As much as I hate to move away from Cleopatra – this is supposed to be about women in history – she doesn’t exist without Rome. And there’s another looming civil war coming up that she plays a key part in, so I’m taking a quick detour to talk about it.
The thing to remember is that Rome has been in the middle of a civil war for the last 100 years. Various generals took over, resigned or declined and were beaten. The Senate would rise back up and try to assert power, only to have yet another big man come along to take control of everything. Or try to.
Earlier in our story, Julius Caesar was fighting Pompey for control over Rome; Caesar won and was assassinated a few years later. Octavian is his grand-nephew and heir; Mark Antony was his second in command and thought he should have been Caesar’s heir.
They have different skill sets: Antony is the consummate athlete, soldier, and big man in Rome. He’s got a good name, and that accounts for a surprisingly large amount around 45 BCE. But he doesn’t necessarily know what needs to be done in order to take over. Octavian, on the other hand, is incredibly skilled politically – he knows what needs to be done, but he’s not really a soldier. He’s a pretty good propagandist, though. And he’s got Agrippa – friend extraordinaire who will be his general.
So for now, the key things to know are:
- Octavian and Antony are banding together, at the moment, to defeat Julius Caesar’s assassins.
- They eventually, along with a guy named Lepidus, form a triumvirate to rule Rome – like three kings sharing power.
- This only holds for so long, until one of them must win. That’s how it works.
Cleopatra has left Rome in the wake of Caesar’s assassination and is likely ably ruling Egypt while this all shakes out. Remember, she’s only in power because Rome likes her. She needs to watch what’s going on, to figure out who to latch onto in order to stay on as Pharaoh.
So keep an eye out. The game is afoot!