Marc Antony

Military Leader

Born: 83 B.C.
Died: 30 B.C. (suicide)
Birthplace: Ancient Rome
Best known as:

Cleopatra's ill-fated lover

Latin name: Marcus Antonius

Antony was a daring general in the army of Julius Caesar who rose to become one of Caesar's closest colleagues. After Caesar was assassinated in 44 B.C., Antony jumped into the struggle for control of Rome. (At the funeral of Caesar he spoke out strongly against the assassins; William Shakespeare later dramatized this moment in the play Julius Caesar, with the famous oration beginning "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.") Antony joined forces with Caesar's adopted heir Octavian to purge Rome of their common enemies. They formed the so-called Second Triumvirate with general Marcus Lepidus and divided the empire, with Antony being given control of Egypt. There he met and became the lover of the Egyptian queen Cleopatra. Their meeting, with Cleopatra dressed as the love goddess Venus and arriving on a lavishly decorated barge, is a famous story recorded by Plutarch and others. Antony and Cleopatra joined forces and the triumvirate dissolved. At the battle of Actium in 31 B.C. the naval forces of Antony and Cleopatra were routed by those of Octavian. (Cleopatra fled the scene while the battle was still underway, and Antony followed; their departure is often regarded as one of naval history's great blunders.) A year later, with Octavian's forces nearing Alexandria, Antony committed suicide by falling on his sword. Cleopatra followed suit (allegedly killing herself with the self-inflicted bite of a poisonous snake) and Octavian was left in final control of Egypt and Rome. Antony's life and tragic end was immortalized by Shakespeare in his play Antony and Cleopatra.

Extra credit:

Marc Antony's name is sometimes modernized to "Marc Anthony," and he is sometimes called simply "Antony"... Marc Anthony is also the name of a popular modern salsa musician... Much of what we know about Antony's character comes from his description by Plutarch in Parallel Lives of Famous Greeks and Romans, otherwise known as Plutarch's Lives... Cleopatra had been a lover of Julius Caesar before becoming the lover of Antony... Among those killed by Antony in his purge of Rome was the popular statesman and orator Cicero.

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