Mark Antony was a great leader, but he lacked political skill and was unable to succeed in his mission to lead a Greco-Roman collaboration. He is known for his membership in the Second Triumvirate, his relationship with Cleopatra of Egypt, and his suicide after being defeated by his political opponent Octavius.
Marcus Antonius - commonly known as Mark Antony - was born on January 14, 83 BCE in Rome. According to Plutarch, Antony did not have a lot of parental guidance and was said to have wandered the streets of Rome gambling, drinking, and engaging in love affairs. Antony had accumulated a massive debt by the age of 20 and ran off to Greece to escape. He studied philosophy and rhetoric in Athens.
Antony served as a cavalry commander in Judaea and Egypt. He later joined Julius Caesar's staff, and served with him toward the end of Caesar's conquest of northern and central Gaul (now France). By 52 BCE, Antony held the office of quaestor, a financial administration position that gave him a lifetime seat in the Senate. When the Civil War between Pompey and Caesar began, Antony was in full support of Caesar and served as a successful military commander. He later became consul and a flamen (priest) of Caesar.
Antony took possession of the treasury and Caesar's papers after Caesar's assassination in 44 BCE. He was granted the north and central parts of Gaul, as well as northern Italy, by the Senate. However, Senate members Cicero and Octavius allied with the consuls after Cicero attacked Atony and defeated him twice. Not long after, Octavius met up with Antony and his ally Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, and the three formed a five-year alliance, which is known as the Second Triumvirate, and divided the empire. Antony’s portion included Egypt and he called upon Cleopatra to question her allegiance. A love affair ensued.
Antony helped Cleopatra revive the Ptolemaic Kingdom, and Cleopatra supplied Antony with troops and money. He made Alexandria his home base and had Cleopatra pronounced Queen of Kings, giving royal titles to the three children they had together. Antony's actions caused Octavius to launch a political campaign against him, and ended up declaring war on Cleopatra. Antony’s Roman supporters started to abandon him and take Octavius' side. Finally, at the Battle of Actium, Octavius succeeded in defeating Antony, who killed himself, followed by his lover Cleopatra. Antony was a skilled military leader, but was unable to bring the Senate to align with his vision of Greco-Roman collaboration. The consequences eventually brought about his demise.
Mark Antony Significant Accomplishments
- Allied with Julius Caesar and was a general during the conquest of Gaul and the Civil War.
- Was part of the Second Triumvirate with Octavius and Lepidus and divided the oversight of the empire, with Antony taking all the eastern provinces including Egypt.
- Commanded Caesar’s cavalry in Gaul.
- Held office in the College of the Augurs - an important political-religious role.
- Formed an alliance and had children with the queen of Egypt, Cleopatra.
- Played an important role in transforming Rome from a republic to an empire.
Mark Antony Quotes
“I shall be a good politician. Even if it kills me. Or if it kills anyone else, for that matter.”
“I am dying, Egypt, dying.”
“Such as are thy habitual thoughts, such also will be the character of thy soul-for the soul is dyed by the thoughts. Dye it then, with a continuous series of such thoughts as these-that where a man can live, there if he will, he can also live well.”
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