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Marcus Antonius, b. B.C. 83.

This is hardly the time at which a final review of ANTONY's character should be made, for the test of his real worth as a statesman and ruler came in the period following Cicero's death. Yet in spite of personal prejudice Cicero does not seem to have made a mistaken estimate of him. In B.C. 51 he had foreseen that he and his brothers were likely to be important personages in the Caesarian era, and had warned his friend Thermus not to offend them.1 Marcus had been through the regular official round. He had served with Gabinius in Syria and Egypt (B.C. 57-56), had beeji quaestor and legatus to Iulius Caesar in Gaul (B.C. 54-52), and was one of the tribunes of B.C. 50-49 who vetoed the fatal motion in January, B.C. 49, for his recall. His greatness then began. After Pompey's flight and Caesar's departure for Spain, he was left in charge of Italy with the rank of propraetor. In B.C. 48 he joined Caesar in Epirus with reinforcements, fought at Pharsalia, and was sent back after the victory to take over again the management of Rome and Italy; and when Caesar was named Dictator in B.C. 47 Antony was named his Master of the. Horse. Thus far his energy and courage had put him in the front rank of Caesar's younger officers. But from this time his weaknesses as well as his strength began to shew themselves. He was not successful in his government at Rome during Caesar's absence in Alexandria, and the disorders which grew to a dangerous height under his administration, both in the city and among the veteran legions, were only suppressed by the return of the Dictator. His wild debaucheries seem to have contributed to weaken his influence, and his financial embarrassments, partly at least to be attributed to them, caused him to attempt their relief by dealing with confiscated properties in a way which brought him into collision with Caesar. A coldness appears to have arisen between them, and Lepidus took his place as Master of the Horse. But this coldness, whatever its nature and cause, disappeared upon Caesar's return from Spain in B.C. 45, and Antony was named consul as Caesar's colleague for B.C. 44. In spite of Cicero's invectives against him in the last months of the orator's life, Antony does not seem to have treated him with personal disrespect or harshness: and this Cicero often acknowledges, scandalized as he was by his conduct whilst in charge of Italy. He was in fact not unkindly by nature, capable of genuine affection and even passion (he ended, we all know, in throwing away the world for a woman's smile), good-natured, and florid in person as well as in style of speech and writing. But with some amiable qualities, he was without virtues. In a ruler good-natured indulgence to followers means often suffering to the ruled. In a competitor for empire, reckless gallantry is by itself no match for self-control and astuteness. In the end the unimpassioned youth, whom we find him here treating with some disdain, out-manoeuvred him and outbid him for popular favour, and finally even beat him in war. In these letters, in spite of their hostility, we learn of what was perhaps his greatest military achievement, his masterly retreat from Mutina and his rally in Gallia Narbonensis.


1 Vol. ii., p.157.

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