Anto'nius or M. Antonius
12. M. ANTONIUS
M. F. M. N., the son of M. Antonius Creticus [No. 9] and Julia, the sister of L. Julius Caesar, consul in B. C. 64, was born, in all probability, in B. C. 83. His father died while he was still young, and he was brought up in the house of Cornelius Lentulus, who married his mother Julia, and who was subsequently put to death by Cicero in 63 as one of Catiline's conspirators. Antony indulged in his very youth in every kind of dissipation, and became distinguished by his lavish expenditure and extravagance; and, as he does not appear to have received a large fortune from his father, his affairs soon became deeply involved.
He was, however, released from his difficulties by his friend Curio, who was his companion in all his dissipation, and between whom and Antony there existed, if report be true, a most dishonourable connexion.
The desire of revenging the execution of his step-father, Lentulus, led Antony to join Clodius in his opposition to Cicero and the aristocratical party.
But their friendship was not of long continuance; and Antony, pressed by his creditors, repaired to Greece in 58, and from thence to Syria, where he served under the proconsul A. Gabinius as commander of the cavalry.
He soon became distinguished as a brave and enterprizing officer.
He took part in the campaigns against Aristobulus in Palestine (57, 56), and also in the restoration of Ptolemy Auletes to Egypt in 55.
In the following year (54) he went to Caesar in Gaul, whose favour and influence he acquired, and was in consequence, on his return to Rome (53), elected quaestor for the following year.
He was supported in his canvass for the quaestorship by Cicero, who became reconciled to him through the mediation of Caesar.
As quaestor (52) he returned to Gaul, and served under Caesar for the next two years (52, 51).
Antony's energy and intrepidity pointed him out to Caesar as the most useful person to support his interests at Rome, where it was evident that the aristocratical party had made up their minds to crush Caesar, if it were possible. Antony accordingly left Gaul in 50 and came to Rome. Through the influence of Caesar, he was elected into the college of augurs, and was also chosen one of the tribunes of the plebs.
He entered on his office on the 10th of December, and immediately commenced attacking the proceedings of Pompey and the aristocracy. On the 1st of January in the following year (49), the senate passed a decree depriving Caesar of his command. Antony and his colleague Q. Cassius interposed their veto; but as the senate set this at nought, and threatened the lives of the two tribunes, Antony and his colleague fled from Rome on the 7th of January, and took refuge with Caesar in Gaul. Caesar now marched into Italy, and within a few weeks obtained complete possession of the peninsula.
Antony was one of his legates, and received in the same year the supreme command of Italy, when Caesar crossed into Spain to prosecute the war against the Pompeian party.
In the following year (48), he conducted reinforcements to Caesar in Greece, and was present at the battle of Pharsalia, where he commanded the left wing. In 47, Caesar, who was then dictator, appointed Antony master of the horse; and, during the absence of the former in Africa, he was again left in the command of Italy.
The quiet state of Italy gave Antony an opportunity of indulging his natural love of pleasure. Cicero in his second Philippic has given a minute account of the flagrant debaucheries and licentiousness of which Antony was guilty at this time, both in Rome and the various towns of Italy; and it is pretty certain that most of these accounts are substantially true, though they are no doubt exaggerated by the orator.
It was during this time that Antony divorced his wife Antonia (he had been previously married to Fadia [FADIA]), and lived with an actress named Cytheris, with whom he appeared in public.
About the same time, a circumstance occurred which produced a coolness between Caesar and Antony. Antony had purchased a great part of Pompey's property, when it was confiscated, under the idea that the money would never be asked for. But Caesar insisted that it should be paid, and Antony raised the sum with difficulty.
It was perhaps owing to this circumstance that Antony did not accompany Caesar either to Africa or Spain in 46. During this year he married Fulvia, the widow of Clodius.
In the next year (45) all trace of disagreement between Caesar and Antony disappears ; he went to Narbo in Gaul to meet Caesar on his return from Spain, and shortly after offered him the diadem at the festival of the Lupercalia. In 44 he was consul with Caesar, and during the time that Caesar was murdered (15th of March), was kept engaged in conversation by some of the conspirators outside the senate-house.
The conspirators had wished to engage Antony as an accomplice, and he was sounded on the point the year before by Trebonius, while he was in Gaul ; but the proposition was rejected with indignation.
Antony had now a difficult part to play.
The murder of Caesar had paralyzed his friends and the people, and for a time placed the power of the state in the hands of the conspirators. Antony therefore thought it more prudent to come to terms with the senate; but meantime he obtained from Calpurnia the papers and private property of Caesar ; and by his speech over the body of Caesar and the reading of his will, he so roused the feelings of the people against the murderers, that the latter were obliged to withdraw from the popular wrath. Antony, however, seems not to have considered himself strong enough yet to break with the senate entirely; he accordingly effected a reconciliation with them, and induced them to accept a number of laws, which he alleged were found among Caesar's papers. Antony was now the most powerful man in the state, and seemed likely to obtain the same position that Caesar had occupied.
But a new and unexpected rival appeared in young Octavianus, the adopted son and great-nephew of the dictator, who came from Apollonia to Rome, assumed the name of Caesar, and managed to secure equally the good will of the senate and of his uncle's veteran troops.
A struggle now ensued between Antony and Caesar.
The former went to Brundusium, to take the command of the legions which had come from Macedonia ; the latter collected an army in Campania. Two of Antony's legions shortly afterwards deserted to Caesar; and Antony, towards the end of November, proceeded to Cisalpine Gaul, which had been previously granted him by the senate, and laid siege to Mutina, into which Dec. Brutus had thrown himself. At Rome, meantime, Antony was declared a public enemy, and the conduct of the war against him committed to Caesar and the two consuls, C. Vibius Pansa and A. Hirtius, at the beginning of the next year, B. C. 43. Several battles were fought with various success, till at length, in the battle of Mutina (about the 27th of April, 43), Antony was completely defeated, and obliged to cross the Alps. Both the consuls, however, had fallen, and the command now devolved upon Dec. Brutus. In Gaul Antony was joined by Lepidus with a powerful army, and was soon in a condition to prosecute the war with greater vigour than ever. Meantime, Caesar, who had been slighted by the senate, and who had never heartily espoused its cause, became reconciled to Antony, through the mediation of Lepidus, and thus the celebrated triumvirate was formed in the autumn of this year (43).
The reconciliation was made on the condition that the government of the state should be vested in Antony, Caesar, and Lepidus, who were to take the title of Triumviri Reipublicae Constituendac
for the next five years; and that Antony should receive Gaul as his province; Lepidus, Spain; and Caesar, Africa, Sardinia, and Sicily.
The mutual friends of each were proscribed, and in the executions that followed, Cicero fell a victim to the revenge of Antony--an act of cruelty, for which even the plea of necessity could not be urged.
The war against Brutus and Cassius, who commanded the senatorial army, was entrusted to Caesar and Antony, and was decided by the battle of Philippi (42), which was mainly gained by the valour and military talents of Antony. Caesar returned to Italy; and Antony, after remaining some time in Greece, crossed over into Asia to collect the money which he had promised to the soldiers. In Cilicia he met with Cleopatra, and followed her to Egypt, where he forgot everything in dalliance with her.
But he was roused from his inactivity by the Parthian invasion of Syria (40), and was at the same time summoned to support his brother Lucius [see No. 14] and his wife Fulvia, who were engaged in war with Caesar.
But before Antony could reach Italy, Caesar had obtained possession of Perusia, in which Lucius had taken refuge ; and the death of Fulvia in the same year removed the chief cause of the war, and led to a reconciliation between Caesar and Antony. To cement their union, Antony married Caesar's sister Octavia.
A new division of the Roman world was made, in which Antony received as his share all the provinces east of the Adriatic.
In the following year (39), the Triumvirs concluded a peace with Sext. Pompey, and Antony afterwards went to his provinces in the east.
He entrusted the war against the Parthians to Ventidius, who gained a complete victory over them both in this and the following year (38). Sosius, another of his generals, conquered Antigonus, who claimed the throne of Judaea in opposition to Herod, and took Jerusalem (38). In 37 Antony crossed over to Italy; and a rupture, which had nearly taken place between him and Caesar, was averted by the mediation of Octavia.
The triumvirate, which had terminated on the 31st of December, 38, was now renewed for five years, which were to be reckoned from the day on which the former had ceased.
After concluding this arrangement, Antony returned to the east.
He shortly afterwards sent Octavia back to her brother, and surrendered himself entirely to the charms of Cleopatra, on whom he conferred Coelc-Syria, Phoenicia, and other provinces. From this time forward, Cleopatra appears as Antony's evil genius.
He had collected a large army to invade the Parthian empire; but, unable to tear himself away from Cleopatra, he delayed his march till late in the year.
The expedition was a failure; he lost a great number of his troops, and returned to Syria covered with disgrace (36). Antony now made preparations to attack Artavasdes, the king of Armenia, who had deserted him in his war against the Parthians; but he did not invade Armenia till the year 34.
He obtained possession of the Armenian king, and carried him to Alexandria, where he celebrated his triumph with extraordinary splendour. Antony now laid aside entirely the character of a Roman citizen, and assumed the pomp and ceremony of an eastern despot. His conduct, and the unbounded influence which Cleopatra had acquired over him, alienated many of his friends and supporters; and Caesar, who had the wrongs of his sister Octavia to revenge, as well as ambition to stimulate him, thought that the time had now come for crushing Antony.
The years 33 and 32 passed away in preparations on both sides; and it was not till September in the next year (31) that the contest was decided in the sea-fight off Actium, in which Antony's fleet was completely defeated. His land forces surrendered to Caesar ; and he himself and Cleopatra, who had been present at the battle, fled to Alexandria.
In the following year (30), Caesar appeared before Alexandria. Antony's fleet and cavalry deserted to the conqueror; his infantry was defeated; and upon a false report that Cleopatra had put an end to her life, he killed himself by falling on his sword.
The death of Cleopatra soon followed; and Caesar thus became the undisputed master of the Roman world. [AUGUSTUS.] (Plutarch's Life of Antony ;
Orelli's Onomasticon Tull.;
Drumann's Geschichte Roms,
i. p. 64, &c.)
The annexed coin represents the head of Antony, with the inscription, M. ANTONIUS IMP. COS. DESIG. ITER. ET. TERT., which is surrounded with a crown of ivy. On the reverse is a cista, a box used in the worship of Bacchus, surmounted by a female's head, and encompassed by two serpents. (Eckhel, vol. vi. p. 64.)