Cleopatra (Rome character)

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Cleopatra
Rome character
Ep08.jpg
Portrayed by Lyndsey Marshal
Information
Gender Female
Title Queen/Pharaoh
Family Ptolemy XIII (brother)
Caesarion (son)

Cleopatra is a character from the HBO/BBC original television series Rome, played by Lyndsey Marshal from October 16, 2005 through March 25, 2007. The basis for this character is the famous historical Egyptian Queen Cleopatra VII.

Personality[edit]

Ambitious and sexual, Cleopatra works hard to be everything to nearly everyone especially those in power. Although addicted to opium she has enough will to set plans in motion to secure her foothold on Julius Caesar by purposely impregnating herself before an encounter with him to ensure a birth that she hopes will give her political clout in Rome. Later, her alliance with Mark Antony and her support of his conflict with Octavian ultimately lead to her undoing.

Cleopatra sometimes looks to her servant and advisor, Charmian, for affection and guidance; the women are affectionate, but the mistress-slave relationship remains clear.

Character history[edit]

Opium-addicted Cleopatra Selene Philopator is introduced in the episode Caesarion (2005), put in exile by her brother Ptolemy XIII in Egypt. Tracked down by Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo on the orders of Caesar, Cleopatra attempts to seduce Vorenus for her own personal agenda. Turned down by Vorenus who remains faithful to his wife, she instead beds Pullo. Later, Caesar and Cleopatra's son is named Caesarion, but it is implied that he may actually be the son of Pullo.

In Son of Hades (2007), Cleopatra comes to Rome after Caesar's death, and Mark Antony dismisses her request for public acknowledgement of Caesar's son Caesarion with derision, but is very physically attracted to her. Leaving Antony, Cleopatra comes face to face with Pullo, and they share an awkward look. Though Antony has assured his paramour, Atia of the Julii, that Caesar's former mistress is unappealing, a jealous Atia is threatened by the presence of the Egyptian Queen. Later, at a party for the Egyptians, Atia is unimpressed with Cleopatra, but sees that she has an incredible appeal, for she stares at her in fear for the better part of the dinner. She feels the queen is beneath her, but sees her as a threat also, hence: as Cleopatra is leaving, Atia whispers in her ear, "Die screaming you pigspawn trollop."

Cleopatra reappears in A Necessary Fiction (2007), when Antony is forced by Octavian to relocate to Egypt, leaving Atia and new wife Octavia in Rome. Arriving at the palace, he looks at an alluring Cleopatra with the sames eyes as before.

Years later in the next episode, Deus Impeditio Esuritori Nullus (2007), Antony and Cleopatra are in Egypt raising their own twins, Helios and Selene; she urges him to declare war on Rome to free himself once and for all from Octavian's tyranny. Antony is hesitant, knowing that an attack on Rome would strip him of the people's devotion, the one thing that Octavian does not have. When Antony refuses Octavian's request for increased grain supplies for a starving Rome, Octavian sends his sister Octavia and mother Atia to intervene. Antony insists to a jealous Cleopatra that he no longer loves Atia, but Cleopatra intends to publicly flaunt their love in front of the Roman women or kill them; trying to prevent Atia's humiliation or murder, Antony has his wife and former lover sent away without seeing them.

Cleopatra and the snake, from De Patre Vostro (About Your Father)

In the 2007 series finale, De Patre Vostro (About Your Father), Antony has lost the Battle of Actium to Octavian, who seeks Antony's personal surrender or he will burn the palace to the ground with everyone inside. Cleopatra hopes for some alternate solution, but to Antony the only way out of the situation is suicide. Octavian makes a secret offer to Cleopatra: she can keep her life and her crown in exchange for allowing his men into the palace to take Antony. She is genuinely torn between her love for Antony, her duty as queen and her personal honor. She and Antony agree to die by their own hands, but with Charmian's help Cleopatra later fakes her own suicide, prompting Antony to kill himself.

Meanwhile, both Pullo and Vorenus believe that Caesarion is actually Pullo's son, and Cleopatra herself soon confirms this. Vorenus manages to smuggle Caesarion out of the palace as Octavian takes over, knowing Octavian will murder the boy to cement his position as Caesar's heir. Cleopatra, realizing that Octavian only wants her as a trophy and will never let her keep her throne, foils him by allowing a venomous snake to bite her. "You have a rotten soul," she gasps to Octavian, and expires.

Octavian asks Octavia to raise Antony and Cleopatra's twins, and she accepts. Pullo brings Caesarion to Rome under the name Aeneas, and tells Octavian that he has murdered the boy. The series ends with the indication that Pullo is about to tell Caesarion that he is in fact his father.

Comparison with the historical Cleopatra[edit]

Historically, Cleopatra did not come to Rome after Caesar's death; she was actually living in Rome when he was assassinated in 44 BC and immediately left upon his murder, never to return. Cleopatra met Mark Antony in Tarsus in 41 BC.

The historical timeline has also been manipulated in the series. Cleopatra and Antony had their twin son and daughter, Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene, in 40 BC before he married Octavia Minor. When he later left Rome, he settled in Athens, Greece with Octavia, and they had two daughters. He ultimately left his wife in Greece and reunited with Cleopatra in Egypt; he and Cleopatra subsequently had their third child, Ptolemy Philadelphus (whose existence is not acknowledged in the series).

The scenes where Cleopatra schemes to give birth to "Caesar"'s child by seducing Vorenus or Pullo, gives color to the historical debate about who Caesarion's true father was. After he was born, Cleopatra openly declared that he was Caesar's child, while several of her political enemies, including Octavian, sought to prove otherwise. According to historian Michael Grant, there is at least one potent argument in favor of each side:

  • On the one hand, the portrayal of Cleopatra as promiscuous or sexually voracious is an invention of later propaganda (much of it from Octavian), and there is no hard evidence that she had relations with any man other than Caesar or Mark Antony.
  • On the other hand, there is speculation that Caesar was infertile – a theory reinforced by the fact that, in the course of three marriages and numerous liaisons with other women, he had produced only one child, his daughter Julia – and thus could not have fathered Caesarion.