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Who was Mark Antony?

Updated on December 3, 2016

Mark Antony (83-30 BC), was a leading figure in the collapse of the Roman Republic.

After a spendthrift youth, he served with his kinsman Julius Caesar in Gaul and later, in the civil war against Pompey, commanded forces for Caesar in Italy and Greece. As a consul in 47 BC he vainly tried to persuade the Romans to accept Caesar as emperor, and after his murder he delivered the funeral oration in the Forum. On the flight of the conspirators, he attained almost absolute power, but soon came up against Caesar's great-nephew Octavian. Defeated at Mutina (43 BC), he joined Lepidus in Gaul. returned to Rome with an army and came to an agreement that he, Octavian and Lepidus should share the Roman world as 'triumvirs'.

After a reign of terror in Rome, Antony defeated Caesar's assassins Brutus and Cassius at Philippi in Greece and then went into Asia to settle a dispute with Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt. Captivated by her beauty, he followed her to Egypt and lived there in luxury with her until returning to Italy. It was agreed that he should take the East, Octavian the West and Lepidus Africa, and, to cement the partnership, Antony married Octavian' s sister, but he soon went back to Cleopatra.

In his absence, Octavian persuaded the Senate to deprive Antony of his authority and declare war on Cleopatra. In 31 BC he defeated their combined fleets at Actium off the coast of Greece. Antony went back to Egypt, where, deserted by his fleet and army and on a false report of Cleopatra's death, he committed suicide.


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