The Original Power Couple: Antony & Cleopatra
2:36AM Feb 15, 2022
Hi, I'm Alisha Rai.
And I'm Sarah Wendell. Welcome to lovestruck daily where we deliver a love story every single day straight to your headphones. I'm in love with that same time with you. Today we are talking about a particular power couple or two people hungry for power and control who used each other to get ahead and ended up falling for each other. Or it could be a story about two incredibly intelligent people whose history was recorded to diminish one of them in their power and influence. A lot of options there. In terms of history, who are some of your favorite couples in history? Me, I love this answer. No, no, it's 10 out of 10. Okay,
I've got a I've got a reason for this answer. I do think of a couple by myself. But also it is really hard to idolize a relationship that you don't know anything about. It's so true. So I mean, you could say something like a year ago, maybe somebody might have said like, oh, Jason Momoa. And, you know, Lisa Bonet. And of course, they just got to four. So like, it's just hard to know what's going on in someone's relationship. And the
public front of a relationship is never, never the same as the private. So
if we're talking about like, pop culture or something, I don't know, because I just don't know, except animated people. So I would say Mr. And Mrs. Incredible are my relationship.
I love that answer in every possible way.
I mean, they have some hardship, like they go through rough times with each other. And they learn how to talk to each other, and they learn how to communicate with each other, and it makes them stronger. You know, I
think you've made a very solid choice.
Thank you. What about you? Um,
I don't know, because like you said, I don't really try. I try not to idolize real people, if I can avoid it.
It's just, there's so many like, I mean, we're talking today about different interpretations of our relationship. And these people are long gone. So like, how do you do it in today's world where these people's you know, their whole story hasn't even been written yet.
And as you know, history is written down by one side, and there's always motivation and what gets written down. Absolutely. Absolutely. So I'm going to tell you today about a particular power couple. And there's a lot there's a lot. There's a lot here. So today we are going to talk about Antony and Cleopatra.
Oh, so this is exciting for me, because the only thing I know about Antony and Cleopatra is snippets of the Elizabeth Taylor movie, so very exciting. Oh, this is
this story is so complicated. And even as I tell it, I know their stuff that's missing that no one can know.
Oh, of course. Yeah. Right.
So Anthony and Cleopatra. His love story is mostly about power. I'm sure it will shock you to know, but I know. Can you imagine? Both sexually and politically, Cleopatra set a whole empire on its head by claiming her own power on both fronts. And it was super not convenient for Anthony and Cleopatra to be into each other and yet they kind of were. Isn't that always the way it goes? I know many many books with that plotline. So Anthony first met Cleopatra when she was his boss's mistress, inconvenient and Antony is described as a big hothead big temper, very bombastic. After Cesar died, Anthony formed a politically motivated trio that included Caesars nephew. And this becomes important later with his with Anthony's relationship with Cleopatra down the line. So just put a pin in that 10 years on. Anthony and Cleopatra are both more established than when they first met. You know, back when, when Cleopatra was his mentor, his mistress. Totally different situation now, she was considered a divine ruler, arguably the richest and most powerful woman in the Mediterranean. And he is a rather successful general who had a rumored bad temper. And while he was checking in on one of his territories, he sends for her well, he's in Tarsus. Now here is what Cleopatra knows about Anthony. She knows that he is a powerful man who controls multiple territories. She knows that he is a dramatic Playboy, she knows that he loves spectacle, and drama, and that many people including Anthony are very interested in her wealth. So if you are being summoned in by this powerful person, knowing all of this about him, what do you do?
I mean, I feel like I never really went for dramatic no means
very tiresome. They're exhausting. I'm a bit of a dramatic
playboy. Dramatic, so I probably wouldn't have gone but I assume Cleopatra does differently.
So according to Cleopatra, a life by Stacy Schiff, Cleopatra sailed into the city in an explosion of color under purple billowing sails. She reclined in a gold spangled canopy. She dressed as Venus in a painting, while beautiful young boys painted like Cupid's stood at her sides and found her her Fairest maids were likewise dressed as sea nymphs and graces, some steering the rudder, some working the ropes and let this be a full sensory experience. Wondrous odors from countless incense offerings diffused themselves along the riverbanks. Wow.
That's an entrance,
right? I mean, you can make an entrance but not like that. Well, it worked too, because Greek historian Appian wrote the moment he saw her he lost his head like a young man. And Cleopatra is not content to just make a grand entrance. While she's there, she is there to flaunt her power and challenge Anthony's power. So she throws incredibly lavish parties, and then does it again and ups the ante and makes them even more lavish. And then Anthony starts doing the same thing to impress her. So they're basically trying to out party each other nice. And while it is clear, they're into each other. There's a whole lot of political motivations. Anthony needs things from Cleopatra. Cleopatra needs something from Anthony. And every motivation is backed by nine or 10 different issues that they're not talking about. It's not so simple as to very rich people hanging out. This is whole countries and massive territories at stake. Empires at stake, empires, yeah. So Anthony follows Cleopatra back to Alexandria, and they continue the opulence competition in public as you do. They are very playful, they are constantly sparring and then you know, he gets her pregnant, as you do, because you know, all that tension was going somewhere, right? He gets her pregnant, he leaves for Rome and marries another woman named Octavia who is the sister of his ally, Octavian,
in very clever with the naming here, I see. Very simple, simple when we get to names, I like that
three years later, they reunite. And how do you mark your reunion with the person who you had a very public opulent party competition with? Who got you pregnant? And then left and Marian, someone else? How do you mark your reunion? You design a currency and put both your faces on it,
though that's not what I would have done. But okay. I mean,
Anthony's kind of obsessed with her just a little, little bit. And it starts to mess with his abilities as a general According to historians, but he starts losing more and more of his territory. And after one brief victory, where it looked like things were going good, they throw the most opulent display yet to show off how powerful and wealthy they are. They have two golden thrones in the middle of the city. They assert their dominance, Anthony introduces her as the new ISIS and she decks herself out like a goddess and they hang out in public, huh Octavian does not like this and declares war on them. This is his brother in law. Right? Well, then Antony divorces Octavia. Now there's a war and you know, he's kind of declared himself on Team Cleopatra in public with the golden throne and currency. Like the declaration is quite literally minted. Cleopatra can kind of see what's happening. She's very savvy. And so she starts to build a new temple of ISIS, which is actually her own tomb and starts hiding the treasure of Egypt in there knowing that it will be buried when she inevitably dies. Even though they are very powerful. They do not have the military power that Octavian does. And she knows that Anthony not so much. She fakes her suicide, knowing that Anthony doesn't stand a chance. And she's right when he finds out. He says, Oh, I am not distressed to have lost you for I shall straightaway join you. And he stabs himself. Wow. Yep. After he dies. Cleopatra tries to negotiate with Octavian, but it doesn't work. Now, there's a lot of competing theories as to what Cleopatra did. She either snuck poison past him and killed herself or she had an ASP bite her chest. That's probably not true. Either. Whether the most famous interpretation, right? Yes, yeah, very dramatic. Yeah, very dramatic. But she knows that if she dies that will stop access to her treasures. and they were buried side by side. Now, I know a little bit about this, but I know someone who is listening who knows a lot more about this. Our producer Abbie knows a lot about Cleopatra, and Anthony, and I would like to ask her some questions if she doesn't mind.
Hello there, Avi. Thank you everybody.
This is Abby. She is one of our producers and she knows a tremendous amount about Anthony and Cleopatra. In fact, while we were developing this episode, she developed a whole cliffnotes and it is so mind blowing. I need her to tell you about it. Abby, welcome. Yeah,
I would love to talk about Cleopatra some more because Alicia I thought it was funny what you were talking about earlier about you being your favorite power couple because honestly, Cleopatra is her own house a couple like all by herself, like Yes, we love the story with her and Anthony, share hot. But oh my god, this woman she was like I fully believe she's one of the smartest people who has ever walked the earth. And she is known kind of in like popular culture as being this very like sexy. Do botched temptress who like has seduced all these different Roman leaders and made them do all this stuff. And she's like, Mom of these very opulent displays of wealth and everything. But most likely, that was just Roman propaganda to make her and Egypt look bad. The devil you say truly, because like she, yes, she seduced both Caesar and Antony that is true. But she was also extremely intelligent. She spoke over 12 languages, she was able to hold on to the Egyptian throne for over three decades, which is truly very, very impressive, because everyone else at that time was switching around, they couldn't, they couldn't hold on to the any throne or any power center for very long, and she was able to stay there kind of ruling through other people for part of it. But she was able to kind of keep Egypt heading in a good direction, which was solid. And most accountants at the time, don't really talk about her beauty very much she like might have looked pretty average. And instead they talk more about how smart she was and how and she was like this incredible speaker. And everyone like loved going to hear her speeches because she was just like, so talented, and so inspiring as a leader.
And it sounds like she was very forward thinking like she could see what was happening and how to manage all of these different power structures at play. Yeah, she
was this like chess master and all like her people and her lovers were kind of her pawns, that she was able to play to get what she wanted for her people. And one of the things I find, you know, both like ironic and sad about the story with her and Anthony is I really do think she actually fell for him. I don't think she wanted to. But I think she actually did much more so than with Cesar before him.
And she she genuinely believed that she was a living goddess, right, which I think is an attitude that is very admirable. And we should all adopt, I just
want you to know that I am currently wearing a shirt with an illustration by Karen Helen of a girl ghostbuster. And it says, If someone asks you if you are a goddess, you say yes. So there you go. I don't
see that as that like, making her be overly egotistical or anything because she was brilliant. And she needed to say something, get people to follow her and listen to her. And like so what if she believed she was a goddess like that helped her get what she needed to done so good on her.
I mean, how are you? How are you going to get people to believe in you if you don't believe in yourself? Right? Exactly. Yeah. Now,
I need to ask you, Abby, tell me about the drinking club. Oh, yes,
the drinking club. So this is I mean, as far as we know, this is real. It's corroborated by several different sources. So as far as we know, it's real. But apparently during their like, main summer together, Summer of Love, Anthony and Cleopatra formed a drinking club together, which they called the inimitable livers. And I mean, that's in translation, of course, but that was their little drinking club. And that's how they spent their summer and I think that's the cutest thing. Wait, is
it livers or lovers? livers is their livers
are so strong, they are amazing. And then
just another like fun fact, just to give us some context, this is absolutely wild, because we do think of like Cleopatra and ancient Egypt and everything as being a whole long time ago, which it was. But Ancient Egypt was such a massive civilization that lasted so many 1000s of years that in fact, Cleopatra lived closer to the moon landing than she did to the Great Pyramids being constructed. Wow.
Thank you for unmuting yourself and giving us this excellent glimpse of Cleopatra. Batra, we hope that you'll come back and tell us all the other things you're passionate about. Thanks for letting me chime in. As we end each episode with our love to go, my take on this is to own your power. You don't necessarily have to trample over other people's and other cultures can turn that back a bit. But own and center the power that you have in yourself and in your relationships. And also ambition is not a bad thing.
And it's okay to have a power couple of one, if you must.
Hell yeah. Yeah. If you know a story of a woman who has been maligned through history, I'm sure that there are maybe two or 3 million you can email us at lovestruck daily at frolic dot media. If you have a love story to share even about a power couple of one to 912 We would love to hear about it. You can send us your questions or ideas at that email address.
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