Antony and Cleopatra: A Novel (Masters of Rome)
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A sweeping epic of ancient Rome from the #1 bestselling author of The Thorn Birds
In this breathtaking follow-up to The October Horse, Colleen McCullough turns her attention to the legendary romance of Antony and Cleopatra, and in this timeless tale of love, politics, and power, proves once again that she is the best historical novelist of our time.
Caesar is dead, and Rome is, again, divided. Lepidus has retreated to Africa, while Antony rules the opulent East, and Octavian claims the West, the heart of Rome, as his domain. Though this tense truce holds civil war at bay, Rome seems ripe for an emperor -- a true Julian heir to lay claim to Caesar's legacy. With the bearing of a hero, and the riches of the East at his disposal, Antony seems poised to take the prize. Like a true warrior-king, he is a seasoned general whose lust for power burns alongside a passion for women, feasts, and Chian wine. His rival, Octavian, seems a less convincing candidate: the slight, golden-haired boy is as controlled as Antony is indulgent and as cool-headed and clear-eyed as Antony is impulsive. Indeed, the two are well matched only in ambition.
And though politics and war are decidedly the provinces of men in ancient Rome, women are adept at using their wits and charms to gain influence outside their traditional sphere. Cleopatra, the ruthless, golden-eyed queen, welcomes Antony to her court and her bed but keeps her heart well guarded. A ruler first and a woman second, Cleopatra has but one desire: to place her child on his father, Julius Caesar's, vacant throne. Octavian, too, has a strong woman by his side: his exquisite wife, raven-haired Livia Drusilla, who learns to wield quiet power to help her husband in his quest for ascendancy. As the plot races toward its inevitable conclusion -- with battles on land and sea -- conspiracy and murder, love and politics become irrevocably entwined.
McCullough's knowledge of Roman history is detailed and extensive. Her masterful and meticulously researched narrative is filled with a cast of historical characters whose motives, passions, flaws, and insecurities are vividly imagined and expertly drawn. The grandeur of ancient Rome comes to life as a timeless human drama plays out against the dramatic backdrop of the Republic's final days.
repaired the ravages wine had wreaked upon his body and, more important, his mind. He really was extraordinary! Any other man of his age would have emerged showing physical scars of dissipation, but not Mark Antony. As fit as ever, certainly fit enough to conduct his ridiculous campaign. But this time he would not be marching for Phraaspa, of that she could be sure. Without the absent Canidius to back her up it had been hard going, but she had kept grinding away at Antony’s ambitions over the
and thumped her bolster. “None of this is to my advantage, but I keep thinking of the mess Caesar left behind in Alexandria, and of how I had to get all its citizens cooperating instead of warring class against class. I failed because I didn’t see that social wars are disastrous. Caesar left me the advice, but I wasn’t clever enough to use it. But if it were to happen again, I would know how to deal with it. And what I see happening in Italia is a variation upon my own struggle. Forget your
of Egypt can dig the Roman out of a Roman. I almost succeeded. But only almost. I couldn’t do it to Caesar, and I can’t do it to Antonius. So why am I here? Why, over these last nundinae, have I found myself growing softer with him, stopped flogging him? Been kind to him, I who am not kind? Then it dawned upon her with the terror of some sudden natural catastrophe—an avalanche, a wall of water, an earthquake: I love him! Cradling him protectively, she kissed his face, his hands, his wrists, and,
strong sun, and erected a series of struts over part of the area, then planted grape vines to train over them. With the years they had festooned the frame into a dappled haven pendant at this season with dangling bunches of pale green beads. * * * Four men sat in big chairs around a low table, with a fifth chair vacant to complete the circle. Two jugs and a number of beakers sat on the table, of plain Apulian pottery—no golden goblets or Alexandrian glass flagons for Octavian! The water jug
short-tempered, and critical of things he usually ignored. Had she known him as well as Agrippa did, she would have seen all of it as evidence of self-detestation, and been right. As it was, she attempted to remind him that he needed his strength, therefore had to eat. “You need your strength, my dear, so you have to eat,” she said at the specially delicious dinner she had chosen. “You’re off to Narbo tomorrow, and you won’t be served any of your favorite dishes. Please, Caesar, eat!” “Tace!”