Fake News Damnatio Memoriae Mark Antony

Fake News Damnatio Memoriae Mark Antony

Bust of Mark Antony Vatican City


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.

Statue of Roman Emperor Claudius Depicted as the Roman God Jupiter

Fake News

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.

Statue of Octavian, also known as the first Roman Emperor Augustus


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.


Mark Antony: A LifeMark Antony: A Life by Patricia Southern
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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.

View all my reviews

Claudius Roman Invasion Britain

Emperor Claudius Credited with Roman Conquest of Britain

Emperor Claudius Credited with Roman Conquest of Britain

“Claudius undertook, in all, one expedition and that one was of no great extent. When he was granted triumphal ornaments by decree of the Senate, he thought that the title was not weighty enough to grace the imperial magistracy and craved the distinction of a proper triumph.”
—Suetonius, Life of Claudius.

Claudius Roman Invasion Britain

Ancestral Legacy of Claudius

Emperor Claudius is credited for the Roman invasion of Britain in 43AD. He was the first emperor born outside of Italy in Lugdunum (Lyon, France). As the son of Drusus and Antonia Minor, he emphasized his right to rule as a member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty.

Cameo of Claudius Cabinet des Médailles

Cameo of Claudius Cabinet des Médailles

Claudius was also the grandson of Mark Antony, whose marriage to Octavia (Octavian’s sister) resulted in the birth of two daughters, one being Claudius’ mother. Shortly after Antony’s defeat and death in 30 BC, Octavian declared his rival’s birthday, 14 January, as nefastus (unholy). Of note, Claudius’ father also had the same birthday on January 14—a day no public business could be transacted in Rome.

Octavian also convinced the Senator to damn Antony’s memory forever (damnatio memoriae). By discrediting Antony, Octavian hoped to elevate his standing as Emperor Augustus in history. It took Claudius, almost one hundred years later, to restore Antony’s memory

Bust of Mark Antony

Bust of Mark Antony

Not only did Claudius restore the memory of Antony, he also needed a conquest which he could earn a triumph to legitimize his rule against potential usurpers. Suetonius dismissed the Roman invasion of Britain by Claudius as of no great importance. “Claudius decided that Britain was the country where a real triumph could be most readily earned. Its conquest had not been attempted since the days of Julius Caesar. The Britons were now threatening vengeance because the Romans had refused to return some fugitives.”

The written account of the Roman invasion of Britain in 43AD is primarily based on Cassius Dio’s “Roman History.” Unfortunately, his account gives very little detail about the campaign. The only resistance the Romans encountered was the forces led by Caratacus and Togodumnus, the anti-Roman sons of Cunobelin from the Catuvellauni tribe.



Opportunity for a Triumph

In 41AD, Caratacus strategically positioned himself in Silchester, so he could thrust westward to grasp the lands of the Dobunni and of the Atrebates, ruled by the elderly Verica. Verica fled to Rome seeking help from Claudius to stop the aggression. Caratacus and Togodumnus countered by arrogantly demanding that Claudius return their pro-Roman brother, Adminius, and Verica to Britain. Their demand instead triggered the emperor’s decision to send four legions to settle the political differences. Claudius would later use this as a propaganda tool to convince the Senate that he deserved a triumph for conquering Britain—a task left undone by his great ancestor Julius Caesar.

Bust of Emperor Claudius

Bust of Emperor Claudius

The Britons must have been misled to believe that Rome’s only intent was to provide legions for peace-keeping. Most tribes that felt the expansionist weight of the Catuvellani had no reason to resist the Romans. The Atrebates viewed the empire as their saviors.

No Initial Resistance

In the summer of 43AD, the Roman legions led by Plautius did not encounter any British resistance after they landed. They had to search for the troublemakers, Caratacus and Togodumnus.

Possible Landing Richborough Roman Fort at Sandwich, Kent

Possible Roman Landing Site Richborough Roman Fort in Kent

The first battle took place at a river that many believed was the Medway in Kent. Armed Britons waited for the Romans on the other side of the waterway that had no bridge. Plautius sent some auxiliaries, who were accustomed to swimming in full armor, across the waterway to wound the horses that drove the British war chariots.

Celtic Chariot

Celtic War Chariot in Britain

Soon after, Flavius Vespasian crossed the river with his troops and surprised the Britons. The ensuing battle lasted for two days until reinforcements from another Roman legion proved the turning point.

The British warriors then retreated to the River Thames, possibly the Tidal Pool of London, east of the Tower Bridges. After some more fighting, Plautius stopped his advancement and sent for Claudius to lead the final charge. By this time, Togodumnus had died from injuries suffered from battle.

Roman Infantryman in Ancient Britain

Roman Infantryman

Claudius’ Final Victory

Extensive preparation had already been made in advance of Claudius’ arrival. Various types of equipment, including elephants, were gathered to support the emperor’s final charge into battle.

Roman and Celtic Shields Used in Ancient Britain

Roman and Celtic Shields Used in Ancient Britain

Claudius arrived at the Thames toward the end of summer. He crossed the river, defeated the enemy, and captured Camulodunum (Colchester). Cassius Dio says, “He won over many people, some by diplomacy, some by force of arms. He confiscated the weapons of these peoples and handed the tribes over to Plautius, and left him with orders to subdue the remaining regions.”

Claudius depicted as the Roman god Jupiter

Claudius depicted as the Roman god Jupiter

Claudius was in Britain for only sixteen days to achieve his glorious victory. He rushed back to Rome for his triumph and accolades. The inscription dated 52AD on the Arch Claudius in Rome was dedicated by the Senate and the People of Rome in recognition of Claudius receiving the submission of eleven kings without loss. The phrase “without loss” confirms Suetonius’ account that British princes submitted without battle or bloodshed to the emperor in Colchester.

Linnea at Roman Wall at Colchester

Linnea at Roman Wall at Colchester


It is now theorized that Rome culminated the processes of subjugating at least southeast Britain and of bringing that area under its complete control before 43AD. Viewed in this light, the Claudius’ campaign in 43AD was not a military invasion, but rather a political annexation of an already ‘Romanized” region.

Celtic Tribal Territories in Southern Britain

Celtic Tribal Territories in Southwest Britain

The primary evidence leading to this conclusion is as follows:

  1. Archaeological findings suggest the region was populated with increasing multiple cultures with different ethic identities and languages between the time of Caesar and Claudius.
  2. Children and other close relatives of indigenous rulers in Britain were educated in Rome. There was a growing practice that British kings first sought recognition from Rome when they took control of a region. Augustus also personally appointed client kings.
  3. There are increasing hints from archaeological sites that Roman soldiers were present in Britain before 43 AD. Orthogonal structures, more typical of Roman architecture, have been discovered near Colchester and the Fishbourne Palace.
Replica of a Dining Room at Fishbourne Palace

Replica of a Dining Room at Fishbourne Palace

There was precedence of Romans stationing legions beyond the formal frontier of the empire’s rule. Julius Caesar stationed three to four legions with Cleopatra after he restored her to the throne in 47 AD. Feel free to comment on whether you believe the theory that the invasion of Britain was nothing more than a ploy by Claudius to legitimize his role as the Roman emperor.

Julius Caesar Statue

Statue of Julius Caesar


  1. John Manley, AD 43 The Roman Invasion of Britain: A reassessment; Tempus Publishing, Inc., Charleston, SC, 2002.
  2. Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, The Twelve Caesars, Translated by Robert Graves; Reprinted 2007 by Penguin Books, New York.
  3. Graham Webster, Roman Invasion of Britain, Reprinted 1999 by Routledge, London.
  4. Graham Webster, Rome Against Caratacus: The Roman Campaigns in Britain AD 48-58; Reprinted 2002 by Routledge, London.
  5. Graham Webster, Boudica: The British Revolt against Rome AD 60; Reprinted 2004 by Routledge, London.
  6. Cassius Dio, Roman History, published in Vol. VII of the Loeb Classical Library, Edition 1924; Book LX   http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Cassius_Dio/60*.html

Coming Soon!

My website is undergoing development in anticipation of the launch of my epic historical fantasy, APOLLO’S RAVEN, next year. The next series of posts will focus on the historical background and themes in the upcoming series.

Apollo's Raven Book Cover Under Development

Apollo’s Raven Book Cover (Historical Fantasy)

The concept of what constitutes a heroine’s journey for the main character of Catrin, a Celtic warrior princess, will be discussed. Mark Antony—the inspiration for Marcellus, Catrin’s lover—will be explored in a new light.

Celtic Warrior Princess

Catrin, Celtic Warrior Princess Summons Raven

Please join me on my journey of discovering how history and mythology can relate to each one of us today.