The following is an excerpt (#8 of 20) from:
"Jesus Among the Julio-Claudians"
copyright 2017 Charles N. Pope
Antony and Cleopatra Resurrected
Due to increasingly low Nile floods and other factors, the royal family had been phasing out operations in Egypt for many decades. The naval Battle of Actium that pitted Rome against Egypt was used to bring closure to one of the greatest dynasties and empires of all time, the Ptolemaic. Antony was far more experienced at war than the much younger Octavius. The historian Plutarch informs us that Mark Antony could have easily triumphed over Octavius and saved the day for Egypt. However, it was a match that Antony was ordered to throw. The Battle of Actium took place about the time of Julius Caesar's actual death, and his presence at the battle is witnessed through the Roman alias of Domitius Ahenobarbus, who presumed to counsel Cleopatra to head for the safety of Egypt. He then deserted Antony's side for that of Octavius and was inexplicably sent graciously on his way by Antony along with his entire entourage.
Alexander was said to have saved the life of Ptolemy by healing him of a poisonous arrow wound, which must have typically led to a certain death in those days. Significantly though, he was raised as if from the dead to live a long and illustrious life. Caesar had a long kingly career in mind for Antony as well, just not in Egypt. Antony, like his role model Ptolemy, was dutifully following orders from on High, but like Jonah on his way to Nineveh, Antony was not at all happy about his calling. Relinquishing his gay and sumptuous lifestyle as king of Egypt was a symbolic type of death for him, not to mention forfeiture of his cherished plebian playboy image in Rome. During his inglorious retreat back to Egypt, Antony ignored Cleopatra and sat alone and silent in a state of denial for three days, and as if in the belly of a whale.
Upon arriving in Egypt, Antony further withdrew with only the consolation of two close companions. At last, he forsook them as well and entered a type of mock tomb along the shore he erected near the Pharos lighthouse. The historian Plutarch wrote that he did this in remembrance of the cynical Greek philosopher Timon, who was renowned as a “hater and enemy of mankind,” which of course was (until then) the exact opposite of Antony’s nature. Plutarch continues to recite a speech supposedly given by Timon as follows: “I have a little plot of ground, and in it grows a fig-tree, on which many citizens have been pleased to hang themselves, and now, having resolved to build in that place, I wish to announce it publicly, that any of you who may be desirous may go and hang yourselves before I cut it down.”
Plutarch spelled out Antony’s fate as best a royal biographer could. It was required of Antony to forsake the dissolute life he loved in order to become king of the Jews, a people known for asceticism and exclusivity, and widely stigmatized in the Greco-Roman world as haters of humanity. In his regional identity of Herod, Antony was obliged to both “go over (submit) to Caesar (Augustus)” with all the forces committed to him and to endure being despised by the Jews as one unworthy of kingship in Israel. Only his wife Mariamne, daughter of the High Priest Hyrcanus II, was allowed to claim a full-blooded Hasmonean pedigree.
Regarding Cleopatra, Plutarch coyly states that "what really took place is known to no one." But we can discern that Cleopatra had even less reason to kill herself than Antony. While Antony sulked, Cleopatra busied herself with salvaging what she could from the fire-sale of Egypt. Unlike Antony’s, her transformation eliminated every form of confinement. She had now eclipsed her older sister Berenice IV in refinement, and took her place as the next Great Queen of the larger Empire. Upon the actual passing of Julius Caesar, she was answerable to no man, not even to the new Caesar Augustus and his request to use her likeness in Triumph. The Egyptian Cleopatra was not going to Rome in chains, but would move freely throughout royal dominions, and more immediately to Canaan as its own native queen. As Plutarch subtly relates in his “Life of Antony,” the rule of Israel was not sour grapes for Cleopatra, but was presented sweetly to her as an endearing little basket of plump and beauteous figs.
Roxane, the wife of Alexander the Great and mother of his heir Alexander IV, was reportedly poisoned 13 years after Alexander. Her Greco-Persian alter ego Barsine was said to have been murdered 14 years after Alexander. However, as the Egyptian Queen Berenice, Roxane, lived a long, full life and even survived Ptolemy I Soter. Consistent with her role model, Cleopatra was reportedly poisoned (by snake bite) 14 years after the death of Caesar. However, under the Roman alias Scribonia, she moved freely even among the Romans, and lived to see her daughter Julia (a.k.a. Cleopatra Selene) torment Octavius to no end.
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