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The Love of Antony and Cleopatra

 Apart from Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers whose young love was cut short because of tragedy. Another love tandem, whose story in history was the inspiration of William Shakespeare, is the tragic couple Mark Antony and Cleopatra. Two people who were players in the dangerous game of politics.

Cleopatra was known as a very seductive, intelligent woman and proficient in nine languages. She used her feminine wiles to attract Julius Ceasar and keep him wrapped around her slender fingers. Stories of her first meeting with the great Roman general to cement an alliance caught the romantic fancies of people around the world. According to Plutarch, she was hidden in a Persian carpet and was unrolled to reveal herself to Ceasar. The latter was smitten by her charms and they became lovers. It’s also interesting to note that perhaps apart from her charms, Ceasar find her so enchanting because she was also a direct descendant of Alexander the Great. Their affair produced a son whom they named Ceasarion.  Their love affair lasted until Ceasar’s assassination.
Anthony and Cleopatra

Mark Antony was one of the allies of Julius Ceasar. He came from a powerful political Roman family and he joined the military where he rose to the ranks because of the influence of his close relations to Ceasar being his mother’s cousin. When Julius Ceasar was assassinated, Antony, along with the triumvirate which included Octavianand  Lepidus ruled Rome. In 41 BC, Antony summoned Cleopatra to ensure her loyalty to Rome. However, Cleopatra was a very proud woman and as a queen in her own right she was clearly trying to send a message to Antony that she was not in his beck and call like a common peasant woman. But finally the fateful meeting happened. Cleopatra, in her usual flair for the dramatics sailed up in the River Cydnus in a luxurious barge. Antony fell under her spell.

Antony and Cleopatra got married in the Egyptian tradition in 36 AD. Their relationship earned the disgust of many Romans, apart from the fact that Antony was already married. Their union produced twins and another son.  Regardless of the people against their relationship, they were a formidable pair. Perhaps they can be called the Brangelina of the ancient times.  In 31 BC, Antony’s powerful rival in Rome Octavian declared war on the power couple. Octavian was wary of the growing power and influence of Egypt in Rome and that was something he would not allow.

Perhaps, it also angered Octavian too that Antony has cast aside his wife Octavia Minor his sister for Cleopatra. Even if Cleopatra funded his war, they were defeated. Fearing for her life, she hid in her tombs to escape being captured and taken prisoner. Antony heard reports that Cleopatra was dead, ended his life. He did not know that she just sort of “faked” her own death. So in Romeo and Juliet style, when Cleopatra found out that her lover was dead, she also committed suicide. There were many versions of how she actually died, but the most famous was when she had an asp smuggled inside the palace in a basket of figs. After dismissing her servants, she lied on a gold gilded couch and placed the asp on her breast. She was found dead later on.

A lot of historians questioned the true nature of the love affair of Antony and Cleopatra. Perhaps, at the beginning it was just for political gain. But later on, it blossomed into something more. If it is fitting to end this article in the way Shakespeare ended Romeo and Juliet: For never was a story of more woe, than this of Cleopatra and her Antony.

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