The Man Behind the Myth —
By Brook Allen
One of the most frequently asked questions I get is “Why are you writing about him?” Others shake their heads, commenting, “That story has been told too many times.”
So, why HIM? Why Marcus Antonius—more commonly known as Marc Antony?
I have known since I was a Sophomore in high school that I wanted to write on the 1st century BC and focus on Rome. Fourteen years ago, when this project’s first chapter began, I chose Antony because other people had written so many times on Cleopatra and Caesar. Robert Harris had just started his well-researched books on Cicero.
Antony seemed to be the only one left untouched. So I started writing.
I’m sure glad I did. Antony’s life was full of drama, action, and tragedy. First of all, he lived through the Spartacan revolt, the Catiline conspiracy, was a cousin to Julius Caesar, probably met Cleopatra before Caesar ever did, helped restore her father’s throne, became Caesar’s second-in-command, gave the world’s most famous funeral oration, and later married Cleopatra. And that’s just for starters.
Whew! Perhaps you can see why he’s such fun to write about.
As far as I know, my trilogy will be the first historical fiction work (at least in fifty some odd years) to focus on Antony’s life from his perspective. There have been other non-fiction biographies done on his life and times. The two mainstays being by Eleanor Goltz Huzar and Patrician Southern. Why other historical fiction authors haven’t jumped on this guy’s story is BEYOND me. Granted, he had a larger-than-life personality, truly became a legend, and was as impulsive in decision-making as a squirrel crossing the road in front of a truck!
But here was the man who became the very catalyst transforming Rome from Republic to Empire.
Why did he do the things that he did? Binge-drinking, womanizing, and at the end, choosing the East over Rome. Author Patricia Southern’s eye-opening biography, Mark Antony: A Life, really helped me grasp something. To paraphrase her words, she explained that “Antony never saw Rome’s Republic work properly.” Now, that statement isn’t an excuse. It’s pure fact. He was born and raised in the Republic’s death-throes. His grandfather was beheaded by the general Marius. The dictator Sulla instituted a Caligula-like reign of terror over the city when Antony was a baby. Why, the Senate was already becoming impotent before Caesar, Antony and Octavian ever set foot in the Curia.
For years now, I’ve spent time and money going back and forth to the Mediterranean, trying my best to place myself in a position to feel Antony’s life and times. Four years ago, I stood atop the great theater in Philippi, overlooking the battlefield where he faced off with Brutus and Cassius, Caesar’s assassins. To see the breadth and scope of a battlefield that once held almost two-hundred-thousand legionaries locked in civil war, was mind-boggling. In fact, it made such an impression on me, that I wrote Antonius: Second in Command’s final scene from that perspective—at the top of the theater.
I invite you to come along for one of history’s most complicated, insightful, and adventurous histories, by reading the Antonius Trilogy.
Join me in discovering the man behind the myth.
Second in Command
By Brook Allen
The Antonius saga continues…
After proving himself as a formidable cavalry commander, Marcus Antonius finally earns a position at his kinsman Julius Caesar’s side. However, Caesar is an exacting general, demanding complete allegiance from his staff, even when his decisions put him at odds with the Senate. Marcus’s loyalty to Caesar comes at a cost, and he soon finds himself embroiled in mob violence and military mutinies. As civil war brings Rome’s Republic crashing down, many a relationship is torn asunder, including Marcus’s marriage. Determined to rise triumphant in Rome’s new era, Marcus faces his fears, his failures, and his enemies—not the least of whom is himself.
Amid the crisis of the Ides of March, Marcus must don the mantle of ruthlessness to carve his own legacy in Rome’s history. Enemies have been made, wills have been read, and heirs proclaimed.
But in Rome’s civil unrest, blood answers only to blood.
Marcus Antonius was going to be a father.
Such thrilling news jumbled his emotions as he walked through the pouring rain, chewing his lip distractedly.
A stray dog barked, chasing some geese and causing Marcus to detour, hopping over a puddle and then dodging a heaping pile of manure on the road. Tender scar tissue from a battle wound on his left calf constricted his quick movement, as it sometimes did. He grimaced, wiped water from his face, and kept moving.
Damned wound had taken forever to heal.
Outside Rome’s walls, wagons sat idly in long queues along the Via Appia. Drenched drivers hunkered down under layered clothing, miserably awaiting sundown, when they’d finally gain entrance. Due to overcrowding, carts only had access at night. Several miles’ worth sat in a stagnant line as far as the eye could see. Loaded with grain, amphorae, and reeking animal crates, their goods were piled precariously high.
Marcus kept to the footpath alongside the road as a string of chained slaves trudged by, barefoot in the mud. Packs of grubby-faced children scurried from the footpath and shimmied between stationary wagons. They lived among the tombs and lofty monuments lining the Via Appia. Whenever traffic was idle, they seized the opportunity to hawk cheap wine, sausages, and boiled eggs, but they were just as apt to steal. Considered pests by most, they were the progeny of lowborn prostitutes who sold themselves day and night along this stretch of the Via Appia.
Not much farther ahead was the Antonii tomb, where the urns of Marcus’s father, grandfather, and other ancestors rested. He craned his neck around the traffic and adjusted the wineskin hanging from his shoulder.
A towering stand of pines separated the road from more monuments. He entered the woods and was promptly smacked in the face by two heavy branches, pelting him with more runoff. But now he was on a path he’d followed so often he could have walked it blind. Amid more tombs, it wound through a lovely grove where a modest stele marker stood.
He stopped stock-still, heart in his throat.
There it was.
Even after four years, each visit wrenched his heart. Tears were already stinging his eyes. Had she really been gone so long? It seemed only yesterday when he’d made love to her, kissing her and stroking her hair. Never had skin felt so soft, so supple—so alive.
Marcus stepped forward, reverently pulling his cloak over his head. His hand quivered slightly as he uncorked the wine.
He tilted the skin over the stele’s offering holes, carefully pouring his libation. Emotion followed, as it always did. Tears he’d been holding back on the road fell freely. Saturated and heavy, his hood slid off sideways, rain dripping down his face once more. His fingers skirted the rough edges of the stone, caressing it, wishing it were Fadia. He leaned forward until his forehead rested against its cold granite.
“I still love you,” he whispered to Fadia’s shade. “I still miss you. Much has happened since I held you last. I’m to be a father. But it won’t be the same. I wish it was our child growing up to bear your image or mine. I wish it with every breath.”
Today was no different from other days spent at her stele. He’d pour his heart out to her and then leave feeling baffled and depressed. Four long years had passed. Marcus had remarried, which had been inevitable. Time moved on.
So why was he so miserable? Granted, it was rare when any man of his social status truly loved his wife. Yet many men still enjoyed themselves, making excellent husbands and fathers.
His wife and cousin, Antonia, was every bit as kind as Fadia had been. She was good to everyone with whom she came into contact, and her green eyes sparkled with love whenever he was near. Marcus recalled when he was little how Mother used to exclaim, “That Antonia! With her red hair and freckles, she looks like a Gallic chieftain’s daughter.”
Mother treasured her. She had even decided that, after all was said and done, Marcus had made a good match with Antonia. Household slaves adored her too. On their wedding day, they had taken extra time, festooning flower swags to make their new domina beam with shy smiles.
So why, oh why didn’t Marcus feel anything for her? Whenever they were together, his heart was still as stone—not uncaring, but numb, as though it lay dead inside.
Brook Allen has a passion for ancient history—especially 1st century BC Rome. Her current work is a trilogy on the life of Marcus Antonius—Marc Antony, which she has worked on for the past fourteen years. The first installment, Antonius: Son of Rome was published in March 2019. It follows Antony as a young man, from the age of eleven, when his father died in disgrace, until he’s twenty-seven and finally meets Cleopatra for the first time. The newest book is Antonius: Second in Command, dealing with the Antony’s tumultuous rise to power at Caesar’s side and culminating with the tumultuous civil war against Brutus and Cassius.
In researching the Antonius Trilogy, Brook’s travels have led her to Italy, Egypt, Greece, and even Turkey to explore places where Antony once lived, fought, and eventually died. While researching abroad, she consulted with scholars and archaeologists well-versed in Hellenistic and Roman history, specifically pinpointing the late Republican Period in Rome. Brook belongs to the Historical Novel Society and attends conferences as often as possible to study craft and meet fellow authors. Though she graduated from Asbury University with a B.A. in Music Education, Brook has always loved writing. She completed a Masters program at Hollins University with an emphasis in Ancient Roman studies, which helped prepare her for authoring her present works.
Brook teaches full-time as a Music Educator and works in a rural public-school district near Roanoke, Virginia. Her personal interests include travel, cycling, hiking in the woods, reading, and spending downtime with her husband and two amazing Labrador Retrievers. She lives in the heart of southwest Virginia in the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains.
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See you on your next coffee break!
Mary Anne xxx