Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale
Her infinite variety; other women cloy
The appetites they feed, but she makes hungry
Where most she satisfies;… – William Shakespeare for Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra
Antony and Cleopatra is a literary work by William Shakespeare. It is about the relationship of Antony and Cleopatra from the Parthian War to Cleopatra’s suicide. She was born in 69 BC and was the only Ptolomaic ruler who learned Egyptian. She was not only a beautiful woman, but also very charming and seductive. She had relationships with two of the greatest Roman generals – Julius Caesar and Alexander, the great and was destined to be the last leader of the dynasty of Ptolemy I. She was not an Egyptian, but of Macedonian decent.
Cleopatra VII was not only known for her beauty, but for her intellect as well. This is something that people generally don’t know. Consider this – she was an expert in nine languages and a skilled mathematician. Indeed amazing! She became Julius Caesar’s mistress, but after he was slain, there were rumors that she had helped Cassius, one of the assassins of Caesar. These rumors became so widespread that Caesar’s successor and best friend Mark Antony had to summon Cleopatra to his headquarters at Anatolia.
A common trait of Cleopatra and Mark Antony was that they were both loyal to Caesar. Both of them had met earlier during the reign of Caesar. When Cleopatra crossed the Mediterranean to see him, they both fell in love. There is no doubt that until Caesar’s death they were just good friends. Later, he accepted her invitation to visit Egypt. With the relationship between these two powerful people growing, the Romans were wary of the emergence of the Egyptians as a powerful force. Also, they didn’t appreciate their love affair, but despite all the threats, Cleopatra and Antony married at Anatolia, Syria in 36 BC.
Octavian, Antony’s arch rival for power in Rome, was wary of the power of Cleopatra and Antony. What added salt to his wounds was, when Antony gifted Cleopatra much of the Middle East – Egypt, Cyprus, Crete and Syria, as a wedding gift. She, together with Caesarion, her son, was the ruler of these countries. Octavian, a blood relative of Julius Caesar, declared war against Antony in 31 BC. The battle took place in Actium, Greece. Antony lost the battle even though he had 500 ships and 70,000 infantry, compared to Octavian’s 400 ships and 80,000 infantry. The reason was that Antony’s soldiers were more experienced in land rather than sea battles.
What the actual result of the battle was, is still not known completely, but it’s said that while fighting Antony got a false news of Cleopatra’s death. He was devastated and thought he had no reason to live. He fell on his sword and died. Another legend is that he along with Cleopatra fled to Egypt, when they lost the battle. But Octavian arrived there too and to escape punishment, Antony committed suicide. Cleopatra was shattered on hearing the news of Antony’s death. She was taken as a prisoner of Octavian and held captive.
While a prisoner, with the help of some loyal servants, she managed to arrange for a poisonous snake, an asp. She wrote a letter to Octavian asking him to bury her with Antony. In the absence of her chambermaids, she put on her royal robes and made the asp bite her breasts. She left behind a love story that the world will remember forever. Love is indeed another name for sacrifice. Thus the love story of Cleopatra and Mark Antony, like all great love stories, ended tragically.