Cleopatra

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It is important to note that this extract from Plutarch’s ‘Life of Antony’ was written about one hundred years after the battle of Actium and the death of Antony and Cleopatra. ‘The work of ancient historians can seem to be a bit like a play or novel where what happens is often predetermined by the way the author has presented the make-up of his or her characters’ (Fear, 2008.P9) The extract begins by informing the reader that Antony’s armies have deserted him and joined Octavian – ‘the desertion of his fleet to Octavian’. This war started because ‘Cleopatra was the victim of a vicious propaganda campaign’ (Fear, 2008. P7). According to historian Cassius Dio, Octavian fought Cleopatra as part of his plan to defeat herself and Antony and this had a negative impact on Antony and Cleopatra’s relationship. Plutarch implies that the relationship is perfidious ‘Cleopatra had betrayed him to the very men he was fighting for her sake’. The betrayal caused much anguish to Antony who as a leader had lost everything because of her. This is shown in Octavian’s speech written by Cassius Dio ‘even if at one time he showed such valour he served with our army, you can rest assured that he has now lost it beyond recall through the change in his manner of life’. According to Plutarch’s extract, when Antony receives the news of Cleopatra’s death, he is heartbroken and says to himself ‘fate has taken the one excuse which could still make you desire to live’. This shows Antony’s overwhelming love for Cleopatra. He feels unable to live without her. Cassius Dio, on the other hand accuses Antony of being ‘bewitched by the accursed woman’ and ‘enslaved by her’ (Fear 2008.P27). ‘The portrait of Cleopatra as somehow bewitching Antony is a constant theme in the Roman sources’ (Fear, 2008. P10). Analysing the text leads readers to conclude that Cleopatra has the power in their relationship. Horace in his ode 1.37 makes many negative observations concerning Cleopatra e.g. ‘her...
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