April, based on a reference that he was born “within the third month” after his mother Livia married Augustus on 17 January; G. Radke, “Der Geburtstag des älteren Drusus,” Wurzburger Jahrbucher fur die Altertumswissenschaft 4 (1978), pp. 211–13, proposed that a birth date of 28 March for Drusus would resolve the chronological difficulties. Radke”s proposal is summarized in English by the commentary on Suetonius” sentence by Donna W. Hurley, Suetonius: Divus Claudius (Cambridge University Press, 2001), p. 106, and by Marleen B. Flory, “The Symbolism of Laurel in Cameo Portraits of Livia,” in Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome (University of Michigan Press, 1995), vol. 40, p. 56, note 48.
- ^ Cicero is the only ancient source to mention a first marriage to an otherwise unknown Fadia (Philippics, XIII, 10)
- ^ Ancient writers (e.g. Appian, Civil Wars 5.8.1) place the beginning of their famous romance at this meeting with Antony totally surrendering to Cleopatra”s beauty but modern historians reject this notion as retrospective historical propaganda on the part of Augustus.
- ^ Lepidus, though still a member of the Triumvirate, was relegated to a junior position within the three-man dictatorship as Antony and Octavian established themselves.
- ^ It is also speculated that Antony”s legions, composed largely of Caesarian veterans, did not wish to fight the adoptive son of their former general.
- Como relatado por uma inscrição calendária conhecida como Fastos Verulanos (c. 17–37) para 14 de janeiro, que é a mesma citada por Degrassi. A proibição religiosa estabelecida por Augusto para este dia, marcado como dies vitiosus (“dia defeituoso”), é explicada por Linderski. 14 de janeiro é aceita como a data de aniversário de Antônio também por C.B.R. Pelling comentando sobre Plutarco. Segundo Suetônio, o imperador Cláudio, neto de Antônio pela linha materna, contornou a proibição de comemorar o aniversário de Antônio apresentando cálculos mostrando que ele teria nascido no calendário juliano e compartilhava o mesmo dies natalis com Druso, o seu próprio pai. Ele nasceu no final de março ou no início de abril com base numa referência de que ele teria nascido “dentro do terceiro mês” subsequente ao casamento de sua mãe, Lívia, ter se casado com Augusto em 17 de janeiro. G. Radke, propôs que uma data de nascimento em 28 de março para Druso resolveria as dificuldades cronológicas, uma proposta sumarizada (em inglês) pelo comentário da frase de Suetônio feito por Donna W. Hurley e Marleen B. Flory
- Cícero é o único autor antigo a mencionar um casamento anterior com uma mulher completamente desconhecida chamada Fádia.
- Escritores antigos apontam que este evento teria sido o início do famoso romance entre os dois, narrando que Antônio teria sido arrebatado pela beleza de Cleópatra. Contudo, autores modernos rejeitam esta noção afirmando que ela seria parte de uma campanha de propaganda histórica retrospectiva por parte de Augusto.
- Plutarch: Antonius. 86, 8.
- Hermann Bengtson, Marcus Antonius, 1977, S. 11 f. und 83; Manfred Clauss: Marcus Antonius. In: Karl-Joachim Hölkeskamp und Elke Stein-Hölkeskamp (Hrsg.): Von Romulus zu Augustus. Große Gestalten der römischen Republik, 2000, S. 340; Appian, Bürgerkriege 5, 8. Auf das Jahr 83 oder 82 v. Chr. weist auch die Prägung Michael Crawford: Roman Republican Coinage. Cambridge 1974, Nr. 489/5 hin; siehe Krešimir Matijević: Marcus Antonius: Consul – Proconsul – Staatsfeind. Die Politik der Jahre 44 und 43 v. Chr. Rahden 2006, S. 431–437.