title
macrohistory.com

(The ROMAN REPUBLIC – continued)

home | 1000 BCE to 500 CE

The ROMAN REPUBLIC'S CIVIL WARS and FALL (7 of 8)

previous | next

Antony and Cleopatra Offend

It was agreed that Antony would be the authority over most of Gaul and over all of Rome's eastern empire. Octavian was to rule in Italy and Cisalpine Gaul. Lepidus was left with only the promise of rule in northern Africa west of Egypt. A naval force hostile to this ruling Triumvirate, meanwhile, was still at large, led by the son of Pompey: Sextus Pompeius.

Touring in the eastern part of the empire, Antony exacted indemnities from those provinces that had given support to Brutus and Cassius – despite this support having been forced upon them. He ordered Egypt's ruler, Cleopatra, to journey north and appear before him in Cilicia (southern Asia Minor) to explain her having aided Cassius. She arrived in her gilded ship with purple sails and silver-lined oars, and with her many attendants, and to Antony she exonerated herself. She invited him to pass the winter in Alexandria, and there (in the winter of 41-40 BCE) Antony is said to have reveled in the pleasures of the Ptolemaic court and the company of Queen Cleopatra. Antony left Egypt in the spring of 40, and that year he married Octavian's sister, Octavia.

In the year 38 the Plebeian Assembly extended the Triumvirate's dictatorship another five years. Antony renewed his contacts with Cleopatra. The two apparently hoped to gain from each other, Antony needing Cleopatra's wealth to pursue military activities and Cleopatra wanting to revive boundaries of the old Ptolemy kingdom of her forefathers. Within a year, Antony sent his pregnant wife, Octavia, Otavian's half-sister, back to Rome. Antony lived in opulence with Cleopatra. He acknowledged publicly that he had fathered twins by Cleopatra – a boy and girl.

Mark Antony

Mark Antony (in Latin, Marcus Antonius) of Shakespeare's "I come to bury Caesar" fame. He allies himself with Queen Cleopatra.

In Rome, Octavia presided with dignity over Antony's household, caring for Antony's children by a previous marriage and her own. The Romans still associated marriage with morality, and many looked upon Anthony's association with Cleopatra with disgust and saw Octavia as a mistreated heroine. Octavian was outraged by what he saw as Antony's mistreatment of his half-sister. But conflict between them was delayed while Octavian made war against Pompeius. And Antony was occupied by war against the Parthian Empire, an empire ruled by an Iranian dynasty that had wrested rule from the Seleucids way back in 247 BCE and was now expanding into Mesopotamia nand Asia Minor.

Octavian triumphed against Pompeius, which expanded his military to include five to six hundred warships and forty-five legions – a force greater than Antony's. Italians were impressed by Octavian's victory. Encouraged by their response, Octavian began to care more about support from the people of Italy. He promised everyone that eventually he would restore the Republic. Lepidus claimed Sicily, but he lacked support among his troops, who deserted him. Octavian took away Lepidus' triumviral powers but allowed him to retain his position as Pontifex Maximus, and he made Lepidus a tribune. Octavian then began to clear the Adriatic Sea of pirates and to send troops into the Balkans in a successful move to advance the interests of Rome there.

Cleopatra

Cleopatra of Egypt

In 36 BCE – the same year that Octavian defeated Pompeius – Antony attacked the Parthians through Armenia. He and his troops arrived at what is now Azerbaijan, and for months he laid siege to its major city: Phraaspa. Parthian attacks on Antony's supply lines left him facing a winter without shelter or adequate provisions. Antony fell back, through Armenia again, returning with most of his troops but losing some 22,000 men in the retreat. Cleopatra met him in Syria, bringing him money and supplies. It took until the year 34 for his forces to regain strength for an assault against the king of Armenia, who had helped the Parthians.

In the autumn of 34, after defeating the king of Armenia, Antony returned to Egypt. In Egypt, at Alexandria, he celebrated his Armenian victory with a grand pageant. Although Antony had been fighting for the Roman Empire, his tarnished reputation left many Romans visualizing the pageant as an impious parody of their traditional celebrations of triumph.

Octavian

Octavian. His grand uncle, Julius Caesar, had adopted him, and he inherited a following.

Antony's funds were now depleted, and he was more dependent on the wealth of Cleopatra. To please her, he staged a ceremony at which he pronounced her "Queen of Kings," and he distributed to her children the titles that were traditionally given to children of royalty. Antony declared Cleopatra's thirteen year-old son by Julius Caesar, Caesarion, as Julius Caesar's legitimate son and as heir to the rule of Egypt, Cyprus and part of Syria. Antony declared Cleopatra's six-year old boy as king of Armenia and its neighbor, Media. He gave the boy's twin sister titles to Cyrenaica and Libya in North Africa. And he declared Cleopatra's two year-old son as king of Cilicia and Phoenicia.

Caesar's son by Cleopatra as Caesar's legitimate son was equivalent to putting the boy ahead of Octavian, who was merely Caesar's nephew and adopted son. This increased Octavian's displeasure with Antony. Antony, in turn, remained upset with Octavius for not having given him a share of Sicily. Antony gave word that he wanted Octavia and her children out of his house. This severed the final bond between Octavian and Antony. A war of words erupted between the two, with Antony trying to discredit Octavian for what he described as Octavian's past acts of disloyalty.

Toward the end of 33, the second five-year rule of Octavian and Antony expired, and it was not renewed. Octavian professed legal rectitude by disclaiming that he still had the powers given by the expired law. He remained a consul. But Antony continued as if he were still Rome's designated ruler in the East. In the summer of 32, Antony's divorce from Octavia was announced along with Antony's will, which included his wish to be buried alongside Cleopatra. And the will reaffirmed the claim that Caesar's son by Cleopatra was Caesar's legitimate son. Antony, without a formal office, appeared to some Romans as in the employ of a foreign queen. Rumor spread that Antony wanted to make Cleopatra queen of Rome and to transfer Rome's government to Egypt. By now many Romans saw him as a renegade from Roman tradition. They disliked him for wearing the royal clothing of the Ptolemies and for what they heard of his fondness for luxuries.

Backed by opinion across Italy and much of Rome's western provinces, Octavian, as consul, obtained a declaration of war against Cleopatra – but not against Antony. It was to be a war against a foreigner, putting Antony in a position of treason. The morale of Antony's troops was low, and some high-ranking officers among them deserted to Octavian. Another war was on, with the advantage of hearts and minds and military might to Octavian.

External link to interactive map:
Demise of the Roman Republic (50 to 30 BC)"

Sources

Copyright © 2009-2015 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.