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Mark Antony

Mark Antony

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The Roman politician and general Mark Antony (83–30 B.C.), or Marcus Antonius, was an ally of Julius Caesar and the main rival of his successor Octavian (later Augustus). With those two men he was integral to Rome’s transition from republic to empire. His romantic and political alliance with the Egyptian queen Cleopatra was his ultimate undoing, and centuries later provided inspiration for artists from Shakespeare to Cecil B. DeMille.

Mark Antony: Early Life and Alliance with Julius Caesar

Marcus Antonius was born in Rome in 83 B.C., the son of an ineffective praetor (military commander) and grandson of a noted consul and orator, both of whom shared his given name. After a largely misspent youth, he was sent east as a cavalry officer, where he won important victories in Palestine and Egypt. In 54 B.C. he went to Gaul to join his mother’s cousin Julius Caesar as a staff officer. In 49 B.C. he was elected a tribune and served as a staunch defender of Caesar against his rivals in the Senate.

During Caesar’s first yearlong dictatorship, Antony was his second-in-command. By 48 B.C. he was in Greece, supporting Caesar’s left wing at the Battle of Pharsalus. A year later, Antony’s violent expulsion from the Senate by anti-Caesar factions gave Caesar’s legion a rallying point as they crossed the Rubicon River, igniting the Republican Civil War. When Caesar assumed his fifth and final consulship in 44 B.C., Antony was his co-consul.

As the Ides of March approached, Antony heard rumors of a plot against Caesar but was unable to warn him in time. Antony fled Rome dressed as a slave but soon returned to protect his friend’s legacy from the senators who had conspired against him. He took charge of Caesar’s will and papers and gave a stirring eulogy for the fallen leader.

Mark Antony and Octavian

In his will Caesar had bequeathed his wealth and title to his posthumously adopted son Octavian. Antony was reluctant to hand his old friend’s legacy to a 17-year-old, and quickly became a rival to the future emperor. In 43 B.C. their armies first clashed. Antony was driven back at Mutina and Forum Gallorum, but had proved a formidable enough leader that Octavian preferred to ally with him.

Along with their lesser rival Lepidus, Octavian and Antony formed the Second Triumvirate, splitting Rome’s provinces between them: Octavian would rule the West, Antony the East and Lepidus Africa. Within a year, Antony defeated Caesar’s assassins Brutus and Antonius in the Battle of Phillipi, eliminating the two remaining leaders of the Republican cause in a battle that established his reputation as a general.

Mark Antony and Cleopatra

In 41 B.C. Antony began an affair with the Egyptian queen Cleopatra, who had been Caesar’s lover in the last years of his life. The queen gave birth to twins, Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene, but Antony was forced to return to Rome to deal with the aftermath of his wife and brother-in-law’s failed rebellion against Octavian. The Senate pushed for conciliation between the triumvirs, pressing the recently widowed Antony to marry Octavian’s sister Octavia Minor in 40 B.C.

In 37 B.C. the Triumvirate was renewed. Antony returned to Cleopatra and fathered a son, Ptolemy Philadelphus. The lovers grew more public in their relationship, participating in deification ceremonies where they took the roles of the Greco-Egyptian gods Dionysus-Osiris and Venus-Isis. More provocatively, they paraded their three children and Caesarion (Cleopatra’s son by Julius Ceasar) in costumes as legitimate royal heirs, flaunting Roman law’s refusal to acknowledge marriage with outsiders. Politically, Antony grew more and more entwined with the Egyptian kingdom, having turned to Cleopatra for help following his failed expedition against the Parthians in 36 B.C.

Meanwhile Octavian grew in strength, eliminating Lepidus from the triumvirate on a pretext of rebellion. In 32 B.C. Antony divorced Octavia. In retaliation, Octavian declared war, not on Antony but on Cleopatra. The fighting occurred in western Greece, where Antony had superior numbers but fell time and again to the brilliant naval attacks of Octavian’s general Agrippa. After their combined forces were defeated in the Battle of Actium, Antony and Cleopatra’s remaining ships made a desperate flight back to Egypt, pursued by Agrippa and Octavian.

As Octavian entered Alexandria, both Antony and Cleopatra resolved to commit suicide. Antony, thinking his lover already dead, stabbed himself with a sword but was then brought to die in Cleopatra’s arms. Mark Antony died on August 1, 30 BC. Cleopatra was captured but managed to kill herself via a poisonous snakebite. After Antony’s death his honors were all revoked, his statues removed. Cicero, Antony’s great rival in the senate, decreed that no one in the dead general’s family would ever bear the name Mark Antony again. Octavian was now emperor in all but name. Three years later he was granted a new honorific, Augustus, and ruled Rome for the next four decades.

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Mark Antony: The General Who Changed the Roman Republic

Mark Antony, also called Marcus Antonius, was a general who served under Julius Caesar, and later became part of a three-man dictatorship that ruled Rome. While assigned to duty in Egypt, Antony fell in love with Cleopatra, leading to conflict with Caesar's successor, Octavian Augustus. Following a defeat at the Battle of Actium, Antony and Cleopatra committed suicide together.

Mark Antony Fast Facts

  • Full Name: Marcus Antonius, or Mark Antony
  • Known For: Roman general who became a politician and leader of ancient Rome, eventual lover of Cleopatra and father of her three children. He and Cleopatra died together in a suicide pact after the Battle of Actium.
  • Born: January 14, 83 B.C., in Rome
  • Died: August 1, 30 B.C., in Alexandria, Egypt

1 &ndash He Wasn&rsquot Really Julius Caesar&rsquos Right-Hand Man

If you&rsquove read anything at all about Mark Antony, you&rsquoll have seen him referred to as Caesar&rsquos right-hand man. While he liked to boast about this supposed fact, the reality was very different. While he was also an administrator and statesman, Antony&rsquos real skill lay in the military field, and he was an excellent soldier and leader. However, loyalty wasn&rsquot one of his traits.

Before serving with Caesar, Antony worked with different masters in the east and seldom stayed anywhere too long. His primary political patron was Clodius Pulcher, a man known for helping anyone if the price was right. Indeed, Antony&rsquos service under Caesar was provided by Clodius. Caesar knew of Clodius&rsquo reputation so while he had no problems using him, he wasn&rsquot foolish enough to expect loyalty.

Antony excelled as a military commander while serving Caesar but his poor performance as an administrator angered his master who could never fully trust him. Antony was handed governorship of Italy while Caesar was away in Egypt but made such a mess of the role that his master returned home to relieve Antony of office.

It seems increasingly likely that Titus Labienus was Caesar&rsquos, actual right-hand man. Labienus was one of his chief lieutenants in Gaul and performed his role as Tribune of the Plebs in a manner that pleased his commander. While Antony was hopeless in the role of administrator, Labienus excelled and became known as a significant political force. Ultimately, Labienus betrayed Caesar by joining Pompey in the Civil War. Caesar learned his lesson by never trusting one of his men so implicitly. From that point onwards, he ensured several people held important positions, but none held the prominence enjoyed by Labienus.

The incident where Antony was removed from his post in Italy was the beginning of the break up in his relationship with Caesar. Antony&rsquos attitude towards his leader took a turn for the worse, and Caesar quickly grew to distrust his lieutenant. Perhaps this is why Antony never told Caesar that he was approached by conspirators. While he refused to play a role in Caesar&rsquos assassination, his inaction sealed his master&rsquos fate. As he would be the most senior lieutenant left alive in the event of Caesar&rsquos death and his leader&rsquos factions would certainly retaliate, perhaps Antony did nothing because he realized he would become the leader of the Caesarian faction?

Sources suggest he tried to save Caesar but arrived too late to prevent the Ides of March from occurring as senators prevented him from attending the meeting. He fled from Rome dressed as a slave only to return after reaching a compromise with the men who killed Caesar. At his former master&rsquos funeral, Antony gave a rousing speech which energized the crowd to the point where a riot broke out at the assembly. The homes of conspirators were burned to the ground and Cassius, and Brutus left Rome.

Mark Antony

Mark Antony was a soldier and statesman at the end of the Roman Republic known for:

  1. His stirring eulogy at the funeral of his friend Julius Caesar. Shakespeare has Mark Antony begin the eulogy at Caesar's funeral with the words:Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears
    I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
    The evil that men do lives after them
    The good is oft interred with their bones. (Julius Caesar
    . and his pursuit of Caesar's assassins Brutus and Cassius.
  2. Sharing the Second Triumvirate with Caesar's heir and nephew, Octavian (later Augustus), and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus.
  3. Being the final Roman lover of Cleopatra who gave her Roman territories as a gift.

Antony was a capable soldier, well-liked by the troops, but he alienated the people of Rome with his constant carousing, neglect of his virtuous wife Octavia (sister of Octavian/Augustus), and other behavior not in Rome's best interests.

After gaining sufficient power, Antony had Cicero, Antony's lifelong enemy who wrote against him (Philippics), beheaded. Antony himself committed suicide after losing the Battle of Actium he might have won the battle but for an unwillingness, on the part of his soldiers, to fight fellow Romans. That, and Cleopatra's sudden departure.

Mark Antony was born in 83 B.C. and died on August 1, 30 B.C. His parents were Marcus Antonius Creticus and Julia Antonia (a distant cousin of Julius Caesar). Antony's father died when he was young, so his mother married Publius Cornelius Lentulus Sura, who was executed (under the administration of Cicero) for having a role in the Conspiracy of Catiline in 63 B.C. This is assumed to have been a major factor in the hostility between Antony and Cicero.

Also Known As: Marcus Antonius

Alternate Spellings: Marc Antony, Marc Anthony, Mark Anthony

Mark Antony’s Persian Campaign

On June 9, 53 BC, hard-riding Parthian horse-archers from the Persian heartland lured a Roman infantry army into open country at Carrhae and surrounded it. Darting swiftly across the plains, the Parthians rained shield-piercing arrows onto the Roman lines. When the one-sided battle was over, 30,000 legionaries had been killed or captured. Among the dead was the Roman commander, Marcus Licinius Crassus.

Rome’s burning desire for revenge against the Persian kingdom had to be postponed while domestic disputes and civil wars were resolved. By 41 BC, Marcus Antonius (known to posterity by the name that William Shakespeare gave him, Mark Antony) was ready to take up the Parthian challenge. In that year Antony assembled an army and started off for the East. As he traveled he summoned Eastern client kings to meet with him and contribute financially and militarily to his cause. One of these was Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt. She was 28 years old at the time — the age, Plutarch assures us, “when a woman’s beauty is at its most superb and her mind at its most mature.” They met at the city of Tarsus in Cilicia, and he famously fell in love with her.

Having fallen under Cleopatra’s spell, Antony accepted an invitation to winter at her palace in Alexandria. For the moment his plans for invading Parthia were put on hold. He left his Syrian garrison in the command of his appointed governor, L. Decidius Saxa, while he set off for Alexandria and the inviting arms of Cleopatra.

While Antony lingered in Egypt, an army led by the Parthian Crown Prince Pacorus and Roman deserter Quintus Labienus made a preemptive strike across the Euphrates River into Syria. Labienus’ father had fought for Gaius Julius Caesar in Gaul, but later backed Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (Pompey the Great) against him. Labienus the younger had favored Caesar’s Republican enemies, Marcus Junius Brutus and Caius Cassius Longinus, who had sent him to negotiate with the Parthians. With the collapse of the Republican cause, Labienus stayed on in Persia rather than submit to the tender mercies of the victorious Antony and Caesar’s adopted nephew and heir, Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus (Octavian). Now he had returned with a Parthian army at his back. He and Pacorus swept away all resistance before them and soon reached Antioch on the Mediterranean Sea. No Persian had been master of Antioch since Alexander the Great evicted them some 300 years before.

In February or March 40 BC, Antony received word of the Parthian invasion and sailed at once from Egypt to Tyre on the coast of Phoenicia. The news he received at Tyre could not have been worse. The Parthians had rolled over everything in their path. Many of Antony’s troops in Syria had been former Republicans who had once fought against him in the service of Caesar’s assassins, Brutus and Cassius. They either had willingly gone over to their fellow Republican Labienus in joining the Persian invaders or had put up only token resistance. The loyal governor Saxa continued his defense of Syria until he was killed. After Syria was taken, the Parthians split their forces. Half the army under Labienus poured into Asia Minor while the other half under Pacorus moved south into a welcoming Judea to install a popular client king, Antigonus, over the Jews.

At the same time Antony was learning about the disaster in the East, he received news of his wife, Fulvia. His principal defender in Rome, she had taken up arms against Antony’s rival, Octavian, who had defeated her. She was forced to flee the city. An ambitious aristocrat, so powerful in her time that she was the first woman ever to be depicted on a Roman coin, Fulvia had sought to obtain even more power and fame through her husband. It must have been humiliating for her to learn during that winter that Antony was preoccupied with his new Egyptian mistress. She hurried east to join her husband, but died on the way.

Too busy to grieve, the widower Antony had two choices: He could stay in the East and fight the rampaging Parthians or return to Rome to shore up his crumbling position. He decided that affairs in Rome had to be dealt with first. While packing for home he appointed an ambitious officer, Publius Ventidius Bassus, as his proconsul in the East. It would turn out to be an inspired choice.

Antony rushed home, but it was October 40 BC before he finally met with Octavian. Blaming everything on Fulvia, he soon patched things up with his former partner, who had a proposition for him: Octavian’s older half-sister had been recently widowed, and since Antony was now a widower, why not accept a marriage to cement their alliance? Antony accepted.

During this time of harmony between the two rivals, Antony sought to make a deal with Octavian to strengthen his hand against the Parthians. He proposed to turn over 120 of his formidable warships to take part in Octavian’s war against Sextus Pompeius, son of Pompey the Great, who controlled Sicily and Sardinia as well as the seas of the western Mediterranean. In exchange for the ships, Antony was to receive 20,000 troops recruited in northern Italy to augment his forces in the East. But while Antony kept his part of the bargain, Octavian did not.

Antony was still in Rome when good news came from the East. Ventidius had massed 11 legions, and in 39 BC he challenged Labienus to a fight for control of Asia Minor. The Romans had been brooding over their defeat at the hands of the Parthians ever since Crassus lost his army almost 15 years before. Much thought had gone into how to defeat those formidable horse-archers with their armor-penetrating arrows.

The first step was to strengthen the standard Roman shield, made of wood, which Parthian arrows had so easily pierced. Second, more attention was paid to archery. Auxiliary archers who could use the powerful reflex-composite bow of the Parthians were hired or conscripted to augment every Roman unit.

Another weapon added to the Roman arsenal was the sling. An ancient weapon that predated the biblical tale of David and Goliath, it was nothing more than a leather strap that allowed the slinger to hurl a rock farther and faster than it could be thrown. As young David had demonstrated, an accomplished slinger could kill an opponent with a well-aimed shot, but that was rare. The slinger’s value lay in being used en masse to discomfit enemy bowmen and their mounts. A shower of rocks unsettled horses and spoiled the accurate aim of an unprotected archer. The Romans also turned to a defensive tactic called the testudo, or tortoise. When Parthian archers threatened a Roman line, the Romans bunched together and overlapped their shields to form a protective formation against armor-piercing arrows.

Ventidius assembled his army in Cilicia and immediately sent his cavalry to the mountain passes that bordered Asia Minor. If he could take the passes, he would cut Labienus’ Parthians off from their Eastern home. Unlike the glory-obsessed Crassus, who had let his enemy make that decision, Ventidius — thanks to his speed and keen eye — would choose the ground for the coming battle. He knew that flat ground favored the swifter cavalry of the Parthians over his largely infantry army. Hilly terrain, on the other hand, neutralized that advantage.

Ventidius situated himself on top of a steep, sloping hillside overlooking the mountain pass through which the Parthians would have to ride to return home. The approaching horsemen would need to charge uphill over rising and broken ground to get at him.

Labienus came up with his forces, surveyed the situation and decided on a dawn attack. The Parthian archers, sure of victory, charged upward out of the early morning mists into a Roman wall of massed slingers and bowmen. The charge slowed as each rider negotiated the rocky hillside. While guiding their horses over the unsure ground, they could not fire their arrows effectively.

The Romans held their fire until the horsemen had committed themselves to the uphill climb. At a signal came a volley of stones, arrows and spears. The attacking horse-archers had no shields to fend off the missiles. Their hapless animals bolted at the shock and pain of the hail of innumerable stones and arrows. The Parthians countered by sending in their heavy shock cavalry, called cataphracts. While those heavily armored lancers and horses were good at breaking a Roman line on level ground, they were much less effective struggling uphill against a swarm of eager opponents. Hundreds of Parthians fell, and Ventidius gained a great victory. During the night, Labienus disguised himself and fled. He was later caught and executed.

Having defeated the Parthian threat in Asia Minor, Ventidius learned that Crown Prince Pacorus was leading a new force from Parthia to invade Syria. To gain time, he sent spies to Pacorus to suggest that the Parthians cross the Euphrates River at their usual ford. Pacorus, suspecting a trick, crossed the river much farther downstream. But that was, in fact, exactly what Ventidius wanted him to do. The southern crossing of the river added some days to the Parthians’ march and gained precious time for the Romans to bring up their forces.

Ventidius did not oppose the Parthian crossing to the west bank of the Euphrates. The extra time it took the enemy to get into Syria allowed him to get his army into a position of his own choosing. When the Parthians found no opposition at the riverbank, they advanced confidently to the walled town of Gindarus, which sat upon a small hill. The Parthians could see no activity in the town and, thinking it deserted, approached confidently. When they were within range, the gates were flung open and the Romans came streaming out and charged downhill at them. At that point the Parthians were not using their light horse-archers but were relying on the shock value of the armored cataphracts. The heavily encumbered horses could not maneuver on the hilly slope. The Roman infantry overwhelmed the Parthians and threw them back across the river with heavy losses including Crown Prince Pacorus, who was killed. It was June 9, 38 BC — 15 years to the day of the Roman debacle at Carrhae. Crassus had been avenged. To announce his victories to the doubting East, Ventidius sent Pacorus’ severed head on a tour of Syrian towns to convince the people that they were at last safe from the rampaging enemy.

When news of that victory reached Rome, there was great rejoicing except in the home of Mark Antony. It would not do for his subordinate to gain all the victories and the glory — Antony must be present to claim the prize. He immediately departed for the East.

Ventidius did not pursue the retreating Parthians, possibly on the orders of a jealous Antony. Instead he settled some old scores with desert tribes that had supported the enemy. He was laying siege to the city of Samosata on the upper Euphrates when Antony at last came up. It was rumored that Ventidius had taken a large bribe from the people of Samosata to leave their city unmolested. True or false, the accusation was believed in Rome and tarnished Ventidius’ reputation.

Antony arrived too late to taste the glory of the Roman victories, but he quickly took charge of his army and the siege of Samosata. He showered Ventidius with faint praise and packed him off to Rome, where the happy Senate voted him a well-deserved triumph, the first ever against the Parthians. Settling into a hero’s retirement, Ventidius soon disappeared from history.

Antony quickly tired of the siege of Samosata and accepted 300 gold talents for ending it. Next he dealt with Antigonus, the Parthian-installed Jewish king in Jeru­salem. Antony had the usurper arrested, flogged and crucified (a harbinger for a future “king of the Jews”). To fill the kingly role in Jerusalem, Antony installed his friend Herod (the Great).

Antony then returned to Rome, where he found that public opinion had turned against him and in favor of Octavian. He was faulted for his dalliance with Cleopatra while the Parthians launched their invasion.

Only the efforts of Antony’s wife, Octavia, were able to restore a tenuous harmony between him and her brother, Octavian. Antony made plans to rehabilitate his good name by invading Parthia. The omens for a Persian war seemed favorable. News reached Rome that the remaining sons of wily old King Orodes II had assassinated him. Orodes, who had ruled Persia for 20 years after murdering his own father, had been king when Crassus was defeated. Now one of his patricidal sons, Phraates IV (38-2 BC), sat on the bloody Parthian throne.

To consolidate his position, Phraates IV ordered the execution of as many as 30 of his brothers and half-brothers. That brutal action signaled the tenor of his reign. Now more than ever Antony felt the need to achieve greatness. Octavian’s grip on Italy and the West was growing stronger. He had at last defeated Sextus Pompeius using the ships that Antony had loaned him.

Antony’s power base was in the East. If he achieved decisive victory over the Parthians, he could claim to have personally avenged Crassus and gather up untold riches to solidify his position in Rome. Gathering his forces and marching through Cilicia as he had done four years earlier, Antony summoned Cleopatra to join him with their young twins, Cleopatra and Alexander. She was once again pregnant before he sent her back to Egypt.

Before his death Caesar had planned an invasion of Parthia by way of Armenia. Antony now adopted that strategy. From his base in Syria he assembled 60,000 legionaries, along with 10,000 Hispanic and Celtic cavalry. These were joined with an auxiliary force of 30,000 archers, slingers and light infantry from allies and client states. Missing from the ranks were the 20,000 Italian infantry that Octavian had promised. With or without the promised legions, Antony meant to march into Armenia. There, King Artavasdes — who had once encouraged and then betrayed Crassus — anted up 6,000 horses and 7,000 foot soldiers for the common cause.

It was said that the size of Antony’s army put fear into men’s hearts as far away as India. But if Plutarch is to be believed, it was not the Indus River that Antony had on his mind but the Nile. Such was his haste to rush back to Alexandria and his mistress that he hastened the Parthian campaign beyond military prudence. After a march of 1,000 miles from Rome to Armenia, he did not allow his Roman soldiers time to rest and refit, but marched at once into Parthian territory. Advancing as rapidly as he could in order to catch the enemy off guard, he let his baggage train lag far behind. Three hundred wagons filled with provisions, extra weapons and siege engines, including an 80-foot-long battering ram, lumbered slowly along dirt roads under a guard of 10,000 men, among them a large contingent of Armenian cavalry.

The Romans and their allies invaded the Parthian province of Media Atropatene (northwestern Iran) in 36 BC. In the recent past the king of Media — an unwilling vassal to the unstable Phraates — had signaled his displeasure with his servitude to Parthia. With luck, he might become an ally of Rome.

Antony boldly moved into Media and laid siege to the important fortress city of Phraaspa, said to house the treasury as well as the wives and family of the Median king. Perhaps Antony was dreaming of making them captive — imitating Alexander, who had captured the harem and family of Darius III. The king of Media, though unhappy with Parthian rule, did not take kindly to Antony’s invasion of his country and assault upon his treasury and harem.

Meanwhile King Phraates, leading his army of 40,000 (at least a fourth of it cavalry) up from the south, learned that the Roman baggage train trailed far behind Antony’s van. He sent a large detachment of horse-archers to take it. When the Parthians approached the lumbering wagons, the Armenian cavalry bolted and withdrew to safety. The Parthians used their deadly bows to reduce the remaining defenders, then plundered and burned the all-important supply wagons.

When news of the loss reached the main Roman army, the Armenian king slunk out of camp and returned to his own country, partly shamed by his men’s behavior and partly because he could see how the wind was blowing. At first Antony resolved to continue the siege of Phraaspa. He had already started to pile up an earthen ramp at the base of the city wall — a time-consuming, dangerous job because the workers were within range of every sort of missile that could be hurled from the city’s ramparts. By then too the fall equinox had passed and the evening air was chill. Without siege engines or the battering ram, and with an active enemy rapidly joining the fray, the siege proved impossible. Antony was now deep inside enemy territory, his lines of communication had been cut, supplies were lost and winter was on the way. He found himself in the same situation that a later emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte, would confront at Moscow in 1812.

Antony decided to sally his cavalry against the gathering Parthians. Seeing his determination, they fled before him, but after a chase of up to six miles he had killed fewer than 100 enemy troops. In the aftermath of a few such indecisive and exhausting battles, he decided that he had no other choice but to retreat. He petitioned Phraates for a parley. When his envoys reached the Parthian camp, they found the king seated on a golden throne, strumming on his bowstring. Phraates promised the Roman envoys that Antony would have safe passage after they dropped his demand for the return of the standards captured from Crassus at Carrhae and the return of the surviving prisoners from that battle. But Phraates lied. A few days after Antony left his protected camp, the Parthians began to harass his columns.

Antony was tempted to take the easier and shorter route home through the flat country of Assyria, but wisely decided to move through the hills toward Armenia instead. The march would be colder and more difficult during that brutal winter, but their route offered some advantage over the hard-hitting Parthian cavalry.

At first the Parthians had some successes against the orderly retreat. On one occasion they nearly cut off the Roman rear guard and inflicted as many as 3,000 casualties. Antony rushed back from the vanguard with his heavy infantry to chase off the mounted archers. Thereafter he placed slingers and spearmen on his flanks and rear to offer a bristly reception to Parthian raids. The Romans often used the testudo to fend off barrages of Parthian arrows. On one occasion the Parthians closed in to try to overwhelm the Roman defensive formation. At a signal the Romans rushed out from behind their protection and killed as many of the enemy as they could catch.

There were 18 running battles and skirmishes between the two armies as Antony hacked his way through the mountain passes back to Armenia and temporary shelter. All the clashes proved indecisive and left both sides cold, exhausted and frustrated.

When Antony reached Armenian territory, the pursuers turned for home. He had lost as many as 20,000 men during the Median invasion. As so often happens in war, more died of disease, cold and despair than in battle. Another 8,000 or more died after Antony reached the borders of Armenia. Even there he did not feel safe. He gave the treacherous Armenian king every sign of friendship but would not dally in his country.

As Antony marched his survivors on to Antioch, his wife Octavia was traveling to meet him with money, supplies and clothing for his soldiers. She also brought an additional 2,000 fully equipped troops, courtesy of her brother Octavian. It was not the 20,000 he had promised, and their arrival came much too late. Octavian also returned 85 battered ships of the 120 that Antony had loaned him to fight Sextus Pompeius.

Defeated by his enemy and betrayed by his brother-in-law, Antony was furious. In Rome, however, Antony was seen as a villain due to his crushing losses at the hands of the barbarians and his ill treatment of Octavia. She was still apparently devoted to him and had done everything in her power to aid him, but when he reached Antioch Antony coldly advised her not to come to him. Upon her return to Rome, Octavian took offense at the insult to his sister, but Octavia refused to be the cause of the next civil war. She loyally continued to live in Antony’s house and raise his children, both hers and Fulvia’s. Roman public opinion turned decidedly against her adulterous husband. Ironically, Octavia’s loyalty to her husband helped to seal his fate.

Meanwhile, civil war broke out in Parthia. The King of Media, so recently besieged by Antony, now appealed to him for support in a dispute with Phraates. Antony promised to come to his aid, but instead of launching a spring campaign, he dallied in Alexandria until the summer of 34 BC.

On his second journey to the East, Antony subjugated Armenia and took King Artavasdes prisoner in revenge for his perfidy. The Armenian king who had betrayed both Crassus and Antony was bundled off to Alexandria, where he was imprisoned until after Antony’s and Cleopatra’s naval defeat at Octavian’s hands at Actium in 31 BC. Then a vindictive Cleopatra had him put to death. Armenia would long remember that insult.

After capturing Artavasdes, Antony traveled again to Media. This time he was well received, although given his diminished army he had no real help to give. Instead he betrothed one of his young sons by Cleopatra to the daughter of the Median king as a way of making an alliance, and then took his leave. Events in the West overtook his dreams of Eastern conquest, as he turned west to meet Octavian.

The Parthian campaign was the turning point in Antony’s fortunes. While he was losing up to 30,000 irreplaceable men and a foreign war, Octavian was consolidating his hold over the Western empire and the hearts of his fellow Romans.

Antony’s invasion of Media was a disaster from which he never recovered. The loss of so many loyal and disciplined troops could not be made up in time for the Battle of Actium. The struggle for the Roman world might have been very different had Antony triumphed against Parthia. But he, like Crassus, had underestimated his enemy. Antony’s fate was sealed in Iran. MH

This article appeared in the November 2006 issue of Military History. Glenn Barnett is an adjunct professor of history at Cerritos College in Norwalk, Calif. His latest book is The Persian War: The Roman Conflicts With Iraq and Iran.

The Persian War: The Roman Conflicts With Iraq and Iran. For more great articles be sure to subscribe to Military History magazine today!

The Suicide of Mark Antony

Mark Antony’s life spanned the last fifty years of the Roman Republic. Born in 83 BC into a family of ancient lineage and high distinction, Antony unsurprisingly lived a predominantly political and military existence. He held a respectable career as a Roman general and statesman however his romantic position became of increasing interest and importance. Mark Antony, it is supposed, partook in the union of marriage with five separate women, although his relationship with Cleopatra is undoubtedly the most infamous. Whilst many will be acquainted with Shakespeare’s play Antony and Cleopatra, based on Plutarch’s Life of Antony, the tragedy presents a romantic and distorted view of events. However, it remains dismally accurate that the suicide of Mark Antony, provoked by the belief that Cleopatra had already ended her own life, marked the tragic end of their relationship.

41 BC marked the year that saw the commencement of Mark Antony’s affair with the Egyptian queen, Cleopatra, the woman who had been Caesar’s lover in the last years of his life. Antony was forced to return to Rome from Egypt, which ultimately resulted in his obligatory marriage to Octavia, Octavian’s sister. After this brief interlude, Antony and Cleopatra’s liaison resumed in 37 BC.

Mark Antony and Cleopatra’s relationship did not only hold romantic significance, but also influenced Antony’s political standing in Rome. He became increasingly more entwined with the Egyptian kingdom and ultimately, his divorce from Octavia in 32 BC resulted in his complete alienation from the sympathies of his native people.

The declaration of war on Cleopatra by the embittered Octavia, and the subsequent Battle of Actium in 31 BC, signified the demise of Antony and Cleopatra’s marriage. The defeat of their combined forces impelled the pair to make a desperate flight back to Egypt, and Octavian’s invasion of Egypt in 30 BC exacerbated tensions further. Cleopatra’s escape to the sanctuary of her mausoleum provoked the dissolution of Antony and Cleopatra’s relationship in tragic circumstances. With no other refuge to escape to, Antony committed suicide by stabbing himself with his sword in the mistaken belief that Cleopatra had already done so, with many suggesting that this message was calculatedly sent in order to prompt Antony to kill himself. Antony’s wound was not immediately fatal, and upon being tragically informed that Cleopatra still lived, Antony had himself carried to Cleopatra’s retreat where he finally died in her arms.


  • 82-81 BCE: Marcus Antonius was born the son of a military commander and the grandson of a noted Roman orator. His mother was related to the family of the Gaius Julius Caesare.
  • 57-54 BCE: Antonius was a cavalry commander for Roman military operations in Egypt and Judea.
  • 54-50 BCE: Antonius joined the military staff of Julius Caesar for the Roman conquest of central and northern Gaul.
  • 51 BCE: Antonius became a quaestor in Roman government. This office was concerned with financial matters. This gave Antonius membership in the Roman Senate.
  • 49 BCE: Antonius becomes a tribune of the people, an office with considerable political power, include veto power over legislation passed by the Senate.

Marcus Antonius was defying the will of the Senate and the Senate, led by Circero, called upon Octavian for support against Antonius. The Senate makes Octavian a senator even though he is far too young to qualify. The troops of Octavian joined with troops which the Senate has at its command. The combined forces drove Antonius out of Italy into Gaul.

In the battle with Anthony's forces the two elected Consuls of Rome were killed. Octavian's troops demanded that the Senate confer the title of Consul on Octavian. Octavian was officially recognized as the son of Julius Caesar. He then took the name Gaius Julius Caesar (Octavianus). He was more generally known as Octavian during this period.

Antony and Octavian undertook a military expedition to the east to defeat Brutus and Cassius. In two battles at Philippi the troops of Brutus and Cassius are defeated and Brutus and Cassius kill themselves. The Triumvirate then divide up the Empire. Anthony gets the east and Gaul. Lepidus gets Africa and Octavian gets the west except for Italy which was to be under common control of the three.

In Italy Octavian faced a local war where he intended to grant land for settlement to the soldiers of his army. His forces defeated the local opposition at the city now known as Perugia.

The allianace of Octavian and Antonius was renewed and further confirmed by Antonius marrying the sister of Octavian, Octavia. This political marriage also did not endure. Antonius was still enamored of Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt.

Early Life

Mark Antony was born on January 14, 83 BCE. His father was Marcus Antonius Creticus, while his mother Julia Antonia was a distant relative of Julius Caesar. History documents his father as a corrupt and incompetent general. He was given the role because he could neither abuse or efficiently use his power. He died fighting pirates in Crete in 71 BCE. Historians document his early and teenage life as that marred by scandals. He spent much of his time wandering across the Roman empire gambling and forming street gangs. By 58 BCE he was heavy in debt and had to flee to Greece where he studied philosophy and rhetoric.

Antony, Mark

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Antony, Mark, Roman general and, after Caesar’s death, one of the triumvirs in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and the hero of Antony and Cleopatra. Constructing his play around events in Roman history, Shakespeare presented Antony as a loyal friend and noble subject in Julius Caesar. Antony’s funeral oration for Caesar begins with the oft-quoted line “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.” By the end of this speech, his passion and eloquence have delivered a subtle but stinging condemnation of Caesar’s murderers, Brutus and the other senators. (Click here to hear Herbert Beerbohm Tree declaiming Antony’s “O, pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth” speech [Act III, scene 1, line 256] from Julius Caesar.)

In Antony and Cleopatra Shakespeare looks at the mature Roman soldier, casting Antony as a tragic figure reluctant to abandon the voluptuous pleasures of Egypt and Cleopatra even as events at home threaten his political position and his very life. Shakespeare examines the forces that can cause a once-inspired leader to lose his energy, his will, and his judgment.

Watch the video: Monah Antonije ova represija je veća poruka,nego da litija ide molitvenim putem. (May 2022).


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