Famous Rulers in History Cleopatra Part 5

About the famous Egyptian ruler Cleopatra, history of her reign and life, war with Rome and Octavian

Famous and Infamous Rulers in History

CLEOPATRA

That spring Antony left Alexandria and went to Rome, where he effected a rapprochement with Octavian, who had been grabbing power. This was sealed by Antony's marriage to Octavia, Octavian's sister, a prime insult to Cleopatra, who, a few weeks later, bore twins he had fathered.

In the end Cleopatra won him back. They met in Antioch, where in 37 B.C., he married her under Eastern law (making him a polygamist) and gave her huge amounts of territory, while she helped him plan a campaign against the Parthians. In 36 B.C., they both started off with the troops to war, but Cleopatra, realizing she was again pregnant, turned back at the Armenian border, detouring on her way to Alexandria through Jericho, where she worked out a lease agreement with her old enemy Herod for the balsam-bearing groves in Judea that Antony had given her.

Antony lost the campaign in Parthia. Cleopatra met him at White Village, north of Sidon, with food and clothing but not much money. Antony covered for her by obtaining the money elsewhere and paid the troops, saying he had gotten it from her. They returned to Alexandria.

Octavian made several attempts to lure Antony back to Rome, even sending Octavia to meet Antony in Athens, but relations between the two continued to worsen. In 34 B.C., probably egged on by Cleopatra, Antony affronted the Romans by holding a triumph in Alexandria to celebrate his victory over Armenia (celebrations of military victories were traditionally held in Rome). He compounded the insult by sacrificing to the Egyptian god Serapis, giving away lands to Cleopatra and her children, and sitting with them all on golden thrones.

To Romans, it looked as though Antony were besotted with passion, for suspect Oriental ways as well as for the queen and might become (if he were not already) a puppet in Cleopatra's clever hands. In 32 B.C., Antony confirmed their fears by divorcing Octavia by mail and marrying Cleopatra under Roman law.

Octavian had had enough; he declared war on Cleopatra. She and Antony marshaled their forces--foreign troops from Eastern client-kings as well as the Romans Antony controlled. Cleopatra took charge of shipbuilding at the Berytos docks, near the Lebanon cedars, and gathered provisions from Egyptian farmers. They ended up with 500 ships at Actium, which was blockaded by Octavian's Roman fleet, commanded by the great admiral Agrippa. A year went by. The relationship between Antony and Cleopatra soured, as rumors about his emotional slavery to her made the rounds, there and in Rome. It was said he was so bedazzled by her that he rubbed her feet at a banquet, and that she had so won him over to effete Egyptian ways that he used a gold chamberpot. Cleopatra persuaded an old friend of Antony's to defend her by saying (rightly) that Antony needed her help in fighting the war. Meanwhile mosquitoes brought malaria, and Greek cities were ransacked for food for the hungry army and navy.

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