What Caused the Conflict Between Octavian & Antony?

Man with backpack beside a books.jpg

Octavian and Marc Antony were bitter rivals. Gaius Octavius, also known as Octavian, was Julius Caesar's great-nephew and adopted child. Octavian, Antony, and Marcus Lepidus were were part of a triumvirate that ruled Rome after Caesar's death, but Antony and Octavian each wanted complete control over Rome.

1 Uneasy Imperial In-Laws

In 40 B.C., Octavian and Antony formed a pact indicating that Antony would rule the eastern portion of the Roman Empire, while Octavian ruled the west. They sealed the arrangement with a wedding between Marc Antony and Octavian's sister Octavia, but then Marc Antony became involved with Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt. Although Antony and Cleopatra had a romantic relationship that produced three children, this liaison held an additional benefit for Antony: Cleopatra was able to provide him with military and financial support so that he could stand against Octavian and take over the Roman Empire.

2 Divorce, Scandal, War and a Viper

Antony publicly divorced Octavia in favor of Cleopatra, and announced that Caesarion, the alleged son of Cleopatra and Julius Caesar, was the rightful heir to the Roman Empire. Rumors quickly spread that Antony intended to make Cleopatra the Queen of Rome and that Alexandria was to be the new Roman capital. Public opinion turned against Marc Antony, and the Senate swore an oath of allegiance to Octavian. Octavian declared war on Cleopatra instead of attacking Antony directly. The decisive battle occurred in 31 B.C. off the coast of Actium in Greece. Antony's troops were soundly defeated, and many of his men defected to Octavian's side. Marc Antony committed suicide shortly afterward. Cleopatra followed his example and allowed herself to be bitten by an asp. The two lovers were buried side by side.