OK, for the last few days, we’ve been looking at the Cleopatra we think we know. But how does Antony and Cleopatra change when faced with the historical facts as we know them?
69 BCE: Cleopatra is born in Alexandria, Egypt. She is Cleopatra VII; her father was the previous leader of Egypt, Ptolemy XII; her mother, it is thought, was Cleopatra V (her father’s wife who was also his sister, as was the tradition in the Ptolemaic line).
51 BCE: Ptolemy XII dies, leaving his 18 year-old daughter Cleopatra (VII) and her 10 year-old brother as joint rulers. As is the custom, Cleopatra marries her brother, Ptolemy XIII, but she does not intend to rule with him. In fact, she removes him from official documents, coins and the like.
49 BCE: Roman Civil War begins between forces behind Pompey the Great and Julius Caesar (FYI, Lepidus and Antony were under Caesar; Cassius and Brutus under Pompey)
48 BCE: Ptolemy XIII drives Cleopatra from Egypt into Syria, and the Egyptian Civil War begins. Caesar’s forces defeat Pompey’s at Pharsalus; Pompey flees to Egypt; Brutus joins Caesar (pardoned, forgiven and allowed into Caesar’s inner circle); Cassius is captured (pardoned, and he fights for Caesar). Ptolemy, trying to curry favor with Caesar, has Pompey killed and beheaded; when Caesar arrives, Ptolemy presents him Pompey’s head; Caesar not amused. Caesar invades and captures Alexandria, and makes himself the arbiter in the Egyptian Civil War between Ptolemy and Cleopatra. Cleopatra in an attempt to politically outflank her brother, has a carpet sent as a gift to Caesar, with her naked wrapped within it. Allegedly. She became his mistress. She is now 21; Caesar 52…but it seems still pretty virile as nine months later…
47 BCE: Cleopatra gives birth to Caesar’s son, whom they name Caesarion. Cleopatra wants Caesarion named as Caesar’s heir, but he chooses his grand-nephew Octavian instead. Caesar does, however, defeat Ptolemy’s forces (Ptolemy XIII is killed at the Battle of the Nile) and installs Cleopatra as queen of Egypt, but he also grants her other brother, let’s call him Ptolemy XIV, co-ruler status; Ptolemy XIV and Cleopatra marry, though she remains Caesar’s lover. Caesar leaves to chase down and mop up the remnants of Pompey’s army.
46 BCE: Ptolemy, Cleopatra and Caesarion visit Rome, where they stay at one of Caesar’s estates. Mistresses were accepted, but the fact that she was a foreign head of state was still scandalous.
45 BCE: Caesar takes the war to Spain and defeats the last of Pompey’s relatives, returns to Rome (and Julius Caesar the play begins)
44 BCE: Caesar has a really bad March and gets stabbed in the back. The mob runs the conspirators out of Rome, and two months later, Octavian arrives. Meanwhile, the Egyptian contingent heads back home. Funny thing, though: Ptolemy doesn’t survive the trip. He dies. Poisoned. Allegedly. By his sister Cleopatra. Allegedly. But let’s face facts, if this is true, she only did to him what he was going to do to her at some point. Allegedly.
43 BCE: Antony, Octavian, and Lepidus form the Second Triumvirate. Antony is 40, Octavian 20, and Lepidus 45.
42 BCE: The TWO battles at Philippi take place: Cassius and Brutus die, separated by three weeks. The events of Julius Caesar end. Antony takes control of the eastern portion of the empire.
41 BCE: As part of Antony’s eastern campaigns, he calls for Cleopatra to meet him in Tarsus. She arrives on a barge (that Enobarbus will describe in Antony and Cleopatra). Antony follows Cleopatra to Alexandria where she becomes his mistress (or to hear his soldiers tell it, he becomes her boy-toy). While Antony is away, his brother Lucius and wife Fulvia begin a war against Octavian who had been starting a power- and land-grab in Italy.
40 BCE: Octavian defeats Lucius and Fulvia. Fulvia dies from an illness. And the events of the play Antony and Cleopatra begin. Antony heads back to Rome to reconcile with Octavian; Antony marries Octavia. While he is with Octavia in Athens, Cleopatra gives birth to twins Alexander and Cleopatra, fathered by Antony.
39 BCE: The Triumvirate comes to terms with Sextus Pompey (son of Pompey the Great).
38 BCE: Octavian renews war with Pompey.
37 BCE: Antony returns to the Parthian campaign, reunites with Cleopatra.
36 BCE: Octavian with assistance from Lepidus defeats Pompey, who flees (just like dear ol’ dad). Octavian then has Lepidus arrested for plotting a usurpation, and exiles him. Antony marries Cleopatra in Alexandria. Cleopatra bears Antony another son Philadelphus.
35 BCE: Octavian tracks down, captures, and executes Pompey.
34 BCE: Antony divorces Octavia; divides his portion of the empire and Egypt between his children.
33 BCE: Octavian takes back much of the land in Antony’s portion of the empire.
32 BCE: Rome declares war on Cleopatra.
31 BCE: Octavian defeats Antony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium in Greece.
30 BCE: Octavian invades Egypt. Antony and Cleopatra commit suicide. The events of Antony and Cleopatra end, 10 years after the first events of the play.