Julius Caesar and Mark Antony: Compared and Contrasted

Julius Caesar and Mark Antony: Compared and Contrasted Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony were both celebrated Roman war generals and political leaders who lived during the same time. Julius Caesar was born on July 12, 100 BC and died on March 15, 44 BC (Toynbee, 2011). Mark Anthony, who is also known by other names, including Marcus Antonius, lived between 83 BC and 30 BC (Bidian & Grant, 2011). This paper explores the similarities between the two legends of ancient Rome as well as their dissimilarities.

Comparison

Julian Caesar came from a noble family, Julii Caesares, which belonged to the patrician clan Julii. The patrician clan, or gen, was a member of the original aristocracy of Rome that had governed it since the 4th century. Even though Julii Caesares were believed to have been founded by the goddess Venus, the family was distinct in that it was humble and was progressive as opposed to being conservative. However, at the time of Caesar's birth, the influence of the patrician gens had waned significantly such that being born of the gen prohibited one from holding the office of tribune of the plebs, which was a paraconstitutional but extremely powerful office. This was partly because members of the gen were relatively poor (Toynbee, 2011).

On the other hand, Mark Antony was not only related to the patricians on his mother's side, but he was relatively closely related to Julius Caesar through the same ties. Antony shared his name with both his father and grandfather. His father was also a military man and had acquired the name Creticus for his military operations in the Crete Island (Bidian & Grant, 2011). His grandfather was a famous consul and censor because of his great oratory skills.

As influential military men in their day, both Caesar and Antony worked together during the concluding phase of Caesar's successful military campaign to conquer central Gaul between 54 BC and 53 BC and later northern Gaul between 52 BC and 50 BC. Antony would serve under Caesar during the military conquests and would later in 52 BC hold the position of quaestor in Caesar's administration - a powerful position of financial administration and which guaranteed the holder a lifetime place in the Senate (Bidian & Grant, 2011).

The two men would extend their unison in the war front throughout the period of the civil war between Caesar and Pompey, which broke out in 49 BC. Besides being tribune of the plebs, Antony commanded Caesar's army that drove Pompey out of the Italian peninsula after only a short but vigorous military campaign. This victory impressed Caesar, and he would later leave Antony in charge of the peninsular when he left for the military campaign to conquer Spain (Toynbee, 2011). Caesar would later on join forces in the Battle of Pharsalus, during which Antony would successfully command Caesar's left wing battalion and be made "Master of the Horse" - a military rank lower only to that of Caesar. Although Antony declined to go back to Italy after being bestowed with this high rank, Caesar broke ranks with him only to a considerably minimal extent in that he only fired him from his military in 47 BC. This was a lenient punishment considering the military culture of the time in which lower-ranking military officers who disobeyed their superiors were more often than not hanged. Caesar's appointment of Antony as his personal consul as well as a priest for three years reaffirmed the somewhat extraordinary working relationship that flourished between the two men.

Julius Caesar and Mark Antony did not only share a distinction as the greatest Roman conquerors; both are also known for their explicit involvement in illicit affairs especially foreign women - some of whom were married. The most notable affairs that these men had as Roman rulers were those with Cleopatra, the Queen of Egypt at the time. As a matter of fact, both men sired children with Cleopatra although at different times.

Contrast

Despite the many similarities Caesar and Antony shared, there were a host of differences between the two men ranging from the time in which they reigned as Roman rulers to the manner in which they died. Caesar not only ruled shortly before Antony (in fact, Antony served as a general under Caesar for quite some time); he revolutionized the Roman Empire in ways that could hardly be equaled. For instance, by terminating the rule of the bankrupt and deeply scandalous Roman nobility, Caesar lend both the Greco-Roman civilization as well as the Roman state a reprieve that would last for up to six centuries (Toynbee, 2011). The end of rule of this class was extremely important for Rome as it faced increased threats of annihilation from the Parthian Empire in the East and the ruthless barbarian invaders from in the West. The Roman nobility could have hardly resisted any invasion by either or both of their enemies.

Although Antony was also an outstanding war general as he was a great public leader (helped by his exceptional oratory skills), his energy, political skill, and efficiency can hardly be compared to Julius Caesar's. Particularly, both of Caesar's military and political abilities were near genius, to say the least. The superior abilities of Caesar's over Anthony's can further be illustrated by the manner in which both men perpetuated their reins as well as the way in which their respective rules to an end. Caesar's regime was characterized by absolute military conquest of domestic enemies (the noble, oligarchy Roman rulers) as well as of foreign territories such as Spain and northern and central Gaul. On his part, though a great military leader, Antony relied upon, in many occasions, military peace pacts (such as the famous triumvirate between him, Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, and Octavian in November 43 BC and later his alliance with Cleopatra) to carry on his reign (Toynbee, 2011).

Furthermore, although Caesar was assassinated by senatorial conspirators who referred to themselves as "the liberators" mainly for making himself "a life dictator" (Vernon, 2004) and partly because of the public distaste of his illicit affair with Cleopatra, his rule was actually never ended. It was carried on by Antony and Octavian instead. Antony, on the other hand, suffered many defeats at the hands of his adversaries, the final of which, triumphantly orchestrated by his political and military chief adversary and Caesar's adopted son and appointed heir, Octavian, whose energy, deliberateness, efficiency, and political skills surpassed Antony's, led to his suicide (Vanhoutte, 2000).

Last but not least, although both men were lucidly promiscuous, Caesar's sexual exuberance by far exceeded Antony's. Besides having countless and uninhibited illicit affairs, many of them with married women and some of which, for instance, his sexual escapades with Mucia, Pompey's wife, as well as his relationship with Cleopatra, could have easily ended his political career, he was rumored to have had a homosexual fling with King Nicomedes of Bithynia.

Conclusion

Although Julius Caesar and Mark Antony share many notable similarities in a host of aspects, the two legendary war generals and political leaders of ancient Rome and the western part of the Old World at large differ in as many respects. All in all, Caesar clearly shadows Mark Antony in almost all respects.

References

Bidian, E., & Grant, M. (2011). Mark Antony. Retrieved June 5, 2011, from
      https://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/28832/Mark-Antony

Toynbee, A. J. (2011). "Julius Caesar." Retrieved June 5, 2011, from
      https://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/88114/Julius-Caesar

Vanhoutte, J. (2000). Antony's "secret house of death": Suicide and sovereignty in Antony and
      Cleopatra. Philological Quarterly, 79(2), pp. 153-175.

Vernon, J. (2004, March 12). Ides of March marked murder of Julius Caesar. Retrieved June 5, 2011, from
      https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/03/0311_040311_idesmarch.html

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