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Octavian And Marc Antony The Duel Of Words And Deeds

2078 words - 9 pages

In Greece and Egypt, his identification with Dionysus capitalized on the popular Dionysiac cult, which could be found in the East as well as in Italy. By linking oneself with Dionysus, Antony portrayed himself as a divine triumvir, looking to conquer the Orient. This political move was based on popular belief that Dionysus was the god of world conquest, and the blessings of Dionysus included civilization itself. To the people of the East, this connection provided justification why Antony should be revered and followed. Connecting himself with Dionysus also indicated royal power. Since Alexander himself was "bound up with Dionysus," and his predecessors, the Hellenistic kings would displayed ...view middle of the document...

On his mother side, Octavian was descended from a non-Italian (African) great grandfather who was a tradesmen. Antony argued, he does not fit the social requirements for high political office (which was reserved for well respected, noble families). Along with familial attacks, Antony, an accomplished war veteran, ridiculed Octavian's conduct on the field of battle.
Through attacks on the courage of Octavian, Antony alluded to Octavian inability to rule as a triumvirate. Because the Second Triumvirate was charged with protecting the security and safety of Rome, if Octavian was a coward in battle, he could not fulfill his duty as protector. Suetonius points to two instances where Antony challenges Octavian's character in battle, and by extension, his claim to power. In the first, Antony accuses Octavian of fleeing from the defeat against Brutus and Cassius "without his cloak and his horse." In the second, during the Sicilian war (43/35 B.C.E.), Antony charges Octavian with taking credit for a victory in which he did not participate. In fact, his overreliance on Agrippa proves his ineffectiveness in combat. These insults to Octavian's character in battle is epitomized by Antony's jeer, "'He could not even look with steady eyes at the fleet when it was ready for battle, but lay in a stupor on his back, looking up at the sky, and did not rise or appear before the soldiers until the enemy's ships had been put to flight by Marcus Agrippa.'" Antony calculated if he can convince the Roman people, especially the army of Octavian's cowardice in battle, Octavian stood no chance in gaining the support of the military. Without military backing, political status and power would be impossible. True to Antony's unrelenting character, he also attacked Octavian's moral character.
At time, traditional Roman society displayed a very conservative outlook, and observed virtue as one of its highest tenants. Generally, it was expected of people in high office to live moral and virtuous lives. With the hope of tanking Octavian's political career, he accused Caesar's heir of adultery with an ex-consul's wife (in her husband's presence), and open relations with any women he pleasures. Antony even mocked Octavian by asking him, in a letter, "'Does it matter where or with whom you take your pleasure?'" This bombardment on Octavian's virtue helped to counter Octavian's similar attacks and wakened Octavian's public reputation. To complement attacks on his virtue, Antony illuminated the sacrilege of Octavian in his private dinners. In one dinner, called the "twelve gods," Antony claims the guests "appear in the guise of gods and goddesses." Even worse, the great feast occurred during the time of great famine. Besides drawing public outcry for sacrilege, Octavian appeared insensitive to the needs of the people. Through this feat of propaganda, Antony displayed Octavian as one who insults the gods and the people themselves. In essence, Octavian was un-Roman.
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