The name Mark Antony often stirs in one’s memory the first lines of his eulogy for Caesar. Indeed, that speech is widely known among students and lovers of literature and history. However, what needs to be seen is the life of the person who gave that popular eulogy.
Mark Antony came from a well-known family. His grandfather was a public speaker, and his father, Markus Antonius Creticus, was in the military who was given the power to command in the fight against the pirates in the Mediterranean. Unfortunately, his father died in Crete during a military expedition. His mother, Julia, is a cousin of Julius Caesar.
Mark Antony was provided a good education, with focus on studies that honed his knowledge in politics and public speaking. However, he also had a reckless personality and found himself immersed in heavy gambling. Haunted by creditors, he went to Greece and pursued his studies there by listening to Athenian orators and philosophers. However, this too came to a halt, as he was made commander of a cavalry regiment by Aulus Gabinius. This is the start of Mark Antony’s life in the military, and it was a good start as he garnered victories in Machaerus and Alexandrium.
Career Under Caesar
After his campaign against Aristobulus II, Mark Antony was assigned to be a staff officer for Julius Caesar in Gaul. Gaul is more known today as the region occupied by France, Italy, Germany, and Belgium. Caesar accomplished his task of conquering Gaul with the support of Antony, who suppressed the rebellion against the Romans. In his return from Gaul, Antony was appointed as a tribune or a chosen one who represented the people’s interest. In contrast to senators, whose members came from the upper class of Roman society, Tribunes represented the rights of the individuals and of the people.
Antony’s appointment to the Tribune was to be for Caesar’s interest. During that time, the Senate was planning to put Caesar to trial due to misuse of power and Caesar relied on Antony and the Tribunes to defend him. Antony did not disappoint Caesar, being a relative and after forming a close friendship with him during his service in Gaul. However, the Senate set up a special power to preserve the state, and in fear that this will be used against him, Antony fled to Caesar. This gave Caesar the opportunity to use the situation in his advantage. He claimed that he was defending the tribunes, the voice of the people, against the Senate.
These series of events led to numerous civil wars. Mark Antony joined Caesar’s army in the fight against Pompey, the leader of the Senate faction. Caesar eventually defeated Pompey and became a dictator, bringing second to his command his closest ally, Antony, as his consul.
The power given to Antony worked against him. As an administrator, he found himself indulging in extravagance, which did not leave unnoticed by Caesar. Eventually, when Antony resorted to violence amidst the conflict, Caesar removed him from office and the two became estranged for two years.
During these years, a conspiracy against Caesar was already afoot and Antony was persuaded to join in, but he declined. In 44 B.C., Antony and Caesar reconciled and again Antony was made a consul. This partnership was short live as Caesar was assassinated in Markh 15, 44 B.C. Antony tried to warn him but failed. Despite their association, Antony was spared his life as the assassins believed that killing a legitimate officer of the state would work against their aim of removing an illegal ruler.
Life After Caesar’s Death
Mark Antony faced two wars after Caesar’s death. One was against the conspirators, and another against Caesar’s followers who have become undecided about their leadership. Antony has to fight against Caesar’s nephew, Octavian, over continuing the deceased’s political power. This conflict, however, ended when Octavian refused to be used by the Senate. Instead, Antony, Octavian, and Lepidus created the Second Triumvirate, where the three of them ruled the empire.
Despite this alliance, the tension between Octavian and Antony persisted until the end of the Second Triumvirate in 33 B.C. Octavian has started rumors against Antony to turn the people against him, especially those who continued to give him support. One of these rumors focused on Antony’s affair with Cleopatra leading him to divorce his wife. Both men finally came to war with Antony defeated. This drove him back to Egypt, where Cleopatra was the Queen. However, when Octavian followed him there, Mark Antony resorted to suicide, leaving Octavian the chance to become Rome’s first emperor.