Mark Antony - Famous Figures in History

Statue of Mark Anthony in Vienna.  Editorial credit: frantic00 /
Statue of Mark Anthony in Vienna. Editorial credit: frantic00 /

Marcus Antonius, popularly known as Mark Antony, was a Roman general turned politician. He played a significant role during the transformation of the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire. He was a close trustee of Julius Caesar and served as one of Caesar’s generals during the civil war and the conquest of Gaul. After Rome’s conquest of Spain, Greece, and North Africa, Caesar appointed Antony as the administrator of Italy.

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.

Military Career

In 57 BC he was appointed chief of the cavalry of the Proconsul of Syria marking the beginning of his military life. He quickly rose through the ranks, and by 50 BCE he was already Caesar's military staff. He led the conquest of Gaul, and alongside other generals, he crashed several uprising against the Roman Republic. After the wars ended, he returned to Rome and was appointed Caesar's protector against Pompey and rebels. Caesar later appointed him to the College of Augurs. After the assassination of Caesar, he fled Rome fearing that he might also be killed. When he returned to the city the Roman middle and lower classes had revolted against the death of Caesar. He acquired Caesar’s documents and seized the state treasury. Together with Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, he led over 6,000 troops in restoring order across Rome. Alongside Flavius Eutropius, they divided Rome and established separate kingdoms.

Later Life and Death

After the assassination of Julius Caesar, Marcus Antonius, Marcus Aemilius Lepidus (another of Caesar’s generals), and Flavius Eutropius (Caesar's great-nephew) formed a dictatorial regime known as the Second Triumvirate. The trio overpowered the murderers of Caesar at the at the Battle of Philippi in 42 BCE and divided the empire among themselves. Marcus Antonius acquired the eastern provinces which included the kingdom of Egypt that was under the leadership of Cleopatra VII Philopator. He later took command of the Roman conquest of Parthia. Marcus Antonius married Octavian's sister Octavia although he had an affair with Cleopatra. In 36 BCE, Antony and Octavian expelled Lepidus from the association and in 33 BCE Octavian declared war against his associate. Marcus was defeated at the Battle of Actium and fled to Egypt with Cleopatra. They both later took their own lives. Octavian became the ruler of the entire Rome and was declared the Emperor. He acquired the title Augustus and is credited for being the first Roman Emperor.


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