We remember him as the handsome Richard Burton, swept off his feet by the glorious beauty of Elizabeth Taylor, playing the equally immortal Cleopatra. We remember him as the fascinating Marlon Brando, glowering at the camera, and pronouncing "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears” in his best Brando voice. But Marc Antony was nothing like that. He was reasonably attractive, but not a sex symbol of the caliber of either of these two stunning gentlemen. And, let’s remember that he was not an actor. He was, through and through, a Roman nobleman, military man, and politician, with all the callous indifference to human life, including his own, the practical approach to money, and the realistic views of humanity in general that such a Roman would have. Personally I find him much more interesting than any movie star, but that is, of course, a matter of taste.
As mentioned in the previous post, I would like to show Antony’s famous letter to Hyrcanus in its entirety. The nature of the letter is so positive, practical, and reasonable, that it is difficult to connect it with the usual image of Rome as the great oppressor of Judea. Of course, Judea was indeed oppressed by the Romans; there is no doubt of it. However, had the Jews played their cards differently, perhaps they would have had a much easier time of it. Judge for yourself, but pay attention to the subtle way in which he shows how Caesar’s fate affected both Rome and Judea.
“Marcus Antonius, Imperator, to Hyrcanus, High Priest and Ethnarch, and to the Jewish nation, greeting. If you are in good health, it is well. I also am in good health, as is the army. The envoys Lysimachus, son of Pausanias, Josephus, son of Mennaeus, and Alexander, son of Theodorus, who met me at Ephesus, have renewed the mission previously carried out by them in Rome, and have conscientiously discharged their present mission on behalf of you and the nation, making clear the goodwill you have for us. Being, thereof, persuaded by both deeds and words that you have the friendliest feelings for us, and being aware of your obliging and pious nature, I regard your interests as my own. For when our adversaries and those of the Roman people overran all Asia, sparing neither cities nor temples, and disregarding the sworn agreements they had made, it was not only our own battle but that of all mankind in common that we fought when we avenged ourselves on those who were guilty both of lawless deeds against men and of unlawful acts against the gods, from which we believe the very sun turned away, as if it too were loath to look upon the foul deed against Caesar. But their god-defying plots, which Macedonia received as though its climate were proper to their unholy crimes, and the confused mob of half-crazed villains whom they got together at Philippi in Macedonia, where they occupied places naturally favourable and walled in by mountains as far as the so, so that the passed could be controlled through only one gate – these plots and this mob, condemned by the gods for their unjust enterprise, we have overcome. And Brutus, who fled to Philippi and was hemmed in by us, shared the ruin of Cassius. Now that these men have been punished, we hope that henceforth we shall enjoy peace and give Asia respite from war. We are therefore ready to let our allies also participate in the peace given us by God; and so, owing to our victory, the body of Asia is now recovering, as it were, from a serious illness. Having, therefore, in mind to promote the welfare both of you and your nation, I shall take care of your interests. And I have also sent notices throughout the cities that if any persona, whether freemen or slaves, were sold at auction by Gaius Cassius or by those subordinate to him, they shall be released; and it is my wish that you shall enjoy the privileges granted by me and Dolabella. And I forbid the Tyrians to use violence against you, and command that they restore whatever they possess belonging to the Jews. As for the crown which you have sent, I have accepted it.”
In the next segment, I think it might be a good idea to take time to retell the story of Antony and Cleopatra, as it really happened – as far as possible from Hollywood and certainly not in Glorious