Antony and Cleopatra

Antony and Cleopatra are among the most famous lovers in history. Mark Antony (83–30 BC) was a dashing politician and general in Ancient Rome, while Cleopatra VII Philopator (69–30 BC) was a beautiful and ambitious Egyptian queen. Find out how their romantic relationship led to their demise, and use our collection of printable resources below to test what you have learnt.

You also have some exciting worksheets for each of these ancient star-crossed lovers, individually:

The Story of Antony and Cleopatra

Cleopatra was one of the world’s most powerful women. Born in 69 BC to the Egyptian pharaoh Ptolemy XII, her family had ruled Egypt for 300 years. When Cleopatra was 18 her father died. In keeping with Egyptian tradition, Cleopatra married her younger brother, Ptolemy XIII, so they could rule together – but they did not get along.

In 48 BC, Ptolemy forced Cleopatra to flee so he could rule by himself. Luckily, Julius Caesar was on hand to help Cleopatra with her quarrelsome brother. To get Caesar’s support, Ptolemy had Caesar's enemy, the Roman general Pompey, killed, and sent his head to Caesar. But at the sight of Pompey’s severed head, Julius was appalled and sided with Cleopatra instead. They became lovers and had a son together, named Caesarion. Cleopatra and Caesar eventually defeated Ptolemy at the Battle of the Nile in 47 BC. Ptolemy drowned in the river trying to escape, and Cleopatra took power once more - this time on her own.

A famous painting, The Meeting of Antony and Cleopatra, by Victorian artist Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1884
A famous painting, The Meeting of Antony and Cleopatra, by Victorian artist Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1884

Cleopatra never seemed to be without a man! When Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC, she turned her attentions to the dashing Roman general Mark Antony. Antony had supported Caesar in his war against Pompey, and was now trying to take power in Rome. He fought against Caesar’s heir, Octavian, but eventually they agreed to rule Rome together – Octavian controlled the west, while Antony ruled the east. To aid political unity, Antony was also encouraged to marry Octavian’s sister, Octavia, in 40 BC.

However, Antony had already begun an affair with Cleopatra. When they had met a year earlier to talk about political matters, Antony was struck by the queen’s beauty. Despite his marriage to Octavia, Antony and Cleopatra went on to have three children together.

In 36 BC, Antony divorced Octavia to marry Cleopatra, which infuriated Octavian. And when Antony made Cleopatra the ruler of Cyprus, Crete and Syria as well as Egypt, Roman politicians declared Antony a traitor.

As Cleopatra’s power grew, she wanted her son Caesarion to be recognised as Julius Caesar’s true heir. With tensions growing, Octavian declared war on Antony and Cleopatra, and in 31 BC defeated them at the Battle of Actium. The two lovers were forced to flee back to Egypt.

With Octavian’s troops pursuing them, Antony and Cleopatra decided to commit suicide. Antony heard that Cleopatra was dead so he killed himself by falling on his sword. Cleopatra, however, was still alive. Octavian took her prisoner and planned to take her back to Rome. To avoid humiliation, Cleopatra let a poisonous snake bite and kill her. She was just 39 when she died.

The throne fell to Caesarion, but he was soon captured and killed by Octavian, who became the first Emperor of Rome, taking the name Augustus. Cleopatra had ruled Egypt for 21 years, but her lands were now part of the Roman Empire and the pharaohs were no more. At Cleopatra’s wishes, she was buried with her lover Mark Antony. Although they had sacrificed their careers and ultimately their lives, they were now inseparable in both life and death.

Antony and Cleopatra Comprehension

Antony and Cleopatra Comprehension

Our comprehension worksheets are designed with older children in mind. Can they read the text, then answer some questions to demonstrate their understanding of what they've just read? This worksheet is all about the ill-fated Antony and Cleopatra.

A Contemporary of Antony and Cleopatra

Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar

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