The timeline of the dissolution of the Second Triumvirate and the writing of The Aeneid is important to note in discussion of the historical influence of Cleopatra and Mark Antony. Formed in 43BCE, the political alliance between Octavian and Mark Antony and was key in the last of the civil wars for dominance of Rome (Rich, 1992). The alliance was officially disbanded with Antony’s defeat at the battle of Actium in 30BCE, an event which also doubled as the beginning of Pax Romana. Sometimes called Pax Augustea, this was an era of peace and expansion (Winnat, 2002). Classical Roman poet Publius Vergilius Maro, colloquially known as Virgil, lived from 70BCE to 10BCE, was active in the Roman political sphere throughout the civil wars of the Second Triumvirate (Briggs, 2013). Cleopatra, ruling from 79BCE to 30BCE, shared an overlapping timeline with Virgil, and was a significant threat to the posterity of Rome, implicati...
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... Battle of Actium. So it is reasonable for a reader – Roman or modern – to read the characterisation of Dido as merely another allusion to a significant event on the Roman timeline, not a character with noteworthy basis on Cleopatra.
Virgil’s The Aeneid, written as a tribute to Augustus Caesar, contains allusions and metaphors directly relating to the historical Queen Cleopatra and her lover, Mark Antony. The Aeneid cannot truly operate as a watertight allegory for Antony and Cleopatra as many parallels can also be drawn between Aeneas and Augustus, or perhaps to the Punic Wars between Carthage and Rome. Despite this, the political atmosphere at the time, the similarities between the fictional and historical queens, and The Aeneid’s significance as political propaganda indicate that, to at least a moderate extent, Cleopatra and Antony did influence Virgil’s poetry.
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