Fake News Damnatio Memoriae Mark Antony
Damnatio Memoriae Mark Antony
The legacy of Marcus Antonius, commonly known as Mark Antony, has been one of the most fascinating historical figures that I’ve researched in support of writing the Curse of Clansmen and Kings series. The primary male Roman character, Marcellus, from the series, suffers from the impact of damnatio memoriae of his great-grandfather—Mark Antony.
The Senate and Octavian, who became known as Roman Emperor Augustus, had Antony’s memory damned forever after defeating him and Cleopatra in 30 BC. Most of the statues of Mark Antony were destroyed and his name was removed from all records. Even though Augustus achieved supreme power as the Roman Emperor in 27 BC, he refused to reverse his decision to restore Antony’s memory. It was not until Mark Antony’s grandson, Emperor Claudius, reversed the decree when he came to power in 41 AD.
Mark Antony has gone down in history as the tragic hero who gave up everything for the love of a woman. But is this the true legacy of Mark Antony? Or is truth molded to an alternative reality by those in power?
Octavian considered Mark Antony as a threat to his power. He embarked on a smear campaign that presented Antony as a weakling, completely dominated by Cleopatra who had ambitions to rule the world. As Antony was preparing for a war in Parthia that would elevate his standing in Rome, he had to go to war instead with his political rival. Octavian spread “fake news” to the Senate that he had been compelled to read Antony’s will left in the safeguard of the Vestals in Rome. Even though no witnesses were present when Octavian supposedly inspected the will, he proclaimed Antony legitimized the claims of Caesarion as Julius Caesar’s son, and as a co-ruler with Cleopatra and heir to the Egyptian throne.
The most damning part of Antony’s will is that he asked to be buried with his wife, Cleopatra, in Egypt even though it was forbidden for a Roman nobleman to marry a foreigner. This incited the Senate’s rage as they believed Antony was forming a new Roman government in Alexandria. This threat was enough to make the Romans clamor for war against Cleopatra who bewitched her consort, Mark Antony. To this day, the actual truth about Antony is lost in historical propaganda written by his enemies that still haunts his memory to this day.
When I first read Patricia Southern’s “Mark Antony,” during the 2016 presidential campaign, it struck me how history repeats itself over and over. Smear tactics effectively sway elections and public opinion. The facts from “fake news” blur into an alternate reality created by politicians to sway the masses. There is no doubt Mark Antony had character flaws of which he was accused. Nonetheless, he was the last person who stood in the way of Octavian’s ambition to transform the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire. This theme continues to repeat throughout history and in fiction such as Star Wars.
Tell me your thoughts about the relevance of what happened to Mark Antony to today’s news.
Book Review: Mark Antony by Patricia Southern
Below is my review of “Mark Antony: A Life” by Patricia Southern. I found her biography of Mark Antony compelling as she filters the truth from the historical accounts of many many of his enemies.
Patricia Southern’s, “Mark Antony: A Life” is a well-written historical account of Mark Antony whose legacy was negatively impacted by derogatory comments made by Octavian Caesar and Cicero. One of the reasons I read this book was to glean additional information about Mark Antony’s true characterization as his reputation had been blackened by his rivals. It was frustrating to find a dearth of biographies about Mark Antony, but this book did not disappoint. Though, certainly, Mark Antony had his weaknesses, he also had a momentous triumph when he defeated Brutus and Cassius. After the civil war, he formed treaties and alliances with various rulers in the eastern Roman empire and Egypt who posed a challenge. One of his greatest achievements, though it is not widely recognized, is that he commanded a vast area of very diverse people and customs, many of whose rulers varied in trustworthiness. His diplomacy and careful sifting of who was reliable, and who was not, stood the test of time after his death. His greatest failure was not to recognize Octavian’s ruthless propaganda to dispose of him and return to Rome to promote himself. This biography is well-researched and is based on various historical sources. It was clearly written and has several pages of photographs which are of interest.