Historical background to All for Love: The Roman Civil Wars 33-30 BCE

 

 

Rebels against Julius Caesar †††††††††††††††††† ††††††††† Caesar's supporters†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††

(Republicans)†††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††† ††††††††† (Royalists)

 

Brutus ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††† ††††††††† Julius Caesar (killed March 15, 44 BCE)

Cassius†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††† †††††††††

 Marc Antony*

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††† ††††††††† Lepidus††††† *††††††††††††††††††††††††††

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††† ††††††††† Octavian *

 

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† *The 2nd Triumvirate

 

The Complete Historical Action, mostly via Plutarch

 

Young Marcus Antonius/Marc Antony, known as a rake in his wild youth (drinking, gambling, loving many, piling up debts), rises first as a Greek-trained rhetorician and then to military prominence under Julius Caesar (his cousin) earning victories in Gaul (France) and the esteem of Julius.

 

After Caesar is assassinated by Brutus, Antony famously indicts Brutus & Cassius and the rebels in his funeral oration (I come to bury Caesar not to praise him). Yet the real trouble comes from power struggles with young Octavian on his own side, the imperial side.

 

Roman rule in the 2nd Triumvirate was divided thus: Octavian rules Rome; Lepidus rules Spain, some of Africa; Antony rules Egypt. After Lepidus tires to take Sicily, Octavian exiles him, leaving Antony in control of the Eastern provinces vs. Octavian in control of the Western provinces. As part of the deal, Antony marries Octavian's sister Octavia.When Antony takes over the Western provinces, leaving Octavian to handle Rome, he gets jurisdiction in Egypt. Administering Egypt, Antony meets Cleopatra, Caesar's former lover.

 

Hearing that Parthia (Persia/Iran) is allied with the Brutus/Cassius side, Antony wants to move against them. Antony always remained loyal to Julius and toavenging him.Antony's general Ventidius is sent to fight the Parthian invasion of Judea, where Parthiaís infringed on Roman-ruled Judea and made their man Antigonus king in Jerusalem.

 

To punish Parthia (and its Roman republican allies) Antony wants to invade Parthia itself, but needs money and troops from Rome, controlled by Octavian.Skeptical of getting all he wants, he gets money and troops from Egypt, care of Cleopatra, and further alienates Octavian and Rome by leaving his second wife, Octavia, Octavian's sister, in Greece and pregnant, so he can go to war himself in Parthia.

 

Cleopatra thus funds the capture of Jerusalem, in Judea, and her money and Antony's plan put Herod on the throne there, unseating the Parthian/Roman republican faction's king, Antigonus.

Not satisfied with thwarting this Parthian plan, Antony invades Parthia itself, in winter. The campaign is as disastrous as Napoleon's invasion of Russia. This military debacle destroys the 2nd Triumvirate as Octavius and Antony become hardened foes.

 

Octavius blames Antony, arguing his moral bankruptcy in having abandoned his wife Octavia and children for Cleopatra and power-grabbing plans, and for "turning Egyptian" and becoming apostate to Roman culture and law--his Parthian invasion had no senate approval.

 

Adding insult to injuries, Antony divides parts of the Roman empire among Julius Caesar's and his own children by Cleopatra. Caesarion, son of Julius Caesar and Cleopatra, whom Antony calls the true heir of Julius Caesar (Octavian was only adopted into the Julian line, but was named heir in the will) becomes King of Egypt along with mother Cleopatra as Queen.

 

The Roman senate declares war on Cleopatra, but some of the senate remains loyal to Antony and defects to his side

 

The decisive naval battle comes at Actium, in Greece. Octavian and the rising general Agrippa meet Cleopatra's Egyptian navy and Antony's naval forces there. In the midst of battle, Cleopatra pulls her whole navy back and Antony abandons his command, takes 40 of his ships to chase her ships. The Antony/Cleopatra forces, some 300 ships, are beaten by Octavian.All 60 Egyptian ships survive and carry Cleopatra and Antony back to Alexandria, Egypt.

 

Octavian's army pursues them to Egypt, Antony commits suicide, Cleopatra follows suit, and Caesarion is killed.

 

Octavian, having quelled faction, three years later becomes Emperor Augustus Caesar, under whom the arts will flourish as never before in Rome.