Caesar - Cleopatra - Mark Antony

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2016

Gaius Julius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar (13 July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC) was a Roman statesman, general and notable author of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the events that led to the demise of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire. In 60 BC, Caesar, Crassus, and Pompey formed a political alliance that was to dominate Roman politics for several years. Their attempts to amass power through populist tactics were opposed by the conservative ruling class within the Roman Senate, among them Cato the Younger with the frequent support of Cicero. Caesar's victories in the Gallic Wars, completed by 51 BC, extended Rome's territory to the English Channel and the Rhine. Caesar became the first Roman general to cross both when he built a bridge across the Rhine and conducted the first invasion of Britain. These achievements granted him unmatched military power and threatened to eclipse the standing of Pompey, who had realigned himself with the Senate after the death of Crassus in 53 BC. With the Gallic Wars concluded, the Senate ordered Caesar to step down from his military command and return to Rome. Caesar refused the order, and instead marked his defiance in 49 BC by crossing the Rubicon with a legion, leaving his province and illegally entering Roman Italy under arms. Civil war resulted, and Caesar's victory in the war put him in an unrivaled position of power and influence. After assuming control of government, Caesar began a programme of social and governmental reforms, including the creation of the Julian calendar. He centralized the bureaucracy of the Republic, and was eventually proclaimed "dictator in perpetuity", giving him additional authority. But the underlying political conflicts had not been resolved, and on the Ides of March (15 March) 44 BC, Caesar was assassinated by a group of rebellious senators led by Marcus Junius Brutus. 
Κλεοπάτρα Φιλοπάτωρ (Cleopatra VII Philopator) (69 – August 12, 30 BC), known to history simply as Cleopatra, was the last active pharaoh of Ptolemaic Egypt, shortly survived as pharaoh by her son Caesarion. After her reign, Egypt became a province of the then-recently established Roman Empire.
Cleopatra was a member of the Ptolemaic dynasty, a family of Macedonian Greek origin that ruled Egypt after Alexander the Great's death during the Hellenistic period. The Ptolemies, throughout their dynasty, spoke Greek and refused to speak Egyptian, which is the reason that Greek as well as Egyptian languages were used on official court documents such as the Rosetta Stone. By contrast, Cleopatra did learn to speak Egyptian and represented herself as the reincarnation of an Egyptian goddess, Isis. Cleopatra originally ruled jointly with her father, Ptolemy XII Auletes (the Flute Player), and later with her brothers, Ptolemy XIII and Ptolemy XIV, whom she married as per Egyptian custom, but eventually she became sole ruler. 
Marcus Antonius
Marcus Antonius (January 14, 83 BC – August 1, 30 BC), commonly known in English as Mark or Marc Antony, was a Roman politician and general who played a critical role in the transformation of the Roman Republic from an oligarchy into the autocratic Roman Empire. Antony was a supporter of Julius Caesar, and served as one of his generals during the conquest of Gaul and the Civil War. Antony was appointed administrator of Italy while Caesar eliminated political opponents in Greece, North Africa, and Spain.

Gaius Octavius 
Gaius Octavius - Born into an old and wealthy equestrian branch of the plebeian Octavii family. His maternal great-uncle Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC, and Octavian was named in Caesar's will as his adopted son and heir. 
Upon his adoption, Octavius assumed his great-uncle's name Gaius Julius Caesar. Roman citizens adopted into a new family usually retained their old nomen in cognomen form (e.g., Octavianus for one who had been an Octavius, Aemilianus for one who had been an Aemilius, etc.). However, though some of his contemporaries did, there is no evidence that Octavius ever himself officially used the name Octavianus, as it would have made his modest origins too obvious. We now usually refer to the new Caesar as Octavian during the time between his adoption and his assumption of the name Augustus in 27 BC in order to avoid confusing the dead dictator with his heir.He, Mark Antony, and Marcus Lepidus formed the Second Triumvirate to defeat the assassins of Caesar. Following their victory at Philippi, the Triumvirate divided the Roman Republic among themselves and ruled as military dictators. The Triumvirate was eventually torn apart under the competing ambitions of its members. Lepidus was driven into exile and stripped of his position, and Antony committed suicide following his defeat at the Battle of Actium by Octavian in 31 BC. 
On 16 January 27 BC the Senate gave Octavian the new titles of 'Augustus' and 'Princeps'. Augustus is from the Latin word 'Augere' (meaning to increase), and can be translated as "the illustrious one". It was a title of religious authority rather than political authority. According to Roman religious beliefs, the title symbolized a stamp of authority over humanity - and in fact nature - that went beyond any constitutional definition of his status. After the harsh methods employed in consolidating his control, the change in name served to demarcate his benign reign as 'Augustus' from his reign of terror as Octavian.
Cleopatra at age 14, became joint regent, and deputy to her father, although her power would have been severely limited.
Ptolemy XII died in March 51 BC.
His will made 18-year-old Cleopatra and her brother, 10-year-old Ptolemy XIII, joint monarchs. 

John William Waterhouse
The first three years of their reign were difficult due to economic failures, famine, deficient floods of the Nile, and political conflicts. 
Although Cleopatra was married to her young brother, she quickly made it clear that she had no intention of sharing power with him.
In August 51 BC, relations between Cleopatra and Ptolemy completely broke down.
Cleopatra dropped Ptolemy's name from official documents, and her face alone appeared on coins, which went against Ptolemaic tradition of female rulers being subordinate to male co-rulers. 
In 50 BC Cleopatra came into serious conflict with the Gabiniani, powerful Roman troops of Aulus Gabinius who had left them in Egypt to protect Ptolemy XII after his restoration to the throne in 55 BC. 
The Gabiniani killed the sons of the Roman governor of Syria, Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus, when they came to ask for their assistance for their father against the Parthians. 
Cleopatra handed the murderers over in chains to Bibulus, whereupon the Gabiniani became bitter enemies of the queen.
This conflict was one of the main causes of Cleopatra's fall from power shortly afterward. 
The sole reign of Cleopatra was finally ended by a cabal of courtiers, led by the eunuch Pothinus, in connection with a half-Greek general, Achillas, and Theodotus of Chios. 
Circa 48 BC, Cleopatra's younger brother Ptolemy XIII became sole ruler.
Cleopatra tried to raise a rebellion around Pelusium, but was soon forced to flee with her only remaining sister, Arsinoë.


While Cleopatra was in exile, Pompey became embroiled in the Roman civil war.
After his defeat at the Battle of Pharsalus, in the autumn of 48 BC, Pompey fled from the forces of Caesar to Alexandria, seeking sanctuary.
Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus
Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (29 September 106 BC – 29 September 48 BC), (usually known in English as Pompey or Pompey the Great), was a military and political leader of the late Roman Republic. He came from a wealthy Italian provincial background, and his father had been the first to establish the family among the Roman nobility. Pompey's immense success as a general while still very young enabled him to advance directly to his first consulship without meeting the normal requirements for office. His success as a military commander in Sulla's Second Civil War resulted in Sulla bestowing the nickname Magnus, "the Great", upon him. He was consul three times and celebrated three triumphs. In mid-60 BC, Pompey joined Marcus Licinius Crassus and Gaius Julius Caesar in the unofficial military-political alliance known as the First Triumvirate, which Pompey's marriage to Caesar's daughter Julia helped secure. After the deaths of Julia and Crassus, Pompey sided with the optimates, the conservative faction of the Roman Senate. Pompey and Caesar then contended for the leadership of the Roman state, leading to a civil war. When Pompey was defeated at the Battle of Pharsalus, he sought refuge in Egypt,. His career and defeat are significant in Rome's subsequent transformation from Republic to Principate and Empire.
The Harbor at Alexandria.
Ptolemy, thirteen years old at that time, had set up a throne for himself on the harbor at Alexandria.
From there he watched as on September 28, 48 BC, Pompey was murdered by one of his former officers, now in Ptolemaic service.
He was beheaded in front of his wife and children, who were on the ship from which he had just disembarked.
Ptolemy is thought to have ordered the death to ingratiate himself with Caesar, thus becoming an ally of Rome, to which Egypt was in debt at the time.
This act proved a miscalculation on Ptolemy's part.
When Caesar arrived in Egypt two days later, Ptolemy presented him with Pompey's severed head; Caesar was enraged.
Although he was Caesar's political enemy, Pompey was a Roman consul, and the widower of Caesar's only legitimate daughter, Julia, who died in childbirth.
Caesar seized the Egyptian capital and imposed himself as arbiter between the rival claims of Ptolemy and Cleopatra.


Eager to take advantage of Julius Caesar's anger toward Ptolemy, Cleopatra had herself secretly smuggled into his palace to meet with Caesar.  
Cleopatra and Julius Caesar

Plutarch, in his Life of Julius Caesar gives a vivid description of how she entered past Ptolemy’s guards rolled up in a carpet that Apollodorus the Sicilian was carrying.
She became Caesar’s mistress, and nine months after their first meeting, in 47 BC, Cleopatra gave birth to their son, Ptolemy Caesar, nicknamed 'Caesarion', which means "little Caesar."
At this point, Caesar abandoned his plans to annex Egypt, instead backing Cleopatra's claim to the throne.
After Mithridates raised the siege of Alexandria, Caesar defeated Ptolemy's army at the Battle of the Nile; Ptolemy XIII drowned in the Nile, and Caesar restored Cleopatra to her throne, with another younger brother Ptolemy XIV as her new co-ruler.
When Caesar left Egypt he stationed a Roman occupying army of three legions there under the command of Rufio.
Although Cleopatra was 21 years old when they met and Caesar was 52, they became lovers during Caesar’s stay in Egypt between 48 BC and 47 BC.
Cleopatra claimed Caesar was the father of her son, and wished him to name the boy his heir, but Caesar refused, choosing his grandnephew Octavian (later Augustus) instead.

Cleopatra, Ptolemy XIV and Caesarion visited Rome in the summer of 46 BC.

Ptolemy XV Philopator Philometor Caesar - (Πτολεμαῖος ΙΕʹ Φιλοπάτωρ Φιλομήτωρ Καῖσαρ) - (June 23, 47 BC – August 23, 30 BC), better known by the nicknames Caesarion (Καισαρίων - Kaisarion, literally "little Caesar"; Latin: Caesario) and Ptolemy Caesar (Πτολεμαῖος Καῖσαρ), was the last king of the Ptolemaic dynasty of Egypt, who reigned jointly with his mother Cleopatra VII of Egypt, from September 2, 44 BC. He held the position of sole ruler between the death of Cleopatra, on August 12, 30 BC, up to August 23, 30 BC, the time his death was ordered by Octavian, who would become the Roman emperor Augustus. It is unknown whether Octavian's order was carried out successfully. He was the eldest son of Cleopatra VII, and possibly the only son of Julius Caesar, after whom he was named. Caesarion was born in Egypt on June 23, 47 BC. His mother Cleopatra insisted that he was the son of Julius Caesar. Caesarion was said to have inherited Caesar's looks and manner. Caesarion was named co-ruler by his mother on September 2, 44 BC at the age of three, although he was king in name only, with Cleopatra keeping actual authority all to herself. Cleopatra compared her relationship to her son with the Egyptian goddess Isis and her divine child Horus. In 34 BC, Antony proclaimed Caesarion to be a god, a son of a god, and "King of Kings". This grandiose title was "unprecedented in the management of Roman client-king relationships" and could be seen as "threatening the 'greatness' of the Roman people". Antony also declared Caesarion to be Caesar's true son and heir. This declaration was a direct threat to Octavian (whose claim to power was based on his status as Julius Caesar's grandnephew and adopted son). These proclamations partly caused the fatal breach in Antony's relations with Octavian, who used Roman resentment to gain support for war against Antony and Cleopatra.

Death of Julius Caesar - Max Klinger
The Egyptian queen resided in one of Caesar's country houses, which included the Horti Caesaris just outside Rome (as a foreign head of state she was not allowed inside Rome's pomerium)
The relationship between Cleopatra and Caesar was obvious to the Roman people, and caused a scandal because the Roman dictator was already married to Calpurnia Pisonis, but Caesar even erected a golden statue of Cleopatra, represented as Isis, in the temple of Venus Genetrix (the mythical ancestress of Caesar's family), which was situated at the Forum Julium.
The Roman orator Cicero said, in his preserved letters, that he hated the foreign queen.
Cleopatra and her entourage were still in Rome when Caesar was assassinated on 15 March 44 BC., returning with her relatives to Egypt.
When Ptolemy XIV died - allegedly poisoned by his older sister - Cleopatra made Caesarion her co-regent, and successor, and gave him the epithets 'Theos Philopator Philometor'  (Father and mother loving God).


In the Roman civil war between the Caesarian faction, led by Mark Antony and Octavian, and the faction including the assassins of Caesar, led by Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus, Cleopatra sided with the Caesarian party because of her past.
Brutus and Cassius left Italy and sailed to the east of the Roman Empire, where they conquered large areas and established military bases.
At the beginning of 43 BC, Cleopatra formed an alliance with the leader of the Caesarian party in the east, Publius Cornelius Dolabella, who also recognized Caesarion as her co-ruler, but soon, Dolabella was encircled in Laodicea and committed suicide (July 43 BC).
Cassius wanted to invade Egypt to seize the treasures of that country and for her support for Dolabella.
Egypt seemed an easy target because it did not have strong land forces, and there was famine and an epidemic.
Cassius also wanted to prevent Cleopatra from bringing reinforcements for Antony and Octavian, but he could not execute an invasion of Egypt because Brutus summoned him back to Smyrna at the end of 43 BC.
Cassius tried to blockade Cleopatra’s route to the Caesarians.
For this purpose Lucius Staius Murcus moved with 60 ships, and a legion of elite troops, into position at Cape Matapan in the south of the Peloponnese.
Nevertheless, Cleopatra sailed with her fleet from Alexandria to the west along the Libyan coast to join the Caesarian leaders, but she was forced to return to Egypt because her ships were damaged by a violent storm, and she became ill.


Anthony and Cleopatra
J. C. Leyendecker
In 41 BC, Mark Antony, one of the triumvirs who ruled Rome in the power vacuum following Caesar's death, sent his intimate friend Quintus Dellius to Egypt to summon Cleopatra to Tarsus to meet Antony and answer questions about her loyalty.
During the Roman civil war she allegedly had paid much money to Cassius.
It seems that in reality Antony wanted Cleopatra’s promise to support his intended war against the Parthians.
Cleopatra arrived in great state, and so charmed Antony that he chose to spend the winter of 41 BC–40 BC with her in Alexandria.
To safeguard herself and Caesarion, she had Antony order the death of her sister Arsinoe, who had been banished to the Temple of Artemis in Roman-controlled Ephesus for her role in leading the Siege of Alexandria.
The execution was carried out in 41 BC on the steps of the temple, and this violation of temple sanctuary scandalized Rome.
On 25 December 40 BC, Cleopatra gave birth to twins fathered by Antony, Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene II.
Four years later, Antony visited Alexandria again en route to make war with the Parthians.

Georges Jules Victor Clairin
He renewed his relationship with Cleopatra, and from this point on, Alexandria was his home.
He married Cleopatra according to the Egyptian rite (a letter quoted in Suetonius suggests this), although he was at the time married to Octavia Minor, sister of his fellow triumvir Octavian (later Augustus).
He and Cleopatra had another child, Ptolemy Philadelphus.
At the 'Donations of Alexandria', in late 34 BC, following Antony's conquest of Armenia, Cleopatra and Caesarion were crowned co-rulers of Egypt and Cyprus; Alexander Helios was crowned ruler of Armenia, Media, and Parthia; Cleopatra Selene II was crowned ruler of Cyrenaica and Libya; and Ptolemy Philadelphus was crowned ruler of Phoenicia, Syria, and Cilicia.
Cleopatra was also given the title of "Queen of Kings" by Mark Antony.
Her enemies in Rome feared that Cleopatra, 
"...was planning a war of revenge that was to array all the East against Rome, establish herself as empress of the world at Rome, cast justice from Capitolium, and inaugurate a new universal kingdom."
Caesarion was not only elevated having co-regency with Cleopatra, but also proclaimed with many titles, including 'god', 'son of god', and 'king of kings', and was depicted as 'Horus'.
Horus is one of the most significant deities in ancient Egyptian religion, who was worshipped from at least the late Predynastic period through to Greco-Roman times. Horus was the god of war and hunting. Thus he became a symbol of majesty and power as well as the model of the pharaohs. The Pharaohs were said to be Horus in human form.
The Egyptians thought that Cleopatra was a reincarnation of the goddess Isis, as she called herself 'Nea Isis' (New Isis).
Relations between Antony and Octavian, disintegrating for several years, finally broke down in 33 BC, and Octavian convinced the Senate to levy war against Egypt. 
In 31 BC Antony's forces faced the Romans in a naval action off the coast of Actium.
Cleopatra was present with a fleet of her own. 
According to Plutarch, Cleopatra took flight with her ships at the height of the battle, and Antony followed her.
Following the Battle of Actium, Octavian invaded Egypt.
As he approached Alexandria, Antony's armies deserted to Octavian on August 1, 30 BC.


Contemporary sources, particularly those of Roman writers, are in general agreement that Cleopatra killed herself by inducing an Egyptian cobra to bite her.
The oldest source is Strabo, who was alive at the time of the event, and might even have been in Alexandria.
He says that there are two stories: that she applied a toxic ointment, or that she was bitten by an asp on her breast, but he said in his writings that he was not sure if Cleopatra poisoned herself or was murdered.
Several Roman poets, writing within ten years of the event, all mention bites by two asps, as does Florus, a historian, some 150 years later.
Velleius, sixty years after the event, also refers to an asp.
Other authors have questioned these historical accounts, stating that it is possible that Augustus had her killed.
Plutarch, writing about 130 years after the event, reports that Octavian succeeded in capturing Cleopatra in her mausoleum after the death of Antony.

The Death of Cleopatra
He ordered his freedman Epaphroditus to guard her, to prevent her from committing suicide, because he allegedly wanted to present her in his triumph.
But Cleopatra was able to deceive Epaphroditus, and kill herself nevertheless.
Plutarch states that she was found dead, her handmaiden Iras dying at her feet, and another handmaiden, Charmion, adjusting her crown before she herself fell.
He then goes on to state that an asp was concealed in a basket of figs that was brought to her by a rustic, and, finding it after eating a few figs, she held out her arm for it to bite.
Finally, he indicates that in Octavian's triumphal march back in Rome, an effigy of Cleopatra that had an asp clinging to it was part of the parade.
Suetonius, writing about the same time as Plutarch, also says Cleopatra died from an asp bite.
Although classical sources say that Cleopatra was bitten on the arm, she is more usually depicted in later iconography with asps at her breast, a tradition followed by Shakespeare.
Plutarch tells us of the death of Antony.
When his armies deserted him and joined with Octavian, he cried out that Cleopatra had betrayed him.
She, fearing his wrath, locked herself in her monument, with only her two handmaidens and sent messengers to tell Antony that she was dead.
Believing them, Antony stabbed himself in the stomach with his sword, and lay on his couch to die. 
Instead, the blood flow stopped, and he begged any and all to finish him off.
Another messenger came from Cleopatra with instructions to bring him to her, and he, rejoicing that Cleopatra was still alive, consented.
She would not open the door, but tossed ropes out of a window.
After Antony was securely trussed up, she and her handmaidens hauled him up into the monument. 
This nearly finished him off.
After dragging him in through the window, they laid him on a couch.
Cleopatra tore off her clothes and covered him with them.
She raved and cried, beat her breasts and engaged in self-mutilation. Antony told her to calm down, asked for a glass of wine, and died upon finishing it.
The site of their mausoleum is uncertain, though it is believed to be in or near the temple of Taposiris Magna, southwest of Alexandria.
Cleopatra's son by Caesar, Caesarion, was proclaimed pharaoh by the Egyptians, after Alexandria fell to Octavian.
Caesarion was captured and killed, his fate reportedly sealed when one of Octavian's advisers paraphrased Homer:

"It is bad to have too many Caesars."

This ended not just the Hellenistic line of Egyptian pharaohs, but the line of all Egyptian pharaohs. 
The three children of Cleopatra and Antony were spared, and taken back to Rome, where they were taken care of by Antony's wife, Octavia Minor.
The daughter, Cleopatra Selene, was married through arrangements of Octavian to Juba II of Mauretania.

to be continued