Octavian, the Battle of Actium and the Demise of Antony and Cleopatra

Home | Category: Age of Caesar / Age of Augustus


Augustus (Octavian)
At the time of his romance with Cleopatra, Antony was battling Octavian (the bastard son of Caesar) for the emperorship of the Roman Empire. Back in Rome, Antony's third wife Fulva raised an army to fight Octavian and was soundly defeated and died. Antony made a temporary peace by arranging to marry Octavian's sister, Octavia. Antony left behind a pregnant Cleopatra in Alexandria and returned to Rome to marry Octavia. Antony and Octavia had two daughters. Octavia has always been portrayed sympathetically as the scorned woman. In Shakespeare play Cleopatra stabs the messenger who brings news of Antony's marriage. but that most likely didn't happen, with Cleopatra seeing the political necessity of the union.

Antony was later united with Cleopatra in Antioch. He married her under eastern law and divorced Octavia, who was pregnant at the time. Antony then launched his Parthian campaign and was miserable defeated and lost half his army. He responded to this by becoming a drunk, threatening suicide and mistreated his popular Roman wife. After this Octavia offered to help Antony but Antony refused and then appeared with Cleopatra, calling her the "Queen of Kings" and declared her son Caeserion as "King of Kings." Antony then announced that Caesarian, not Octavian, was Julius Caesar's true heir. Octavian was obviously not pleased by these events.

In 34 B.C. Octavian seized Antony's will from the Temple of the Vestal Virgins. The will revealed that Antony planned to be buried in Alexandria, not Rome, with Cleopatra. This infuriated the citizens of Rome. There were reports that Antony was wearing a Greek “ chlamy” not a Roman toga and planned to leave Rome to Cleopatra. A year later the Roman court declared war on Egypt and the “harlot queen.” If Antony and Cleopatra had seized the moment and attacked Italy then they might have prevailed but instead they sailed to Greece, where they stayed for a year, enjoying themselves and organizing a drama festival, and were trapped on the west coast of Greece near the port of Actium

Websites on Ancient Greece and Rome: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Greece sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Hellenistic World sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; BBC Ancient Greeks bbc.co.uk/history/; Canadian Museum of History historymuseum.ca; Perseus Project - Tufts University; perseus.tufts.edu ; ; Gutenberg.org gutenberg.org; British Museum ancientgreece.co.uk; Illustrated Greek History, Dr. Janice Siegel, Department of Classics, Hampden–Sydney College, Virginia hsc.edu/drjclassics ; The Greeks: Crucible of Civilization pbs.org/empires/thegreeks ; Oxford Classical Art Research Center: The Beazley Archive beazley.ox.ac.uk ; Ancient-Greek.org ancientgreece.com; Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org/about-the-met/curatorial-departments/greek-and-roman-art; The Ancient City of Athens stoa.org/athens; The Internet Classics Archive kchanson.com ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Rome sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Late Antiquity sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Forum Romanum forumromanum.org ; “Outlines of Roman History” forumromanum.org; “The Private Life of the Romans” forumromanum.org|; BBC Ancient Rome bbc.co.uk/history;
The Roman Empire in the 1st Century pbs.org/empires/romans; The Internet Classics Archive classics.mit.edu ; Bryn Mawr Classical Review bmcr.brynmawr.edu; De Imperatoribus Romanis: An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Emperors roman-emperors.org; Cambridge Classics External Gateway to Humanities Resources web.archive.org/web; Ancient Rome resources for students from the Courtenay Middle School Library web.archive.org ; History of ancient Rome OpenCourseWare from the University of Notre Dame /web.archive.org ; United Nations of Roma Victrix (UNRV) History unrv.com

Showdown Between Octavian and Antony

The strong feeling at Rome against Antony, Octavian was able to use to his own advantage. But he wished it to appear that he was following, and not directing, the will of the people. He therefore made no attempt to force an issue with Antony, but bided his time. The people suspected Antony of treasonable designs, as they saw his military preparations, which might be used to enthrone himself as king of the East, or to install Cleopatra as queen of Rome. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]

Marc Antony

All doubt as to Antony’s real character and purpose was settled when his will was found and published. In it he had made the sons of Cleopatra his heirs, and ordered his own body to be buried at Alexandria beside that of the Egyptian queen. This was looked upon as an insult to the majesty of Rome. The citizens were aroused. They demanded that war be declared against the hated triumvir. Octavian suggested that it would be more wise to declare war against Cleopatra than against Antony and the deluded citizens who had espoused his cause. Thus what was really a civil war between Octavian and Antony assumed the appearance of a foreign war between Rome and Egypt. But Antony well understood against whom the war was directed; and he replied by publicly divorcing Octavia, and accepting his real position as the public enemy of Rome. \~\

David Silverman of Reed College wrote: “The stage was set for a final breach between Octavian and Antony. Lepidus had always been much closer to Antony than to Octavian, so his ouster (as the death of Crassus had done) removed a major obstacle to open rivalry between his colleagues. Moreover, Antony was flouting the new marriage to Octavia by continuing to cavort with Cleopatra, who had borne him twins in 40 B.C.. He spent 36-34 B.C. in a vigorous but not very effective campaign against the Parthians, then returned to Egypt and his new "wife" Cleopatra. [Source: David Silverman, Reed College, Classics 373 ~ History 393 Class ^*^]

“At the minimum, she hoped to use Antony to return Egypt to some of its former greatness, as in the days when the Ptolemies controlled a large piece of the old empire of Alexander the Great. But her true intentions and ways are difficult to reconstruct because she became a major target of the Augustan propaganda machine, which represented her as corrupt and scheming, hoping to conquer Rome and rule it, even to move the capital of the Empire to Alexandria (unthinkable!), she as Queen dominating Antony as King. As Syme puts it, "the propaganda of Octavianus magnified Cleopatra beyond all measure and decency. To ruin Antonius it was not enough that she should be a siren: she must be made a Fury — fatale monstrum (Horace, Odes 1. 37. 21). It is true that Antony had been enjoying playing the divine monarch. After all, in Egypt Cleopatra was both the Queen and the living incarnation of the goddess Isis. For the purposes of the state religion, Pompey played her consort Dionysus / Osiris. All this would be considered harmless, so long as it stayed in Egypt; in Rome it would be anathema. ^*^

“The falling out was precipitated by Antony's declaration that Caesarion, Caesar's supposed son by Cleopatra, was the legitimate heir of Caesar. In 33 the triumvirate, which had been extended for an additional five years, formally expired and was not renewed. Octavian and Antony's partisans at Rome spent the year attacking each other, and Antony signaled the end of the cooperation by divorcing Octavia. Octavian, consul for 31 B.C., procured an oath of personal allegiance from all of Italy and got a formal declaration (complete with fetiales proclaiming it iustum) of war against Cleopatra. Yet again the theatre for a decisive phase in the civil conflict would be Greece. The rivals met at Actium, where Octavian's fleet blockaded Antony and Cleopatra until the pair, hampered by desertions and short of supplies, was forced to abandon the position. In the summer of the next year Octavian chased the lovers to Egypt, where they evaded his wrath by committing suicide. Caesarion, of course, had to die. The challenge facing Octavian now was how to stabilize the republic without giving up power.” ^*^

Battle of Actium

While Antony and Cleopatra were trapped in Actium 400 ships and 80,000 infantrymen under Octavian's command approached Anthony's army from the north and cut of his supply lines in the south. Cleopatra reportedly was the one who urged Antony to make a final stand at sea. Cleopatra was put in charge of third of the fleet and ultimately showed that her military skill did not match her political skills

During the naval Battle of Actium in 31 B.C. the forces of Antony and Cleopatra were defeated by Octavian, whose navy was made up of smaller, faster ships that outmaneuvered the larger ships of Antony and Cleopatra's fleet after hard fighting and a lot of bloodshed. Many of the ships had battering rams, and many of the ships that sunk burned and were dragged down by their heavy battering rams. In 1993, objects believed to be from Anthony's fleet were discovered two miles off the west coast of Greece.

Before the battle had even begun, Cleopatra is said to have withdrawn her 60 ships, including her flagship containing Egypt's treasury. According to one account Antony abandoned his forces to pursue Cleopatra. In the run up to the battle Antony and Cleopatra staged a theater festival at Samos and neglected their supply lines.

Before the Battle of Actium

When war was declared, Antony and Cleopatra united their forces against Rome. Antony gathered together an immense army of eighty thousand men, and occupied the western coasts of Greece, where he could either threaten Italy or resist the approach of Octavian. His main army was posted at Actium, south of the strait leading into the Gulf of Ambracia. His fleet of five hundred heavy ships was for the most part moored within the gulf. Octavian, with the aid of his trusted general Agrippa, succeeded in transporting an army of fifty thousand men to the coast of Epirus, and took up a position north of the strait and opposite the land forces of Antony. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]

Plutarch wrote in “Lives”: “When Caesar had made sufficient preparations, a vote was passed to wage war against Cleopatra, and to take away from Antony the authority which he had surrendered to a woman. And Caesar said in addition that Antony had been drugged and was not even master of himself, and that the Romans were carrying on war with Mardion the eunuch, and Potheinus, and Iras, and the tire-woman of Cleopatra, and Charmion, by whom the principal affairs of the government were managed. [Source: Parallel Lives by Plutarch, published in Vol. IX, of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1920, translated by Bernadotte Perrin]

“The following signs are said to have been given before the war. Pisaurum, a city colonized by Antony situated near the Adriatic, was swallowed by chasms in the earth. From one of the marble statues of Antony near Alba sweat oozed for many days, and though it was wiped away it did not cease. In Patrae, while Antony was staying there, the Heracleium was destroyed by lightning; and at Athens the Dionysus in the Battle of the Giants was dislodged by the winds and carried down into the theatre. Now, Antony associated himself with Heracles in lineage, and with Dionysus in the mode of life which he adopted, as I have said, and he was called the New Dionysus. The same tempest fell upon the colossal figures of Eumenes and Attalus at Athens, on which the name of Antony had been inscribed, and prostrated them, and them alone out of many. Moreover the admiral's ship of Cleopatra was called Antonius, and a dire sign was given with regard to it. Some swallows, namely, made their nest under its stern; but other swallows attacked these, drove them out and destroyed their nestlings.

“When the forces came together for the war, Antony had no fewer than five hundred fighting ships, among which were many vessels of eight and ten banks of oars, arrayed in pompous and festal fashion; he also had one hundred thousand infantry soldiers and twelve thousand horsemen. Of subject kings who fought with him, there were Bocchus the king of Libya, Tarcondemus the king of Upper Cilicia, Archelaüs of Cappadocia, Philadelphus of Paphlagonia, Mithridates of Commagene, and Sadalas of Thrace. These were with him, while from Pontus Polemon sent an army, and Malchus from Arabia, and Herod the Jew, besides Amyntas the king of Lycaonia and Galatia; the king of the Medes also sent an auxiliary force. Caesar had two hundred and fifty ships of war, eighty thousand infantry, and about as many horsemen as his enemies. Antony's authority extended over the country from the Euphrates and Armenia to the Ionian sea and Illyria; Caesar's over the country reaching from Illyria to the Western Ocean and from the ocean back to the Tuscan and Sicilian seas. Of Libya, the part extending opposite to Italy, Gaul, and Iberia as far as the pillars of Hercules, belonged to Caesar; the part extending from Cyrene as far as Armenia, to Antony.

“But to such an extent, now, was Antony an appendage of the woman that although he was far superior on land, he wished the decision to rest with his navy, to please Cleopatra, and that too when he saw that for lack of crews his trierarchs were haling together out of long-suffering Greece wayfarers, mule-drivers, harvesters, and ephebi,0 and that even then their ships were not fully manned, but most of them were deficient and sailed wretchedly. Caesar's fleet, on the other hand, was perfectly equipped, and consisted of ships which had not been built for a display of height or mass, but were easily steered, swift, and fully manned. This fleet Caesar kept assembled at Tarentum and Brundisium, and he sent to Antony a demand to waste no time, but to come with his forces; Caesar himself would furnish his armament with unobstructed roadsteads and harbours, and would withdraw with his land forces a day's journey for a horseman from the sea-shore, until Antony should have safely landed and fixed his camp. This boastful language Antony matched by challenging Caesar to single combat, although he was an older man than Caesar; and if Caesar declined this, Antony demanded that they should fight out the issue at Pharsalus, as Caesar and Pompey had once done. But while Antony was lying at anchor off Actium, where now Nicopolis stands, Caesar got the start of him by crossing the Ionian sea and occupying a place in Epirusº called Toruné (that is, ladle); and when Antony and his friends were disturbed by this, since their infantry forces were belated, Cleopatra, jesting, said: "What is there dreadful in Caesar's sitting at a ladle?"

Battle of Actium Begins

Octavian’s fleet of two hundred and fifty light galleys was stationed outside of the strait to await the approach of the enemy’s vessels. Antony, on the advice of his ablest officers, desired that the battle should be waged with the land forces. But Cleopatra, proud of her navy, insisted that it should be fought on the sea. The contest was therefore decided by a naval battle. As the fleet of Antony emerged from the strait, it was immediately attacked by Octavian and Agrippa. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]

Plutarch wrote in “Lives”: “But Antony, when the enemy sailed against him at daybreak, was afraid lest they should capture his ships while they had no fighting crews, and therefore armed the rowers and drew them up on the decks so as to make a show; then he grouped his ships at the mouth of the gulf near Actium, their ranks of oars on either side lifted and poised as for the stroke, and their prows towards the enemy, as if they were fully manned and prepared to fight. Caesar, thus outwitted and deceived, withdrew. Antony was also thought to have shown great skill in enclosing the potable water within certain barriers and thus depriving the enemy of it, since the places round about afforded little, and that of bad quality. He also behaved with magnanimity towards Domitius, contrary to the judgment of Cleopatra. For when Domitius, who was already in a fever, got into a small boat and went over to Caesar, Antony, though deeply chagrined, nevertheless, sent off to him all his baggage, together with his friends and servants. And Domitius, as if repenting when his faithlessness and treachery became known, straightway died. [Source: Parallel Lives by Plutarch, published in Vol. IX, of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1920, translated by Bernadotte Perrin]

“There were also defections among the kings, and Amyntas and Deiotarus went over to Caesar. Besides, since his navy was unlucky in everything and always too late to be of assistance, Antony was again compelled to turn his attention to his land forces. Canidius also, the commander of the land forces, changed his mind in presence of the danger, and advised Antony to send Cleopatra away, to withdraw into Thrace or Macedonia, and there to decide the issue by a land battle. For Dicomes the king of the Getae promised to come to their aid with a large force; and it would be no disgrace, Canidius urged, for them to give up the sea to Caesar, who had practised himself there in the Sicilian war; but it would be a strange thing for Antony, who was most experienced in land conflicts, not to avail himself of the strength and equipment of his numerous legionary soldiers, but to distribute his forces among ships and so fritter them away.

“However, Cleopatra prevailed with her opinion that the war should be decided by the ships, although she was already contemplating flight, and was disposing her own forces, not where they would be helpful in winning the victory, but where they could most easily get away if the cause was lost. Moreover, there were two long walls extending down to the naval station from the camp, and between these Antony was wont to pass without suspecting any danger. But a slave told Caesar that it was possible to seize Antony as he went down between the walls, and Caesar sent men to lie in ambush for him. These men came near accomplishing their purpose, but seized only the man who was advancing in front of Antony, since they sprang up too soon; Antony himself escaped with difficulty by running.

Fighting During the Battle of at Actium

Plutarch wrote in “Lives”: When it had been decided to deliver a sea battle, Antony burned all the Egyptian ships except sixty; but the largest and best, from those having three to those having ten banks of oars, he manned, putting on board twenty thousand heavy-armed soldiers and two thousand archers. It was on this occasion, we are told, that an infantry centurion, a man who had fought many a battle for Antony and was covered with scars, burst into laments as Antony was passing by, and said; "Imperator, why dost thou distrust these wounds and this sword and put thy hopes in miserable logs of wood? Let Egyptians and Phoenicians do their fighting at sea, but give us land, on which we are accustomed to stand and either conquer our enemies or die." To this Antony made no reply, but merely encouraged the man by a gesture and a look to be of good heart, and passed on. He had no good hopes himself, since, when the masters of his ships wished to leave their sails behind, he compelled them to put them on board and carry them, saying that not one fugitive of the enemy should be allowed to make his escape. [Source: Parallel Lives by Plutarch, published in Vol. IX, of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1920, translated by Bernadotte Perrin]

“During that day, then, and the three following days the sea was tossed up by a strong wind and prevented the battle; but on the fifth, the weather becoming fine and the sea calm, they came to an engagement. Antony had the right wing, with Publicola, Coelius the left, and in the centre were Marcus Octavian and Marcus Insteius. Caesar posted Agrippa on the left, and reserved the right wing for himself. Of the land forces, that of Antony was commanded by Canidius, that of Caesar by Taurus, who drew them up along the sea and remained quiet. As for the leaders themselves, Antony visited all his ships in a row-boat, exhorting the soldiers, owing to the weight of their ships, to fight without changing their position, as if they were on land; he also ordered the masters of the ships to receive the attacks of the enemy as if their ships were lying quietly at anchor, and to maintain their position at the mouth of the gulf, which was narrow and difficult. Caesar, we are told, who had left his tent while it was still dark and was going round to visit his ships, was met by a man driving an ass. Caesar asked the man his name, and he, recognizing Caesar, replied: "My name is Prosper, and my ass's name is Victor." Therefore, when Caesar afterwards decided the place with the beaks of ships, he set up bronze figures of an ass and a man. After surveying the rest of his line of battle, he was carried in a small boat to his right wing, and there was astonished to see the enemy lying motionless in the narrows; indeed, their ships had the appearance of riding at anchor. For a long time he was convinced that this was really the case, and kept his own ships at a distance of about eight furlongs from the enemy. But it was now the sixth hour, and since a wind was rising from the sea, the soldiers of Antony became impatient at the delay, and, relying on the height and size of their own ships as making them unassailable, they put their left wing in motion. When Caesar saw this he was delighted, and ordered his right wing to row backwards, wishing to draw the enemy still farther out from the gulf and the narrows, and then to surround them with his own agile vessels and come to close quarters with ships which, owing to their great size and the smallness of their crews, were slow and ineffective.

“Though the struggle was beginning to be at close range, the ships did not ram or crush one another at all, since Antony's, owing to their weight, had no impetus, which chiefly gives effect to the blows of the beaks, while Caesar's not only avoided dashing front to front against rough and hard bronze armour, but did not even venture to ram the enemy's ships in the side. For their beaks would easily have been broken off by impact against vessels constructed of huge square timbers fastened together with iron. The struggle was therefore like a land battle; or, to speak more truly, like the storming of a walled town. For three or four of Caesar's vessels were engaged at the same time about one of Antony's, and the crews fought with wicker shields and spears and punting-poles and fiery missiles; the soldiers of Antony also shot with catapults from wooden towers.”

Cleopatra Flees the Battle at Actium

Scarcely had the battle begun when Cleopatra with her squadron withdrew from the line, and was quickly followed by Antony. Plutarch wrote in “Lives”: “And now, as Agrippa was extending the left wing with a view to encircling the enemy, Publicola was forced to advance against him, and so was separated from the centre. The centre falling into confusion and engaging with Arruntius, although the sea-fight was still undecided and equally favourable to both sides, suddenly the sixty ships of Cleopatra were seen hoisting their sails for flight and making off through the midst of the combatants; for they had been posted in the rear of the large vessels, and threw them into confusion as they plunged through. [Source: Parallel Lives by Plutarch, published in Vol. IX, of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1920, translated by Bernadotte Perrin]

“The enemy looked on with amazement, seeing that they took advantage of the wind and made for Peloponnesus. Here, indeed, Antony made it clear to all the world that he was swayed neither by the sentiments of a commander nor of a brave man, nor even by his own, but, as someone in pleasantry said that the soul of the lover dwells in another's body, he was dragged along by the woman as if he had become incorporate with her and must go where she did. For no sooner did he see her ship sailing off than he forgot everything else, betrayed and ran away from those who were fighting and dying in his cause, got into a five-oared galley, where Alexas the Syrian and Scellius were his only companions, and hastened after the woman who had already ruined him and would make his ruin still more complete.

Cleopatra in her pleasure barge

“Cleopatra recognized him and raised a signal on her ship; so Antony came up and was taken on board, but he neither saw nor was seen by her. Instead, he went forward alone to the prow and sat down by himself in silence, holding his head in both hands. At this point, Liburnian ships were seen pursuing them from Caesar's fleet; but Antony ordered the ship's prow turned to face them, and so kept them off, except the ship of Eurycles the Laconian, who attacked vigorously, and brandished a spear on the deck as though he would cast it at Antony. And when Antony, standing at the prow, asked, "Who is this that pursues Antony?" the answer was, "I am Eurycles the son of Lachares, whom the fortune of Caesar enables to avenge the death of his father." Now, Lachares had been beheaded by Antony because he was involved in a charge of robbery. However, Eurycles did not hit Antony's ship, but smote the other admiral's ship (for there were two of them) with his bronze beak and whirled her round, and one of the other ships also, which contained costly equipment for household use. When Eurycles was gone, Antony threw himself down again in the same posture and did not stir. He spent three days by himself at the prow, either because he was angry with Cleopatra, or ashamed to see her, and then put in at Taenarum. Here the women in Cleopatra's company at first brought them into a parley, and then persuaded them to eat and sleep together.

Defeat of Antony’s and Cleopatra’s Forces at Actium

After Antony and Cleopatra fled, their sailors fought on until their fleet was destroyed. Plutarch wrote in “Lives”: “Presently not a few of their heavy transport ships and some of their friends began to gather about them after the defeat, bringing word that the fleet was destroyed, but that, in their opinion, the land forces still held together. So Antony sent messengers to Canidius, ordering him to retire with his army as fast as he could through Macedonia into Asia; he himself, however, since he purposed to cross from Taenarum to Libya, selected one of the transport ships which carried much coined money and very valuable royal utensils in silver and gold, and made a present of it to his friends, bidding them divide up the treasure and look out for their own safety. They refused his gift and were in tears, but he comforted them and besought them with great kindness and affection, and finally sent them away, after writing to Theophilus, his steward in Corinth, that he should keep the men in safe hiding until they could make their peace with Caesar. This Theophilus was the father of Hipparchus, who had the greatest influence with Antony, was the first of Antony's freedmen to go over to Caesar, and afterwards lived in Corinth. [Source: Parallel Lives by Plutarch, published in Vol. IX, of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1920, translated by Bernadotte Perrin]

“This, then, was the situation of Antony. But at Actium his fleet held out for a long time against Caesar, and only after it had been most severely damaged by the high sea which rose against it did it reluctantly, and at the tenth hour, give up the struggle. There were not more than five thousand dead, but three hundred ships were captured, as Caesar himself has written. Only a few were aware that Antony had fled, and to those who heard of it the story was at first an incredible one, that he had gone off and left nineteen legions of undefeated men-at arms and twelve thousand horsemen, as if he had not many times experienced both kinds of fortune and were not exercised by the reverses of countless wars and fightings. His soldiers, too, had a great longing for him, and expected that he would presently make his appearance from some quarter or other; and they displayed so much fidelity and bravery that even after his flight had become evident they held together for seven days, paying no heed to the messages which Caesar sent them. But at last, after Canidius their general had run away by night and forsaken the camp, being now destitute of all things and betrayed by their commanders, they went over to the conqueror.

“In consequence of this, Caesar sailed to Athens, and after making a settlement with the Greeks, he distributed the grain which remained over after the war among their cities; these were in a wretched plight, and had been stripped of money, slaves, and beasts of burden. At any rate, my great-grandfather Nicarchus used to tell how all his fellow-citizens were compelled to carry on their shoulders a stipulated measure of wheat down to the sea at Anticyra, and how their pace was quickened by the whip; they had carried one load in this way, he said, the second was already measured out, and they were just about to set forth, when word was brought that Antony had been defeated, and this was the salvation of the city; for immediately the stewards and soldiers of Antony took to flight, and the citizens divided the grain among themselves.

Antony and Cleopatra Flee to Libya and Egypt

Plutarch wrote in “Lives”: “After Antony had reached the coast of Libya and sent Cleopatra forward into Egypt from Paraetonium, he had the benefit of solitude without end, roaming and wandering about with two friends, one a Greek, Aristocrates a rhetorician, and the other a Roman, Lucilius, about whom I have told a story elsewhere. He was at Philippi, and in order that Brutus might make his escape, pretended to be Brutus and surrendered himself to his pursuers. His life was spared by Antony on this account, and he remained faithful to him and steadfast up to the last crucial times. When the general to whom his forces in Libya had been entrusted brought about their defection, Antony tried to kill himself, but was prevented by his friends and brought to Alexandria. Here he found Cleopatra venturing upon a hazardous and great undertaking. The isthmus, namely, which separates the Red Sea from the Mediterranean Sea off Egypt and is considered to be the boundary between Asia and Libya, in the part where it is most constricted by the two seas and has the least width, measures three hundred furlongs. Here Cleopatra undertook to raise her fleet out of water and drag the ships across, and after launching them in the Arabian Gulf with much money and a large force, to settle in parts outside of Egypt, thus escaping war and servitude. But since the Arabians about Petra burned the first ships that were drawn up, and Antony still thought that his land forces at Actium were holding together, she desisted, and guarded the approaches to the country. And now Antony forsook the city and the society of his friends, and built for himself a dwelling in the sea at Pharos, by throwing a mole out into the water. Here he lived an exile from men, and declared that he was contentedly imitating the life of Timon, since, indeed, his experiences had been like Timon's; for he himself also had been wronged and treated with ingratitude by his friends, and therefore hated and distrusted all mankind. [Source: Parallel Lives by Plutarch, published in Vol. IX, of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1920, translated by Bernadotte Perrin]

Later, Antony and Cleopatra “sent an embassy to Caesar in Asia, Cleopatra asking the realm of Egypt for her children, and Antony requesting that he might live as a private person at Athens, if he could not do so in Egypt. But owing to their lack of friends and the distrust which they felt on account of desertions, Euphronius, the teacher of the children, was sent on the embassy. For Alexas the Laodicean, who had been made known to Antony in Rome through Timagenes and had more influence with him than any other Greek, who had also been Cleopatra's most effective instrument against Antony and had overthrown the considerations arising in his mind in favour of Octavia, had been sent to keep Herod the king from apostasy; but after remaining there and betraying Antony he had the audacity to come into Caesar's presence, relying on Herod. Herod, however, could not help him, but the traitor was at once confined and carried in fetters to his own p0 country, where he was put to death by Caesar's orders. Such was the penalty for his treachery which Alexas paid to Antony while Antony was yet alive.

“Caesar would not listen to the proposals for Antony, but he sent back word to Cleopatra that she would receive all reasonable treatment if she either put Antony to death or cast him out. He also sent with the messengers one of his own freedmen, Thyrsus, a man of no mean parts, and one who would persuasively convey messages from a young general to a woman who was haughty and astonishingly proud in the matter of beauty. This man had longer interviews with Cleopatra than the rest, and was conspicuously honoured by her, so that he roused suspicion in Antony, who seized him and gave him a flogging, and then sent him back to Caesar with a written message stating that Thyrsus, by his insolent and haughty airs, had irritated him, at a time when misfortunes made him easily irritated. "But if thou dost not like the thing," he said, "thou has my freedman Hipparchus; hang him up and give him a flogging, and we shall be quits." After this, Cleopatra tried to dissipate his causes of complaint and his suspicions by paying extravagant court to him; her own birthday she kept modestly and in a manner becoming to her circumstances, but she celebrated his with an excess of all kinds of splendour and costliness, so that many of those who were bidden to the supper came poor and went away rich. Meanwhile Caesar was being called home by Agrippa, who frequently wrote him from Rome that matters there greatly needed his presence.

Final Campaign Against Cleopatra in Syria and Egypt

Plutarch wrote in “Lives”: “Accordingly, the war was suspended for the time being; but when the winter was over, Caesar (Octavian) again marched against his enemy through Syria, and his generals through Libya. When Pelusium was taken there was a rumour that Seleucus had given it up, and not without the consent of Cleopatra; but Cleopatra allowed Antony to put to death the wife and children of Seleucus, and she herself, now that she had a tomb and monument built surpassingly lofty and beautiful, which she had erected near the temple of Isis, collected there the most valuable of the royal treasures, gold, silver, emeralds, pearls, ebony, ivory, and cinnamon; and besides all this she put there great quantities of torch-wood and tow, so that Caesar was anxious about the reason, and fearing lest the woman might become desperate and burn up and destroy this wealth, kept sending on to her vague hopes of kindly treatment from him, at the same time that he advanced with his army against the city. But when Caesar had taken up position near the hippodrome, Antony sallied forth against him and fought brilliantly and routed his cavalry, and pursued them as far as their camp. Then, exalted by his victory, he went into the palace, kissed Cleopatra, all armed as he was, and presented to her the one of his soldiers who had fought most spiritedly. Cleopatra gave the man as a reward of valour a golden breastplate and a helmet. The man took them, of course, — and in the night deserted to Caesar. [Source: Parallel Lives by Plutarch, published in Vol. IX, of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1920, translated by Bernadotte Perrin]

“And now Antony once more sent Caesar a challenge to single combat. But Caesar answered that Antony had many ways of dying. Then Antony, conscious that there was no better death for him than that by battle, determined to attack by land and sea at once. And at supper, we are told, he bade the slaves pour out for him and feast him more generously; for it was uncertain, he said, whether they would be doing this on the morrow, or whether they would be serving other masters, while he himself would be lying dead, a mummy and a nothing. Then, seeing that his friends were weeping at these words, he declared that he would not lead them out to battle, since from it he sought an honourable death for himself rather than safety and victory.

“During this night, it is said, about the middle of it, while the city was quiet and depressed through fear and expectation of what was coming, suddenly certain harmonious sounds from all sorts of instruments were heard, and the shouting of a throng, accompanied by cries of Bacchic revelry and satyric leapings, as if a troop of revellers, making a great tumult, were going forth from the city; and their course seemed to lie about through the middle of the city toward the outer gate which faced the enemy, at which point the tumult became loudest and then dashed out. Those who sought the meaning of the sign were of the opinion that the god to whom Antony always most likened and attached himself was now deserting him.

“At daybreak, Antony in person posted his infantry on the hills in front of the city, and watched his ships as they put out and attacked those of the enemy; and as he expected to see something great accomplished by them, he remained quiet. But the crews of his ships, as soon as they were near, p saluted Caesar's crews with their oars, and on their returning the salute changed sides, and so all the ships, now united into one fleet, sailed up towards the city prows on. No sooner had Antony seen this than he was deserted by his cavalry, which went over to the enemy, and after being defeated with his infantry he retired into the city, crying out that he had been betrayed by Cleopatra to those with whom he waged war for her sake. But she, fearing his anger and his madness, fled for refuge into her tomb and let fall the drop-doors, which were made strong with bolts and bars; then she sent messengers to tell Antony that she was dead. Antony believed that message, and saying to himself, "Why doest thou longer delay, Antony? Fortune has taken away thy sole remaining excuse for clinging to life," he went into his chamber. Here, as he unfastened his breastplate and laid it aside, he said: "O Cleopatra, I am not grieved to be bereft of thee, for I shall straightway join thee; but I am grieved that such an imperator as I am has been found to be inferior to a woman in courage."

After Actium: Octavian Defeats Antony for Good

Before returning to Rome Octavian restored order to the eastern provinces, and followed the fugitives to Egypt. The arts by which Cleopatra had fascinated Caesar and enslaved Antony, she tried to use upon her new Roman guest. But Octavian did not fall into the tempter’s snare. The Egyptian queen found in the Roman sovereign a nature as crafty as her own. Octavian kept his thoughts upon the prosperity and honor of Rome, and no allurements could draw him away from his high mission. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]

A year after the battle Octavian invaded Egypt and Antony was defeated for good at Alexandria. Plutarch wrote in “Lives”: “And now Caesar (Octavian) himself drove into the city, and he was conversing with Areius the philosopher, to whom he had given his right hand, in order that Areius might at once be conspicuous among the citizens, and p be admired because of the marked honour shown him by Caesar. After he had entered the gymnasium and ascended a tribunal there made for him, the people were beside themselves with fear and prostrated themselves before him, but he bade them rise up, and said that he acquitted the people of all blame, first, because of Alexander, their founder; second, because he admired the great size and beauty of the city; and third, to gratify his companion, Areius. [Source: Parallel Lives by Plutarch, published in Vol. IX, of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1920, translated by Bernadotte Perrin]

“This honour Caesar bestowed upon Areius, and pardoned many other persons also at his request. Among these was Philostratus, a man more competent to speak extempore than any sophist that ever lived, but he improperly represented himself as belonging to the school of the Academy. Therefore Caesar, abominating his ways, would not listen to his entreaties. So Philostratus, having a long white beard and wearing a dark robe, would follow behind Areius, ever declaiming this verse: "A wise man will a wise man save, if wise he be." “When Caesar heard of this, he pardoned him, wishing rather to free Areius from odium than Philostratus from fear.”

Legacy of the Battle of Actium

The battle at Actium closed the political career of Antony, and left Octavian the sole master of the Roman world. The Battle was the last great ship battle for control of the Mediterranean in ancient times. It marked the end of the Hellenistic Age and the beginning of the Roman Empire. After the Battle of Actium, Octavian became the uncontested ruler of the Roman empire

Stacy Schiff wrote in her book Cleopatra: A Biography, Cleopatra's “relationship with Antony was the longest of her life — the two were together for the better part of 11 years — but her relationship with Octavian proved the most enduring. He made much of his defeat of Antony and Cleopatra, delivering to Rome the tabloid version of an Egyptian queen, insatiable, treacherous, bloodthirsty, power-crazed. Octavian magnified Cleopatra to hyperbolic proportions to do the same with his victory — and to smuggle Mark Antony, his real enemy and former brother-in-law, out of the picture. [Source: Stacy Schiff, Smithsonian magazine, December 2010, Adapted from Cleopatra: A Biography, by Stacy Schiff."

“As Antony was erased from the record, Actium was wondrously transformed into a major engagement, a resounding victory, a historical turning point. Octavian had rescued Rome from great peril. He had resolved the civil war; he had restored peace after 100 years of unrest. Time began anew. To read the official historians, it is as if with his return the Italian peninsula burst — after a crippling, ashen century of violence — into Technicolor, the crops sitting suddenly upright, crisp and plump, in the fields. "Validity was restored to the laws, authority to the courts, and dignity to the senate," proclaims the historian Velleius. [Ibid]

“The years after Actium were a time of extravagant praise and lavish mythmaking. Cleopatra was particularly ill-served; the turncoats wrote the history. Her career coincided as well with a flowering of Latin literature. It was Cleopatra's curse to inspire its great poets, happy to expound on her shame, in a language inhospitable to her. Horace celebrated her defeat before it had occurred. She helpfully illuminated one of the poet Propertius's favorite points: a man in love is a helpless man, painfully subservient to his mistress. It was as if Octavian had delivered Rome from that ill as well. He restored the natural order of things. Men ruled women, and Rome ruled the world. On both counts Cleopatra was crucial to the story. She stands among the few losers whom history remembers, if for the wrong reasons. For the next century, the Oriental influence and the emancipation of women would keep the satirists in business. Propertius set the tone, dubbing Cleopatra "the whore queen." [Ibid]

Cleopatra and Octavian

Fate of Cleopatra’s Children and Her Meeting with Octavian

Plutarch wrote in “Lives”: “As for the children of Antony, Antyllus, his son by Fulvia, was betrayed by Theodorus his tutor and put to death; and after the soldiers had cut off his head, his tutor took away the exceeding precious stone which the boy wore about his neck and sewed it into his own girdle; and though he denied the deed, he was convicted of it and crucified. Cleopatra's children, together with their attendants, were kept under guard and had generous treatment. p But Caesarion, who was said to be Cleopatra's son by Julius Caesar, was sent by his mother, with much treasure, into India, by way of Ethiopia. There Rhodon, another tutor like Theodorus, persuaded him to go back, on the ground that Caesar invited him to take the kingdom. But while Caesar was deliberating on the matter, we are told that Areius said: "Not a good thing were a Caesar too many." [Source: Parallel Lives by Plutarch, published in Vol. IX, of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1920, translated by Bernadotte Perrin]

“As for Caesarion, then, he was afterwards put to death by Caesar, after the death of Cleopatra; but as for Antony, though many generals and kings asked for his body that they might give it burial, Caesar would not take it away from Cleopatra, and it was buried by her hands in sumptuous and royal fashion, such things being granted her for the purpose as she desired. But in consequence of so much grief as well as pain (for her breasts were wounded and inflamed by the blows she gave them) a fever assailed her, and she welcomed it as an excuse for abstaining from food and so releasing herself from life without hindrance. Moreover, there was a physician in her company of intimates, Olympus, to whom she told the truth, and she had his counsel and assistance in compassing her death, as Olympus himself testifies in a history of these events which he published. But Caesar was suspicious, and plied her with threats and fears regarding her children, by which she was laid low, as by engines of war, and surrendered her body for such care and nourishment as was desired.

“After a few days Caesar himself came to talk with her and give her comfort. She was lying on a mean pallet-bed, clad only in her tunic, but sprang up as he entered and thew herself at his feet; her hair and face were in terrible disarray, her voice trembled, and her eyes were sunken. There were also visible many marks of the cruel blows upon her bosom; in a word, her body seemed to be no better off than her spirit. Nevertheless, the charm for which she was famous and the boldness of her beauty were not altogether extinguished, but, although she was in such a sorry plight, they shone forth from within and made themselves manifest in the play of her features. After Caesar had bidden her to lie down and had seated himself near her, she began a sort of justification of her course, ascribing it to necessity and fear of Antony; but as Caesar opposed and refuted her on every point, she quickly changed her tone and sought to move his pity by prayers, as one who above all things clung to life. And finally she gave him a list which she had of all her treasures; and when Seleucus, one of her stewards, showed conclusively that she was stealing away and hiding some of them, she sprang up, seized him by the hair, and showered blows upon his face. And when Caesar, with a smile, stopped her, she said: "But is it not a monstrous thing, O Caesar, that when thou hast deigned to come to me and speak to me though I am in this wretched plight, my slaves denounce me for reserving some women's adornments, — not for myself, indeed, unhappy woman that I am, — but that I may make trifling gifts to Octavia and thy Livia, and through their intercession find thee merciful and more gentle?" Caesar was pleased with this speech, being altogether of the opinion that she desired to live. He told her, therefore, that he left these matters for her to manage, and that in all p other ways he would give her more splendid treatment than she could possibly expect. Then he went off, supposing that he had deceived her, but they rather deceived by her.

Death of Antony and Cleopatra

death of Cleopatra

Death of Antony Antony's defeat spelled the end of Cleopatra' power. She placed her treasure of gold, silver, pearls and in a huge mausoleum with enough fuel to burn it down to keep her treasures from falling into Roman hands.. She then locked herself with her serving maids in her palace.

Cleopatra then reportedly tried to seduce to Octavian, but when she failed she chose to commit suicide at the age of 39 rather than face the humiliation of the rejection and being brought to Rome as a prisoner. She was found dead, one story goes, on a bed of pure gold, dressed in rich robes of Isis, with a message that she wanted to be buried in Rome with Antony.

In the meantime Antony, no doubt upset by the recent events, tried to commit suicide by falling on his sword. When he fell he missed his vital organs and remained alive for about a week before he died. He reportedly lived long enough to be hauled through a window in Cleopatra's mausoleum where he is said to have died in Cleopatra's arms. In some accounts Antony was brought to the mausoleum on the first of August ten days or so before Cleopatra killed herself .

Plutarch wrote: “Antony, defeated and ruined, committed suicide; and Cleopatra followed his example rather than be led a captive in a Roman triumph. Together this wretched pair were laid in the mausoleum of the Ptolemies. Egypt was annexed as a province of the new empire (30 B.C.). Octavian returned to Rome (29 B.C.), where he was given the honors of a triple triumph—for Dalmatia (where he had gained some previous victories), for Actium, and for Egypt. The temple of Janus was now closed for the first time since the second Punic war; and the Romans, tired of war and of civil strife, looked upon the triumph of Octavian as the dawn of a new era of peace and prosperity.” [Source: Parallel Lives by Plutarch, published in Vol. IX, of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1920, translated by Bernadotte Perrin]

Octavian honored Antony's will. Antony and Cleopatra were buried together (the location of grave site is a mystery). The Roman historian Dio Cassius reported that Cleopatra's body was embalmed as Antony's had been, and Plutarch noted that on the orders of Octavian, the last queen of Egypt was buried beside her defeated Roman consort. Sixteen centuries later Shakespeare proclaimed: "No grave upon the earth shall clip in it / a pair so famous." [Source: Chip Brown, National Geographic, July 2011]

With Cleopatra's death in 30 B.C., the Ptolemaic Dynasty ended. Octavian lured Ptolemy Caesarian, Cleopatra's son with Julius Caesar, back to Alexandria and had him murdered. Octavian adopted the children Cleopatra had with Antony. In 30 B.C. Egypt also became a province of Rome. It would not recover its autonomy until the 20th century.

Plutarch on the Death of Marc Antony

Death of Antony
Plutarch wrote in “Lives”: “Now, Antony had a trusty slave named Eros. Him Antony had long before engaged, in case of need, to kill him, and now demanded the fulfilment of his promise. So Eros drew his sword and held it up as though he would smite his master, but then turned his face away and slew himself. And as he fell at his master's feet Antony said: "Well done, Eros! though thou wast not able to do it thyself, thou teachest me what I must do"; and running himself through the belly he dropped upon the couch. But the wound did not bring a speedy death. Therefore, as the blood ceased flowing after he had lain down, he p came to himself and besought the bystanders to give him the finishing stroke. But they fled from the chamber, and he lay writhing and crying out, until Diomedes the secretary came from Cleopatra with orders to bring him to her in the tomb. [Source: Parallel Lives by Plutarch, published in Vol. IX, of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1920, translated by Bernadotte Perrin]

“Having learned, then, that Cleopatra was alive, Antony eagerly ordered his servants to raise him up, and he was carried in their arms to the doors of her tomb. Cleopatra, however, would not open the doors, but showed herself at a window, from which she let down ropes and cords. To these Antony was fastened, and she drew him up herself, with the aid of the two women whom alone she had admitted with her into the tomb. Never, as those who were present tell us, was there a more piteous sight. Smeared with blood and struggling with death he was drawn up, stretching out his hands to her even as he dangled in the air. For the task was not an easy one for the women, and scarcely could Cleopatra, with clinging hands and strained face, pull up the rope, while those below called out encouragement to her and shared her agony. And when she had thus got him in and laid him down, she rent her garments over him, beat and tore her breasts with her hands, wiped off some of his blood upon her face, and called him master, husband, and imperator; indeed, she almost forgot her own ills in her pity for his. But Antony stopped her lamentations and asked for a drink of wine, either because he was thirsty, or in the hope of a speedier release. When he had drunk, he advised her to consult her own safety, if she could do it without disgrace, and among all the companions of Caesar to put most confidence in p Proculeius, and not to lament him for his last reverses, but to count him happy for the good things that had been his, since he had become most illustrious of men, had won greatest power, and now had been not ignobly conquered, a Roman by a Roman.

“Scarcely was he dead, when Proculeius came from Caesar. For after Antony had smitten himself and while he was being carried to Cleopatra, Dercetaeus, one of his body-guard, seized Antony's sword, concealed it, and stole away with it; and running to Caesar, he was the first to tell him of Antony's death, and showed him the sword all smeared with blood. When Caesar heard these tidings, he retired within his tent and wept for a man who had been his relation by marriage, his colleague in office and command, and his partner in many undertakings and struggles. Then he took the letters which had passed between them, called in his friends, and read the letters aloud, showing how reasonably and justly he had written, and how rude and overbearing Antony had always been in his replies. After this, he sent Proculeius, bidding him, if possible, above all things to get Cleopatra into his power alive; for he was fearful about the treasures in her funeral pyre, and he thought it would add greatly to the glory of his triumph if she were led in the procession. Into the hands of Proculeius, however, Cleopatra would not put herself; but she conferred with him after he had come close to the tomb and stationed himself outside at a door which was on a level with the ground. The door was strongly fastened with bolts and bars, but allowed a passage for the voice. So they conversed, Cleopatra p asking that her children might have the kingdom, and Proculeius bidding her be of good cheer and trust Caesar in everything.

death of Marc Antony from Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, Act 4, Scene 14

“After Proculeius had surveyed the place, he brought back word to Caesar, and Gallus was sent to have another interview with the queen; and coming up to the door he purposely prolonged the conversation. Meanwhile Proculeius applied a ladder and went in through the window by which the women had taken Antony inside. Then he went down at once to the very door at which Cleopatra was standing and listening to Gallus, and he had two servants with him. One of the women imprisoned with Cleopatra cried out, "Wretched Cleopatra, thou art taken alive," whereupon the queen turned about, saw Proculeius, and tried to stab herself; for she had at her girdle a dagger such as robbers wear. But Proculeius ran swiftly to her, threw both his arms about her, and said: "O Cleopatra, thou art wronging both thyself and Caesar, by trying to rob him of an opportunity to show great kindness, and by fixing upon the gentlest of commanders the stigma of faithlessness and implacability." At the same time he took away her weapon, and shook out her clothing, to see whether she was concealing any poison. And there was also sent from Caesar one of his freedmen, Epaphroditus, with injunctions to keep the queen alive by the strictest vigilance, but otherwise to make any concession that would promote her ease and pleasure.

“Antony was fifty-six years of age, according to some, according to others, fifty-three. Now, the statues of Antony were torn down, but those of Cleopatra were left standing, because Archibius, one of her friends, gave Caesar two thousand talents, in order that they might not suffer the same fate as Antony's.

“Antony left seven children by his three wives, of whom Antyllus, the eldest, was the only one who was put to death by Caesar; the rest were taken up by Octavia and reared with her own children. Cleopatra, the daughter of Cleopatra, Octavia gave in marriage to Juba, the most accomplished of kings, and Antony, the son of Fulvia, she raised so high that, while Agrippa held the first place in Caesar's estimation, and the sons of Livia the second, Antony was thought to be and really was third. By Marcellus Octavia had two daughters, and one son, Marcellus, whom Caesar made both his son and his son-in law, and he gave one of the daughters to Agrippa. But since Marcellus died very soon after his marriage and it was not easy for Caesar to select from among his other friends a son-in law whom he could trust, Octavia proposed that Agrippa should take Caesar's daughter to wife, and put away her own. First Caesar was persuaded by her, then Agrippa, whereupon p she took back her own daughter and married her to young Antony, while Agrippa married Caesar's daughter. Antony left two daughters by Octavia, of whom one was taken to wife by Domitius Ahenobarbus, and the other, Antonia, famous for her beauty and discretion, was married to Drusus, who was the son of Livia and the step-son of Caesar. From this marriage sprang Germanicus and Claudius; of these, Claudius afterwards came to the throne, and of the children of Germanicus, Caius reigned with distinction,i but for a short time only, and was then put to death with his wife and child, and Agrippina, who had a son by Ahenobarbus, Lucius Domitius, became the wife of Claudius Caesar. And Claudius, having adopted Agrippina's son, gave him the name of Nero Germanicus. This Nero came to the throne in my time. He killed his mother, and by his folly and madness came near subverting the Roman empire. He was the fifth in descent from Antony.

Plutarch on Cleopatra’s Death

Plutarch wrote in “Lives”: “Now, there was a young man of rank among Caesar's companions, named Cornelius Dolabella. This man was not without a certain tenderness for Cleopatra; and so now, in response to her request, he secretly sent word to her that Caesar himself was preparing to march with his land forces through Syria, and had resolved to send off her and her children within three days. After Cleopatra had heard this, in the first place, she begged Caesar that she might be permitted to pour libations for Antony; and when the request was granted, she had herself carried to the tomb, and embracing the urn which held his ashes, in company with the women usually about her, she said: "Dear Antony, I buried thee but lately with hands still free; now, however, I pour libations for thee as a captive, and so carefully guarded that I cannot either with blows or tears disfigure this body of mine, which is a slave's body, and closely watched that it may grace the triumph over thee. Do not expect other honours or libations; these are the last from Cleopatra the captive. For though in life nothing could part us from each other, in death we are likely to change places; thou, the Roman, lying buried here, while I, the hapless woman, lie in Italy, and get only so much of thy country as my portion. But if indeed there is any might or power in the gods of that country (for the gods of this country have betrayed us), do not abandon thine own wife while she lives, nor permit a p triumph to be celebrated over myself in my person, but hide and bury me here with thyself, since out of all my innumerable ills not one is so great and dreadful as this short time that I have lived apart from thee." [Source: Parallel Lives by Plutarch, published in Vol. IX, of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1920, translated by Bernadotte Perrin]

dead Cleopatra

“After such lamentations, she wreathed and kissed the urn, and then ordered a bath to be prepared for herself. After her bath, she reclined at table and was making a sumptuous meal. And there came a man from the country carrying a basket; and when the guards asked him what he was bringing there, he opened the basket, took away the leaves, and showed them that the dish inside was full of figs. The guards were amazed at the great size and beauty of the figs, whereupon the man smiled and asked them to take some; so they felt no mistrust and bade him take them in. After her meal, however, Cleopatra took a tablet which was already written upon and sealed, and sent it to Caesar, and then, sending away all the rest of the company except her two faithful women, she closed the doors.

“But Caesar opened the tablet, and when he found there lamentations and supplications of one who begged that he would bury her with Antony, he quickly knew what had happened. At first he was minded to go himself and give aid; then he ordered messengers to go with all speed and investigate. But the mischief had been swift. For though his messengers came on the run and found the guards as yet aware of nothing, when they opened the doors they found Cleopatra lying dead upon a golden couch, arrayed in royal state. And of her two women, the one called Iras was dying at her feet, while Charmion, already tottering and heavy-handed, was p trying to arrange the diadem which encircled the queen's brow. Then somebody said in anger: "A fine deed, this, Charmion!" "It is indeed most fine," she said, "and befitting the descendant of so many kings." Not a word more did she speak, but fell there by the side of the couch.

“It is said that the asp was brought with those figs and leaves and lay hidden beneath them, for thus Cleopatra had given orders, that the reptile might fasten itself upon her body without her being aware of it. But when she took away some of the figs and saw it, she said: "There it is, you see," and baring her arm she held it out for the bite. But others say that the asp was kept carefully shut up in a water jar, and that while Cleopatra was stirring it up and irritating it with a golden distaff it sprang and fastened itself upon her arm. But the truth of the matter no one knows; for it was also said that she carried about poison in a hollow comb and kept the comb hidden in her hair; and yet neither spot nor other sign of poison broke out upon her body. Moreover, not even was the reptile seen within the chamber, though people said they saw some traces of it near the sea, where the chamber looked out upon it with its windows. And some also say that Cleopatra's arm was seen to have two slight and indistinct punctures; and this Caesar also seems to have believed. For in his triumph an image of Cleopatra herself with the asp clinging to her was carried in the procession.h These, then, are the various accounts of what happened. “But Caesar, although vexed at the death of the woman, admired her lofty spirit; and he gave orders p that her body should be buried with that of Antony in splendid and regal fashion. Her women also received honourable interment by his orders. When Cleopatra died she was forty years of age save one, and had shared her power with Antony more than fourteen.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons, The Louvre, The British Museum

Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Greece sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Hellenistic World sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; BBC Ancient Greeks bbc.co.uk/history/ ; Canadian Museum of History historymuseum.ca ; Perseus Project - Tufts University; perseus.tufts.edu ; MIT, Online Library of Liberty, oll.libertyfund.org ; Gutenberg.org gutenberg.org Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Live Science, Discover magazine, Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, Encyclopædia Britannica, "The Discoverers" [∞] and "The Creators" [μ]" by Daniel Boorstin. "Greek and Roman Life" by Ian Jenkins from the British Museum.Time, Newsweek, Wikipedia, Reuters, Associated Press, The Guardian, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “History of Warfare” by John Keegan (Vintage Books); “History of Art” by H.W. Janson Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.), Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been authorized by the copyright owner. Such material is made available in an effort to advance understanding of country or topic discussed in the article. This constitutes 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. If you are the copyright owner and would like this content removed from factsanddetails.com, please contact me.