Thursday, July 19, 2012

Cleopatra VII: Mark Antony

Note: Thank you so much for your support. My previous post "Cleopatra VII: Julius Caesar" has over 500 viewers in less than a month! 

one of the most famous love stories of all time
Cleopatra had known Mark Antony since she was a teenage girl. This was during her father's reign because Mark had helped Ptolemy (her dad) to get back on his throne. She had also met him countless of times during her visit in Rome. He was known to be a handsome man but Cleo never took notice in him, maybe because of their lack of mutual interest: she liked books, learning, science, etc whereas he liked wine and women. That, or maybe it's because he wasn't powerful enough.

Well, that was about to change.

Julius Caesar had been murdered by plotters, so it wasn't surprising that a civil war broke out after his death. It was between Octavius backed by Mark Antony, and Brutus and Cassius, the two men who killed Julius Caesar. Just over a year after Caesar had been killed, Cleo was asked by Octavius and Mark to send some warships. Despite Egypt's famine and plague, Cleo agreed. The reason Cleo agreed to fight alongside Mark and Octavius was that Cassius had been plotting with her only living family member (son is not inclusive)-- Arsinoe/her youngest sister-- to support Arsinoe's claim to the Egyptian throne. Unfortunately, a storm broke out and wrecked her Egyptian warships.

In the end, Mark and Octavius won the battle without Cleo's help. It was agreed that Octavius (now called Octavian) would rule the western half of the empire and Mark the eastern part. That was good news to Cleo because it meant that she would be able to just deal with Mark, since Octavian wasn't very happy with Cleo for being the mother of his uncle's only son/living child. Nevertheless, Mark was not pleased that Cleo hadn't sent any warships. Of course, he didn't know that her fleet was destroyed in a storm so he decided to pay her a visit.
When Mark got into the river bank to meet Cleo, he was surprised by how sensational this young Egyptian Queen was. On top of it all they met in the city Tarsus, on the river Cydnus. What makes this special is the city Tarsus had been known to be the place where the goddess of love, Aphrodite, met the god Dionysus. Cleo was then dressed as Aphrodite and as it was, this romance have turned out to be one of the most famous love stories of all time.

Now that Mark had fallen right under Cleo's spell, the Romans accused Cleo as a loose woman. The truth is, Cleo only had two boyfriends in her entire life time, it was just that they both happened to be very powerful Romans and she wasn't married to either one of them. Should he still be what he was when Cleo was a teenager, Cleo wouldn't even give him a second look. Was it true love?

Whatever Cleo's intentions were from the start-- and it really does look as if she had set out to make Mark fall for her-- by the end they both seem to have really loved each other.

the young Cleopatra
However, Mark and Cleo were more than just lovers. They were also heads of state making a political alliance. In return for gold, ships, and men, Cleopatra's sister Arsinoe was sentenced to death by Mark.


The Romans liked to think that Mark was a very good Roman who was led astray by the wicked Egyptian Queen. There was indeed one major problem in their relationship-- Mark was married.

His wife name was Fulvia, and Mark didn't like this woman at all. Then news came from Rome that Fulvia had started a civil war against Octavian, Mark's co-ruler. Thus, Mark had to leave Cleo to sort it out. By the time he got back to Rome, Octavian had defeated Fulvia and driven her out of Italy. Not long afterwards, she died in Greece. This meant that Mark was free to marry. Coincidentally though, Octavian's sister became a widow. Octavian soon planned a marriage that would turn Mark into an ally and get rid of the evil Egyptian Queen-- he wanted Mark to marry his sister.

Mark agreed, of course, because he knew that he would never be able to marry Cleo (Romans can only marry Romans). After dating for more than a year, Mark left Cleo when she was expecting his baby.
Octavian's sister, Octavia
Cleo gave birth to twins, named Cleopatra Selene and Alexander. It would be 3 years before she saw Mark again. He was living in Athens with Octavian's sister, called Octavia. Cleo sent an astrologer to spy on them and tell her what was going on. The spy wrote to her on a daily basis so she was always up to date.

However hurt or angry Cleo was, she still had a country to run. She read a lot, studied science, and looked after her children. Some books which she wrote during the 3 years were:-
Cleopatra in a TV series

1. A book about make up
2. A book on gynaecology
3. A book on designs and measures
4. The design and building of a monument which would be her tomb

She also studied the secrets of the ancient Egyptians.

These are all part of being the Queen of Egypt, and that's what mattered to Cleo most-- far more important than the loss of Mark. From what she heard, Mark was getting fed up of Octavia.

Finally, Mark had enough of the good but boring Octavia. He left his marriage and took off for Antioch and sent a letter to Cleo asking her to join him. She came, bringing with her the twins he had never seen. All wasn't forgiven though, and Mark had to prove to Cleo that he wanted her back. Instead of roses and whatnot, all Cleo wanted was to strengthen Egypt and so, Mark gave her more land to rule. Here's what a Jewish historian said about her:

At this time there were revolutions and troubles in Syria; for Cleopatra constantly poisoned Antony's mind against the local rulers. She persuaded him to remove them from government, and give their lands and titles to herself. And Antony loved her extremely. He thought the world of her.
In this way, she begged Antony to give her the kingdom of Judaea, and to expel the kings of Arabia from their lands. He was so bewitched by this woman that he obeyed whatever she asked of him.

Mark Antony
You can tell he didn't like Cleo, and it wasn't only him that hated her so. Mark expelled the rulers of many places in order to give their kingdoms to Cleo. Not only did those rulers hated Cleo, Cleo had also made herself a greater enemy of Rome, since those kingdoms weren't given to Rome but Cleo.  

He wasn't giving everything for free though. In exchange Cleo agreed to build a fleet of ships and so, the Egyptian navy would guard the Mediterranean sea for Mark. Aside from this, she would keep his army supplied with food and clothing.

Mark Antony and Cleopatra versus Rome

When Mark lost the battle in Parthia (if he had won, he would've conquered as much as Alexander the Great once did), Cleopatra just had her fourth child, Ptolemy. While Mark had been losing campaigns and men, Octavian was doing rather well. Octavian was a strong and efficient ruler. He had modelled himself as the Greek God Apollo who was the god of reason and order. Mark's coins, on the other hand, showed Dionysus, the wild god of wine.

Mark's wife, Octavia
Octavian was as ambitious as Mark and Cleo and he hated the way Mark treated his sister Octavia. Mark had left her pregnant and went back to Cleo, and now she was bringing up four children on her own-- two she had from Antony and another two from his previous marriage to Fulvia. However, even though Mark behaved badly towards Octavia, she was a loyal wife. Octavian knew that he would have to fight against his sister if he were to be in a war with Mark and so held back. In fact, Octavian sent some men and supplies for the army Octavia was getting together to help Mark make a second attack on Parthia.

In the end, Octavian stole Mark's will and read every bit of it to the senate. Parts of his will includes him being buried next to Cleopatra in the Egyptian style. Now it was only a matter of time before the battle between Mark and Octavian. Octavian wasn't too worried because he knew that the Romans wouldn't attack Italy/Rome in the name of the Egyptian Queen, albeit on Mark's side.

The Egyptians have always been good sailors, and Cleo planned to attack on sea. Some people had accused Mark for doing so too because he was following everything Cleo said. Mark was also very sad when he found out that good men were leaving him. The battle of Actium had started.

Gaius Octavius/Octavian/Augustus Caesar
Mark and Cleo lost in the battle of Actium. Cleo had returned to Egypt and realized that she couldn't win. Lots of people reported strange sounds in Alexandria the night before Octavian marched into Egypt. They believed that the god Dionysus was abandoning the city and since Mark worshipped the god Dionysus, he was doomed.

The following day, when Octavian's soldiers couldn't find Mark, they went to report it to Octavian. Misunderstanding the situation, Mark assumed that the Queen was in league with Octavian to have him killed. When Cleo found out about Mark's rage and accusation, she told the messenger to lie that she was dead. Not doubting this message for a moment, Mark stabbed himself.

Someone must have told Cleo what had happened, because she had ordered someone to bring him to the monument where she was hiding. Octavian's troops were entering the city, so she hoisted Mark up through the windows. When they got him to the monument, Cleopatra was crazy with grief. He was dead by the time Octavian got there, and that very first day of the month is now called August, in the name of Augustus Caesar (Octavian would later change his name to Augustus when he became the first emperor of Rome).
Mark Antony
Octavian wanted Cleo alive, to walk in his Roman triumph like how her sister Arsinoe had done in Julius Caesar's so many years before. In her defeat, Cleo persuaded Octavian to be in the monument one last time to pay her last respects to Mark, who was buried there. Soon enough, she was found dead.

when all the people burst through the doors they found Cleopatra dead upon a golden couch, dressed in her royal robes. One of her women was dead at her feet while the other, hardly able to stand , was trying to put straighten the diadem on Cleo's head. 'Very well done, and fitting for a princess descended from many kings.' Uttering these words, she fell down dead by the side of the couch.

Cleo's children were then walked as prisoners in Octavian's victory march. Octavian also had Julius Caesar's son killed whereas the rest of Cleo's children stayed with Octavia. Egypt became a part of Roman's province and Octavian became the first Roman Emperor, who renamed himself Augustus Caesar. In his life, Augustus had never forgotten Cleo as his biggest threat, and even named the month August as the month he had defeated Cleopatra.

That's the story of the young girl who had came to the throne when Egypt was bankrupt and managed to stay Queen against all odds-- she had made Egypt rich again, and unlike her ancestors, she was popular with the people. After all these years, her name still means power, wealth, glamour, sex appeal, fame, and fascination.

1 comment:

  1. Cool, thanks thanks, very interesting to read about so famous women! I'm preparing dissertation on theme of feminism in ancient history, If you interested you can
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