Mark Antony of Rome: Biography, Facts & Death

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Explore the life and times of the Roman politician and general Mark Antony and test your understanding about the foundation of the Roman Empire and the ancient world.

Render Unto Caesar

Few figures are as remembered as Julius Caesar. Dictator of Rome, brilliant politician, and tragic victim of betrayal, Caesar changed the ancient world. However, he didn't do it alone.

Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar

Mark Antony (83-30 BC), often called Marcus Antonius, was a Roman politician and general and a major contributor in turning Rome from a republic into an empire. He supported Caesar on his rise to power and fought for his legacy after his death.

Mark Antony
Mark Antony

Early Career and Supporting Caesar

Mark Antony was born in Rome in 83 BC and grew up educated but with little parental supervision. He joined the military in 57 BC as chief of cavalry in Syria. He was involved in the campaign in Egypt lead by Gabinius to restore the Pharaoh Ptolemy XII to the throne after a family rebellion, and met the 14-year-old Cleopatra.

In 54 BC, Antony's connections got him a position on the military staff of Julius Caesar during the conquest of Gaul. At this point, Caesar was essentially ruling Rome with two other men (Pompey and Crassus) in a three-person dictatorship called the First Triumvirate. Antony impressed Caesar with his military leadership, and their relationship helped Antony gain more political prominence. By 50 BC, the Triumvirate had fallen apart, and Caesar sent Antony to Rome to represent him against the factions of Pompey for control of the republic. In 49 BC, Antony was banished from the Senate and met Caesar on the Rubicon as Caesar began his march on Rome to take control of the government by force. After Caesar's victory, Antony was appointed his second in command and governor of Italy.

The Second Triumvirate

In 44 BC, Antony and Caesar were both elected consuls, the highest elected position in Rome, and Caesar was named dictator for life. However, Caesar was murdered that March by members of the Senate. The assassins expected Rome to become a republic again, but the immense popularity of Caesar amongst the people meant that his death was met with riots, and a civil war began. Antony seized control of the state treasury and formed the Caesarian faction, supporters of Caesar, to restore power. One of Caesar's major generals, Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, brought 6,000 troops to Rome to serve the Caesarian cause. The presence of troops was enough that Antony was able to force a compromise, restore the Senate, and end the civil war.

The Second Triumvirate
Second Triumvirate

When Caesar's will was read, it was discovered that he had named his great-nephew, Octavian, as his heir to power. Antony continued to act as the head of the Caesarian party, but when Antony arrived in Rome that May, the two clashed. The Senate, still opposing Caesar's supporters, used the conflict to strip Antony of most of his power. Antony and Octavian started working together to support the Caesarian party, and between the strength of their armies and Lepidus', they took control of Rome. In 43 BC, Octavius, Antony, and Lepidus set up a three-man dictatorship over Rome called the Second Triumvirate. They fought together to rid Rome of those who had conspired in Caesar's death and who opposed the Caesarian party, and they divided Roman territories amongst themselves.

Cleopatra and the End of the Triumvirate

In 41 BC, Antony sought the support of the Egyptian Pharaoh Cleopatra for a war he was fighting to keep Syria under Roman control. The two started a love affair, resulting in twins. Antony returned to Egypt again in 36 BC and married Cleopatra. The relationship caused a massive scandal amongst the Roman people, who thought that Antony was being manipulated and had become more Egyptian than Roman.

Roman coins featuring Antony and Cleopatra
Coins featuring Antony and Cleopatra

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