Antonius, Marcus

, a Roman orator, highly celebrated by Cicero, after rising successively through the several preparatory offices in the commonwealth, was made consul in the year of Rome 653; and then governor of Cilicia, in quality of proconsul, where he performed so many great exploits in the army that he obtained the honour of a triumph. In order to improve his talent for eloquence, he became a scholar to the greatest men at Rhodes and Athens, in his way to Cilicia and on h/s return to Rome. Afterwards he was appointed censor, and discharged the office with great reputation; he carried his cause before the people against Marcus Duronius, who had preferred an accusation of bribery against him, in revenge for Antonius’s having erased his name out of the list of senators; which this wise censor had done, because Duronius, when tribune of the people, had abrogated a law, which restrained immoderate expence in feasts. He was one of the greatest orators ever known at Rome; and it was owing to him, according to Cicero, that Rome might be considered as a rival even to Greece itself in the art of eloquence. | He defended, amongst many others, Marcus Aquilius; and moved the judges in so sensible a manner, by the tears he shed, and the scars he shewed upon the breast of his client, that he carried his cause. Cicero has given us the character of his eloquence and of his action. He never would publish any of his pleadings, that he might not, as he said, be proved to say in one cause, what might be contrary to what he should advance in another. He affected to be a man of no learning, which Bayle supposes he did not so much out of modesty as policy; finding himself established in the reputation of a great orator, he thought the world would admire him more, if they supposed this eloquence owing entirely to the strength of his natural genius, rather than the fruit of a long application to the study of Greek authors. And with regard to the judges, he thought nothing more proper to produce a good effect, than to make them believe that he pleaded without any preparation, and to conceal from them all the artifice of rhetoric. But yet he was learned, and not unacquainted with the best Grecian authors, of which there are proofs in several passages of Cicero. This appearance, however, of modesty and his many other qualifications, rendered him no less dear to persons of distinction, than his eloquence made him universally admired. He was unfortunately killed during the disturbances raised at Rome by Marius and Cinna; and his head was exposed before the rostrum, a place which he had adorned with his triumphal spoils. This happened in the year of Rome 667.

He left two sons, Marcus and Caius, of whom Bayle says, that they “were more worthy to be the father and uncle of Antonius the triumvir, than sons of the great man who gave them life.” The elder Marcus, surnamed Creticus, never raised himself beyond the prsetorship, but executed that office with a prodigious extent of authority, having the same commission which Pompey had afterwards, for importing corn and exterminating the pirates, which gave him the whole command of the seas. He committed great extortions in the provinces, particularly in Sicily. He invaded Crete without any declaration of war, on purpose to enslave it; and with such an assurance of victory, that he carried with him more fetters than arms. But he met with the fate that he deserved: for the Cretans totally routed him in a naval engagement, and returned triumphant into their ports, with the bodies of their enemies hanging on | their masts. He died soon after this disgrace, infamous in his character, “nor in any respect a better man,” says Asconius, “than his son.

His brother Caius bore arms under Sylla in the war against Mitbridates, and raised such disturbances in Achaia, that for this and other crimes he was afterwards expelled the senate by the censors. However, he was raised by Crassus and Caesar to the consulship with Cicero; when the Catilinarian conspiracy breaking out, he was appointed to head the forces against Catiline. He did not go in person, being either really or pretendedly sick; some say he pretended sickness, apprehensive lest Catiline, if he appeared, should make discoveries against him. He afterwards governed Macedonia for three years with such extortion and violence, that the senate recalled, tried, convicted, and banished him. 1


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