Cleopatra Chat Transcript
Cleopatra Forum on Women's Board
of Rome Forum page at Ancient Sites

18:14 aspasia Tullius: We still value Cleopatra for her value as a myth -the powerful but very attractive woman.
18:14 Torrey Philemon: Interesting analogy, Aspasia. I was thinking the same thing.... (about Romans like Americans - and English too....Hey, what are Brazilians like, Morgana, with all your steamy soap operas? Are you more like Cleopatra's Greco-Egyptians? <-: )
18:14 aspasia Tullius: Not too many other historical names would be so generally recognized, particularly when it comes to women.
18:14 Morgana Flavius: About Cleo's younger brother, Torrey, I guess that George chose the version where Cleopatra didn't kill him, although we never know...
18:15 Mara Durotriges enters...
18:15 Torrey Philemon: I think many of us think LIZ TAYLOR when we think Cleopatra.
18:15 aspasia Tullius: It would be hard to keep her a sympathetic character if she killed her brother, and I guess we'll never know, but certainly many royals did kill sibs - sometimes kill or be killed.
18:16 Morgana Flavius: Nah... Brazil is as Roman as the U.S or U.K. when it comes to public and official values, Torrey!
18:16 aspasia Tullius enters...
18:16 Mara Durotriges enters...
18:16 Morgana Flavius: I used to, Torrey! Liz was my Cleopatra till I started to read more about it.
18:16 aspasia Tullius: That Liz Taylor Cleo was epic-ally awful, almost as bad as the old Cecil B DeMille epics
18:17 aspasia Tullius: (Only worse one is the Marlon Brando version of Julius Caesar)
18:18 Torrey Philemon: We do need to separate ourselves from values we take for granted when we read about Cleopatra. When I read about the extravagant banquets, I keep wondering about  people who were starving and how extravagance of the rulers deprives the common people. But it seems that rulers of that time were respected for their extravagant displays, that it was expected.
18:18 Morgana Flavius: I think that Shakespeare still has the most convincing version of Cleo. That 1974 movie is really good!
18:19 Mara Durotriges: today's rulers still put on extravagant displays and half the world is starving
18:19 Torrey Philemon: Yes, Morgana and I highly recommend the 1974 version of Antony and Cleopatra. It's brilliant! (And a young Patrick Stewart is Enobarbus)
18:19 aspasia Tullius: I'd like to see Cleo portrayed by a really intelligent actress who is not known for her overt physical attractiveness. (Not holding my breath...)
18:20 aspasia Tullius: Yes, Mara, unfortunately true, and we have modern functional equivalents of slave labor.
18:20 Morgana Flavius: Yes, Torrey. It seems that this was also an Eastern trace: the people would be starving out of the palace walls, while the rulers would have everything. But again, in case of real disaster, it was expected that the ruler would literally die a sacrificial death for his/her people. Extremes for us Western XXth century creatures...
18:21 Torrey Philemon: Also killing one's enemies - even family members - was not viewed as ruthless during that time, but necessary.
18:21 aspasia Tullius: In a way Cleopatra can be seen as the "sacrificial" victim of possibly inexorable historical forces; Rome was probably going to swallow up Egypt, no matter what, I suppose.
18:22 Morgana Flavius: Suzann (forgot her last name) was not particularly beautiful, but she conveyed a strong, charismatic personality in the 1974 Shakespeare's movie. And Antony was very good too!
18:22 Mara Durotriges: it was kill your family or be killed by them in some cases
18:22 aspasia Tullius: I'll look for that version, Morgana.
18:23 Torrey Philemon: Yes, Aspasia, and it seems to me that Cleo's alliance with Caesar was at first politically motivated, not romantic at all. She wanted some power over him, so that he and Rome didn't have complete power over her!
18:23 aspasia Tullius: I wonder whether Cleo never had any other lovers apart from Caesar and Anthony? That is the way George tells it.
18:23 Torrey Philemon: In the 1974 film, it was Janet Suzman. And I agree about Antony..... the Antony in the Liz Taylor version was not the most appealing lover in history!
18:24 Morgana Flavius: Yes, Aspasia, and I think Cleopatra would have been smashed earlier than she was, had she not have the love and/or the political support of strong Roman men. And I guess that this is what drove Octavian crazy: that there was always a strong man between him and the crushing and annexation of Egypt.
18:24 aspasia Tullius: Octavian won in the end...
18:24 Mara Durotriges: she seemed to fall into the same trap so many women do - get with child and get the man
18:25 aspasia Tullius: that's the next bio I want to read, for the continuation of the story.
18:25 Torrey Philemon: From what I read in her biography, Aspasia, there were rumors that she had a love affair before Caesar with Pompey's son. That's the only known possible other lover.
18:25 Mara Durotriges: and it rarely works
18:25 aspasia Tullius: (Catherine the Great of Russia supposedly spend much more than 5 billion dollars on her series of lovers...)
18:26 aspasia Tullius: I wonder whether the version of Caesar's will that Anthony presented was the "real" will, or whether he ever did make a will recognizing Caesarion?
18:28 aspasia Tullius: I guess that question really belongs in a discussion of the second half of the book!
18:28 Torrey Philemon: I think Antony's proclamation of Cesarion as heir was part of his agreement with Cleopatra, in exchange for her military support .......but that was partly Antony's undoing in Rome and in regard to Octavian.
18:29 aspasia Tullius: People seemed to really want to like and forgive Anthony, but he just kept doing stupid things.
18:29 Torrey Philemon: I read in Hughes-Hallett that some believe that Cesarion wasn't Caesar's because Caesar despite all his love affairs only had one known child (his daughter Julia) and may have been barren. And Cleopatra might have secretly sired a child with someone else but proclaimed it his........
18:30 Morgana Flavius: I agree with Mara regarding killing or be killed by your own family in some cases. And that's valid for Western and Eastern countries...
18:30 aspasia Tullius: George made a big point of the physical and behavioral resemblance between the child and Caesar, but perhaps we really don't know.
18:31 Torrey Philemon: Symbolically that's valid for many of us. Symbolically "kill off" some members of our  family whose influence is detrimental to our survival. We can more easily separate ourselves geographically than they could back then.
18:31 aspasia Tullius: Cleopatra was just "ahead of her time" in thinking that Rome was ready for a royal dynasty. Ironically, it did practically become dynastic later.
18:32 Mara Durotriges enters...
18:32 Morgana Flavius: (sorry, lost my internet connection for a moment)
18:32 aspasia Tullius: That is so abt, Torrey, I just heard a talk on sibling rivalry. Birds really do kill off their weaker sibs.
18:32 aspasia Tullius: (abt = apt, sorry)
18:32 Torrey Philemon: Do you remember how in George's book Caesar recognizes Cesarion officially? He does in the Liz Taylor film, but I don't think he does historically. And I don't remember how George portrays this.
18:33 aspasia Tullius: I think he did "pick him up" when she brought him to a party in Rome and put him at Caesar's feet...
18:33 aspasia Tullius: That was an old Roman tradition, apparently Cleo knew of it, and engineered the situation to put him on the spot.
18:34 Morgana Flavius: If Caesar had one child, then he was not barren... and as for his other lovers, most of them were married women who probably took care not to concieve. His late wife Calpurnia was hardly with him, as he was away most of the time of their marriage. And it seems that historical data do not deny that Caesarion was really like Caesar in appearance.
18:34 aspasia Tullius: They did have reasonably effective means of birth control/ abortion available - not 100%, but reasonably effective.
18:35 Mara Durotriges enters...
18:36 aspasia Tullius: Actually, fertility in wealthy Roman families became quite low after this period, low enough that Octavian began to offer punishments/incentives to increase the birth rate.
18:36 Morgana Flavius: Yes, I have the recognition of Caesarion fresh in my memory. It was Cleo's idea to bring Caesarion to the party, put him at Caesar's feet, saying that the future of Egypt was at his feet and then watched what he would do. She knew that "picking up" a child would mean paternity recognition for Romans. And Caesar did lift Caesarion in his arms and showed "Egypt's future" to his Roman fellows. Very clever.
18:36 aspasia Tullius: But I suspect the bottom line was that women did not want 12-15 pregnancies, and they just did not do it.
18:37 Morgana Flavius: (I'm talking about George's book not historical data about Caesarion's recognition)
18:38 Morgana Flavius: I agree with you, Aspasia, on Roman women's fertility rate.
18:38 aspasia Tullius: Once they had 2-3 children, they felt they had done their duty.
18:38 Torrey Philemon: Right, Morgana. The historical info I read said that Caesar didn't recognize Cesarion, but this could be referring to a more official verbal recognition.
18:39 Atalanta Philemon enters...
18:40 Torrey Philemon: Welcome, Atalanta. Better late than never!
18:40 aspasia Tullius: Unfortunately whenever Cleo got Caesar to "recognize" something, whether their marriage, or their son, he did so in a way that he could later deny, because it was not written down.
18:40 Morgana Flavius: However, someone said back in the chat that Antony might have faked Caesar's will. How so? In George's book, Caesar did not recognize Caesarion as his child in his will, but asked that Octavian was adopted as his son in detriment of Marc Antony, who would be the expectd heir Caesar would have chosen.
18:40 aspasia Tullius: Hello, Atalanta (like your name/ remember the myth)
18:40 Atalanta Philemon: Sorry I'm so late. My daughter has been sick today.
18:41 aspasia Tullius: Usually wills were kept safe by the Vestal Virgins. However, I don't think it is clear how Mark Anthony came by the version of the will that he read aloud to the public; and it could have been a forgery, I think.
18:41 Morgana Flavius: Welcome Atalanta! Nice to see you!
18:42 aspasia Tullius: Sorry to hear that Atalanta, I hope she is better soon.
18:42 Mara Durotriges: Hello Atalanta!
18:42 Torrey Philemon: I never understood that part about Octavian adopted as his son. Wasn't there something about Antony hiding or destroying the actual will because it favored Octavian?
18:43 aspasia Tullius: I don't know, I am not clear about the details, Torrey.
18:43 Morgana Flavius: Aspasia, I do agree with you about Caesar's way regarding any recognition of his liason with Cleopatra. But if Antony would forge a will, he would forge it in a way that he Antony, and not Octavian, would be Caesar's heir. Especially because this is what was expected.
18:44 aspasia Tullius: Was it expected? I don't know the history.. Octavian was his nephew, and I think Caesar liked Anthony but probably knew he had poor judgment.
18:44 aspasia Tullius: Anyway, it seemed to me there was some doubt about the validity of the will, but I don't remember details.
18:44 Morgana Flavius: I have never heard anything about Antony forging Caesar's will. And forge it in what way? Making Octavian the heir? Because that's what the will said (and this is historical).
18:45 Atalanta Philemon: Whose idea was the triumvirate? Octavius and Antony and Lepidus I mean.
18:45 Torrey Philemon: I'm not sure what I read about the forgery of the will, Morgana. I will have to research that.
18:46 Morgana Flavius: Octavian was Caesar's great nephew and Antony was blood related to Caesar's family (just don't remember in what degree). It was expected that Antony would succeed because Octavian was not experienced in publc officers at that time, and Antony had been Consul together with Caesar more than once.
18:47 Torrey Philemon: So why did the will favor Octavian?
18:47 Morgana Flavius: Maybe only Caesar knew that Octavian was a better choice than Antony, regarding state affairs. Antony was a good general and was immensely popular in Rome, while Octavian was a young and often sick man... although very intelligent.
18:47 aspasia Tullius: Could Octavian have forged a will that Antony found, and believed to be genuine?
18:48 Torrey Philemon: I think that the triumvirate formed by mutual agreement of those who were appalled by the murder of Caesar, and sought both to rule and avenge Caesar's death. But I don't really know my Roman history very well.
18:48 Morgana Flavius: But the people was for Antony, not Octavian.
18:48 aspasia Tullius: It does seem that with Caesar, politics always came before the personal; whereas for Cleo and Antony, the personal came before the political.
18:49 Morgana Flavius: I think the triumvirate Octavian, Antony and Lepidus was just a composition of forces: Octavian had the official blessing of Caesar, Antony had the people's blessing and Lepidus had the money, I guess. Not sure about the money though. *s*
18:49 aspasia Tullius: Antony was always popular, but I he seemed to have fatal weaknesse that undid any advantage of popularity.
18:51 aspasia Tullius: Does it seem strange to anyone else that after loving Caesar, Cleopatra later fell in love in Antony? In so many ways, to me, Antony seems less impressive.
18:52 Morgana Flavius: You think so, Aspasia? That Cleo and Antony put personal before politics? I am not so sure. Antony needed Cleo to back him up in his ambition to rule the world and Cleo needed him. The way they lived in Alexandria did not reflect personal choices, but the way Eastern ruling concepts were viewed.
18:52 Mara Durotriges enters...
18:53 aspasia Tullius: Maybe you are right, Morgana - perhaps it was not that they put a lower priority on politics - but that they made poorer decisions, or were just unlucky, in political matters.
18:53 Morgana Flavius: I agree with you, Aspasia. Antony does seem less impressive than Caesar. And he probably was.
18:53 Atalanta Philemon: This site says that in his will Caesar indicated he adopted Octavian and made him heir.
18:54 Morgana Flavius: Well, I think that Egypt forces were simply not enough to defeat Roman forces, no matter how clever or unclever Cleo and Antony were.
18:55 aspasia Tullius: Probably right, Morgana.  Do you suppose that there was anything they could have done that would have turned out differently?
18:55 Torrey Philemon: I think the political and personal were joined for Antony but Antony let the personal start to take precedence.
18:55 Morgana Flavius: Yes, Atalanta, and in that respect George's book was accurate.
18:55 aspasia Tullius: Yes, Torrey, I think Antony had a choice whether to resume a political career in Rome or to cast his lot with Cleo.
18:56 Torrey Philemon: From what I read, Antony was very strong and had an incredible physique. He also might have appealed more to Cleopatra's pleasure-loving side, and surrendered more to her power.....which indeed could be appealing!
18:56 aspasia Tullius: Suppose so, Torrey!
18:56 Torrey Philemon: If you watch the 1974 A&C movie, you will see how compelling Antony could be! But Liz Taylor's Antony is not.
18:57 aspasia Tullius: (right, a rum soaked Richard Burton, if I recall )
18:57 Morgana Flavius: I am not able to think of anything, Aspasia. I guess that if Cleo and Antony were personal in their decisions regarding political affairs, they were personal only in a way that they were not able to assess in a reasonable way the forces in the game. They only underestimated Roman military power and superestimated Egyptian one.
18:58 Torrey Philemon: Actually Antony does seem to me to be a bit of a fraternity boy/jock .......whereas Caesar is student president <-:
18:58 aspasia Tullius: They also pinned their hopes on naval power when they really did not have a good knowledge of tactics at sea, or a good admiral.
18:58 aspasia Tullius: And the weather was not in their favor.
18:58 Morgana Flavius: Yes, Aspasia, Burton sucked as Antony. Yuck!
18:59 Atalanta Philemon: That's a great analogy Torrey. I think of Antony is a frat boy too.
19:00 Torrey Philemon: Octavian was very singleminded in his political ambitions but Antony had many distractions that often took center stage for him.
19:01 Morgana Flavius: Well, Torrey, I think that if Octavian was the one that would go to Egypt instead of Antony, Cleopatra would not mind to be his lover in order to get what she wanted. I haven't read George's version of Cleo and Antony affair, but from all I know, Cleo did not choose Antony, she picked what she was given. And of course, she probably was very pleased, lucky Cleo! *s*
19:02 aspasia Tullius: Octavian would have been a lot harder to manipulate, I suspect!
19:02 Morgana Flavius: And Torrey, what Antony did in Egypt is what Octavian made people write... so we never know how distracted he really was...
19:03 Torrey Philemon: From what we know of Octavian, I can't imagine Cleopatra would have thrived on an affair with him.
19:03 Morgana Flavius: Aspasia, maybe not. Don't forget Livia... Octavian seem to have been a man who would listen and accept his woman's ideas.
19:03 Lollia Junius enters...
19:04 Morgana Flavius: I can imagine Octavian and Cleopatra, instead of Antony and Cleopatra with no problem.
19:05 Mara Durotriges: that would have had an interesting outcome Morgana
19:05 aspasia Tullius: I don't know. Robert Graves described Livia as having a lot of influence over Octavian. Perhaps he was someone who could be influenced by a strong woman, but he does not appear to have had the passionate/romantic temperament. He was quite handsome, if the Prima Porta Augustus statue is true to life.
19:05 Morgana Flavius: It seems that Octavian never stayed away from Rome long enough to be tempted... so we'll never know.
19:05 Torrey Philemon: That would have to be a very different Cleopatra, would it not?
19:06 Atalanta Philemon: I think of Octavian as very priggish and prudish. Like he doesn't know how to relax and enjoy himself. The actor who played him in the 1974 tv movie did that well.
19:07 Morgana Flavius: Livia was a strong woman, not only in Graves' book, but that's what history says too. And it was well known that many Senators looked for her advice and asked her favors that later Octavian would grant.
19:07 Morgana Flavius: And she was strong enough to make Octavian chose her son by another man (Tiberius) as his heir, in detriment of other male relatives that Octavian had. Stronger than Cleo, that Livia.
19:08 Atalanta Philemon: Also there's some information here on Caesar's will and what happened after Caesars death
19:08 aspasia Tullius: Probably true, Morgana.  Stronger, and probably quite different in personality and tactics.
19:08 Mara Durotriges enters...
19:09 aspasia Tullius: welcome back, Lollia
19:10 Torrey Philemon: Great link, Atalanta.  "In his will, Caesar had left three quarters of his estate to the eighteen year old Gaius Octavius, son of his niece Atia.....Cicero was quick to utilize the possibilities and began a series of orations against Antony known as the "Philippics". Because Antony treated Octavian like a child, relations between the two grew increasingly tense.....Suddenly, the Caesarian party found itself divided. "
19:10 Morgana Flavius: Yes, Atalanta. The actor portraying Octavian in the 1974 movie was pruddish, but strong. The way I think Octavian must have been.
19:11 Torrey Philemon: Yes, welcome back Lollia
19:12 Morgana Flavius: Yes... I guess Antony was terribly disappointed by Caesar's will...
19:13 Atalanta Philemon: Do you think Antony was very ambitious?
19:14 Torrey Philemon: I get the impression of Cleopatra being more ambitious for Antony than he was for himself......but that's all ahead in our reading. Officially that is.
19:14 Morgana Flavius: I think he was. He wanted to rule as a sole ruler, not in a Triumvirate where one of the members was the heir of a deified leader...
19:16 aspasia Tullius: He seemed to me to be ambitious, but so vague about what he wanted that he never clearly identified his goals or worked out a way to get there.
19:16 Torrey Philemon: It seemed more to me that Octavian was more invested in being the sole ruler......One way or other, Lepidus got knocked out early by Octavian.
19:16 aspasia Tullius: And he seemed to enjoy being popular with his men, more than actually having political power.
19:17 Morgana Flavius: With Cleopatra, Antony would have better chances to be deified in life. Actually, what they did ( according to Augustan propaganda) was to re-enact Dyonisian rites where Antony was the god and Cleopatra was Isis. Augustus used that against Antony in Rome, where most people were not aware of the real meaning of usch rites in an Eastern culture.
19:17 Atalanta Philemon: He was one of the guys.
19:18 Torrey Philemon: I find that Dionysian enactment fascinating, Morgana. It will be interesting to talk about at our next chat, as we get into Antony.
19:18 aspasia Tullius: But I get the feeling that for Cleo, rites like that were a means to a political end; whereas for Antony, the audience was enough...
19:18 Torrey Philemon: By the way, do you all want to do another chat in about three weeks? On up to the 6th scroll, page 651? So we have three chats, each on about 300or so pages?
19:18 Morgana Flavius: Oh, and definitely Octavian wanted the same: to be the sole ruler. Each one tried their own way: Antony in the East and Octavian in the West. The Western way won, by force, of course.
19:19 aspasia Tullius: (it's hard to keep us reined in to just the "assigned" material, Torrey!)
19:19 Atalanta Philemon: That sonds good to me.
19:19 aspasia Tullius: Another chat in 3 weeks sounds interesting to me.
19:19 Torrey Philemon: Ah well, it's so hard for me to not play teacher after so many years of teaching <-:
19:19 Mara Durotriges: Sounds good to me too - by then I will have caught up with you all
19:20 aspasia Tullius: (me too, I easily get into lecture mode, but in history, I'm definitely an amateur)
19:20 Torrey Philemon: It would be great if those of you who haven't seen the 1974 t v movie could do so! Of course then it's hard to remember the book because you envision the film.
19:20 aspasia Tullius: I will try to get a copy of it, it sounds great.
19:21 Torrey Philemon: I'm not that knowledgeable about Roman history myself, so I appreciate the knowledge that some of you have about that time.
19:21 Morgana Flavius: Yes, I'd like to have another chat, but 3 weeks is not enough for me Torrey. From this week to the beginning of May I won't have time at all to read the book. I'll have more time as of the second week of May on.
19:22 Mara Durotriges: It's time for me to go.  I've enjoyed this and hope to see you again soon.
19:23 Torrey Philemon: Four weeks? What weekend is that? About May 13? We're not talking about all the book, but about 250-300 more pages. Or do we need to wait 5 weeks?
19:23 Torrey Philemon: So glad you came and joined us Mara. I hope you'll continue to post on the message board.
19:23 aspasia Tullius: I have really enjoyed this too... I could meet again almost any time, if you just post a time on the same board.
19:24 Atalanta Philemon: I'd rather not wait more than four weeks. When I read a novel, I don't like to wait too long to finish it.
19:24 Morgana Flavius: May 13 sounds good for me.
19:24 aspasia Tullius: Same time on May 13th?
19:25 Morgana Flavius: I do appreciate your posts Mara! And was glad to have you with us!
19:25 Torrey Philemon: Good! We can choose an exact meeting time later. But the weekend of May 13 it is for up to the end of the 6th scroll, page 651 in the paperback book.
19:26 aspasia Tullius: Thanks, Torrey - you have been a wonderful hostess!
19:26 Torrey Philemon: Is this a good time for most people?
19:26 Morgana Flavius: And you too, Aspasia!
19:26 aspasia Tullius: I've enjoyed meeting all of you, and hope to chat again in future
19:26 aspasia Tullius: 5 is ok, 7 would be ok also - time is not crucial for me.
19:26 Torrey Philemon: So glad to have you here, Aspasia. And Atalanta and Mara ,and as always Morgana.
19:27 aspasia Tullius: Good by and good evening to all!
19:27 aspasia Tullius exits...
19:27 Atalanta Philemon: Thanks Torrey and everyone else. I will read the transcript of what I missed.
19:28 Morgana Flavius: Bye Aspasia!
19:28 Morgana Flavius: Time is fine for me too, Torrey.
19:28 Torrey Philemon: Goodbye everyone.
19:29 Morgana Flavius: Glad to meet you too, Atalanta! And I do appreciate your links!
19:29 Atalanta Philemon: Goodbye and goodnight to all.
19:29 Atalanta Philemon exits...
19:30 Morgana Flavius: It has been great, Torrey, as usual. :-)
19:30 Torrey Philemon: I'm so glad you were able to get the book and start reading, Morgana. I'll look forward to more of your comments on Antony. The Dionysian/ Hercules mythical connection will be interesting to explore.
19:31 Morgana Flavius: and I am leaving too.
19:31 Torrey Philemon: Have a great weekend! I have some Brazilian music to go listen to....... <-:
19:32 Torrey Philemon exits...
19:32 Morgana Flavius: yes, it is interesting. I've read about it in that French essay. I am planning to post more on it as we move on with the book, in our message board.
19:32 Morgana Flavius: Ok, bye!

Second chat transcript HERE
Discussion will continue on Women's Board in Rome
Check out Torrey's Cleopatra Links
Go to Roman History Chats Index

Since April 3, 1997,  you are visitor Pergatory_II_Counter