Mark Antony (Rome character)
|Portrayed by||James Purefoy|
Mark Antony is a historical figure who features as a character in the HBO/BBC2 original television series Rome, played by James Purefoy. Like the real Mark Antony he was a Roman general and politician and a close supporter of Julius Caesar.
As Rome begins, Antony serves with Julius Caesar in Gaul. Elected as tribune by Caesar's influence, Antony becomes Caesar's main political representative in Rome during the crucial period leading up to the Crossing of the Rubicon. When a measure is passed in the senate to require Caesar to abandon his army and his imperium, which would leave him open to prosecution for treason by his political enemies, Antony attempts to veto it, as the Pompeian faction actually wish him to, not wanting to be seen as the instigators of a civil war. However, a brawl breaks out and Antony's veto is not noted.
Antony, guarded by members of the Legio XIII including Pullo and Vorenus, attempts to return to the Senate to veto the measure, but is prevented from doing so when Pullo is attacked by the friend of a man he had recently killed in a bar fight. The attack is wrongly interpreted as an assassination attempt on Antony, who flees Rome to re-unite with Caesar in his march on Rome. When Caesar leaves Rome to pursue the Optimates to Greece, Antony remains behind with the XIII, much to his chagrin.
When the war in Greece turns against Caesar, he sends for Antony. Antony considers ignoring the summons, and is urged to do so both by Pompey's emissaries and by his longtime paramour (and Caesar's niece) Atia of the Julii, who also proposes that the two marry. Antony rejects both the proposition and the proposal, and proceeds to Greece in time to be present for the Battle of Pharsalus.
After the Battle, Antony returns to Rome and continues to run it in Caesar's absence. He seems to be effective in this, intimidating Cicero into abandoning his attempts to plot against Caesar. He also reestablishes his relationship with Atia after previously spurning her. At the time of Caesar's assassination, Antony is distracted. Upon seeing Caesar's corpse, Antony appears genuinely grief-stricken, and backs out of the Senate without speaking.
After being chased by Quintus' men outside the Senate house, he goes to Brutus' house and explains to him that despite killing Caesar they are now at Antony's mercy due to his influence with the people, and so they agree to a temporary alliance. On his way out of the house he goes to embrace his enemy Quintus but quickly cuts his throat. Later at Caesar's funeral he spurs the mob of Rome into a riot against Brutus and his supporters forcing them to leave Rome. He soon falls comfortably into the position of de facto ruler of Rome. In "Son of Hades," Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt comes to Rome after Caesar's death. Antony dismisses her request for public acknowledgement of Caesar's son Caesarion with derision. Caesar's heir (and Atia's son) Octavian begins making demands for his inheritance; Antony rebuffs him. Not to be underestimated, Octavian makes a public announcement that he will pay Caesar's legacy to the common people. He and a furious Antony have a violent fight during which Octavian is nearly killed; the boy leaves Rome to Marcus Agrippa. Soon he has raised an army to challenge Antony's dominance over Rome.
Antony and Octavian's war escalates; a peace is finally brokered by Atia in time for them to confront and defeat Brutus at the Battle of Philippi. Hoping to finally marry Antony, she suggests a public gesture of unity between their families. Atia is shocked and devastated when her son marries Antony to Atia's daughter Octavia of the Julii instead. But soon Antony and Atia are back in each other's beds, and Octavia resumes her secret affair with Agrippa. Concerned about how his family's behavior reflects on his own honor, Octavian forces Antony to relocate to Egypt in "A Necessary Fiction," leaving Atia and Octavia in Rome. Arriving at the Egyptian palace, Antony looks at an alluring Cleopatra with new eyes.
Years later in the next episode, "Deus Impeditio Esuritori Nullus," Antony and Cleopatra are in love in Egypt raising their own twins, Helios and Selene; she urges him to declare war on Rome to free himself once and for all from Octavian's tyranny. Antony is hesitant, knowing that an attack on Rome would strip him of the people's devotion, the one thing that Octavian does not have. Instead Antony cuts off all grain shipments from Egypt to Rome. The plan works and greatly angers the starving Roman people who blame Octavian for the grain shortage. A desperate Octavian, facing riots and renewed civil war in Rome, responds by sending his sister Octavia and mother Atia to convince Antony to send grain. Antony insists to a jealous Cleopatra that he no longer loves Atia, but Cleopatra intends to humiliate Atia publicly by flaunting her affair with Antony in front of the Roman women at a banquet. When Atia and Octavia arrive in Egypt Antony orders Lucius Vorenus to send them back Rome immediately. When both women strongly object Vorenus says that if they refuse to leave Egyptian soldiers will remove them by force. Antony begins to "go native" and he embraces Egyptian culture, swiftly descending into a drunken and opium-induced self-indulgent stupor.
In the series finale "De Patre Vostro," Antony has neglected his legions, and his military might begins to slowly fail. Octavian receives what is purportedly a copy of Antony's last will and testament from Posca; the document states that Antony will leave all of his land and titles to his children by Cleopatra. This, as Octavian guesses it will, turns the Roman people against Antony; allowing Octavian to declare him a traitor and go to war against him. Antony loses the Battle of Actium to Octavian, who seeks Antony's personal surrender or he will burn the palace to the ground with everyone inside. Cleopatra hopes for some alternate solution, but to Antony the only way out of the situation is suicide. Octavian makes a secret offer to Cleopatra: she can keep her life and her crown in exchange for allowing his men into the palace to take Antony. She is genuinely torn between her love for Antony, her duty as queen and her personal honor. She and Antony agree to die by their own hands, but with the help of her servant and advisor Charmian, Cleopatra later fakes her own suicide, prompting Antony to kill himself with the assistance of Lucius Vorenus. Out of respect, Vorenus dresses Antony's corpse in armor and seats it on the throne of Alexandria, where it is found by Octavian.
Comparison with the historical Mark Antony
Most of what we know about the historical Mark Antony comes from Plutarch's Parallel Lives, and his personality in Rome appears to be essentially consistent with what Plutarch wrote of him. Antony is portrayed as a soldier's soldier, a lover of women, and unfailingly devoted to Caesar. Rome also depicts him as truly despising politics, and lacking tact or subtlety in political matters, which Caesar uses to his advantage.
The antipathy Antony shows for Cicero in, for example, the episode Caesarion is historically attested. The historical Mark Antony held Cicero responsible for the execution of Antony's stepfather, Publius Cornelius Lentulus Sura, as part of the Catiline conspiracy.
There is no evidence that Mark Antony was romantically involved with Atia Balba Caesonia (basis for Atia of the Julii) as is depicted in the series. The Mark Antony of Rome is also notably lacking family; the historical Antony had two younger brothers, Lucius and Gaius, both of whom played roles in the events of the time. Additionally, it is not mentioned in the series that Antony was a blood relative of Caesar's through his mother, Julia Antonia, Caesar's cousin.
Further, the Mark Antony of Rome is initially unmarried; the historical Mark Antony was married three times prior to his union with Octavia Minor (to Fadia, Antonia Hybrida and, most notably, Fulvia). Antony would have married Fulvia at some point during the events of Season 1. The historical Antony had seven children: two sons, Marcus Antonius Antyllus and Iullus Antonius Creticus, by Fulvia; two daughters, Antonia Major and Antonia Minor, by Octavia Minor; and a daughter and two sons, Cleopatra Selene, Alexander Helios and Ptolemy Philadelphus by Cleopatra VII. Only Antonia Major and Cleopatra's twins Selene and Helios are noted in the series.
The historical timeline has also been manipulated. Antony fathered his first two children with Cleopatra before marrying Octavia; when he later left Rome, he settled in Athens, Greece with Octavia, and they had their daughters. He ultimately left his wife in Greece and reunited with Cleopatra in Egypt; he and Cleopatra subsequently had their third child. In the series, Antony marries Octavia and is then forced by Octavian to relocate to Egypt; he leaves Octavia in Rome pregnant with Antonia Major (who, it is heavily implied, is in fact the child of Marcus Agrippa). In Egypt, Antony reconnects with Cleopatra; they have met before but never had a romantic relationship. They later have the twins Helios and Selene.
In the series, Antony's position on the Senate is named both "Tribune of the People" and "Tribune of the Plebs." The latter is the usual usage.
- Plutarch's Parallel Lives: "Antony" ~ Internet Classics Archive (MIT)
- "Plutarch's ''Parallel Lives'': "Life of Antony" – Loeb Classical Library edition, 1920". Penelope.uchicago.edu. Retrieved 2012-02-28.
- Plutarch's Parallel Lives: "The Comparison of Demetrius and Antony" ~ Internet Classics Archive (MIT)