Mark Antony’s Suicide

Octavian Chronicle #12, Suicide – 30 BC, tells the whole story.
Mark Antony committed suicide in Alexandria, Egypt on August 1, 30 BC. He’d been in a state of depression since September 2, 29 BC, when he and Cleopatra lost the Sea Battle of Actium to Octavian and Marcus Agrippa. After his and Cleopatra’s return to Alexandria, Antony had isolated himself on a small island near the Pharos Lighthouse at the entrance to the harbor.

Finally, one of his commanders, Canidius, convinced him that he could rally an army that could stand against Octavian’s large army that was rapidly advancing from the east. After suffering a defeat at Paraetonium to the west, Antony returned to Alexandria to do battle with Octavian, only to have his army and navy desert him when he ordered them into battle.

He then became convinced that Cleopatra had betrayed him by making an agreement with Octavian for her own survival. He reasoned that she did it in return for her telling her Egyptian soldiers to surrender to him. Antony returned to the palace in a murderous rage, calling out for her. When Cleopatra heard about this, she was afraid. She told her people to tell him that she’d committed suicide. Antony believed it, because he knew she’d been experimenting with poisons and snakes. He went to his quarters where his faithful servant Eros was waiting for him.

He looked at Eros and said, “Do now that which I’ve engaged you to do. Fulfill your promise and put me out of my misery.” Eros drew his sword as if to slay Antony, but instead, he suddenly stabbed and killed himself. As he fell dead, Antony looked down at him and said, “It is well done, Eros. You’ve shown your master how to do that which he must now do for himself.”

With that, Antony drew his sword and, without hesitating, ran it into his belly. He spun around and stumbled over to his bed to lie down and die. He was in terrible pain, but because he was lying down, the bleeding stopped, and his wound wasn’t immediately fatal. When other servants came running in, he cried out to them, “Put me out of my misery! Finish for me what I’ve started.” Instead, they ran from the room, none wanting to be the one to put the great Antony to death. The word about him spread all about the palace. One of Cleopatra’s secretaries, Diomede, ran back to the mausoleum, yelling for Cleopatra as loud as she could. Cleopatra poked her head out of the opening at the top. Diomede told her of Antony’s situation.

Cleopatra burst into tears and said, “Bring him here!”

Charmion asked, “How are you going to get him in here? The doors to the mausoleum are too heavy for us to open.”

“We’ll use the ropes hanging here that are used to lift up the stone blocks, and we’ll raise him up to this window. Let’s get them ready.”

Diomede ran back to the palace and entered Antony’s quarters. He recognized her as she stood over him and said, “Cleopatra’s alive. She gave us orders to take you to her.” With tears in his eyes, Antony eagerly let himself be picked up by the servants whom Diomede had brought with her. When they arrived at the mausoleum, the ropes and cords were let down and securely fastened to his body. Then the three women and the eunuch struggled to hoist Antony’s heavy body up to the window. Diomede had never seen a sadder sight than Antony, covered with his own blood, reaching his arms up to Cleopatra as he lay dying.

Struggling with all their might, Cleopatra, Charmion, Iras, and Mardion lifted him up the last few feet to the opening and pulled him inside. They managed to carry him to a bed and lay him down on it. Cleopatra screamed, “My lord, my husband, my emperor!” She tore off her clothes and used them to try to stop his bleeding. When she saw that nothing could be done, she started beating her breasts and covering her face with his blood.

Antony raised his hand and called for her to stop the madness. He said to Charmion, “Bring us some wine.” Then he said to Cleopatra, “You must bring your own affairs to a safe conclusion. Do it as honorably as you can. I recommend that you ask for Caesar’s man Proculeius to be the one you talk to. He’s Maecenas’ brother-in-law.”

Charmion now came with cups of wine. Cleopatra took one. She lifted Antony’s head and hugged him to her bosom. She put the cup of wine to his lips. He looked up at her and said, “Don’t pity me now. Remember the happy times we’ve had together. Remember that I’ve been the most famous and most powerful of all men and, in the end, I’ve fallen nobly, Roman against Roman.” His voice trailed off. His body slumped in her arms.

Antony was dead!