Antony and Cleopatra
Simon & Schuster, Dec 2007, $26.95
Following the death of Julius Caesar in 41 BC, Rome is divided as to who rightfully should rule. Caesar’s ambitious cousin Mark Antony and the late ruler’s adopted son Octavian reach an agreement to divide the vast Empire. Whereas their only rival Lepidus flees to Africa, Antony takes charge of the East while Octavian rules the West. Neither of the two remaining partners from the triumvirate is pleased as both believe they should be the new Caesar.
Antony shows little understanding of financing an army when he over extends his force in a failed war to suppress the rebellious Parthians. Needing a fast replenishment of his treasury before his rival learns of his weakness, Antony travels to Egypt to demand wealthy Queen Cleopatra provide reparations or else. Cleopatra has an agenda of her own to replace Antony and ultimately Octavian with Caesarion, the son she had with Julius when he came courting. To succeed she must make Antony her sex slave, which she easily achieves. Meanwhile Marcus Agrippa and Octavian’s wife coax the co-ruler that the time is right for him to take over the entire Roman Empire. Cleopatra coaxes her pudding head lover to lead his forces against that of Octavian.
Although the history is well known, this is a fabulous Masters of Rome entry as the key players especially the title characters come alive. Readers will appreciate Cleopatra’s seduction that turns Antony into her willing sex salve doing her bidding and likewise Octavian’s strong wife Livia pushing him to become the Emperor. Fans will enjoy Colleen McCullough’s historical saga as two strong females propel their weaker minded mates to battle on an Ancient Mediterranean stage.