Octavian’s strong but fabricated narrative helped him defeat Mark Antony
A long time ago, in a republic far away, a civil war broke out igniting a fake news crisis. It started when Julius Caesar appointed himself dictator for life in 44BC, a move that unnerved traditionalist republican factions which considered it an attack on Roman liberty. Led by Brutus and calling themselves “the liberators”, the group’s members conspired to assassinate Caesar on the Ides of March, stabbing him 23 times until he died on the senate floor.
But rather than re-establish the republican system, all this did was unleash a brutal power struggle between two of Caesar’s most prominent supporters: Mark Antony, his loyal confidant and general, and Octavian, Caesar’s adopted son and self-styled successor.
What followed was an unprecedented disinformation war in which the combatants deployed poetry and rhetoric to assert the righteousness of the respective campaigns.
From the outset, Octavian proved the shrewder propagandist, using short, sharp slogans written upon coins in the style of archaic tweets. His theme was that Antony was a Roman soldier gone awry: a philanderer, a womaniser and a drunk not fit to lead, let alone hold office. Most importantly, he asserted Antony had been corrupted by his love affair with Cleopatra, the leader of a foreign land....MUCH MORE