Mark Antony and Cleopatra: A Love Affair that Shook the World

The Background of Mark Antony and Cleopatra

Mark Antony was born in 83 BCE into a prominent Roman family. He had a turbulent youth, marked by gambling, drinking, and debauchery. He joined the army and served under Julius Caesar, his distant relative, in Gaul and Egypt. He became one of Caesar's most trusted generals and allies, and helped him defeat Pompey in the civil war. He was also a charismatic politician and orator, who delivered Caesar's funeral speech and incited the people against his assassins.

Cleopatra was born in 69 BCE into the Ptolemaic dynasty, a Greek family that ruled Egypt since Alexander the Great's death. She was highly educated, spoke several languages, and was skilled in diplomacy and administration. She became the co-ruler of Egypt with her brother Ptolemy XIII when she was 18, but soon faced a power struggle with him. She sought Caesar's support and seduced him when he arrived in Egypt in 48 BCE. She bore him a son, Caesarion, and accompanied him to Rome.

The Meeting of Mark Antony and Cleopatra

After Caesar's assassination in 44 BCE, Mark Antony became one of the three members of the Second Triumvirate, along with Octavian and Lepidus. They divided the Roman world among themselves, with Antony taking charge of the eastern provinces. He needed Egypt's wealth and resources to fund his military campaigns against Parthia and other enemies. He summoned Cleopatra to meet him in Tarsus, a city in modern Turkey, in 41 BCE.

Cleopatra delayed her arrival to create suspense and intrigue. She finally appeared on a magnificent barge, dressed as the goddess Aphrodite, surrounded by music and perfume. She dazzled Antony with her charm and intelligence, and he fell in love with her at first sight. He followed her to Alexandria, where they spent the winter together in luxury and pleasure.

The Alliance of Mark Antony and Cleopatra

Mark Antony and Cleopatra formed a political and military alliance that challenged Rome's supremacy. Antony gave Cleopatra many territories that belonged to Rome or its allies, such as Cyprus, parts of Syria, Lebanon, and Anatolia. He also recognized Caesarion as Caesar's son and heir, undermining Octavian's claim to be his adopted son. He married Cleopatra in 36 BCE, according to Egyptian rites, although he was already married to Octavia, Octavian's sister.

Antony and Cleopatra had three children together: Alexander Helios (Sun), Cleopatra Selene (Moon), and Ptolemy Philadelphus (Brotherly Love). They celebrated their union with a lavish ceremony in Alexandria in 34 BCE, where they declared themselves as the new rulers of the East and their children as kings and queens of various regions. They also adopted the titles of Osiris and Isis, the Egyptian gods of resurrection and fertility.

The Conflict between Mark Antony and Cleopatra vs Rome

Octavian was outraged by Antony's actions and propaganda. He accused him of betraying Rome and becoming a puppet of Cleopatra. He declared war on Cleopatra (not Antony) in 32 BCE, after obtaining Antony's will from the Vestal Virgins. The will revealed Antony's plans to be buried with Cleopatra in Egypt, which Octavian used to portray him as a traitor who had forsaken his homeland.

The war culminated in the naval battle of Actium in 31 BCE, where Octavian's fleet defeated Antony's larger but less disciplined forces. Cleopatra fled with her ships during the battle, followed by Antony. They retreated to Alexandria, hoping to negotiate with Octavian or escape to another land.

The End of Mark Antony and Cleopatra

Octavian pursued Antony and Cleopatra to Egypt and besieged them in Alexandria. He offered them clemency if they surrendered, but they refused. Antony tried to fight back but was outnumbered and outmaneuvered. He received false news that Cleopatra had killed herself and, in despair, stabbed himself in the stomach. He was brought to Cleopatra's mausoleum, where he died in her arms.

Cleopatra tried to negotiate with Octavian, but he wanted to capture her alive and parade her in his triumph in Rome. She realized that she had no escape and decided to end her life. She dressed herself in her royal robes and, according to the most popular legend, let a venomous snake bite her. She died with dignity and grace, as the last pharaoh of Egypt.

How old was Cleopatra when she met Antony?

According to Britannica, Cleopatra was born in 70/69 BCE. She met Antony in 41 BCE when she was summoned to Tarsus by him. That means she was about 29 or 30 years old when she met him.

Did Cleopatra betray Mark Antony?

The answer depends on how you define betrayal. According to some sources, Cleopatra did not betray Mark Antony in the sense of turning against him or abandoning him. She was his loyal ally and lover, who supported him in his wars against Octavian, the future emperor Augustus. She also bore him three children: twins Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene, and a son named Ptolemy Philadelphus.

However, according to other sources, Cleopatra did betray Mark Antony in the sense of failing to help him or making decisions that harmed his cause. For example, during the decisive naval battle of Actium in 31 BCE, Cleopatra fled with her ships, and Antony followed her, leaving his forces to surrender to Octavian. Some historians suggest that Cleopatra was trying to save her own kingdom and wealth, or that she had a secret pact with Octavian. Another example of betrayal is when Cleopatra falsely spread the rumor that she had killed herself, which prompted Antony to commit suicide by stabbing himself. When he learned that she was still alive, he was brought to her and died in her arms. Some historians suggest that Cleopatra wanted to test Antony's love for her, or that she hoped to negotiate with Octavian by using Antony's death as leverage.

Have Antony and Cleopatra been found?

Antony and Cleopatra's tomb has not been found yet. Their burial place is one of the greatest mysteries of ancient history. According to some historical sources, they were buried together in a mausoleum near Alexandria, Egypt, after they committed suicide to avoid capture by Octavian, the rival of Antony and the future emperor Augustus. However, the exact location of their tomb remains unknown and undiscovered.

Many archaeologists have searched for their tomb over the centuries, but none have succeeded so far. One of the most recent and promising searches is led by Kathleen Martínez, a lawyer and amateur archaeologist from the Dominican Republic, who believes that the tomb is hidden in a temple complex called Taposiris Magna, west of Alexandria. She has been excavating the site since 2005 and has found many artifacts related to Cleopatra, such as coins, statues, and inscriptions. In 2022, she announced that she had identified a 1,300 meter long tunnel under the temple that could lead to Cleopatra's tomb.

However, not everyone agrees with Martínez's theory. Some experts, such as Zahi Hawass, a former Egyptian minister of antiquities and a renowned Egyptologist, doubt that Cleopatra would be buried inside a temple, as that was not the usual practice for Egyptian royals. Hawass also thinks that the tunnel is too long and too deep to be connected to a tomb. He suggests that other possible locations for the tomb could be in or near Alexandria itself, where Cleopatra had her palace and where Antony died in her arms.

So, the search for Antony and Cleopatra's tomb continues. It is possible that one day we will find their final resting place and learn more about their lives and deaths. Until then, we can only speculate and imagine what their tomb might look like and what secrets it might reveal.