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December 8, 2022

The Love Shared Between Cleopatra and Marc Antony

In 41 BCE, as she arrived in Tarsus, Cicilia, Cleopatra was dressed as Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty. She was wearing a beautiful white flowing dress, on a gigantic boat decorated with purple sails, lots of flowers, and sprayed with exotic perfumes. There were young men fanning her with large leaves while flutes, harps, and fifes played. The queen’s maids were dressed like sea nymphs and graces. Captured by her beauty immediately, Roman leader Marc Antony fell in love with the ruler of Egypt. Marc Antony had planned a special banquet for his guest; however, being the strategic queen that she was, Cleopatra had already set up one of her own. With no shock to Antony and his men, the banquet had expensive carpets on the floors and the walls were decorated with precious gems. When Antony and his soldiers arrived, they were gifted with the valuable gifts Cleopatra had prepared to give them while in Alexandria. Once the meeting was done, Cleopatra knew without a doubt that she had the Roman soldier where she wanted him, which was wrapped around her finger.1

Statue of Octavian in Vatican Museum, Rome | Courtesy of Flickr.com

Marc Antony had a head full of curls and broad shoulders, and he was handsome. He was a part of the Second Triumvirate in 43 BCE, which included Octavian and Lepidus; these three men formed a political alliance after Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 BCE.2 In order to successfully invade the Parthian Empire, Antony knew he was going to need military assistance, and he sought that assistance from Egypt. Soon after their meeting in Tarsus, the two leaders left for Alexandria as inseparable companions. Alexandria eventually became Marc Antony’s military headquarters, causing him to spend most of his time in Egypt. The two were officially married in 32 BCE. The queen of Egypt and the Roman soldier spent most of their time hunting, throwing enormous feasts, and drinking. Cleopatra loved the way Marc Antony was a kind, gentle, and playful lover, yet such a fierce, serious leader in the eyes of the Romans.3 Living a fun life, partying and drinking, the two celebrated their newly found love. The two rulers created a drinking society named “Society of the Inimitable Livers,” where members entertained each other daily with lavish and luxurious drinks and activities. Unfortunately, the good times only lasted for about a year.

While Cleopatra and Marc Antony were happily living in Alexandria, back in Rome, Octavian, with whom Marc Antony shared the leadership of Rome, felt deeply betrayed by Antony. Romans were not allowed to marry foreigners; therefore Antony had broken the law. Octavian grew extremely upset and asked Marc Antony to return home to prove his loyalty to his homeland. In order to prove himself to Octavian and citizens of the empire, Marc Antony had to marry Octavia, Octavian’s sister.4 In 32 BCE, while back in Rome, the now newly-married Marc Antony received news that Cleopatra had given birth to twin babies named Cleopatra Selene and Alexander Helios. Although still a husband to Cleopatra, Octavia and Antony’s relationship prevented him from seeing his true love and their children together, which infuriated Cleopatra. Meanwhile, in Alexandria, Cleopatra was full of anger that her husband had another wife. The messenger calmed her down by informing her that Octavia was unimpressive, and nothing compared to Cleopatra.

Statue of Cleopatra in Taposiris Magna, Egypt | Courtesy of Flickr.com

Three and a half years later, in 37 BCE, Marc Antony and Cleopatra reunited in the capital of Syria, Antioch, where Antony finally got to meet his twin children. Still married to Octavia, Antony and Cleopatra picked up right where they left off.5 The Roman leader gifted land to his true love. Cleopatra now ruled almost the entire eastern Mediterranean coast, which today is eastern Libya, parts of Lebanon, Syria to southern Turkey, and small parts of Judea.6 For the next two years, Antony and Cleopatra traveled all over the Mediterranean. While the couple was having fun and falling more in love with each other, it seemed as if Antony’s military began to fall apart. In the eyes of his fellow Roman leaders Octavian and Lepidus, the blame for Rome’s loss of military power fell on Cleopatra. They felt as if Cleopatra distracted Antony and caused him to make decisions that only benefited him and his relationship rather than his army.

A couple years later, in 34 BCE, as tensions were rising between Egypt and Rome, Antony’s army fought a campaign against Armenia that began and ended the same year. The successful Roman soldier returned to his love affair in Alexandria, with the Armenian Roman family was brought back in chains, symbolizing defeat over them. Clearly to provoke Octavian, Cleopatra and Marc Anthony planned The Donations of Alexandria, where Antony distributed parts of their newly gained land to his twins Cleopatra Selene and Alexander Helios.7 It was now extremely clear that their family was the dynasty of the East. It seemed as if Cleopatra had finally gained what she wanted out of her marriage, but for obvious reasons, this enraged Octavian.8 The Donations of Alexandria resulted in the disbandment of the Second Triumvirate. Soon after, Marc Antony divorced Octavian’s sister, Octavia, a year later. Considering the feeling of betrayal on Octavian’s end, there was no type of friendship or relationship between Octavian and Marc Antony. Octavian declared war on his newly found enemy, Cleopatra, in 32 BCE.

Although Cleopatra and Antony’s military was extremely strong, especially together as one, they were nothing compared to the Roman legions of Octavian. Even with all of Cleopatra’s wealth and riches, she knew her husband had no chance. Scared to be taken by Octavian and be paraded as a prisoner, Cleopatra had a plan. While Antony was off in battle against Octavian’s army in the Battle of Actium, Cleopatra built herself a new temple for protection from Roman soldiers. She called her mausoleum Temple to Isis. The queen used this temple to hide not only herself but also gems, artwork, gold, royal robes, and necessities for her. Cleopatra felt as if she needed to hide herself and all of Egypt’s treasures before the kingdom fell.9 It is there where Cleopatra realized that if she were to fake her death, she might avoid the humiliation of being paraded in Rome as a spectacle, and Marc Antony would kill himself due to heartbreak, and her seventeen-year-old son Caesarion could possibly be King. For this plan to work, Cleopatra had to send two important messages. The first message was to Caesarion ordering him to flee to Berenice, a seaport on the Red Sea; and the second was a message to Marc Antony stating that she had committed suicide.

Map of Egypt | Courtesy of Flickr.com

The moment that Antony heard about his wife’s suicide, he stabbed himself in the stomach with his sword with no hesitation. Seconds later, a second messenger arrived and informed the wounded soldier that his wife was in fact still alive. Immediately, Marc Antony had himself carried to the Temple of Isis where his wife waited for him. It was then when the wounded soldier pled with his wife to make things right between her and Octavian. As Marc Antony was in his last moments of life, Cleopatra did what she did best and tried seducing her rival into making peace, but it did not work.10 It seemed as if Cleopatra’s world began to fall apart. To add to that, unfortunately, on his way to Berenice, Caesarion was lured into Alexandria by Octavian where he was murdered. All hope was lost for the queen, leading her to eat poison that she somehow snuck past Octavian’s guards. It is not known what kind of poison Cleopatra used to kill herself. Some think it was an asp, while others believe it was an Egyptian serpent of a different sort; but it is still unclear to this day. Charmion and Iras, Cleopatra’s two attendants, were also found dead near the two lovers, meaning it may have been something air borne.11 Octavian was fuming with anger when he was told about Antony’s and Cleopatra’s death, but also happy; he had finally defeated the strongest empire in the East.

With the Egyptian queen dead, the kingdom became part of the Roman Empire. Cleopatra Selene and Alexander Helios were brought to Rome to be raised by Octavia.12  Before getting rid of all evidence left behind of Marc Antony and Cleopatra’s reign, Octavian fulfilled Cleopatra’s last wishes. Marc Antony and the queen were buried side by side in an unknown location near Alexandria, Egypt. Cleopatra got what she wanted out of her relationship with Marc Antony; however, not for long.

  1. Joann Fletcher, Cleopatra the Great: The Woman behind the Legend (New York: Harper Perennial, 2012), 236-238.
  2. Joyce Tyldesley, Cleopatra : Last Queen of Egypt (London: Basic Books, 2008), chapter 6, ebook.
  3. Joann Fletcher, Cleopatra the Great: The Woman behind the Legend (New York: Harper Perennial, 2012), 235.
  4. Alberto Angela, Cleopatra: The Queen Who Challenged Rome and Conquered Eternity (Italy, Harper Via, 2018), 234.
  5. Alberto Angela, Cleopatra: The Queen Who Challenged Rome and Conquered Eternity (Italy, Harper Via, 2018), 234.
  6.  Joyce Tyldesley, Cleopatra : Last Queen of Egypt (London: Basic Books, 2008), chapter 6, ebook.
  7. Alberto Angela, Cleopatra: The Queen Who Challenged Rome and Conquered Eternity (Italy, Harper Via, 2018), 239.
  8. Joyce Tyldesley, Cleopatra : Last Queen of Egypt (London: Basic Books, 2008), chapter 6.
  9. Duane W. Roller, Cleopatra : A Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), chapter 9, ebook.
  10. Joann Fletcher, Cleopatra the Great: The Woman behind the Legend (New York: Harper Perennial, 2012), 252.
  11. World History Encyclopedia, 2011, s.v. “Cleopatra & Antony,” by Brian Haughton.
  12. World History Encyclopedia, 2011, s.v. “Cleopatra & Antony,” by Brian Haughton.

Tags from the story

Cleopatra

Marc Antony

Octavian

Recent Comments

Brandon Vasquez

Great article it really highlights the full timeline of events from when Antony and Cleopatra met to when they both committed suicide at the end. It really shows how much of a grip that Cleopatra had on Antony whether it was love or not. To move away from a strong political agreement which was designed to help the Roman Republic was not just an easy thing to do and Antony had to have known the consequences for his actions.

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11/01/2023

2:17 pm

Isabella Lopez

So beautiful written! I felt as thought I was watching a movie as I read the way you described the events. I never actually knew how Cleopatra died so finding out it was suicide really took me through a loop. The passion those two had for each other is admirable but that’s fascinating how seductive she was that she could make such a powerful man bend to her will. It’s sort of tragically romantic that they were buried together.

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14/01/2023

2:17 pm

Victoria Castillo

I really like your article by how you not only included how Cleopatra appealed herself to Marc Antony by appearing as Aphrodite, which probably brought him a sense of familiarity as Romans, during that time, prayed to the Romanized versions of the Greek Pantheon. But also, by bringing upon the hardships that both Cleopatra and Marc Antony experienced not only as lovers, but as leaders to their respective homelands and how their relationship affected their rulership with their people. Although Cleopatra still had very clear ulterior motives it’s nice to know that she truly did care and love for Marc Antony.

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15/01/2023

2:17 pm

Rosalyn Ledesma

This article was so well-written, it felt like the complete summary to a romance novel if that makes sense. Ironically, I had seen video a couple days ago that mentioned Cleopatra and Marc Antony, though I wasn’t paying much attention to it, it never occured to me how smart Cleopatra was. Also, her faking her death, Marc Antony committing suicide, and in the end both of them being buried next to each other reminds of the classic Romeo and Juliet. I can help but wonder if Cleopatra and Marc Antony were the author’s inspiration.

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15/01/2023

2:17 pm

Anaely Caez Santana

This article was incredibly well written, it really pieces together Cleopatra’s and Antony’s love story and tragic ending. The article kept me intrigued the whole time while reading it. I have heard of Cleopatra before but I never thought this would be how she truly was. It made me realized she was a very smart woman that knows what she wants and how to accomplish getting it. I found it interesting that Cleopatra chose to dress herself as Aphrodite in order to win Marc Antony over and it actually working. I liked how she knew Antony would immediately react to her committing suicide, it shows that he truly did love her.

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15/01/2023

2:17 pm

Danielle Rangel

This is an amazing article about political leaders and how they used their power and wealth to settle personal affairs. I think this demonstrates how smart and calculating Cleopatra was. She not only was able to seduce Marc Anthony, a powerful leader, she was able to make sure that her death was in the favor of her and her kids. Cleopatra and Marc Anthony’s love demonstrates how love can move countries and influence wars and conflict.

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15/01/2023

2:17 pm

Fatima Esparza

I enjoyed your article very much! I have always had an interest in Cleopatra and her life. Her story with Marc Antony is bittersweet, similar to Romeo and Juliet. Your article showed the struggle of balancing power and love in life and how putting more effort into one, either love or power, destroys the other. I would love to be able to see where she was buried, and hopefully, archeologists and scientists today will be able to find her and Marc Antony’s tomb.

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22/01/2023

2:17 pm

Marissa Rendon

Reading this was a very interesting read. I have always been familiar with cleopatra but I never knew enough until reading this article. The structure of this article was amazing the transitions and the body over all was a ten out of ten. Cleopatra was a smart women and reading this article can definitely back up this claim. She was an intelligent bright women. When cleopatra faked her death that was such a big slap in the face because i never would have seen it coming

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22/01/2023

2:17 pm

Karly West

I was so intrigued by this when I saw it on the homepage! I have always been interested in Cleopatra but I never sat down and read a whole article about her. Cleopatra was a smart woman and was so ahead of her time. Reading this article made me see how powerful of a ruler she was even in the face of a time period that doesn’t usually support women rulers. Im really surprised that she faked her death, I didn’t think that was a popular approach in those days. Fascinating!

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29/01/2023

2:17 pm

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