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Women in History

Egyptian History

Cleopatra VII
Ptolemaic Dynasty


In the spring of 40 BC, Mark Antony left Cleopatra and returned home. He did not see her for four years. Antony's wife, Fulvia had gotten into a serious movement against Octavian over veterans' allotments of land. She fled to Greece and had a bitter confrontation with Antony. She became ill and died there. Antony patched things up with Octavian that same autumn by marrying Octavian's sister, Octavia. She was a beautiful and intelligent woman who had been recently widowed. She had three children from her first marriage. In the meantime, Cleopatra had given birth to twins, one boy and one girl, in Alexandria. Antony's first child by Octavia was a girl. Had Octavia given him a son, things might have turned out different. Antony kept the idea of the treasures of the Ptolemies and how much he wanted it. When he finally did get the treasures, the standard interest rate in Rome fell from 12 percent to 4.

Mark Antony left Italy and went to deal with the Parthians. Octavia had just had another daughter and went with him just as far as Corcyra. He gave her the excuse that he did not want to expose her to the dangers of the battles and sent her home. He told her that she would be more use to him at home in Rome keeping peace with her brother, Octavian. However, the first thing that he did when he reached Antioch, was to send for Cleopatra. Their twin children were officially recognized by Antony and were given the names of Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene. Mark Antony gave her much land which was very essential to Egypt. He gave her Cyprus, the Cilician coast, Phoenicia, Coele-Syria, Judea and Arabia. This allowed Egypt to be able to build ships from the lumber from Cilician coast. Egypt then built a large fleet. Antony had planned a campaign against the Parthians. He obviously needed Cleopatra's support for this and in 36 BC, he was defeated. He became more indebted to her than ever. They had just had a third child.

On their return to Syria, she met him and what was left of his army, with food, clothing and money. Early in 35 BC, he returned to Egypt with her. Antony's wife, Octavia was in Athens with supplies and reinforcements waiting for her husband. He sent her a letter telling her to not come any further. Her brother, Octavian, tried to provoke Antony into a fight. Octavian would release troops as well as ships to try to force Antony into a war, which, by this time was almost inevitable. Antony might have been able to patch things up with Octavia and her brother had he returned to Rome in 35 BC. Cleopatra probably did her best to keep him in Alexandria. Octavia remained completely loyal to Antony through all of this.


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