Marcus Antonius, who is known in English as Mark Antony, was a Roman general and statesman. He was an integral part of politics in Rome during its transition from a Republic to Empire. Friend of Julius Caesar and lover of Queen Cleopatra, Mark Antony had an eventful life. Here are 10 interesting facts about him.

 

#1 Mark Antony was an alcoholic, spendthrift and womanizer in his teens

Bust of Mark Antony
Bust of Mark Antony

Marcus Antonius was born in Rome on January 14, 83 BC to Marcus Antonius Creticus and Julia Antonia. Mark spent his teenage years wandering through Rome with friends, gambling and drinking. He was also involved in numerous scandalous affairs. Due to his extravagant lifestyle Mark was in great debt by the time he was twenty. This led to his fleeing to Athens, where he started studying philosophy and rhetoric.

#2 He started his military career as chief of cavalry

Mark Antony’s military career began under Aulus Gabinius in 57 BC as chief of cavalry. In 54 BC, after serving in important victories in Palestine and Egypt, Antony joined the military staff of Julius Caesar, who was one of the three men controlling the Roman Republic; the others being Pompey and Crassus.

#3 Mark Antony and Julius Caesar were good friends

Antony showed excellent military leadership under Caesar and was involved in Gallic Wars which resulted in expansion of the Roman Republic over the whole of Gaul. During this time, Mark Antony developed a friendly relationship with Caesar which lasted till the assassination of Caesar.

Bust of Julius Caesar
Bust of Julius Caesar

#4 Mark Antony served as an Augur and a Tribune

After the conquest of Gaul in 50 BC, Caesar, who was head of the Roman religion, appointed Antony as an Augur, an importantly priestly office responsible for interpreting the will of the Roman gods by studying the flight of birds. The next year, Antony was elected as one of the ten People’s Tribunes. He had the power to veto any legislation and he used it to Caesar’s advantage.

#5 Antony became consul in 44 BC

Crassus died in 53 BC and after Pompey’s supporters expelled Mark Antony from the senate and stripped Caesar of his position, Caesar started a campaign against Pompey which ultimately led to Pompey’s death. During this period Caesar captured many regions including Italy, Spain, Sicily, and Sardinia. Mark Antony was the most powerful man after Caesar and in 44 BC, Caesar appointed Antony as his co-consul. Consuls were two annually elected chief magistrates who jointly ruled the republic.

 

#6 Antony knew about the plot to assassinate Caesar but couldn’t save him

To prevent Caesar from seizing all powers, a group of Senators plotted to kill him at the meeting on the Ides of March. Mark Antony became aware of the plot and rushed to stop Caesar from attending the meeting. However, the Senators intercepted Caesar before Antony could reach him and directed him towards the meeting. Caesar was stabbed 23 times and died from loss of blood. Fearing his life Antony escaped Rome dressed as a slave.

Painting of the Death of Julius Caesar
The Death of Julius Caesar, as depicted by Vincenzo Camuccini

 

#7 Mark Antony’s oration at Caesar’s funeral created a furor

Antony returned to Rome and reached a compromise with the conspirators. Their leader Brutus allowed a public funeral of Caesar. At the funeral Mark Antony gave a stirring oration which worked up the crowd, led to a riot at the assembly, some houses of the conspirators were burned to ground and Brutus and Cassius had to flee to Greece. Shakespeare’s version of the speech in his play Julius Caesar is among the most famous speeches in English literature.

Marlon Brando as Mark Antony
Marlon Brando as Mark Antony delivering the famous speech in the movie Julius Caesar

#8 Mark Antony played a key role in transforming Rome from a republic to empire

Statue of Octavian or Augustus
Statue of Octavian

In 43 BC Mark Antony; Octavian, Caesar’s great nephew whom he had named as his heir; and Aemilius Lepidus; split Rome’s provinces between them and established a three man dictatorship to govern Rome. The alliance between them is known as the Second Triumvirate and its enactment officially ended the Roman Republic and started its transformation into an autocratic Empire.

#9 Antony committed suicide thinking Cleopatra was dead

In 41 BC Antony began an affair with the Egyptian queen Cleopatra who had previously been Caesar’s lover and born a son to him. Antony and Cleopatra had three children. In 32 B.C. Antony divorced Octavian’s sister Octavia. In response Octavian declared war on Cleopatra. After being defeated by Octavian, Antony committed suicide by stabbing himself with his sword thinking Cleopatra had already killed herself. He, however, found out his mistake, was taken to Cleopatra and died in her arms. Cleopatra was captured but killed herself soon after.

Mark Antony's death depicted by Pompeo Batoni
Cleopatra and dying Mark Antony: painting by Pompeo Batoni

 

#10 Antony married five times and had numerous children

Antony’s five wives were Fadia, Antonia, Fulvia, Octavia and Cleopatra. He had several children with Fadia, a daughter with Antonia, two sons with Fulvia, two daughter with Octavia and two sons and a daughter with Cleopatra. Through his daughters by Octavia, he would be ancestor to the Roman Emperors Caligula, Claudius and Nero. Through his daughter by Cleopatra, Antony would become ancestor to the royal family of Mauretania.

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