"Some love stories are immortal. And the true love story of Antony and Cleopatra is one of the most memorable, intriguing and moving of all times…The relationship of Antony and Cleopatra is a true test of love." http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130190252,
ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA
This is a great love story everyone is familiar with – at least some version of the tale – and it has captured the interest of many from Shakespeare to Cecil B. DeMille, and presented in many stories, movies, plays, and artwork. According to historian Adrian Goldsworthy, most of the retellings of the love affair are less than accurate, so it's possible your favorite version of the story isn't quite the way it went.
Great love stories involving real people are difficult to tell because many are shaped by wars and struggles for power and domination. In studying the historical love stories, I find the external events drive the love story, making it difficult to separate the romantic and the historic aspects.
You can't have one without the other.
Without getting into too much Roman history – because it is long, boring, and messy -- Marcus Antonius of Rome was Julius Caesar's second in command. After a civil war, when Caesar assumed his fifth and final consulship in 44 BC, Antony was his co-consul.
Antony heard rumors of the plot against Caesar, but was unable to warn him in time. After Caesar's death on the Ides of March, 44 BC, Antony took charge of Caesar's will, which named 17-year-old Octavian, Caesar's adopted son, as his heir. Statue of Marc Antony
This made the three men of the triumvirate enemies of Octavian, the future emperor, but it put Antony at the pinnacle of power over the known world of the time. The map below shows the extent of the Roman Empire in 40 BC.
Octavian (Augustus Caesar)
Cleopatra VII Philopator was the queen (pharaoh) of Egypt and the last monarch of the Ptolemaic Empire, part of the Macedonian empire established after the death of Alexander the Great. Legend claims she was not only beautiful but intelligent. She spoke nine languages, was skilled in mathematics and, although she is often considered a seductress, she was studying to be a nun.
It's probable that she was Macedonian Greek mixed with Egyptian blood, but no one knows for sure.
Cleopatra became queen at the age of 17 and ruled Egypt for 22 years. Her father, and later Cleopatra, were dependent on Rome to maintain the empire. Hence she became an ally and lover of Julius Caesar until his assassination in 44 BC. They had one son together.
THE STORY BEGINS WITH LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT
After the death of Julius Caesar, Cleopatra was accused of being a party to his assassination. Mark Antony summoned her to his headquarters in Turkey, to explain herself. In 41 BC, she crossed the Mediterranean Sea to meet him. It's said she sailed up the Cydnus River in a decorated barge with purple sails, dressed as the Greek goddess Aphrodite.
Well, maybe. But definitely each of them saw something they needed from the other. For Cleopatra, it was another chance to achieve power in Egypt and Rome. Antony was twenty years older than Cleopatra … so maybe he was having a mid-life crisis.
According to a 2016 FactFiend article written by Karl Smallwood (http://www.factfiend.com/cleopatra-knew-make-first-impression/) they began their illicit love affair with "Cleopatra stripped naked save for her best come- to- bed- eyes and a shit ton of eye shadow and had her servants roll her inside of a gigantic carpet. She then gave the order to her slaves to deliver this carpet to Caesar’s room. When Caesar opened his door to greet the slaves, they unfurled the carpet at his feet revealing the naked Cleopatra who was now lying on the ground inviting him to into her private chambers."
I was confused by the use of the word Caesar and thought this referred to Julius Caesar. However, it's clear from the rest of the text that Smallwood is referring to the meeting of Cleopatra and Marc Antony, not Cleopatra and Julius Caesar. The word Caesar was the title given to a Roman emperor, especially from the reign of Augustus to that of Hadrian. Antony, at the time, was one of the three Caesar's who ruled the Roman Empire.
Regardless of how they got together, they became lovers, which put Egypt in powerful position. Cleopatra gave birth to twins shortly before Antony was forced to return from Egypt to Rome. They had a third child after he returned to Egypt.
They were married in Antioch, Syria, in 36 BC. As a wedding present, Antony gave her much of the middle east to rule. Soon, as is the tradition of many eastern monarchies, Antony and Cleopatra began presenting themselves as divine -- as gods. That was the last straw for Octavian. He declared war on Antony.
In the Battle of Actium, Greece, Antony and Cleopatra's combined forces lost to Octavian, and they fled back to Egypt. Octavian invaded Egypt and took over Alexandria.
There are two versions of Antony's death. The first, Antony heard Cleopatra had been killed and, in desperation and grief, fell on his sword and died. In the other version, Antony surrendered to Octavian and, following Roman tradition, committed suicide by falling on his sword.
Cleopatra Marc Antony Octavius Julius Caesar
After Antony's death, Cleopatra was captured by Octavian who threatened to parade her through the streets of Rome as his prisoner. Either because her heart was broken by news of Antony's death, or because she was unable to bear the humiliation Octavian planned for her, on August 12, 30 BC, Cleopatra dressed in her royal robes, lay upon her golden couch with a diadem on her brow, and had an asp (an Egyptian cobra) brought to her concealed in a basket of figs.
By allowing the asp, a symbol of divine royalty, to bite her she would, according to Egyptian beliefs, become immortal. She was 39 years old when she died. Two female servants died with her.
THE WINNERS WRITE HISTORY
Considering who they were and the political roles they played in two great empires, it is, perhaps, surprising to realize neither Marc Antony nor Cleopatra changed the world in any significant way, unlike Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar. After all, the winners write history, and Antony and Cleopatra lost the war with Octavian who became Emperor Augustus Caesar of Rome.
Their love story, however, has inspired the world for centuries thanks, primarily, to Shakespeare and an innumerable number of plays, books, and movies.
Theda Bara Vivian Leigh and Rhonda Fleming and Hilde Gardnel
Claude Reins 1945 William Ludigan 1953 Charlton Heston
Billy Zane William Warren Richard Burton
□ Painting of The battle of Actium