The day that two of the world’s most famous men
Antony and Cleopatra are one of the legendary couples – Romeo and Juliet, Robin Hood and Maid Marian, Tarzan and Jane, Peanut Butter and Chocolate…. These are the names that last through history.
That’s kind of funny, of course, because, at least in the case of Antony and Cleopatra, most people don’t know the slightest thing about them.
Cleopatra had messed-up family relationships
When Caesar came to Egypt, Cleopatra was not present. That is because her husband (and brother) Ptolemy had cast her out due to an attempt that she made to overthrow him and seize sole control. Later, Egyptian custom made Cleopatra remarry, this time to her other brother (she had him killed – awkward).
The Egyptians had a mix of gods
During the time of Cleopatra, Egypt had been a mix of Greeks and Egyptians. Both of these cultures are polytheistic. So, the good thing about having a lot of gods is that the more there are, the merrier. Cleopatra was known to compare herself to Isis (Egyptian) and Aphrodite (Greek).
Cleopatra was ethnically Greek
For that matter, there’s another reason for Cleopatra to like the Greek gods – she was Greek. Her family, the Ptolemies, gained control of Egypt and the surrounding area following the death of Alexander the Great (a Greek) and the subsequent carving up of the conquered areas by his generals.
Antony was a refugee from Rome
When Antony met up with Cleopatra, he was a member of a governing body called the “Triumverate,” where rule was split between Antony, Octavian, and a man named Lepidus. Octavian already had removed Lepidus from power, and Antony had been openly living with Cleopatra. When Octavian obtained Antony’s will, he revealed that Antony was leaving large swathes of land to Cleopatra’s children. Rome was outraged and declared war on him and Cleopatra. After Octavian defeated Antony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium, they fled to Alexandria, while Octavian pursued to give Antony the classic threat-removal treatment of the Romans (hint: it was about 2-3 feet long and was very sharp on one end). The pair committed suicide.
Antony was defeated partly due to Apollo (reportedly)
Octavian met with Antony and Cleopatra’s navy at Actium. According to legend, Octavian saw a temple to Apollo across the battlefield and promised to build a sanctuary to him in Rome in return for victory (long story short, he put it on the Palatine Hill).
We really have no idea what any of them were like
Most of what we know of Octavian, Antony and Cleopatra are known from contemporary writers (who were highly influenced by Octavian’s propaganda, so hated both Cleopatra and Antony) and reactionary writers (who wisely doubted the opinions of the contemporary writers). Really, none of these can be called reliable.