Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- I still dream of Cleopatra, the last Egyptian Queen of the Ptolemy Dynasty. I dream about discovering her tomb, I dream about uncovering her tomb for the first time, should it be my fate to discover this one day.
The discussion surrounding this great Queen will never end for a number of reasons, perhaps the most important of which is that her tomb remains undiscovered, despite her wide fame, with even Roman historians having written about her. It was these [Roman] accounts that provided us with a lot of details about Cleopatra’s life and personality. These accounts aimed to remove any ambiguities surrounding Cleopatra’s age and personality, but on the contrary they only served to increase the mystery surrounding her, for even her contemporaries differed in how they viewed her personality, and like myself, many of them fell under her spell!
The issue here is not just the location of Cleopatra’s tomb, for let us ask ourselves: Where is the tomb of Alexander the Great? Where are the tombs of the fourteen Ptolemaic Pharaohs who each carried the name Ptolemy? These secrets will not be uncovered in the near future.
Now let us look at the final chapter in the life of Cleopatra and the Final War of the Roman Republic. The Battle of Actium was a famous naval battle fought between the forces of Mark Antony and Cleopatra, and the vengeful Octavian and the Roman army. Octavian called Mark Antony a traitor for raising his sword against his native Roma for the sake of the Egyptian Queen. Octavian’s army was made up of 250 war ships, 8,000 infantry, and 15,000 cavalry, while Mark Antony’s forces had a similar number of warships, in addition to 7,000 infantry, and 12,000 cavalry. Octavian won a famous victory at the Battle of Actium, causing Mark Antony to flee to Alexandria on 12 October 31 BC. It is said that the light from the fires of Octavian’s victory celebration could be seen by the people of Alexandria across the Mediterranean.
Afterwards, Cleopatra met with Mark Antony on board a ship; they were both stricken with grief following this crushing defeat. Cleopatra knew that Octavian would want to take her captive and take her to Rome where she would be displayed as a trophy. This would have seen the famous Queen who managed to conquer the hearts of both Julius Caesar and Mark Antony being dragged behind Octavian’s chariot.
Historians believe that the reason for Mark Antony’s defeat at the Battle of Actium was due to political propaganda launched by Mark Antony [which caused a significant portion of his forces to desert] in addition to Cleopatra interfering in military affairs. In any case, Mark Antony fled to Alexandria to Cleopatra’s embrace accompanied by a loyal band of warriors who swore that they would live or die alongside him.
When Cleopatra learned that Octavian was planning on coming to Alexandria, she began thinking of the possibility of seducing him in the same manner that she had Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. I believe that she tried to do this, and revealed to him [Octavian] that she was prepared to get rid of Mark Antony. It is impossible to know precisely what the Queen was thinking in this situation, but what is certain is that Octavian wanted to take the Egyptian Queen captive, and display her in Rome.
We have read and heard from historians who say that Cleopatra gathered her gold and precious items, and placed them in the tomb adjacent to her palace. She then filled the room with flammable material, and decided to burn her treasure before meeting with Octavian. Cleopatra had her maid inform Mark Antony that she had committed suicide, and he found that he had no choice but to fall on his own sword.
And so the curtain falls on the last chapter of the life of Cleopatra, and the first chapter begins in the search for her tomb!