AA100 assignment 1. octavian versus plutarch on anthony Essay

Assignment 01
Compare and contrast the ways in which the passage below attempts top discredit Anthony with the ways this is done in the speech attributed to Octavian die ( in reading 1.1 of book 1. Chapter 1.)

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It is very obvious when reading both passages that whilst Plutarch and Octavian had similar but also differing opinions about Mark Anthony and his relationship with Cleopatra, they are both guilty of putting their own negative spin on the situation. They both use different approaches to the subject but the end result is the same. Anthony is portrayed as a man who has lost his way and in doing so, has sunk to the lowest levels of society .The one thing they both agree on, is that Cleopatra had a very negative effect on Anthony and is responsible for his decline. To answer the above question we need to explore the relationship between Anthony and Cleopatra in more detail, to understand why Octavian and Plutarch had formed such negative opinions in the first place.

Who was Cleopatra? She was the last of the Egyptian pharaohs and. was also the last of the Hellenistic queens of Egypt. Due to a lack of Egyptian documents or historical items, all our knowledge about her comes from roman history which is why we get such a negative slant on her character. In roman society at this time, woman had no role in public or political life .they found the idea of a queen abhorrent and had little respect for her citizens because of this. Rome also had little respect for a country ruled by a monarchy as it once was a monarchy itself but after a bitter civil struggle it collapsed .it is thought that this was one of the main reasons for Caesars assassination. Feelings ran strong that Caesar was beginning to see himself as a king and it wasn’t tolerated by his citizens. As a result of this hatred very strong negative imagery was written about Cleopatra .she was believed to be a temptress. A woman who luxuriated in physical pleasure. Her citizens were called a rabble because they were believed to have no morals like their leader, and behaved disgracefully. Plutarch on writing this passage agrees with this perverse image of Cleopatra, but he believes that Anthony was the maker of his own misfortune.

He cites several cases where Anthony disregards his fellow roman man e.g. on one occasion Octavian discovered the contents of Anthony’s will to his disgust. he had left orders that his body should be carried in state through the forum but then sent to Egypt to be with Cleopatra this was seen as being a huge insult to the roman empire. He also cites several while he was sitting on the tribunal administering juice to kings and tetrarchs, he would receive love letters written on tablets of onyx or crystal and starts to read then aloud. Plutarch makes it very clear that Anthony should have not allowed himself to behave like a love stuck puppy but stood up to Cleopatra and behave like a man of honour. When we compare Octavian’s passage, his thoughts are quite different. He believes Anthony was a man bewitched. He argues that no man in his right mind would behave in such a scandalous way .without thought or caring for his fellow noblemen.

He say she is either blind or accursed and so being enslaved by her he plunges into war with all its attendant dangers which he has accepted for her sake against his country and fellow noblemen. Looking at both passages we see the similarities but also see the differences…it is a great example of the problems we have trying to make sense of ancient history. Ancient historians never collected facts or proof. Most of their writing were based on hearsay and legends. And as most of our documentation about Cleopatra comes from roman historians. We are left with a warped view of her. Nothing tells us about her colour or ethnic background, or the fact that she was a strong female leader trying to do her best for her country.

And her affair with Mark Anthony whilst ridiculed by scholars like Plutarch and Octavian actually appeared to be a passionate loving relationship. Both men admit that the only brave act that she did was in her suicide. The manner of her death impressed them as it showed she was no pushover. She had no intention of being paraded through Alexandria like a common thief by Octavian she chose a warriors noble death.

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