The Greatest Love Story of all Time
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Hollywood’s portrayal of Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile, differs from the historical record, of course. Yet the real Cleopatra was even more fascinating than in the movies.
Born in Alexandria in 69 BC, she may not have been particularly beautiful. Her portrait on coins of the time shows her with a hooked nose and manly features, though her voice was said to be alluring, and she was obviously of high intelligence and ability. She was not actually of Egyptian blood, but of Macedonian, descended from one of Alexander the Great¹s generals who had come to Egypt in the 300s BC and established himself as King Ptolomy I.
She came to the throne as Cleopatra VII in 51 BC, at the age of 17 or 18. Exiled three years later in a palace coup, she regained her throne with Julius Caesar¹s help. He called for her to appear before him, but knowing that plotters would kill her on the way, she had herself rolled up in an oriental carpet and carried into the palace secretly. Servants unrolled the carpet before Caesar, and Cleopatra fell out at his feet.
The Roman general was captivated by the vivacious, independent-minded young queen with the beautiful voice and fiery eyes. Caesar restored Cleopatra to her throne and they embarked on a two-month-long cruise up the Nile. Their son Caesarion was born shortly thereafter.
Cleopatra visited Rome in 46 BC, was received in triumph, and moved into Caesar’s villa even though Caesar was already married. Caesar’s imperial ambitions and his indiscreet extramarital affair with Cleopatra turned powerful senators against him, and he was murdered on the steps of the Senate in March of 44 BC.
Cleopatra fled to Egypt, but was called to Tarsus (on present-day Turkey’s southern coast) by Mark Antony, one of the new rulers of Rome, to account for her actions. She arrived, dressed as Venus, goddess of Love, aboard a sumptuous “barge” sailed by a crew of female servants dressed as sea nymphs. The ship had a gilded stern, silver-tipped oars, and purple sails. Antony was bewitched! He told her dirty jokes and she told better ones right back. Whatever he wanted to do, she would do with him, proving herself his equal. When she returned to Egypt, Antony went with her to spend the winter in Egypt’s pleasant climate rather than rainy Rome.
Not long after Antony returned to Rome, Cleopatra gave birth to twins. In Rome Antony married his co-emperor Octavian’s sister and started a family, but four years later he was back in Alexandria, unable to live without Cleopatra. He married her in 36 BC, and never went back to Rome. Rome had had enough! Octavian invaded Alexandria in 30 BC.
On the verge of battle, Antony’s fleet went over to the Roman side, and soon also did his cavalry. Antony fled to Alexandria and, thinking Cleopatra dead, stabbed himself. On learning she was still alive he had himself carried to her, and died in her arms. Octavian captured the Egyptian queen and set guards on her to make sure she did not commit suicide. He wanted to parade her through Rome triumphantly in chains. But she arranged for a servant to smuggle in an asp (a poisonous snake) in a basket of figs. She ate the figs, and wrote Octavian a letter asking that she be buried with Antony.
Octavian, sensing what this meant, alerted her guards to an attempt at suicide, but it was too late. Queen Cleopatra VII was dead at the age of 39. She was buried with Antony, leaving behind her a love story the world will never forget.
History of Egypt – Cleopatra VII, the Last Pharaoh … Octavian allowed Cleopatra to arrange Antony’s funeral. She buried him with royal splendor. After the funeral she took to her bed, sick with grief : Condensed biography, bibliography and links on the life of Cleopatra: part of larger site about royal … Read more about the great Women in the History of Ancient Egypt www.royalty.nu/Africa/Egypt/Cleopatra.html
Discovery Online — The Search for Cleopatra’s Palace … Block by block, statue by statue, the Royal Quarter of Alexandria, home of Cleopatra and her last lover, Mark Antony, is emerging from its silt tomb.
Alexandria… Mediterranean Fantasy… and a Voyage Into History
Conquerors, emperors, ancient travelers and traders have all approached Alexandria from the sea… and so will you! Only Travel in Style makes it possible to experience the very essence of this ancient city as it should be experienced, as it was known by pharaohs, queens, and invaders from Marc Antony to Napoleon.
We’ll set sail into the great harbor, still the destination and port of call for ships from the far corners of the world. Landward, we’ll espy the great and throbbing maritime metropolis of Egypt. Our course will take us directly above statues that lie on the seabed, and stone slabs of the Lighthouse-one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World-toppled in an ancient earthquake. We’ll approach the great stone fortress of Qait Bey, reputedly constructed with some of those very stones.
Then we’ll set a course along the coast to the East Harbor, dropping anchor above the Royal City that was submerged by earthquakes and tidal waves in the fourth century A.D.
This underwater treasure house includes the palace of Cleopatra, the Timonium of Mark Antony, fallen columns and capitals, sphinxes, and statues and ceramics, much of it remarkably well preserved. Certified divers among our guests may book an optional excursion to explore this submarine Pompeii.
Along the way, we’ll view the spectacular Bibliotheca Alexandrina—the Library of Alexandria—as few are privileged to see it. Taking the stunning form of an inclined disk rising from the waters, it aptly captures the rebirth from the sea—in Pharaonic fashion—of the lost Alexandria Library of the ancient Greeks that held the works of the greatest scientists and philosophers of the ancient world. Like its namesake, the new Bibliotheca Alexandrina serves as a storehouse of knowledge and a beacon of culture and intellectual expression in this part of the world. Our maritime view is just a preview of our visit to the library itself.
Then we’ll set a course along the coast to the East Harbor, dropping anchor above the Royal City that was submerged by earthquakes and tidal waves in the fourth century A.D. This underwater treasure house includes the palace of Cleopatra, the Timonium of Mark Antony, fallen columns and capitals, sphinxes, and statues and ceramics, much of it remarkably well preserved. Certified divers among our guests may book an optional excursion to explore this submarine Pompeii.
Finally, we’ll conclude an unforgettable voyage through history by setting a course to Abu Qir, where the French fleet under Napoleon was destroyed by Admiral Horatio Nelson. The visit is a perfect counterpoint to a visit to the Qait Bey, where moving relics of the ill-fated fleet are on display.
Please note that this opportunity is limited to up to seven guests at a time. Two small cabins are available for changing and rest, as well as a bathroom, galley, dining salon, and sundeck. Our vessel is fully staffed by a crew of three, including captain. By prior arrangement, we can arrange for a sunset sailing, with cocktails and light music on your vessel’s sound system, or a full day of sport fishing.
We can also make arrangements for you to meet and share dinner as guests of a local family.
This is an extraordinary opportunity to go beyond the limits of the casual visitor, to share your aspirations, outlook, customs, and experiences with people who have a lot more in common with you than you might ever expect. If you’re interested, just let us know, and consider taking along something from your home town to leave with your hosts as a gesture of appreciation.
The recent discoveries join the New Library, opened just last year, among the top attractions in Alexandria. And the New Museum will shortly open in a historic palace that once housed the United States consulate.