According to Plutarch, Antony lived a life of pleasure and luxury, playing games rather than preparing for war. ( Plutarch Antony 28-29). He tells the story of the fishing trip as an example of his childish games. In fact Antony did take certain actions to support Cleopatra:
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By now Cleopatra had borne two children, Alexander and Cleopatra. As with Caesarion, this gave Cleopatra and Egypt an association with a powerful faction in Rome, which is what she wanted most of all. It meant some protection from other factions who might want Egypt. The relationship was political as much as personal.
Antony in Syria37 BC
Now the disastrous flaw in his character, asleep for so long– his passion for Cleopatra – flared up again all the greater as he approached to Syria…
At this point that Antony hands over to Cleopatra a number of territories (shaded on map) which had once belonged to Egypt. (see the Expansion of Egypt section); he also recognised his two children by Cleopatra, Alexander and Cleopatra.
These acts, we’re told, angered the Romans, more than his execution of Antigonus of Judaea. However, the portrayal of Antony as bewitched by the magical charms of Cleopatra is part of the propagandaof Octavian which made it easier to make war on Antony. To portray a foreign woman as the real enemy was more acceptable to Romans and Senate than to attack Antony who was still popular in Rome.
They would tell Antony that Octavia had married him for politics and for her brother, and took pleasure in having the name of wife. Cleopatra on the other hand, queen of so many men, was called Antony's lover; she did not avoid this name nor think it unworthy of her, as long as it was possible for her to see him and be with him. If he drove her away, she could not bear to live. At last they melted and unmanned Antony so much that he was afraid that Cleopatra would kill herself, and so went back to Alexandria. He delayed the campaign with the king of the Medes until the summer, although the Parthian were said to be in the middle of an internal crisis.
Ancient sources represent this act as the result of the weakness of Antony and the cleverness of Cleopatra who manipulates him against his interests for herself.
The Armenian campaign 34 BC
Artavasdes was king of Armenia. His forces had deserted Antony in his Parthian campaign. However, Antony tried to make an alliance with him in 34 BC in the hope he would join him against Parthia where there was a civil war at the time. Control of Armenia was vital for an invasion of Parthia. When negotiation broke down Antony invaded, taking Cleopatra with him as far as the Euphrates. he captured Artavasdes, and garrisoned Armenia leaving Canidius Crassus in charge before returning to Alexandria to celebrate his triumph.
The Parthian campaign
His campaign began at Zeugma. His intention was to attack Parthia from the north and rapidly march into Parthia in order to capture the capital at Phraaspa. In this, he left his siege train following slowly behind. It was attacked by Parthians and the commander, Statianus killed. He was forced to retreat through hostile territory. Many of his soldiers were killed in the constant attacks, but he reached Armenia, where he left the army and himself rode onto Syria, expecting to meet Cleopatra who was bringing resources, money and clothing. She arrived January 35 BC at Leuke Come. She could not afford Antony to lose as she depended upon him for her support. Octavian had defeated SextusPompeius and eliminated Lepidus in the West. Antony now needed time to recover and re-supply his army. It was now that SextusPompeius, now in the East, was executed, since he was causing trouble in Syria and with the Parthians.
Antony broke off relations with Octavia (wife). He stayed in Alexandria when Octavia came to Athens. (PlutarchAntony 53-54). He did not immediately divorce her – that happened 3 years later.