Mark Antony

  • 82-30 BCE
  • in sole command after Caesar’s death
  • Boisterous, extravagant, at drinker
  • A gambler (aleator)
  • March 17th: the Senate’s comprimise
  • Assassins granted immunity and provinces; Caesar’s acta were confirmed
  • Senate trying to avoid civil war
  • Civil war averted (temporarily)
  • Urban plebs and the army loyal to Caesar however
  • Caesar’s will: left land and money to every Roman citizen
  • Mark Antony tried to mobilize the populace in his interest
  • Caesar’s public funeral
  • Antony’s speech causes a riot which enables him to take control of Rome
  • Cassius, Brutus and Cicero leave (in fear)
  • Antony in firm control May 44 BCE

Marcus Tullius Cicero (death 43 BCE)

  • politician and orator


  • Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus
  • 63 BCE – 14 CE
  • Caesar’s great-nephew and adopted son and heir
  • ¾ of Caesar’s estate
  • (Caesar was very rich from time in Gaul)
  • Turned to Antony but Antony rebuffed him
  • Octavian realized he had more to gain from the Senate’s support
  • Very young: 19 years old
  • So young that he is underrated as a politician, everyone underestimates him
  • Brutus and Cassius were overseas trying to get control of the eastern legions
  • Control of the East would be crucial
  • Next few months: shifting alliances
  • October 44 BCE: Antony goes to Gaul, Octavian into Italy to raise troops
  • Senate refuses to let Octavian stand for consul; thereby losing his support
  • Octavian marched on Rome: Aug 43 BCE
  • Declares himself consul
  • The Senate has no armed forces with which to oppose him

The Second Triumvirate

  • A modern name
  • Octavian; Antony; M. Aemelius Lepidus (death 13 BCE)
  • ‘triumvirs for the purpose of restoring the Republic’
  • 5-year period
  • Authority to legislate and name magistrates
  • The First Triumvirate had been an informal agreement with no legal ratification
  • But this was a formal union; legally appointed by the Senate
  • But could, like the first, dominate the Senate


  • Raise money to pay the troops
  • Certain political security
  • 300 senators and 2000 equestrians
  • Cicero killed Dec 7th, 43 BCE
  • Lepidus consul for 42 BCE
  • Octavian and Antony go east to attack the ‘Republican’ forces


  • Octavian and Antony: 28 legions
  • = 140,000 men
  • Battle of Philippi, 42 BCE
  • Republicans defeated (Brutus and Cassius commit suicide)
  • Their supporters surrendered or scattered
  • Caesar’s murder was avenged
  • The triumvirs disbanded their legions
  • Octavian to stay in Italy
  • Antony to go East to raise funds and re-establish order (boarder rebellions)
  • For years the two oscillate between enmity and alliance
  • They competed with each other fiercely
  • Patched up their alliance by repeated pacts and comprimises
  • Octavia, sister of Octavian, married to Antony in 40 BCE
  • Strain soon becomes evident between the dynasts

Ptolemy XI

  • Ptolemy Auletes – Cleopatra’s father
  • Ascended 80 BCE but his reign marred by internal disputes
  • Appealed to Rome in 59/58 BCE
  • Rome put him back on the throne in 55
  • He survived until 51 BCE
  • Cleopatra VII (69-30 BCE) then ascended the throne, at 18 yrs old
  • Along with her brother Ptolemy XIII (Married)
  • Daughter of Ptolemy XI and Cleopatra V

Cleopatra’s VII’s early rule

  • The snake pit
  • She was 18; her brother and husband was 11
  • Aimed for a position of strength
  • Learned Egyptian (previously the royal family spoke Greek); cared about the economy
  • Supported Rome in 49 BCE
  • (Supplies Pompey with ships and supplies)
  • Exiled in 48 BCE (by her brother’s supporters)
  • Goes into Arabia and Palestine to raise an army
  • Caesar puts her on the throne; they become lovers and have a son
  • She travels to Rome in 46
  • And stays there until March of 44 BCE (Caesar’s assassination)
  • Antony approaches Cleopatra for troops and supplies to conquer Parthia
  • He had met her while she was in Rome
  • Antony’s seduction
  • The barge scene

Anthony and Cleopatra

  • Thus Cleopatra retained her kingdom and the support of Rome
  • Twins were born in autumn 40 BCE: Alexander Helios (the sun) and Cleopatra Selene (the moon)
  • Antony to marry Octavia (sister of Octavian) to cement their political alliance (40 BCE)
  • By 37, the marriage AND the political alliance were breaking down
  • Antony goes east to Cleopatra
  • 37/36 BCE: Antony adds some of his conquests to Cleopatra’s domain
  • In 36 she gives birth to their third child Ptolemy Philadelphus
  • 34 (important year): he formally married her (under Macedonian law) and recognizes their children (makes them his heirs)
  • large tactical error
  • he is still married to Octavia at this point
  • And gives them control over parts of the Roman empire
  • Results in mistrust from the Romans
  • 33 BCE: campaign of mutual slander
  • Antony is painted as a drunkard, demoralized, soft, in sexual thrall
  • 32: alliance at end; Antony divorced Octavia
  • Incensed, Octavian seized Antony’s will and made it public
  • The terms of the will outraged the Roman people
  • Antony had instituted Cleopatra and his children of his heirs (and cut out his legitimate Roman children) also requested to be buried in Egypt with Cleopatra
Key Figures of Ancient Egypt (New Kingdom)


  • War is declared (be Octavian) against Cleopatra
  • Not on Antony, because didn’t want to start a civil war
  • Octavian crosses to Greece
  • Antony had the strong support of many, but desertions were high
  • Battle of Actium: September 31 BCE (naval battle)
  • Cleopatra and Antony defeated; their troops surrender or are captured
  • Octavian left sole master of Rome and all her territories
  • They retreat to Egypt
  • Octavian follows
  • Numerous pleas from the pair to Octavian are rejected

After Actium

  • Octavian follows the pain to Egypt
  • Alexandria capitulates in 30 BCE
  • Antony and Cleopatra commit suicide
  • Antony: by his sword
  • Cleopatra: snake bite
  • Luxurious supper-parties with plenty of drinking (put on by Antony and Cleopatra)
  • Elegant and extravagant lifestyle
  • Cleopatra reportedly tested out various poisons on her slaves
  • Bite of an asp (snake) produced lethargy and numbness
  • Egyptians also believed the bite deified the victim

Antony’s Death

  • Ghostly Bacchic possession out of Alexandria
  • The god Dionysus was abandoning him  (i.e., so bad things were going to happen)
  • His navy and cavalry deserted; he blamed Cleopatra (for being Egyptian)
  • She fled to her funerary monument
  • Antony thinking she was dead plunged his sword into his belly
  • Cleopatra took him into her monument
  • He died in her arms
  • Octavian wept upon hearing of Antony’s death

Cleopatra’s death

  • Octavian worried she would kill herself
  • Interview with Octavian before her death (she did not come off as very brave)
  • She visits Antony’s tomb one last time, bathes and eats
  • Basket of figs containing an asp
  • Addressed a letter to Octavian (basically saying she would be dead once he read this)
  • Dismisses all her servants except Charmian and Iras
  • Slips her wrist into the basket (and asp bites her wrist)
  • Octavian ordered her to be given a royal burial
  • Caesarion (Caesar’s son) executed on Octavian’s orders
  • Her children by Antony brought up by Octavia in Rome

Cleopatra’s story

  • Cleopatra of myth and fantasy as well as history
  • Cleopatra’s story is one of sex, death, and power
  • Can be treated in witty or tragic fashion
  • Disgrace? Temptress? Victim? Great leader?
  • Gets re-invented from generation to generation
  • (according to their own ideas of women and power)
  • Examples of some portrayals:
  • Theda Bara, 1917 (silent film): exotic temptress
  • Claudette Colbert, 1934; witty society lady
  • Elizabeth Taylor, 1963: political visionary
  • Lindsay Marshal, 2005 (show we watched in class); characterized as very young, aggressive, sexually promiscuous, opium addict, indulgent, spoiled
  • Exceptionally able, ambitious, intelligent women
  • She was not conventionally beautiful
  • 5’2”, chunky and hawk-nosed
  • But charismatic, witty, a great conversationalist
  • Sexually compelling

Cleopatra in European Art

  • France, 1480: Antony and Cleopatra’s death (he is stabbing himself, she is getting bit in both breasts by two snakes; dressed in medieval clothing)
  • 1630, Barbieri, Italian: sketch of her, no shirt
  • Renault, 1790, France: wrapped in cloth, but bare breasts, holding her breast
  • Rixens, 1876: her death (she is naked) with her two servants Charmian and Iras
  • Even today still using her in portrayals such as advertisements
Cite this article as: William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team), "The Second Triumvirate: Marc Antony and Cleopatra," in SchoolWorkHelper, 2021,
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9 years ago

Can you tell me the origin of your last illustration on Cleopatra Death ?
With my best regards.
Renan Pollès