Manchester Historian

Student newspaper for the University of Manchester's History Department

Saturday 22nd July 2017 | Manchester, UK

The Suicide of Mark Antony

Mark Antony’s life spanned the last fifty years of the Roman Republic. Born in 83 BC into a family of ancient lineage and high distinction, Antony unsurprisingly lived a predominantly political and military existence. He held a respectable career as a Roman general and statesman; however his romantic position became of increasing interest and importance. Mark Antony, it is supposed, partook in the union of marriage with five separate women, although his relationship with Cleopatra is undoubtedly the most infamous. Whilst many will be acquainted with Shakespeare’s play Antony and Cleopatra, based on Plutarch’s Life of Antony, the tragedy presents a romantic and distorted view of events. However, it remains dismally accurate that the suicide of Mark Antony, provoked by the belief that Cleopatra had already ended her own life, marked the tragic end of their relationship.

M_Antonius    41 BC marked the year that saw the commencement of Mark Antony’s affair with the Egyptian queen, Cleopatra, the woman who had been Caesar’s lover in the last years of his life. Antony was forced to return to Rome from Egypt, which ultimately resulted in his obligatory marriage to Octavia, Octavian’s sister. After this brief interlude, Antony and Cleopatra’s liaison resumed in 37 BC.

Mark Antony and Cleopatra’s relationship did not only hold romantic significance, but also influenced Antony’s political standing in Rome. He became increasingly more entwined with the Egyptian kingdom and ultimately, his divorce from Octavia in 32 BC resulted in his complete alienation from the sympathies of his native people.

The declaration of war on Cleopatra by the embittered Octavia, and the subsequent Battle of Actium in 31 BC, signified the demise of Antony and Cleopatra’s marriage. The defeat of their combined forces impelled the pair to make a desperate flight back to Egypt, and Octavian’s invasion of Egypt in 30 BC exacerbated tensions further. Cleopatra’s escape to the sanctuary of her mausoleum provoked the dissolution of Antony and Cleopatra’s relationship in tragic circumstances. With no other refuge to escape to, Antony committed suicide by stabbing himself with his sword in the mistaken belief that Cleopatra had already done so, with many suggesting that this message was calculatedly sent in order to prompt Antony to kill himself. Antony’s wound was not immediately fatal, and upon being tragically informed that Cleopatra still lived, Antony had himself carried to Cleopatra’s retreat where he finally died in her arms.

 

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