Mark Antony - A Plain Blunt Man, Paolo de Ruggiero

Mark Antony - A Plain Blunt Man, Paolo de Ruggiero

Mark Antony was one of the key figures in the fall of Rome Republic, first as a senior officer under Julius Caesar, then as a key leader in the anti-Republic faction in the aftermath of Caesar's death and finally as a member of Second Triumvirate, where he ruled the eastern part of the Roman Empire and famously married Cleopatra.

The dominating feature of this book is the author's bias in favour of Mark Antony. Antony is the hero of the piece, and can do almost no wrong. Even when he makes clear mistakes, his motives are always pure. In order to support his case the author rather distorts (or perhaps stretches) the sources - Suetonius as an unreliable rumourmonger when anti-Mark Antony and has no reason not to tell the truth when pro-Antony, most historians are dismissed as 'Augustan propaganda'.

The book is generally well written and readable, although there some unusual choice of works - one governor was 'tried for concussion', elsewhere a phrase is described as 'pleonastic'. The author's first language is Italian, so some of this must be due to odd translations of Italian phrases.

There is a remarkable attempt to justify Antony and Cleopotra's plan to divide the eastern Roman world into a series of kingdoms ruled by their children, as if only Octavian's propaganda made this unacceptable to Roman opinion! In a city where monarchy was always loathed and distrusted this was always going to be a hugely controversial issue.

The author does know his sources, and provides enough material for the reader to make their own mind up. However the desire to defend Mark Antony at all times makes even the justifiable points less convincing.

I do think the author paints a more realistic view of the balance of power in the relationship with Cleopatra, pointing out the long periods when the two didn't meet. I also didn't realise that Cleopatra and Antony's line survived them, with their daughter marrying Juba, king of Mauretania, and the line only ending when their grandson, the last Ptolemy, was murdered by Caligula.

This is still a readable biography of an important figure, often seen via his relationships with other people, and in particular Caesar, Octavian/ Augustus and Cleopatra. It would just better if it was more balanced.

1 - The Making of a Roman Hero
2 - East!
3 - The Civil War
4 - Enemy of the State
5 - Triumvir
6 - Prince of the East
7 - The New Alexander
8 - The End of the New Dionysos
9 - The Aftermath, the Offspring, and the Legacy

Author: Paolo de Ruggiero
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 300
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2013

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