Cleopatra's Role in the Battle at Actium Term Paper

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Cleopatra VII's Role in the Battle of Actium

In the history of Egypt, Cleopatra VII was considered as the "Last Pharaoh" of Egypt, particularly, the last descendant of the Ptolemaic rule. Cleopatra's life history is a series of numerous alliances and relationships with different men, although one of the most prominent men who got involved with Cleopatra is Julius Caesar and Marc Antony, all Roman rulers during the reign of the Roman Empire. In Egyptian history, there have been several queens named Cleopatra, although the seventh queen, who was Cleopatra VII, was the only one who became "influential" and "famous" (Tour-Egypt Monthly 1996). Known as Cleopatra VII Tryphaena, Cleopatra was the daughter of Ptolemy XIII Auletes, reigning King of Egypt during the year 51 BC. Cleopatra's father left a will, which states that Cleopatra was to be the heiress to her father's kingdom, and the heir will be Ptolemy XIV, Cleopatra's younger brother. Prior to Ptolemy Auletes' death, the Egyptian kingdom under his rule was already under Roman rule, since the Ptolemaic dynasty was weakening, along with the strengthening of the Roman Empire. Due to this, Ptolemy kept a pact with the Romans, so as not to disturb their kingdom, although it became clear that their impeding fall would happen soon. This is one reason why Cleopatra almost took all the responsibilities of a ruler in their kingdom, even bypassing her brother/husband Ptolemy XIV, especially when dealing with different political issues of colonization and imperialism. Cleopatra's rule thus became one of the most crucial periods for the Ptolemaic dynasty, because she is now the only descendant of the famous (yet weakening) Ptolemaic Dynasty ("Cleopatra" 2000).

By the year 48 BC, Cleopatra's "sole monarchy" became an issue for those people who disapprove of Cleopatra's rule in their kingdom. In fact, Achillas, Pothinus, and Theodotus, officials who are given the task to take care of Ptolemy XIV's education and development as a king, were the ones who pushed Cleopatra's younger brother to challenge her sister's power and rule over their kingdom, and the young king and his group of men planned to overthrow her kingdom. Their dispute resulted into a waging war between the two camps, and eventually, after getting some help and support from Julius Caesar, Cleopatra was able to secure her position as Queen of Egypt and sole ruler of the Ptolemaic kingdom. However, Julius Caesar's help to Cleopatra was not to be treated with nothing to be given in return, and true enough, Cleopatra eventually became Julius Caesar's lover. Under Julius Caesar's rule, Cleopatra was given 'free reign' to rule in her kingdom, most especially in Egypt, which Julius Caesar has given to her (Budge 1968). Thus, after negotiations has been made among the officials of Ptolemaic kingdoms, Cleopatra reigned to be the Queen of Egypt, with Julius Caesar sharing the power that she has over the entire kingdom.

After Julius Caesar's death, Cleopatra came back to Egypt (after staying in Rome with Julius) and on the year 41 BC, Cleopatra met Marc Antony, who eventually began having an intimate relationship with Cleopatra. However, prior to their relationship, Cleopatra was "watching closely" the turn of political events in Rome, and upon learning that Marc Antony was gaining the 'upper hand' in Roman politics, Cleopatra wasted no time to get acquainted and establish a relationship with him. Cleopatra's objective in trying to get Marc Antony on her side was due to the worsening state of the Egyptian Kingdom that she was ruling; she needed a strong political ally to support her militarily and politically, so that her kingdom won't be vulnerable to future attacks by conquerors and even Romans.

Cleopatra's relationship with Marc Antony seemed to be a trivial, even frivolous, thing to talk about, but, as one may learn in reading extensively the history of Egypt, Marc Antony's relationship with the Queen of Egypt was the main reason why the Battle of Actium broke out. During Cleopatra's reign as queen of Egypt, there has been a dispute in the Roman Kingdom over who will reign to be the nest Emperor of the powerful empire. There are two strong contenders for this position: Octavian, Octavia's brother (who is Marc Antony's wife) and Marc Antony. The first victory over the reign in the Roman Empire went to Marc Antony (which is one reason why Cleopatra preferred Antony over Octavian), although Octavian never gave up in contesting Anotny's power and ability as a ruler and warrior. Due to his initial defeat to Antony, Octavian vowed to get even with him, and, adding more insult to Octavian's anger over his loss to Antony, the news of Antony leaving his wife for Cleopatra further infuriated him. Octavian thought of ways to discredit Antony's image to the Roman people (during that time, Antony was a strong contender for the Roman Empire rule, and is well- accepted and -loved by his people) (Mackay 2002). The texts that will follow in this paper are succeeding events that happened that eventually led to the Battle of Actium. In discussing this important event in Egyptian history, this paper will discuss how Cleopatra became an essential element and became the catalyst for the Battle of Actium to happen.

One of the primary reasons for the realization of the Battle of Actium was due to the increasing tension between Marc Antony and Octavian due to the issue of the future ruler of the Roman Empire. The position is the most coveted among the officials, since the Roman Empire was already a strong, established, and powerful empire during Cleopatra's reign as Queen of Egypt ("Battle of Actium" 1997). Due to their dispute over the future rule of the Roman Empire, both Octavian and Antony thought of ways to discredit the other, and this is exactly what Octavian did to Antony's image, upon learning that he was carrying an affair with Cleopatra, and divorced Octavian's sister Octavia, in the process (Mackay 2000).

One of the steps Octavian did in planning out the overthrowing of Antony's credibility to the Roman people started when Octavian publicly disclosed Antony's plans of acquiring and extending his power over Asian territories, all of whom he will offer to his lover, Cleopatra. Octavian gained the approval not only of the consuls and senators of Rome to declare war against Antony and Cleopatra, but also gained the trust of the public, since all of them felt betrayed by Antony's plans to leave all his territories and use his powers for the benefit of his lover. It was known that during ancient times in Rome, a foreigner queen was not accepted as someone's wife because of her nationality/race (Mackay 2000).

Another thought that bothered the Romans was the possibility that they be subjected to Cleopatra's rule when Antony becomes Emperor of Rome. The fact that Antony was having an affair with a foreigner queen was already overwhelming for the Romans, but to be subjected to her powers once Antony gains control over Rome is unacceptable for the public. That is the main reason why the public, along with the Roman officials, waged a war against Marc Antony and Cleopatra's kingdom. Although Antony's actions has already infuriated most Romans, Octavian steered clear of blaming Antony for all the tragic events that are bound to come, but he instead focused the public's attention on Cleopatra, the woman who gained control over Antony so that she'll have all by herself the Roman Empire. By putting the blame solely on Cleopatra than on Antony, Octavian is 'playing safe' with his odds, that is, he tries to be as neutral as possible regarding issues about Antony, since he knows that Antony still has may sympathizers and allies in Rome. To win them all (the public, Roman officials, and Antony's allies and sympathizers), Octavian was already securing his position as the future emperor of the Roman Empire ("Battle of Actium" 1997).

After Octavian brought Antony and Cleopatra's case in the senate, a war was declared against Cleopatra (Budge 1968). In 31 BC, Octavian and Antony prepared themselves for war, and Antony prepared for the war with Cleopatra on his side to help out with the military and war operations during the course of the war. The Battle of Actium thus began in September 2, 31 BC, and the fight seemed to be a stalemate between Octavian and Antony's army. In fact, Antony's army, although losing out on Octavian's, may have a big chance of winning, but an action made by Cleopatra changed all of Antony's impending or possible triumph in the war at Actium. Due to some unknown reason, Cleopatra withdrew her ships from the battlefield in the course of the fight, and Antony followed after Cleopatra upon learning that she has already fled, and his army was left to deal with Octavian's strong army without any supervision or leadership from Antony (Mackay 2000). Due to the cowardice both Antony and Cleopatra had displayed in the battle, Octavian was now sure of his victory and triumph in…[continue]

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