The Truth About Cleopatra And Mark Antony's Relationship

Any relationship that gets featured in a Shakespearean play is going to be filled with romance, drama, and tragedy, and the bond between the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra and her powerful Roman lover Marc Antony is no exception. According to History, the two prominent politicians began their affair in 41 B.C., after the Egyptian Queen had already taken Julius Caesar as a lover. Though Cleopatra and Antony's relationship resulted in twins, Antony had to return to Rome, which was in the middle of political turmoil.

Octavian, Antony's brother-in-law, had just instigated a failed rebellion, and the Senate called for reconciliation in an attempt to bring order back to Rome. Antony was pressed into marrying Octavian's sister, but three years later, he returned to Egypt and fathered another son with Cleopatra. They grew more public with their relationship, participating in ceremonies together and parading their children — along with Cleopatra's son by Caesar — as legitimate royal heirs, which went against Roman law. Years passed, and an increasingly frustrated Octavian watched his fellow member of the Triumvirate become more interested in Egyptian rather than Roman politics. When Antony divorced Octavian's sister in 32 B.C., it was the last straw.

Cleopatra knew how to woo Antony

Why would a man partially in charge of one of the world's most powerful civilizations give it all up for a woman he wasn't even married to? Cleopatra was always said to be charming and intelligent and knew just how to woo the Triumvirate member: with spectacle. She sailed into the city of Tarsus dressed as Venus under billowing sails of purple and sheets of gold, fanned by boys dressed as Cupid, supported by maids dressed as sea nymphs, and surrounded by a cloud of pleasant aromas from burning incense (via Biography). Antony was said to be obsessed from then on.

The two were said to have a loving, playful relationship, and Antony bestowed his lover large swathes of land around the Mediterranean. After intentionally provoking Octavian and perhaps focusing a bit too much on their lavish parties, the couple soon found themselves surrounded by a Roman army they couldn't win against. Cleopatra tried to negotiate with Octavian for the safety of their children and faked her suicide since she knew Antony would kill himself after hearing of her death. Heartbroken, it was clear that Octavian still wouldn't negotiate, so she killed herself for real this time as their whirlwind romance came to a swift and tragic end. It's no wonder Shakespeare was inspired.