Marcus Antonius: Dredging Up the Perfect Protagonist ~ by Author Brook Allen

A little over fifteen years ago, I finally found myself in a position to begin my first novel. I knew I wanted to write on Late Republican Rome, doing something biographical. But who to write on? Julius Caesar had been done by big names like Conn Iggulden, and Cleopatra had been done so completely by Margaret George and Colin Falconer. Cicero had just had his day in the sun under the skillful pen of Robert Harris. Who else was there?

The one name that kept coming to me was Marc Antony—Marcus

Antonius.

Antony had an illustrious political and military career, but he wasflawed, too. A lover of women, lots of wine (too much, really!), impetuous, and did I mention he loved women? On the other hand, he was extremely courageous, a loyal friend, a man of his word, and a soldier’s soldier, but he really loved women! In fact, he rarely ever let an opportunity slip to sleep with someone new, and as most people know, his life ended tragically.

So why Antony? How could a no-name author create a debut novel on a man whose life ended in horrible disgrace?

The more I looked his life over, as well as the treatment with which
Rome and the first emperor Augustus tarnished his name, the more I thought, “I can’t believe more authors haven’t jumped at the chance to write this guy’s life-story before”. 


Oh, yeah—everybody has read about his affair with Cleopatra and many readers are familiar with Shakespeare’s take on his “Friends, Romans, countrymen…” monologue. But if I was going to really do this and do it well, I had to read between the lines of ancient sources and determine to the best of my ability, what motivated him and eventually even caused him to turn his back on his own countrymen.

That being said, to this very day, Marc Antony is a polarizing personage in history. To listen to Classicists on Twitter or military strategists, a lot of people might ask, “Why even bother with him?” And yet, Marcus Antonius, as he was known in his day, became the central catalyst of Rome’s transition from Republic to Empire.

I discovered there was MUCH more to Marc Antony’s story than his romance with Cleopatra or Julius Caesar’s funeral. First of all, his grandfather was a national hero, but his own father ruined all of that glory by betraying Rome to a bunch of low-life pirates off the coast of Crete. That is exactly where my story takes off. 

Eleven-year old Marcus must deal with a disgraced family—one that will struggle to see the light of day again until he rises to power. It’s an unforgettable story, and one I’ve lived with for fifteen years, turning the man’s life into The Antonius Trilogy.

My perfect protagonist’s story begins with Antonius: Son of Rome, dealing with Marcus’s tragic loss, through his wasteful early years, until he finally finds himself in the East—snuffing out the remnants of rebellion against Rome’s instated rulers and coming face to face with a major portion of his destiny when he meets a precocious, adolescent Egyptian princess. 

At Actium
Antonius: Second in Command follows Marcus as he rises to the heights of power at Caesar’s side, only to taste his first bitter betrayals in loyal friends and supporters. At the end of the second book, Marcus finds himself victorious and at the height of his power. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, this is one excited author, because today (FINALLY!) after multiple trips to Italy and Greece, and one to Egypt… my third and final portion of the trilogy will launch: Antonius: Soldier of Fate. Naturally, I’ve had some pretty spectacular experiences with my “perfect protagonist”. But he was difficult to hunt down. Aside from the damnatio memoriae—the damning of Marcus’s name, which was the postmortem punishment for men and women who disgraced Rome in some way—I had another set of problems in rediscovering this elusive character. 

Two-thousand years’ worth of extant buildings that hid sites from his period, destruction of historical sites, and changes in geographical river-routes, erosion, or the simple withering-away of historical evidence over time has made it incredibly challenging to recreate Marcus’s world.

Nor was his story intact. Just as damnatio memoriae decreed that his monuments be leveled, his statues smashed, and his inscriptions chiseled away, so did the truth behind his story turn to dust. Men who hated him, such as Cicero, smeared his name before Marcus ever died, but writers like Plutarch, Dio Cassius, and Appian of Alexandria (just to name a few) were all ancient sources that aided me. And there were dynamic secondary biographers to, like Eleanor Goltz Huzar and Patricia Southern.

A full-throttle adventure through ancient Rome, her corrupt Senate, the exotic eastern provinces ensues, and at last ending in Egypt. Difficult? Yes! Marcus’s ultimate punishment of damnatio memoriae didn’t make this easy. But this author learned so much and has developed the grit necessary to pursue a protagonist, regardless of how little of him has survived. 

From photographing the shores of Alexandria in a rocking, water-logged row-boat, driving all over Thessaly and locating the river where Marcus and his legions kept Pompey’s army at bay in the Battle of Pharsalus, to communing with the mystical ghosts of Rome’s past inside the shadowed Tabularium at the west end of the Forum Romanum… I feel that I’ve not only had the perfect protagonist, but that he’s become a friend, of sorts.

Author Brook Allen (and Marc Antony)
Award-winning author Brook Allen graduated from Asbury University with a B.A. in Music Education. However, she has always loved writing. A Master’s program at Hollins University with an emphasis in Ancient Roman studies 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. You can reach out to Brook via the links below.

3 comments:

  1. We are delighted to have you as our guest today, Brook. Wishing you all the best on your Antonius trilogy.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you so much. This is beautifully done! I'll be sharing the heck out of it!!!

    ReplyDelete

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