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Death of Antony and Cleopatra

After Antony had attempted to forcibly take command of the army in Cyrene from L. Pinarius Scarpus but was refused, he considered suicide as the honorable Roman thing to do. However, perhaps he thought that final victory could still be secured if the forces in Alexandria could be properly compared. He left Cyrene and sailed back to Egypt where Cleopatra waited, likely now fretting her own political ambitions. There they waited for nearly a year while Octavian and Scarpus closed in around them.

As Octavian approached Antony and Cleopatra's defenses in Alexandria, Antony enjoyed one last victory, albeit a minor one, in his heralded career as a general. His men chased off a small contingent of Octavian's cavalry as they scouted their enemy, but this was a short-lived success. As the opposing armies prepared for what seemed to be the final battle after nearly 20 semi continuous years of Civil War, the engagement turned out to be an anti-climactic affair, much like events at Actium a year earlier. Antony's cavalry and fleet surrendered to Octavian first and were shortly followed by the infantry, once again without major engagement of any sort. As Antony looked on, during this fateful first day of what would become known as the month of August, he was abandoned by his army and his efforts to become sole ruler of the Roman world were lost to the young man who was virtually unknown just a few short years before.

Cleopatra fled into a mausoleum, which she had previously constructed as her likely final resting place, with little hope of escaping the inevitable. Antony, knowing the game was finally over, finally accepted his fate and attempted to fall on his sword as Roman tradition often dictated. According to the ancients, however, he was not entirely successful and with an open wound in his belly, was taken to join Cleopatra. Here, in events immortalized over a millennium later by Shakespeare, Antony did finally succumb to his wound and supposedly died in his lovers arms, leaving her completely at the mercy of Octavian. Cleopatra did not however immediately join her lover in death and instead entered into last ditch negotiations with Octavian. Over the period of just over a week, she probably realized that her only fate was to march in Octavian triumphal parade and her children would never be allowed to maintain any sort of hereditary control of Egypt or other eastern Kingdoms. On August 9, 30 BC, Cleopatra ended her own life and left Egypt to the fate of Octavian's will.

Within a month Octavian was named Pharoah, and Egypt became his personal possession. Though administered in similarity to a province, the personal rule of Egypt and the title of Pharaoh would become a permanent right of ascension of each Roman Emperor. While Octavian was now the clear and unequivocal force in the Roman world, there was still some minor unfinished business to take care. Though executions of Antony's supporters were limited, likely to bring 20 years of war to a final closure, an unfortunate few still had to pay with their lives. Among those executed was Caesarion, Cleopatra's oldest son by Caesar, as it was a necessity to avoid any potential hereditary claims or conflict of interest. Cleopatra's other children by Antony were too young to be of much concern, would eventually march in Octavian's triumph and were allowed to live. Antony's oldest son by his wife Fulvia was killed, but his younger son by Fulvia was taken in by his step-mother Octavia and he was seemingly favored by Octavian's entire family. Years later, however, he would be executed in 2 BC for his scandalous affair with Julia, the daughter of the man who would then be Augustus.

Backed by the name of Caesar and the loyalty of his adoptive father's troops, Octavian finished what Caesar had started, yet was unable to complete: the final unification of Rome under a single man. At the age of 33, the Republic was finally ready to succumb to imperial authority. Though there was still some work to be done, opposition simply no longer existed in any meaningful form. Years of civil war, and hundreds of years of social strife had broken the will of resistance. Octavian rose above all, not just for being in the right place at the right time, but by expanding upon the strengths, and learning from the weaknesses of his predecessors, along with playing the political game with an unmatched determination.

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Did you know?

Alexandria was named after its founder, Alexander the Great, and as the seat of the Ptolemaic rulers of Egypt quickly became one of the greatest cities of the Hellenistic world.



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Death of Antony and Cleopatra - Related Topic: Aegyptus


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