Antonius, the name of a Roman gens, patrician and plebeian, to which belonged the following distinguished personages: -
1. Marcus Antonius, a famous orator, born B.C. 143, whose eloquence was highly praised by Cicero. He served in Asia and Cilicia, was Consul in 99, took the part of Sylla in the civil wars, and was put to death by Marius and Cinna in 87 B.C. His treatise, De Ratione Dicendi, has perished.
2. Caius Antonius, Hybrida, son of the above, served under Sylla against Mithridates, and appears to have been a mere brigand. Though his conduct was overlooked by Lucullus it brought upon him expulsion from the Senate.
3. Marcus Antonius (Mark Antony), the triumvir, was the son of M. Antonius Creticus, and grandson of the orator. Born in 83 B.C., he spent a dissipated youth. Then taking seriously to military matters he served with success in Egypt, in Gaul under Caesar, and at the Battle of Pharsalia (44 B.C.). Caesar rewarded him with various offices, and made him his colleague in the consulship. After the murder of his protector Antony, very popular with the soldiers and the people, obviously aimed at supreme power. The patriots, Brutus and Cassius, took up the cause of Octavius. Antony besieged Decimus Brutus in Mertina. Here he was defeated, but the consuls being slain Octavius was left in sole command, and he, deserting his allies, united with Antony and Lepidus to form the second Triumvirate. Bloody proscriptions terrified Italy for some months, Cicero being one of the most illustrious victims. Then followed the defeat and death of Brutus and Cassius at Philippi, in 42 B.C., and Antony went into Cilicia, where he met the beautiful Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, and last of the Ptolemies. He was ensnared by her charms, as Pompey and Caesar had been before him, and he gave up all care for public affairs to pursue a life of pleasure at Alexandria. His wife, Fulvia, stirred up Octavius against him, but they were soon reconciled. Fulvia died, and Antony cemented the reconciliation by marrying Octavia, his colleague's sister. But his infatuation for Cleopatra drew him again to Egypt, and Octavius, being incensed, took up arms in earnest. The naval battle of Actium ensued (31 B.C.), and Antony, defeated, is said to have ended his life shortly after by falling upon his sword. Shakespeare, in his Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra, has powerfully depicted two phases of his character.