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Thread: Cleopatra's endgame: what did she really hope to accomplish with Mark Antony?

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    Icon5 Cleopatra's endgame: what did she really hope to accomplish with Mark Antony?

    The full details of the life of Cleopatra VII Philopator and her immediate Ptolemaic family members is somewhat garbled with the surviving accounts in Greco-Roman historiography if not tainted by the spurious claims and exaggerations of Augustan period Latin poetry. Octavian's claims that Antony's will included stipulations that Alexandria be made the new capital of the Roman Republic ring of partisan invective and propaganda, the sort that (falsely) claimed Antony stole books from the Library of Pergamon to restock the Library of Alexandria after it was partially burned down during the siege against Caesar by Ptolemy XIII. However, it is entirely reasonable to think Antony wanted to be buried alongside Cleopatra VII and that he wanted his children with her to directly benefit from the so-called Donations of Alexandria. In either case, these claims and following ones were allegedly censored from public view by consuls who were allied with Antony. They successfully blocked it until Octavian finally raided the Temple of Vesta in 32 BC where it was held, to acquire it and disclose selective passages instead of releasing it in full.

    The donations were announced in 34 BC during Antony's mock Roman triumph celebrating his capture of the Armenian king Artavasdes II and his royal family. Antony, dressed like the Greek god Dionysos (and was often equated with the Egyptian Osiris), presented the prisoners to Cleopatra as she dressed up for the ritual as the Egyptian goddess Isis (with Aphrodite as the common Greek equivalent). Imitating the Achaemenid Persian King of Kings, Cleopatra was declared the Queen of Kings. In this feudal arrangement, Caesar's son Caesarion would be Cleopatra's groomed successor in Egypt as King of Kings, but her children with Antony would inherit other domains in the east under Antony's triumviral authority, ones that had recently been gained by Roman arms, treasure, and blood. Alexander Helios, dressed for the ceremony in the garb of a Median king of old, would inherit Armenia (recently brought under Roman control) and more ambitiously Parthia and Medes with hypothetical future campaigns of Antony funded by Cleopatra. Their other son Ptolemy Philadelphos was decked out in the clothes of a Macedonian Greek and typical Hellenistic ruler, a miniature Alexander the Great, and he was to rule Syria and Cilicia in place of the fallen Seleucids. Cleopatra Selene II would inherit the isle of Crete and the Greek colony of Cyrene in nearby Libya.

    While still in office as an elected triumvir, Antony technically had the legal authority to delegate things and move chess pieces around in the eastern provinces, but he was really pushing his authority to the limit here and his actions were certainly unpopular back home. When war was finally declared by the Roman Senate, it was done so against Cleopatra VII instead of Antony, due to her financing and military aid given to a private Roman citizen who no longer held a relevant office. It was also orchestrated this way as to be more palatable to the Roman people, who were sick and tired of civil wars against fellow Romans by this point, but were always happy to fight foreigners who challenged Rome.

    So then, what was Cleopatra's endgame here with Antony? What did she hope to achieve if she and Antony had won the Battle of Actium against Agrippa and managed to defeat Octavian or force him into a permanent truce or cementing a long-lasting negotiated settlement of splitting the Roman world between their two spheres of influence? Was she deluded enough to think she could keep this going forever? The assassination of Julius Caesar probably should have taught her to avoid getting involved directly in Roman politics, but instead she remained determined to wed and embed her Hellenistic monarchy into the existing Republican Roman political system. How would this even be sustainable going forward? The Romans only accepted Octavian as Augustus and Princeps because of the veneer of a Republic still being in place. If the Roman historians during and after Augustus are to be trusted, it doesn't seem like Antony was very much interested in maintaining the facade that the Republic mattered to him, if he was literally acting as a god emperor over his children who were literal kings and queens (albeit clients of the Roman Republic).

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    Default Re: Cleopatra's endgame: what did she really hope to accomplish with Mark Antony?

    Cleopatra really had no choice to thrown her fortune in with Rome. If she didn't voluntarily throe in with Rome,Rome would have just come and taken over Egypt. Cleopatra hoped to have Egypt was a mostly autonomous client kingdom of Rome, where she would be pretty much free to rule as she liked.

    If Mark Antony had succeeded in creating an eastern empire with himself at the head, Egypt could have a role.as an equal partner, instead of the subordinate client kingdom Egypt now was. Sooner or later, Cleopatra probably feared the Romans would find some excuse to take direct control of Egypt, and siding with Antony probably offered the best alternative to escape that fate. With Many k Anthony triumphant, Egypt would have likely had a more equal partnership inhis regime than s
    It currently had under Rome.

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    Default Re: Cleopatra's endgame: what did she really hope to accomplish with Mark Antony?

    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    Cleopatra hoped to have Egypt was a mostly autonomous client kingdom of Rome, where she would be pretty much free to rule as she liked.
    I completely agreed with this thesis.She realized that the future prosperity of Egypt depended on a favorable alliance with Rome.
    Il y a quelque chose de pire que d'avoir une âme perverse. C’est d'avoir une âme habituée
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    Every human society must justify its inequalities: reasons must be found because, without them, the whole political and social edifice is in danger of collapsing”.
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    Default Re: Cleopatra's endgame: what did she really hope to accomplish with Mark Antony?

    In my opinion, Cleopatra meddled into Roman poltics out of despair about the declining fortunes of her career as a member of the royal dynasty. She was about to be crushed by Ptolemy XIII and Arsinoe IV, until she formed a very convenient alliance with Ceasar, in order for her to prevail in the civil war, while the Roman general was given the precious opportunity to install a very loyal ruler over one of the wealthiest regions of the Mediterranean. After all, her father's pro-Roman strategy had guaranteed him a relatively peaceful reign three decades, despite the objections of the nobility and Alexandria's mob. Her rapprochement with Mark Anthony was probably motivated by similar concerns, as they both needed a powerful friend, in order to protect their fragile hold on power. However, I wouldn't be surprised if Cleopatra's ambitions had evolved through time, although I personally do not consider the Donations of Alexandria as a particularly reliable indication.

    The event gives me the impression of a staged affair, mostly intended to reinforce the ruling couple's prestige, instead of presenting an initial ground for the empire's future heritage. The toddlers would of course excercise no real authority for a long time, while the titles of especially Helios Alexander lack any substance. Even Armenia was not really integrated into the provincial system, but was basically kept under Roman military occupation, which easily collapsed when the Parthian King Phraates IV and Artaxias II, the son of the deposed and murdered Artavasdes II, exploited the distraction offered by Octavian's offensive. In summary, I believe that Cleopatra's priority was to safeguard her position as Queen of Egypt, while the prospects of a future prosperous Egypt or the restoration of Alexander's state played a secondary role. To be sincere, in my opinion, her significance and influence have been grossly exaggerated by the hostile literature of the Augustan era and the romantic historiography of the 19th century. Cleopatra is portrayed as the epitome of the Oriental stereotype, determined to either corrupt the virility of the European soldier or to elevate the exotic East to her former glory. The reality, unfortunately, is remarkably more neutral and dull.

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    Default Re: Cleopatra's endgame: what did she really hope to accomplish with Mark Antony?

    Very good responses you guys! Yes, Cleopatra charming and coupling herself to Caesar was born out of desperation and necessity, in order to combat her brother Ptolemy XIII, who was arguably winning the Ptolemaic civil war up until that point. With Caesar's death, however, Cleopatra was in serious trouble now that her son and successor Caesarion was a rival heir to Caesar's official heir Octavian. Perhaps Cleopatra figured that if she didn't side with a powerful figure like Antony, her son would be in serious danger with Octavian unofficially at the helm of the Roman state. Unlike Caesar, his triumviral authority was given state legitimacy when he, Lepidus, and Antony were all elected to five-year terms with full imperium to deal with the assassins of Caesar in the Liberators' civil war.

    As for Cleopatra fearing that the Romans would take Egypt from her, this is debatable. Her father Ptolemy XII temporarily lost the throne to his rival daughter Berenice IV from 58-55 BC, due to an uprising of an Alexandrian mob furious that he allowed the Romans to drive his brother into suicide on charges of piracy and take over Ptolemaic Cyprus as a new Roman province. However, the Romans didn't bother to take over Egypt, but instead reinstalled Ptolemy XII on the throne with military aid from Aulus Gabianus, governor of Roman Syria. In fact, Ptolemy XII was put on the throne of Egypt in the first place in 80 BC due to Roman reluctance to rule Egypt directly. This was in 80 BC when Ptolemy XI Alexander II killed his cousin-wife but was then killed by a furious mob soon afterwards. Ptolemy XI had married Berenice III at the behest of the Roman dictator Sulla, who wanted an orderly transition in Egypt due to its immense economic importance to Rome (especially for maintaining the Cura Annonae, the enormously popular and effective grain dole policy). When that failed, Ptolemy XII Auletes being placed on the throne was the solution.

    So then, why would the Romans do this repeatedly instead of taking over Egypt directly? This was done even after the kingdom had been willed to the Roman Republic by Ptolemy XI as collateral for loans, much like Pergamon had been willed to Rome by Attalus III. It's because the Roman Senate feared the corrupting influence of Egypt, not because of oriental stereotypes, but because a single prefect left in charge there for too long could amass an immeasurable fortune from the Indian Ocean silk & spice trade and challenge the Roman state. This exact fear is expressed even after Egypt was conquered by Rome, when Octavian/Augustus forbade any senators from even stepping foot onto Egyptian soil and allowing only members of the equestrian class to serve as prefect governors there under his direct supervision.

    With all of that in mind, one can see why Cleopatra wanted to latch onto another powerful Roman statesman to keep herself and her son safe from Octavian, but at the same time she must have been fully aware that Rome wanted to keep Egypt at arm's length. I think she could have made a different decision here and could have stayed out of politics and kept a low profile. Instead she decided to flip the coin and take her chances with Antony in a brazen effort to counter Octavian.

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    Default Re: Cleopatra's endgame: what did she really hope to accomplish with Mark Antony?

    I agree completely about the hesitations of Rome to add new territories to its empire, but I still believe that Cleopatra had no choice. The problem was that the circumstances had gradually changed every since the Marian reforms were implemented. As ambitious generals gained more power over their professional armies, the foreign policy of Rome evolved accordingly, even despite the objections of the Senate. Military commanders now enjoyed more freedom and were often allowed to pursue a more personal policy, not hesitating to casually provoke conflicts with neutral neighbors and annex new territories. The reasons for this shift of policy are exactly what you described above: As the Senators were afraid of the possibility of a governor accumulating too many resources, so were the generals motivated to expand their sphere of influence, by installing obedientl governors to recently conquered regions, by stabilising the throne of now completely dependent client-kings and by positioning friendly tyrants to nominally autonomous cities. Not to mention the fact that loot and military glory guaranteed the loyalty of their troops in times of need. All these assets would come very handy, when a civil war broke out and the Roman general attempted to usurp the ultimate power.

    Now, to come back to the subject, a series of semi-successful imperialist strongmen, from Marius and Sulla to Crassus, Pompey and Ceasar had indicated to Cleopatra that the good, old times of senatorial conservatism were over. Whoever emerged as the final victor from the second Triumvirate, Octavian, Mark Anthony, Lepidus or even Sextus "Pirate" Pompey, the days of an independent Lagid dynasty were few. Neutrality was frankly not an option, because it would have saved the kingdom, according to the most optimistic scenario, as long as the Roman Empire remained fragmented. Once the Empire was reunited (an inevitable result, in my opinion), the new dictator/emperor/Augustus would hardly hesitate to invade the wealthy Nile valley. It would have been an easy campaign, which would reinforce his prestige, restore the finances of the state and provide him with a precious basis of support for his fragile and precarious position as the "absolute monarch" of the empire. Cleopatra was obliged to join one of the two camps, in order to have a chance to save her royal career. Unluckily enough for her, she bet on the wrong horse.

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    Default Re: Cleopatra's endgame: what did she really hope to accomplish with Mark Antony?

    Perhaps Cleopatra was hoping in getting a sister of Julian blood for Caesarion (Ptolemaĩos Philopátor Philométor Kaĩsar), to marry him and save her bloodless dynastic line ..

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    Default Re: Cleopatra's endgame: what did she really hope to accomplish with Mark Antony?

    Quote Originally Posted by Abdülmecid I View Post
    In my opinion, Cleopatra meddled into Roman poltics out of despair about the declining fortunes of her career as a member of the royal dynasty. ....
    Yes she is a woman in a vice: dominant Rome holding the fate of Egypt in its talons, factions within the country at daggers drawn, and a chance to start a relationship with powerful warlords who seem capable of overturning the Roman state like a new Alexander. She may have rage-quit but she accumulated a lot of VPs before she went.

    So I would say she didn't have an endgame, she was dancing from moment to moment and year to year, surviving and enjoying her survival. She probably had plans within plans, she was a survivor so that would make sense, but nothing firm. It is unclear what happened at Actium, but maybe Anthony was disposable to her even after all they had been through? Augustan propaganda makes the episode opaque, it may be she was just beaten on the field.

    Quote Originally Posted by Roma_Victrix View Post
    ...the Roman Senate feared the corrupting influence of Egypt, not because of oriental stereotypes, but because a single prefect left in charge there for too long could amass an immeasurable fortune from the Indian Ocean silk & spice trade and challenge the Roman state. This exact fear is expressed even after Egypt was conquered by Rome, when Octavian/Augustus forbade any senators from even stepping foot onto Egyptian soil and allowing only members of the equestrian class to serve as prefect governors there under his direct supervision.
    Have to agree. I think local instability was a threat too: when Rome broke up Makedonia they caused chaos for the Southern Balkans as the bulwark against Thrakian and Gallic incursions was removed, and they were forced to create a (heavily militarised) province within a decade. Romans like provinces with easily conquerable tribes to farm VPs for the cursus honorum: Egypt was unfamiliar terrain: it had a theocratic economy with an alien elite planted on a sullen peasantry, hardly suitable for aspiring magistrates to cut their teeth.

    Quote Originally Posted by Roma_Victrix View Post
    With all of that in mind, one can see why Cleopatra wanted to latch onto another powerful Roman statesman to keep herself and her son safe from Octavian, but at the same time she must have been fully aware that Rome wanted to keep Egypt at arm's length. I think she could have made a different decision here and could have stayed out of politics and kept a low profile. Instead she decided to flip the coin and take her chances with Antony in a brazen effort to counter Octavian.
    As a Ptolemaic princess she was playing the Game of Throne with the usual stakes: I think she had no quiet retirement option. Her options were to bang the warlords or not bang the warlords: she gave herself a better chance to keep her throne and even influence affairs if she was close to Caesar and Anthony.

    She may even have podded Anthony to something like the excesses Augustan propaganda insists. Obviously it was mostly crap but Rome was inclining to monarchy already and within two generations would see heritable monarchy established. Maybe Cleopatra just punted early and as we know on the wrong horse. The Hellenised Romans found the Hellenistic East intoxicating, a victorious Anthony may have been the agent for a Hellenised West and a less divided Empire.
    Jatte lambastes Calico Rat

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    Default Re: Cleopatra's endgame: what did she really hope to accomplish with Mark Antony?

    I don't think there was one. The claims that Cleopatra was planning on manipulating Antony to take over Rome or whatever sounds completely made up. Octavian needed it to be true so that he could declare war on Cleopatra and thereby erode Antony's power base. Since he could not directly try to fight Antony as Antony was still too popular and had the support of the Republican faction. The Donations of Alexandria being cited as an example for debauchery but making client kings is hardly a case for this kind of corruption. Not at all different from what Caesar or Pompey would have done. Cleopatra was very much a Roman client.

    Antony was so under prepared for any conflict that he had to demobilize his legions of old veterans and recruit locally from Roman and Greek colonies, as well as native easterners. Something practically unheard of at the time. While Cleopatra's fleet was formidable Antony also had to pass emergency legislation in order to take ownership of the resources (so for example groves from temples) to expand his fleet and take additional measures to recruit laborers and ship crews. Antony was so much at a disadvantage that he tried to avoid a pitched battle.

    "Famous general without peer in any age, most superior in valor and inspired by the Way of Heaven; since the provinces are now subject to your will it is certain that you will increasingly mount in victory." - Ōgimachi-tennō

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    Default Re: Cleopatra's endgame: what did she really hope to accomplish with Mark Antony?

    Among the Roman triumvirate, there were arguments for and against adding Egypt to Rome's empire. One thing is certain:in the long run, Antony's involvement with Cleopatra contributed to his downfall.
    Il y a quelque chose de pire que d'avoir une âme perverse. C’est d'avoir une âme habituée
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    Every human society must justify its inequalities: reasons must be found because, without them, the whole political and social edifice is in danger of collapsing”.
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    Default Re: Cleopatra's endgame: what did she really hope to accomplish with Mark Antony?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Oda Nobunaga View Post
    ...The claims that Cleopatra was planning on manipulating Antony to take over Rome or whatever sounds completely made up. Octavian needed it to be true so that he could declare war on Cleopatra and thereby erode Antony's power base. ...
    Antony was so under prepared for any conflict that he had to demobilize his legions of old veterans and recruit locally from Roman and Greek colonies, as well as native easterners...
    You're saying a Western ruler made up false claims about an Eastern ruler preparing an attack and used it as justification to start a war?

    Jatte lambastes Calico Rat

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    Default Re: Cleopatra's endgame: what did she really hope to accomplish with Mark Antony?

    Quote Originally Posted by Abdülmecid I View Post
    I agree completely about the hesitations of Rome to add new territories to its empire, but I still believe that Cleopatra had no choice. The problem was that the circumstances had gradually changed every since the Marian reforms were implemented. As ambitious generals gained more power over their professional armies, the foreign policy of Rome evolved accordingly, even despite the objections of the Senate. Military commanders now enjoyed more freedom and were often allowed to pursue a more personal policy, not hesitating to casually provoke conflicts with neutral neighbors and annex new territories. The reasons for this shift of policy are exactly what you described above: As the Senators were afraid of the possibility of a governor accumulating too many resources, so were the generals motivated to expand their sphere of influence, by installing obedientl governors to recently conquered regions, by stabilising the throne of now completely dependent client-kings and by positioning friendly tyrants to nominally autonomous cities. Not to mention the fact that loot and military glory guaranteed the loyalty of their troops in times of need. All these assets would come very handy, when a civil war broke out and the Roman general attempted to usurp the ultimate power.

    Now, to come back to the subject, a series of semi-successful imperialist strongmen, from Marius and Sulla to Crassus, Pompey and Ceasar had indicated to Cleopatra that the good, old times of senatorial conservatism were over. Whoever emerged as the final victor from the second Triumvirate, Octavian, Mark Anthony, Lepidus or even Sextus "Pirate" Pompey, the days of an independent Lagid dynasty were few. Neutrality was frankly not an option, because it would have saved the kingdom, according to the most optimistic scenario, as long as the Roman Empire remained fragmented. Once the Empire was reunited (an inevitable result, in my opinion), the new dictator/emperor/Augustus would hardly hesitate to invade the wealthy Nile valley. It would have been an easy campaign, which would reinforce his prestige, restore the finances of the state and provide him with a precious basis of support for his fragile and precarious position as the "absolute monarch" of the empire. Cleopatra was obliged to join one of the two camps, in order to have a chance to save her royal career. Unluckily enough for her, she bet on the wrong horse.
    Do you think Cleopatra fully understood the intricacies of what was going on in Roman politics and generals gradually amassing more power since Marius and Sulla, at the expense of or despite the Senate? She certainly knew that Sulla was the power broker who brought her father's predecessor Ptolemy XI to the throne in Egypt by marriage to Berenice III. With the Romans installing her father twice to the throne without showing a huge interest in taking over the country, I don't think she would have figured they wanted direct rule. Well, at least not until it became clear that she and Antony were to fight a colossal war against Octavian, pitting two halves of the Roman world against each other.

    When Cleopatra was still alive I don't think it was quite clear to her and to every other client ruler that Rome would eventually gobble up their territories and transform them into fully controlled provinces. Right next door to her was Herod's kingdom of Judea and it was decades after Cleopatra's death that Herod's triad of successor kingdoms were fully taken over by the Romans. While the Romans took over the Kingdom of Numidia by 40 BC, they left others alone, like the Odrysian Kingdom of Thrace, which lasted as a client state until 46 AD.

    Rome didn't really have some master plan when it came to expansion. Like the historian Klaus Bringmann (2002) says, it just kind of lurched from crisis to crisis, reacting to them instead of acting proactively, with big exceptions during the late Republic, of course, like Caesar's ambitious campaign in Gaul that used any little excuse and diplomatic faux pas to take over new territories. Sulla's war against Pontus and then Pompey's conquests of Anatolia and the Levant in the eastern Mediterranean would be another example, but even Sulla was reacting to the Asian Vespers and hostility against Romans and Roman allies by Mithridates. Rome had previously been extremely reluctant to take over new territories directly, case in point, the Kingdom of Macedonia, which the Romans tried to break apart into three different allied republics, but once the pretender Andriscus raised a revolt, it became clear that a directly controlled province was necessary.

    To be honest, if Cleopatra had just stayed quiet after Ptolemy XIII was killed and acted like an aloof monarch who didn't care about politics, how could Octavian have toppled her along with her son and heir Caesarion, who was his true target as an heir to Caesar? Cleopatra VII was a legitimately recognized client ruler. While Octavian held an enormous amount of power as one of Rome's triumvirs, he didn't yet possess the full absolute power and hadn't yet usurped nearly all meaningful constitutional powers, not until he became Augustus in 27 BC, three years after he conquered Egypt. Even his proposed war against Antony met with stiff resistance until he couched it in terms that a foreign queen, Cleopatra, was illegally funding the military operations of a private citizen without holding office.

    Quote Originally Posted by Diocle View Post
    Perhaps Cleopatra was hoping in getting a sister of Julian blood for Caesarion (Ptolemaĩos Philopátor Philométor Kaĩsar), to marry him and save her bloodless dynastic line ..
    Heh! That would be a very Ptolemaic move on her part. Bring on the incest!

    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclops View Post
    Have to agree. I think local instability was a threat too: when Rome broke up Makedonia they caused chaos for the Southern Balkans as the bulwark against Thrakian and Gallic incursions was removed, and they were forced to create a (heavily militarised) province within a decade. Romans like provinces with easily conquerable tribes to farm VPs for the cursus honorum: Egypt was unfamiliar terrain: it had a theocratic economy with an alien elite planted on a sullen peasantry, hardly suitable for aspiring magistrates to cut their teeth.
    That's another excellent point and another reason why the Romans were more interested in receiving many economic benefits of linking itself to Egypt without actually having the headache of ruling it directly. To be honest, her kingdom was the only one that fell during Octavian's war against Antony. Even client kingdoms that sided with Antony at first but switched over to Octavian's side were spared, including that of Herod (Octavian was apparently very impressed with his speech and sense of loyalty that he let him keep his kingdom). If Cleopatra had kept herself distant from all of this and never bothered to build a relationship with Antony but sided with Antony as soon as the war started, there could have even been a chance that Octavian would have been lenient with her like he was with Herod!

    That's why I think she made the wrong decision to hitch her fortunes on Antony, who was admittedly a storied veteran commander under Caesar, but simply too much of a gamble.

    As a Ptolemaic princess she was playing the Game of Throne with the usual stakes: I think she had no quiet retirement option. Her options were to bang the warlords or not bang the warlords: she gave herself a better chance to keep her throne and even influence affairs if she was close to Caesar and Anthony.

    She may even have podded Anthony to something like the excesses Augustan propaganda insists. Obviously it was mostly crap but Rome was inclining to monarchy already and within two generations would see heritable monarchy established. Maybe Cleopatra just punted early and as we know on the wrong horse. The Hellenised Romans found the Hellenistic East intoxicating, a victorious Anthony may have been the agent for a Hellenised West and a less divided Empire.
    I think Cleopatra simply let her success in nabbing Caesar, the most powerful Roman general up until that point, and having a child with him go to her head, especially since Caesar largely ignored his official wife. Cleopatra literally thought she could have Caesarion named as his heir when she was living in Italy at Caesar's villa at the time of his assassination. Octavian being named the official heir was the reason she eventually fled Italy with Caesarion back to Egypt where the distance was obviously safer (the longer she stayed in Italy, the worse it made her look to the Roman people as a meddler in their affairs, and it would have given Octavian the excuse he needed to end her and her son's life then and there).

    If Cleopatra were a bit less ambitious, I think she and her son would have lived much longer lives but would have been rather irrelevant or marginal in terms of Roman historiography, and certainly not popular or noteworthy enough to warrant a play by William Shakespeare.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Oda Nobunaga View Post
    I don't think there was one. The claims that Cleopatra was planning on manipulating Antony to take over Rome or whatever sounds completely made up. Octavian needed it to be true so that he could declare war on Cleopatra and thereby erode Antony's power base. Since he could not directly try to fight Antony as Antony was still too popular and had the support of the Republican faction. The Donations of Alexandria being cited as an example for debauchery but making client kings is hardly a case for this kind of corruption. Not at all different from what Caesar or Pompey would have done. Cleopatra was very much a Roman client.

    Antony was so under prepared for any conflict that he had to demobilize his legions of old veterans and recruit locally from Roman and Greek colonies, as well as native easterners. Something practically unheard of at the time. While Cleopatra's fleet was formidable Antony also had to pass emergency legislation in order to take ownership of the resources (so for example groves from temples) to expand his fleet and take additional measures to recruit laborers and ship crews. Antony was so much at a disadvantage that he tried to avoid a pitched battle.
    Yes, I think it was clever but rather transparent propaganda on Octavian's part to blow up the threat of Cleopatra beyond measure, as the eminent historian Ronald Syme argued (although he likewise downplayed her importance too much, I think). Cleopatra certainly had the funds to keep Antony afloat, her greatest asset being, well, her enormous assets ...and big...tracks of land (to quote Monty Python). The Latin poets during the reign of Augustus were sometimes sympathetic to her, showing that Augustus had not completely destroyed her image and that there were still a variety of opinions, but they generally painted a rather ridiculous picture of her as being an exotic sorceress who bewitched Antony with witchcraft and planned on toppling good honest Roman gods with animal headed ones, "furries" basically.

    You know, Anubis, Horus, and the like.

    Basically the Romans didn't want the furries and otherkin to take over.

    Those are great points about Antony desperately trying to even the odds with Octavian in terms of armed forces. Also, Antony's fleet at Actium in 31 BC might have been larger, but his crews were largely inexperienced compared to Octavian's naval fleet of veteran marines and professional sailors. In comparison Antony acquired a lot of arguably unreliable ones from merchant ships.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclops View Post
    You're saying a Western ruler made up false claims about an Eastern ruler preparing an attack and used it as justification to start a war?

    Octavian brought the furry animal-headed Egyptian terrorists to justice.

  13. #13

    Default Re: Cleopatra's endgame: what did she really hope to accomplish with Mark Antony?

    Quote Originally Posted by Roma_Victrix View Post
    Octavian brought the furry animal-headed Egyptian terrorists to justice.
    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclops View Post
    You're saying a Western ruler made up false claims about an Eastern ruler preparing an attack and used it as justification to start a war?
    Woah.. hey now (lol), Plutarch does say Cleopatra helped fund Antony's expedition into Parthia, a goal of which was to establish thrones for Caesarion and Alexander. And despite having a weak hand, Egypt was still the #1 power left that could challenge Rome (though we should also acknowledge Parthia). In any case, I'm still trying to formulate my opinion on Cleopatra.. I'll let you know when I find any WMD.

    Edit:

    I'll argue Cleopatra was motivated by power, with the ultimate goal of securing an independent Egypt. She grew up in Ptolemaic court, which afforded her a life of luxury and a series of royal and religious titles, including emperor-god king status when she proclaimed herself to be the re-incarnation of Isis. In addition, her divine status shaped her public actions, and allowed her to compete with or appeal to men in power (including Caesar and Antony). Her public participation in the burial of the Buchis bull gave her legitimacy as well as Alexander like confidence. She spoke several different languages –may or may not have been physically attractive- performed lavish banquets and ceremonies in front of world leaders, built monuments, raised armies, funded military campaigns, ruled cities of great agricultural and economic importance, and adopted the title king of kings. Her personality cult is like the Egyptian pharaohs of old – in that they believed Egypt was strong when the ruler was strong, yet she also followed Alexander, believing herself to be at the center of a world empire.

    After securing power by defeating her brother (who had also sought an independent Egypt by slaying Pompey) she went on a long royal tour of the kingdom. Though she was accompanied by Caesar (apparently on a pleasure cruise), she was also accompanied by an army, which sent a powerful message of strength and stability to Egypt’s people and its enemies, like Ethiopia. She regained Cyprus from Rome, got Caesar to acknowledge her as the sole ruler of Egypt, and got him to leave without asking for tribute, therefore she acted in Egypt’s sovereign interests and not as Caesar’s puppet. The birth of Caesarion was probably a miscalculation, though she interestingly proclaimed her son to be the son of Amon, thus foiling any prestige and parentage Caesar might have gained and elevating Caesarion to Alexander like status (also the son of Amon per Swia). This was a gamble and clearly a threat to Rome and eventually Octavian. Egypt, under Cleopatra it seems, was meant to be a world power.

    Cleopatra never let up that she needed and desired power, which explains her later relationship to Antony. More than saying Antony influenced and controlled Cleopatra, an argument can be made that she controlled and influenced him, which explains the Parthian invasion –done partly in Egypt's name and interests- and the Donations of Alexandria, in which Roman lands were distributed to Cleopatra’s heirs, a complete reversal in tradition where past Ptolemaic rulers gave tributes and territories to stay on Rome’s good side. Octavian however, being threatened by Caesarion, and seeing the opportunity to slander Antony for becoming “more Egyptian,” took his case to the Senate and ran with it. Deciding not to renew the triumvirate, Rome now had to choose a side between Octavian and Antony, and in the end this choice made all the difference.

    What was Cleopatra’s endgame? In my view, it can be interpreted in her suicide rather than surrender to Octavian. She chose to save face and protect her power and personality cult at all costs, choosing to die from the bite of an Asp, a symbol of both royalty and divine presence. Thus, even in death Cleopatra sought to her elevate power. And given her fame and martyrdom, she succeeded.
    Last edited by Dick Cheney.; May 23, 2019 at 12:02 PM.

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    Default Re: Cleopatra's endgame: what did she really hope to accomplish with Mark Antony?

    Quote Originally Posted by Roma_Victrix View Post
    ..Rome didn't really have some master plan when it came to expansion. Like the historian Klaus Bringmann (2002) says, it just kind of lurched from crisis to crisis, reacting to them instead of acting proactively with big exceptions during the late Republic, of course, like Caesar's ambitious campaign in Gaul
    Yep...good post, Roma.
    Well, in a cynical mood I would say that Caesar's campaign in Gaul was a positive reaction to a personal debt crisis.
    The figures given for the debts of Caesar at the beginning of his career range from 25 million to somewhat over 30 million sesterces. Cesar entered his first public office with debt amounting to the entire fortunes of 77 members of the Roman elite. According to Cicero, the heavy indebted Caesar generated more hatred from stealing than good willing from giving. Lucan, the poet, composed an epic poem on the civil war between Caesar and Pompey, and represents Caesar alone as engaging repeatedly in "payment" - for his labors and the loyalty of his soldiers- and being "bought" -by Cleopatra.
    Dio Cassius says, in a lapidary style "In short, the man was a money-grubber".
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    Default Re: Cleopatra's endgame: what did she really hope to accomplish with Mark Antony?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ludicus View Post
    Yep...good post, Roma.
    Well, in a cynical mood I would say that Caesar's campaign in Gaul was a positive reaction to a personal debt crisis.
    Indeed. One could also examine the intentions and actions of other late Republican Roman commanders through a similar lens, but I guess the difference is Caesar was really, really in boatloads of debt, as you lay out next.

    The figures given for the debts of Caesar at the beginning of his career range from 25 million to somewhat over 30 million sesterces. Cesar entered his first public office with debt amounting to the entire fortunes of 77 members of the Roman elite. According to Cicero, the heavy indebted Caesar generated more hatred from stealing than good willing from giving. Lucan, the poet, composed an epic poem on the civil war between Caesar and Pompey, and represents Caesar alone as engaging repeatedly in "payment" - for his labors and the loyalty of his soldiers- and being "bought" -by Cleopatra.
    Dio Cassius says, in a lapidary style "In short, the man was a money-grubber".
    Well, fortunately for Caesar he saved himself here by becoming one of the most talented and successful, albeit controversial, generals in Roman history. The guy had his minor military losses, so he wasn't exactly Alexander the Great, but it was probably clear to his assassins in 44 BC that the only sure way to take him down was in the streets of Rome with a knife, because it would be quite a gamble to try and face against him in the field of battle. He was kind of a wizard at winning battles and digging himself out of seemingly impossible situations during combat.

    There were even close calls during the late winter siege of the Ptolemaic palace in Alexandria by Ptolemy XIII, before Caesar's reinforcements came to save him the following spring. Caesar definitely looked at Cleopatra's wealth as a potentially huge benefit for himself, but she also needed him to squash her rival little brother, secure the throne, end the civil war in Egypt, and link herself personally to the most powerful Mediterranean state by producing an heir - Caesarion - with Rome's most powerful man, albeit one who only desired to be a king over a still living Republic. Caesar's initial relationship with Cleopatra was more aloof and he had to play his cards right publicly (since he was still married to a Latin Roman woman back in Italy), by slightly ignoring Cleo and keeping her at arms length for a time. It seems Caesar started to groom her as an acceptable figure to the always skeptical, xenophobic and suspicious Romans. He did so by erecting her statue of Venus Genetrix in Rome, by having Antony use her diadem in a play-fight during Lupercalia festivities and acting as if he rejected the idea of being a king, and of course brazenly having her stay privately at his villa on the outskirts of the city.

    If Caesar had lived and invaded the Parthian Empire much like Antony would do later (unsuccessfully), it seems almost certain that Cleopatra would have partially funded him, much like she did Antony, and their symbiotic relationship would continue in much the same way. They would have done that without the dynamic of a second triumvirate and the diametrically opposed sides of Octavian and Antony. So, in a way Antony took up Caesar's mantle but not entirely, since Caesar would have had command of the entire Roman world and he already showed aptitude for crushing dissent by his fellow Romans aligned against him in Italy, Greece, Tunisia, and Spain.

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    Default Re: Cleopatra's endgame: what did she really hope to accomplish with Mark Antony?

    Quote Originally Posted by Roma_Victrix View Post

    Well, fortunately for Caesar he saved himself here by becoming one of the most talented and successful... generals in Roman history. The guy had his minor military losses, He was kind of a wizard at winning battles and digging himself out of seemingly impossible situations during combat.

    If Caesar had lived and invaded the Parthian Empire much like Antony would do later (unsuccessfully), it seems almost certain that Cleopatra would have partially funded him, much like she did Antony, and their symbiotic relationship would continue in much the same way. They would have done that without the dynamic of a second triumvirate and the diametrically opposed sides of Octavian and Antony. So, in a way Antony took up Caesar's mantle but not entirely, since Caesar would have had command of the entire Roman world and he already showed aptitude for crushing dissent by his fellow Romans aligned against him in Italy, Greece, Tunisia, and Spain.
    It's never enough to say how much I enjoy reading your posts.
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    Every human society must justify its inequalities: reasons must be found because, without them, the whole political and social edifice is in danger of collapsing”.
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    Default Re: Cleopatra's endgame: what did she really hope to accomplish with Mark Antony?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ludicus View Post
    It's never enough to say how much I enjoy reading your posts.
    Thanks! This is one of my favorite topics, as you and others can probably tell. The 1st century BC is fun because it was still so full of possibilities for the future, although seemingly unstoppable systemic forces within the Roman Republic, as Abdulmecid points out, were leading it towards more and more powerful generals amassing and usurping the powers of the Republic. We've already beaten that horse to death in the forum, though, talking about the inevitability of a Caesar or an Augustus after the rise of Marius and Sulla.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dick Cheney. View Post
    After securing power by defeating her brother (who had also sought an independent Egypt by slaying Pompey) she went on a long royal tour of the kingdom. Though she was accompanied by Caesar (apparently on a pleasure cruise), she was also accompanied by an army, which sent a powerful message of strength and stability to Egypt’s people and its enemies, like Ethiopia. She regained Cyprus from Rome, got Caesar to acknowledge her as the sole ruler of Egypt, and got him to leave without asking for tribute, therefore she acted in Egypt’s sovereign interests and not as Caesar’s puppet. The birth of Caesarion was probably a miscalculation, though she interestingly proclaimed her son to be the son of Amon, thus foiling any prestige and parentage Caesar might have gained and elevating Caesarion to Alexander like status (also the son of Amon per Swia). This was a gamble and clearly a threat to Rome and eventually Octavian. Egypt, under Cleopatra it seems, was meant to be a world power.
    Very good points, although I'm slightly confused about your statement that Ptolemaic Egypt was at war with "Ethiopia". The former Kingdom of D'mt had already broken down into petty kingdoms and city-states and the Kingdom of Aksum didn't form until the next century. Perhaps you mean the more vague "Aethiopioi" described by the Greeks, or as we know them now, the Nubians of the Kingdom of Kush (where the old Kerma culture once existed in northern Sudan and parts of Upper Egypt). The Nubians, who once conquered Egypt under Piye as the 25th dynasty, were certainly traditional enemies and trading partners to the Egyptians, but correct me if I'm wrong, hostilities didn't really break out until after Cleopatra's death. I say that because that's when Queen Amanirenas of Kush invaded Roman Egypt during the reign of Augustus, but was repelled and forced to sign a peace treaty (I actually made a thread about this in the VV forum about a year ago now).

    What was Cleopatra’s endgame? In my view, it can be interpreted in her suicide rather than surrender to Octavian. She chose to save face and protect her power and personality cult at all costs, choosing to die from the bite of an Asp, a symbol of both royalty and divine presence. Thus, even in death Cleopatra sought to her elevate power. And given her fame and martyrdom, she succeeded.
    There's that I guess! She was also certainly interested in desperately protecting her son Caesarion at all costs. However, even he was tracked down and killed as he tried to flee to Ethiopia, Kush in Sudan, Arabia or even India (basically any remote place he could go to escape the assassins and executioners of Octavian). I would argue her obsession with safeguarding Egypt made her lose sight of the bigger picture with Antony, who wanted to follow different battle strategies, even a naval blockade and offensive against Italy across the Adriatic from his base in Roman Greece, but this idea was allegedly struck down by Cleopatra who would rather use Greece as a territorial shield between Egypt and Italy. I guess she never heard that the best defense is a good offense. Scholars like Roller (2010) argue that Antony did have a small window of time to disrupt Octavian while he was still mustering legions in Italy, as an early blockade would have severely hampered his abilities to engage Antony as he wanted.

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    Default Re: Cleopatra's endgame: what did she really hope to accomplish with Mark Antony?

    Quote Originally Posted by Roma_Victrix View Post
    Rome didn't really have some master plan when it came to expansion. Like the historian Klaus Bringmann (2002) says, it just kind of lurched from crisis to crisis, reacting to them instead of acting proactively, with big exceptions during the late Republic, of course, like Caesar's ambitious campaign in Gaul that used any little excuse and diplomatic faux pas to take over new territories. Sulla's war against Pontus and then Pompey's conquests of Anatolia and the Levant in the eastern Mediterranean would be another example, but even Sulla was reacting to the Asian Vespers and hostility against Romans and Roman allies by Mithridates.
    Well, they might not have a master plan, but Punic Wars seemed to me as something that was easily avoidable. In fact the whole Roman expansion "master plan" was pretty simple, if there was potential for conflict with state that holds valuable territory that can be escalated to war they'd escalate, if there's potential for conflict with less developed, "barbarian" tribes holding worthless land, attack only if the land is of military strategic value, here there's no need for escalation, just plain action, since they didn't need to justify war against peoples whom they considered primitive.

    That said most of the civilized countries of antiquity acted in this way, opportunism was their main drive, we can't say with any certainty that, for example, after Antigonos, and especially after Seleukos, any of the Diadokhoi had a master plan in stages to restore Alexander's empire. The same can be said of Carthage as well, the operations in interior Hispania were reaction to the losses of First Punic War.

    Quote Originally Posted by Roma_Victrix View Post
    many economic benefits of linking itself to Egypt without actually having the headache of ruling it directly.
    It was primarily an advantage to Octavian, him being the "owner" meant that all that grain dole was his personal gift to the Roman citizens.
    "First get your facts straight, then distort them at your leisure." - Mark Twain

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    Default Re: Cleopatra's endgame: what did she really hope to accomplish with Mark Antony?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ἀπολλόδοτος Α΄ ὁ Σωτήρ View Post
    Punic Wars seemed to me as something that was easily avoidable
    Well, the conflict with Carthage was inevitable.We may regret that carnivorous animals are not vegetarians, but Polybius explains the carnivorous nature of the Roman Republic, an aggressive power trying to achieve the domination of the centre of the word- the "medi-terraneous",
    Some of those authors who have dealt with Hannibal and his times, wishing to indicate the causes that led to the above war between Rome and Carthage, allege as its first cause the siege of Saguntum by the Carthaginians and as its second their crossing, contrary to treaty, the river whose native name is the Iber. I should agree in stating that these were the beginnings of the war, but I can by no means allow that they were its causes.
    Il y a quelque chose de pire que d'avoir une âme perverse. C’est d'avoir une âme habituée
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    Every human society must justify its inequalities: reasons must be found because, without them, the whole political and social edifice is in danger of collapsing”.
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    Default Re: Cleopatra's endgame: what did she really hope to accomplish with Mark Antony?

    Quote Originally Posted by Roma_Victrix View Post
    Very good points, although I'm slightly confused about your statement that Ptolemaic Egypt was at war with "Ethiopia". The former Kingdom of D'mt had already broken down into petty kingdoms and city-states and the Kingdom of Aksum didn't form until the next century. Perhaps you mean the more vague "Aethiopioi" described by the Greeks, or as we know them now, the Nubians of the Kingdom of Kush (where the old Kerma culture once existed in northern Sudan and parts of Upper Egypt). The Nubians, who once conquered Egypt under Piye as the 25th dynasty, were certainly traditional enemies and trading partners to the Egyptians, but correct me if I'm wrong, hostilities didn't really break out until after Cleopatra's death. I say that because that's when Queen Amanirenas of Kush invaded Roman Egypt during the reign of Augustus, but was repelled and forced to sign a peace treaty (I actually made a thread about this in the VV forum about a year ago now).
    Since our resident expert has retired or gone on vacation, I'll take it upon myself to remind everyone that this common usage of "Nubian" is anachronistic. The Nubians first arrived in the Fourth Century CE with the collapse of the Meroitic kingdom.

    /pedantry
    Quote Originally Posted by Enros View Post
    You don't seem to be familiar with how the burden of proof works in when discussing social justice. It's not like science where it lies on the one making the claim. If someone claims to be oppressed, they don't have to prove it.


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