Essay on Mark Antony's Failure to Gain Ultimate Ascendency

Published: 2021-06-29
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Mark Antony lived between 83 BC and 30 BC and played the roles of an established Roman politician as well as an Army General. He played an important part in the transformation as well as the change of the Roman Republic from the original oligarchy to the current autocratic empire (Huzar, 1978, p.233). As an original supporter of Julius Caesar, he served as one of his trusted Generals. Mark Antony was involved in a variety of wars, which served the interests of Caesar. He was one of the Generals appointed to serve during the Conquest of Gaul as well as during the civil war. Additionally, Kelly (2009, p.10) states that Caesar appointed him as the administrator of Italy as Caesar had eliminated the political opponents in the areas of Greece, Spain, and North Africa. After the demise of Caesar in 44BC, according to Huzar (1978, p.234), Antony joined hands with two of the Caesars Generals named Lepidus as well as Octavian who doubled up as the nephew and an adopted son of the late Caesar. Together, the three formed was came to be known as the Second Triumvirate. Their efforts saw them defeat the killers of their master and hence went ahead to divide the government of the Republic amongst themselves (Syme, 2002, p.97). However, the relationships between the three began to strain due to greed for power and thus led to the civil war between Antony and Octavian. Both Antony and Cleopatra fled to Egypt after the defeat by Octavian forces during the battle of Actium where the two committed suicide; hence failing to ascend to the throne, which had been left behind by Caesar. The ultimate failure by Antony to gain ascendency is mainly due to his character and intelligence.

One of the ways in which his character did not depict that of a General, and a leader was that of having multiple sexual relationships, which led to the grudge between him and Octavian. His decision to not only commit to a relationship between him and Octavians sister Octavia but also continue with his relationship with Cleopatra, which led to the siring of three children, was one of the failures brought about by his greed a love for women (Huzar, 1978, p.235). Continuing with multiple love affairs with two women who were related to the other Generals was a cardinal sin that demeaned the character of Antony and led to wars with other Generals, which ultimately resulted in him fleeing to Egypt and failure to ascend to the throne. Additionally, his lack of faithfulness to one woman, which was crucial to his success as a leader, was an unbecoming behavior, which cost him not only the chance to be the master of the Roman world but also his life.

One of the character traits that Antony exhibited is that of a traitor. This character is one of weakness as opposed to strength. Specifically, instead of staying true to other Generals, he continued to fight them and wage wars with his equals. Additionally, whereas it was expected that the three would rule peacefully and bring cohesion, Antony was focused on how he will yield more power than the other had and hence take over the throne (Kelly, R., 2009, p.11). As such, he also had a weakness in the name of power greed. Although the other Generals had the same character, theirs was not as profound as that of Antony. He made the fundamental error of starting a civil war with Octavian without having the necessary forces, which could fight with those of his enemy (Huzar, 1978, p.234). Additionally, by having the sexual relationships with the relatives of the other Generals, he brought enmity between the three, which was his undoing.

Antony had various instances when he made fundamental errors, which are not reminiscent of people who wish to become leaders. One of those was when he failed to control his sexual desires and went ahead to associate himself with two women who happened to be relatives of the other Generals (Syme, 2002, p.98). Specifically, Anthony was supposed to have self-discipline and respect other leaders. However, his actions of having a relationship with Octavians sister was a fundamental error that served to make him not only lose the trust of Octavian but also be labeled as a traitor. The second fundamental error that he made was starting a war without the necessary machinery, equipment, and forces required to do so. As a result, Octavian forces quickly defeated him and forced him to flee to another country where he committed suicide out of his failures to achieve the intended objectives of ascending to power. Moreover, his inability to stand firm and fight Octavian was the last stroke in his coffin as this depicted him as a loser and a person who could not be trusted with authority (Kelly, 2009, p10). If he had stood his ground and engaged Octavian, he probably would have died as a legend as opposed to a coward.

In a variety of instances, Anthony had good and hard luck, which made him have several achievements and lose various opportunities before his fleeing and demise (Ager, 2013, p.140). One of the instances of good luck is when Caesar appointed him as one of the top generals. Specifically, winning the trust of Caesar was being lucky, as Anthony was not as trustworthy as others were and was not experienced. However, he experienced more instances of hard luck. Specifically, he could not manage to be the heir to Caesar even after they had joined hands with the other two Generals and defeated those who had killed their master (Southern, 2012, p.5). The fact that he could not take the position that Octavian managed to get is out of hard luck considering that he was committed and hungry for power just like the others. Such instances of hard luck could also be held responsible for the failure of Anthony to ascend to power after the demise of Caesar.

Although all blame can be leveled on Anthony for his undoing, the other leaders including Octavian and Cleopatra are also to blame. Specifically, according to Ager (2013, p.139), after they managed to form a coalition and find justice for Caesar, they lost their unity and did not view Caesar as an equal. As a result, they started infightings, which later led to a civil war amongst themselves. Instead of nurturing him and sharing power, the other players ignored Anthony and failed to accord him the respect he deserved as an equal member of their coalition. For instance, Octavian referred to Anthony as a traitor and was ready to defeat him and eventually see his downfall. As a result, other players should also shelve some of the blame for the failures of Anthony. However, in conclusion, Anthonys bad characters coupled with a lack of intelligence were responsible for his inability to gain ultimate ascendency.


Ager, S.L., 2013. Marriage or mirage? The phantom wedding of Cleopatra and Antony. Classical Philology, 108(2), pp.139-155.

Huzar, E, G. (1978). Mark Antony: A biography, Minneapolis. University of Minnesota press. Pp233-252.

Kelly, R., 2009. The Iconography of Mark Antony. Networking Knowledge: Journal of the MeCCSA Postgraduate Network, 2(1).

Southern, P., 2012. Mark Antony: A Life. Amberley Publishing Limited.

Syme, R., 2002. The roman revolution. OUP Oxford. Pp.97-111.

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