Close-up of Rome on an Italian map.
Close-up of Rome on an Italian map.

Marc Antony was a Roman military and political leader in 83 B.C. A colleague and close friend of Julius Caesar, Antony helped secure Caesar's rise to power. After Caesar's assassination, Antony's efforts to control the empire and his love affair with Egyptian ruler Cleopatra led to his demise.

Early Life and Career

Marc Antony rose to prominence in the Roman military after a misspent youth. Around 52 B.C. he joined Julius Caesar's retinue, participating in the final conquest of Gaul and becoming one of Caesar's closest allies. In 49 B.C., when conflict broke out between Roman leader Pompey and Caesar, Antony used his position as plebeian tribune to protest the Senate's stripping Caesar of his military command. Subsequently, Antony fled to join Caesar's successful battle for control of the republic. As a reward, Caesar made Antony his co-consul in 44 B.C.

The Second Triumvirate and Antony's Suicide

After Caesar's assassination, Antony gained control of Caesar's treasury and home, positioning himself as Caesar's heir. After several battles with shifting alliances, Antony formed the tenuous "Second Triumvirate" with Caesar's nephew Octavian and the statesman Lepidus. The Triumvirate divided Rome's territories, and Antony, holding possession of the east, met with Egyptian pharaoh Cleopatra.

Antony's growing passion for Cleopatra soon led to disaster. Antony divorced Octavia and relocated permanently to Alexandria, Egypt. Rome was outraged when Octavian revealed that Antony had elevated his children with Cleopatra to "royal" status, with Roman landholdings as part of their inheritance. The Roman Senate declared war against Cleopatra, and Octavian decisively defeated Antony and Cleopatra's forces in the naval battle at Actium in 31 B.C. After their defeat, Antony and Cleopatra committed suicide, and Octavian became "Augustus," the first Roman emperor.