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Ancient Heroines

The Legendary Women of World History

by Laurel A. Rockefeller

Ancient Heroines is a work of narrative history based on events in the lives of Queen Boudicca of the Iceni, Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt, and scientist Hypatia of Alexandria and is constructed using primary and secondary historical sources, commentary, and research.


Consulted sources appear at the end of this book. Interpretation of source material is at the author’s discretion and utilized within the scope of the author’s imagination, including names, events, and historical details.

Share the love of this book and the Legendary Women of World History Series by kindly reviewing this book on your blog, website, and on major retailer websites. Your review not only offers this author your feedback for improvement of this book series, but helps other people find this book so they can enjoy it as well. Only a few sentences and a few minutes of your time is all it takes to share the love with those who want to enjoy it too.

©2018 by Laurel A. Rockefeller

All Rights Reserved.







Synesius of Cyrene meandered casually through the library at the Serapeum, its massive domed roof a reminder that this was a Greek, not Egyptian, architectural masterpiece. Every few yards he stopped and looked at the shelf labels near him. Finally, after about twenty minutes he saw the small figure of his mistress standing next to a distant shelf as she organized the scrolls upon it. Smiling, Synesius approached her with a reverent bow, “Salve, August Mistress!”

Hypatia turned to him and motioned for him to rise, “What brings you to the library so early in the morning, Synesius? I thought you had reading to complete before our class this afternoon.”

“I finished that reading and would like to be assigned additional texts for my enlightenment that I may understand the mind of God better,” proclaimed Synesius brightly and with a touch of pride in his voice.

Amused, Hypatia tried to stifle the laugh welling up deep inside her, “A student who begs for more work! You are an unusual man, Synesius.”

“I am excited and honoured to be learning from you, Mistress. You may think nothing of your fame, but your name shines as brightly as the stars themselves. Everyone has heard of you—in Cyrene, in Jerusalem, Constantinople, Rome, Alexandria, even in the cities to the north where it is said the people paint themselves blue before going into battle! Everyone knows about the great Hypatia of Alexandria; everyone wants to learn from you.”

“Not the followers of this Patriarch Theophilus or the Trinitarian Christians that follow him.”

“Forgive them, Mistress. They are taking their cues from Emperor Theodosius instead of thinking for themselves.

“’See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.  For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.’ Paul’s letter to the Christians in Colossae. Second chapter. Verses eight through ten,” quoted Hypatia. “Men like Theophilus teach that to mean what we learn here at the Serapeum is dangerous, that the books in this great library system are dangerous and must be destroyed. Even the histories of this land, the many texts about its oldest and most cherished beliefs.

“Long before this Abraham of the Hebrews was allegedly born the nisu—the kings of this land called in the Hebrew tongue ‘pharaohs’— spent an unfathomable amount of money paying the most skilled craftsmen to build their tombs. Travel along the Nile and you will see them, monuments of a time long gone. Look around and you will find books that still remember what the first peoples of this land believed. Gods like falcon-headed Horus and crocodile-headed Sobek who created the Nile. Goddesses like the cow-headed Hathor and the cat-headed Bast. But of all the goddesses, none are more famous than Isis, the divine mother of kings. In ancient Egyptian her name is rendered Eset, “the seat,” a reference to the throne. From Isis flows the power and the right to rule. No one may rule Egypt without her consent. Not even Rome,” laughed Hypatia wistfully.

“Mistress, I am confused. Rome—or at least Constantinople—rules this land. The days of an independent Egypt are but a memory,” countered Synesius respectfully.

Hypatia glided to a nearby shelf and picked up two scrolls, “Read these and understand.”

Synesius looked at the titles, “These are about the Ptolemaic Dynasty?”

“Specifically, about the last of Ptolemy Soter’s descendants to rule an independent Egypt. Cleopatra the Seventh, daughter of the goddess Isis, mother to Ptolemy the Fifteenth Philopator Philometor Caesar –Caesarion he is usually called. She was the last true pharaoh of Egypt and the only Greek to rule this land who spoke Egyptian,” mused Hypatia. “If her life does not inspire you to see the mind of God more clearly, I do not know whose will!”

Chapter One

Antirhodos Island glittered in orange and gold with the rosy-fingered dawn as waves from the Mediterranean Sea lapped noisily into Cape Lochias. Across the cape from the island with its magnificent palace, the mighty Pharos Lighthouse kept watch over the many commercial, pleasure, and military vessels dancing, heaving, and sighing their way across to the royal harbour, to the Poseidium, and to the main port of Alexandria. Labourers emerged from their beds in their chitons and protective sandals as they welcomed what they hoped would be a profitable new day. The smell of baking bread filled the salty sea air. An ordinary day for Alexandria—or so everyone hoped.

Across the Nile Delta in the marshy port of Pelusium workers also headed to the docks to receive cargo from merchant vessels and to load empty ships with exotic goods from Arabia and from far flung routes stretching all the way along the Silk Road to Chang-An itself. Trumpets blared, forcing workers to stop what they were doing.

“Make way! Make way! Make way for his supreme majesty! King Ptolemy Theos Philopator, son of Zeus, king of kings and lord of lords!” cried the herald first in Greek and then in Egyptian as the pharaoh sitting on a cedar chair carried by eight strong slaves disembarked from the golden barge along with dozens of retainers and courtiers.

As Ptolemy processed through the port to his royal mansion, his tutor, Theodotus paced quietly near the king’s throne, a report clenched in his fist. Theodotus bowed deeply as the slaves brought Ptolemy’s chair to a rest and helped him to his feet, “How was your journey, Sire?”

“I’m tired,” complained Ptolemy, “tired and bored. I want some sport! Are there any criminals we can put in the arena today? I need to see blood!”

“You may get more bloodshed than you desire if these reports are accurate,” previewed Theodotus.

“What do you mean?”

“Your sister, Cleopatra Thea Philopator has returned from Syria.”

“If she is so stupid as to return, then we shall strike her down!” cried Ptolemy resolutely.

“If she were alone, that might be possible, Sire. I regret to inform you that she is not. Our enemies in Syria have come to her defence. They hate you almost as much as the Jews do and will do anything to see you dethroned with your body floating in the Nile for the crocodiles to dine upon. Even now her Syrian army marches on this city. In less than a fortnight we will be surrounded by land, river, and sea if we do not retreat to Alexandria,” observed Theodotus.

“But I just arrived and I want blood! Her blood!” demanded Ptolemy.

“That may not be possible, Sire.”

“Where is our ally—Pompey? Surely, he can help me get rid of Cleopatra! Surely he will secure my throne for me!” insisted Ptolemy.

“Defeated by Caesar at Pharsalus in Thessaly. He was last seen retreating aboard his flagship, headed for Egypt if the reports I read are accurate.”

“Excellent! We will consult with him when we see him!”

Four days passed. As Cleopatra’s armies closed the net around Pelusium, a Roman ship quietly pulled into the harbour. War-weary and covered in cuts and bruises earned in battle, General Pompey the Great furtively disembarked from his ship, his short grey-streaked hair covered by his palla as he slipped his way towards Ptolemy’s palace.

General Achillas stopped him, “Who are you and what are you doing in this part of the palace?”

Pompey whirled around to face him, “Pompey, general of Rome and friend to the pharaoh.”

“You reach us on the eve of a great siege. Are you here with an army to help us—or is it Egypt’s help you seek?”

“You would not ask that question if you did not know the answer already, General Achillas. Yes, I know who you are. I would conference with Pharaoh Ptolemy this night.”

“His majesty is indisposed,” declared Achillas.

“What indisposes him?”

“A fit of irrational thinking. Cleopatra tightens the noose yet he would indulge in frivolities and delusions of victory. We have no victory, not while Cleopatra lives.”

“Cleopatra is shrewd and well-educated—but she is only a woman!” scoffed Pompey.

“May I remind you that Ptolemy and Cleopatra’s sister Bernice was also a woman—yet she wrestled power from their father, Ptolemy Auletes before she was in turn deposed and executed?”

“You Egyptians are fond of your civil wars and murders,” observed Pompey.

“A habit Rome picked up from Egypt, no doubt,” theorized Achillas. “And if not, perhaps Romans and Egyptians are not so different in their instincts as many in your Senate might suggest.”

“I am not here to murder your young Pharaoh,” asserted Pompey.

“But will you murder Cleopatra should the opportunity strike?”

“That is a conversation I must have with Ptolemy. Now, if you please, let me pass!”

Achillas met his eyes as his hidden hands gestured towards soldiers waiting in nearby shadows, “I think not!”

Suddenly twelve soldiers leapt from among the shadows, surrounding and quickly disarming Pompey. Pompey glared at Achillas, “What is this?”

“My lord pharaoh’s wishes enacted. We sail for Alexandria while we still can,” declared Achillas as his soldiers dragged Pompey away.

Dawn broke over Pelusium. Rising early from her bed on her royal barge, Cleopatra accepted a report from the hands of one of her most trusted guards before turning and allowing her maids to dress her. Putting down the wax tablet to make her maid’s job easier, Cleopatra pondered the latest report. If Pompey were now in Pelusium then Ptolemy would respond with one of two possible actions: either stay in Pelusium in hopes of turning her siege against her or flee back to Alexandria. That of course depended on Pompey’s value to him as an ally. On that matter she knew Pompey was himself on the run from Julius Caesar. Logically Caesar would be in pursuit. But where would Caesar go? To Alexandria, of course! reasoned Cleopatra. Alexandria was the capital. Alexandria was the seat of power for both of them—even if the Ptolemaic hold on the city and on Egypt was tenuous at best. Thanking her maids for their assistance she pulled out fresh wax tablets and wrote instructions out for the captain of her barge in Egyptian on one and for her generals in Greek on the other before handing them off to be delivered. An hour later she felt the ship lurch forward as its sails unfurled and the ship glided back into the sea. Destination: Alexandria!

The Poseidium gleamed golden in the morning light, its massive statue of Poseidon watching over the harbour and the cape beyond. The gilded points of the god’s trident glowed imposingly, a warning to all who would invade Alexandria. Silently Cleopatra’s royal barge glided up to the landing steps. Covering her head and forehead with her light wool epiblema, Cleopatra found herself barely able to see as she disembarked from her ship and quietly slipped through a back entrance through secret passages to the hidden mansion within.

“Are you certain you are comfortable, my lady?” asked one of Cleopatra’s ladies-in-waiting as she brought a plate of bread and fish and a pitcher of wine, the torches on the chamber walls offering the room’s only light.

“Better a dark room where my presence remains secret than the all the comforts of the palace,” smirked Cleopatra. “I am comfortable enough. Let Ptolemy live in luxury while he can at the palace. When I am done with him he will be grateful for the gift, that fool!”

“You have a plan?”


“Shall I send for your generals?”

“And betray my location to Ptolemy? No! Not yet. They have their instructions. They know where I am. When this Gaius Julius Caesar arrives at the palace they will come to me! It is all arranged.”

“I am glad to hear of it,” answered the lady-in-waiting as she bowed to leave.


The lady-in-waiting stopped.

“Have you tasted this?”

“No, my lady I have not.”

“Taste it!”

“My lady I am sure it is fine!”

“Taste it!” insisted Cleopatra.

Fearfully the servant tore a small piece of the bread and put it in her mouth before taking a small bite of the fish and two sips of the wine.

“Now we wait,” glared Cleopatra confidently as she sat down upon a couch. Nervously the servant paced for ten minutes before feeling a burning in her chest and collapsing in death. “Ptolemy is already returned to Alexandria. It will not be long now!”

The next morning Cleopatra slipped out of her hidden apartment and knelt at the main altar to Poseidon. Four sacred wells surrounded the fifteen-meter-tall statue that seemed tiny compared to the megalithic version overlooking the harbour. A priestess draw water from each of the wells into a single, massive chalice. Saying prayers over the chalice, she handed it to Cleopatra reverently, “May Poseidon answer your prayer, milady!”

“Thank you,” answered Cleopatra in Greek. Dismissed, the priestess left her to pray. Cleopatra sipped the holy water, “Show me what to do, mighty lord of the seas! Do I come to Julius Caesar or does he come to me? Grant me your vision, your insight through this water that I may understand what escapes me. For though I am Isis reborn, I cannot see everything. —but you can, mighty lord!”

Go to the Temple of Isis, replied a voice in Cleopatra’s head as she drank the holy water.

“Isis! Yes! Yes of course! The temple lies on the other side of Antirhodos Island from the palace! If there is a place to watch and wait, to hear news of both Julius Caesar and Ptolemy’s movements, it would be there!”

Night fell. Under the cover of darkness Cleopatra slipped alone across the narrow channel separating the temple of Poseidon from the temple of Isis. Across smooth-paved secret paths she navigated her way to the priestess’s living quarters, found an empty bed, and fell fast asleep.

The next morning Cleopatra woke to a loud clamour as Roman soldiers marched through the temple halls. The high priestess of Isis stopped them, “Why are you here? What business do you have with the Goddess Isis?”

“Pompey’s body—where is the rest of it?” demanded one soldier.

“I have no idea what you are talking about,” asserted the high priestess.

“This morning your Pharaoh Ptolemy the thirteenth presented my lord Julius Caesar with the head of Pompey which he hoped would please the general and secure his favour. We are here to offer Pompey a proper funeral and cremation.”

“Do you Romans seek to resurrect Pompey from the dead? Is that why you come seeking Her help?”

“Resurrection? No! We are glad to see Pompey gone—but not this way! Not murdered by your Ptolemy as a gift to Julius Caesar! We seek dignity for what was once one of the greatest of our people.”

“Pompey is not here—but his body is likely to either be on board my lord pharaoh’s barge—or still in Pelusium if that is where he lost his head.”

The soldiers bowed respectfully, “Thank you, Mistress! We will search there!”

As the soldiers disappeared from sight and sound, Cleopatra slipped into the sanctuary, “You serve me well.”

“What else can I do for Isis reborn?” smiled the high priestess.

“Is it safe for me to seek Julius Caesar?”

“Not openly, Your Majesty. Though the distance is short, the palace remains well guarded by both soldiers and spies.”

“Well then, it is a good thing I have magic on my side!” laughed Cleopatra quietly.

“Any news?” asked Gaius Julius Caesar as he and one of his aides marched back into the lavish apartment the general chose to be his headquarters in the palace.

“Pompey’s body was found back in Pelusium,” reported the aide.

“Excellent. Is his funeral done then? All of him?”

“As you have commanded so it is accomplished,” affirmed the aide.

“And our efforts to locate Cleopatra?” asked the general.

“The last time she was seen was two days ago while at prayer at the Poseidium—but she has not been seen since.”

“She’s laying a low profile,” concluded Julius Caesar. “Very wise. Clearly reports of her intelligence are not overrated.”

“Well she is widely considered one of the most intelligent and highly educated of all the women in the world,” noted the aide. “What she lacks in perfection in her flesh she more than makes up for in her wit, charm, and wisdom. I would not wish to be against her—in love or war.”

“Beauty is not always about the roundness or size of a woman’s breast nor in the complexion of the skin. Beauty has many forms.”

“As no doubt your sexual conquests have proven,” hinted the aide playfully.

“Meaning?” asked Julius Caesar sternly.

“I mean no disrespect, Sir!”

Julius Caesar waved for him to leave, “No bother! My reputation is well-earned. No one I fancy refuses my bed. No one!”

“Is that so?” asked Cleopatra as she emerged from a shadow on the edge of the room. “You are Gaius Julius Caesar, I presume?”

Julius Caesar approached her, his gait like a jaguar assessing powerful prey as he extinguished the candle on the desk in front of him, “Cleopatra the Seventh Thea Philopator, I presume?”

“You may simply call me Isis if that is simpler, General.”

“How about Cleopatra? Oh, I know it is Egyptian custom to be distinguished by many bynames. Given how intermarried you Ptolemies are, it is perhaps the only way to know who is whom. Your brother is the thirteenth Ptolemy—in what? Two hundred fifty years?”

“You are well informed,” noted Cleopatra as she circled the general gracefully, her own movements as elegant as those of the goddess Bast.

“How did you get in here?”


“Magic? Or were you in that carpet that mysteriously appeared in this room four hours ago?”

“A goddess never reveals the secrets behind the miracles she creates.”

“In that she is like every other woman,” retorted Julius Caesar as he extinguished another torch from the wall.

“I heard your aide imply you know something about the subject of women.”

Julius Caesar extinguished another torch, “Women and men! If I fancy someone for my bed, I am never refused!”


Julius Caesar met her eyes, “Not once, not ever!”

“I may prove your boast wrong.”

“No! You won’t!” flirted the general as he extinguished the last torch in the room and put his arm around her waist.

Chapter Two

Two days later General Gaius Julius Caesar dressed himself in the toga and full regalia of the Dictator of Rome, his white rod sceptre clinched firmly in his fist even as his mind wandered in memory. Who was this Cleopatra to affect him as no man or woman had before? In all his years he had never felt quite like this. Always it was what he wanted, he demanded of a lover that counted. He came, he saw, he conquered. That was as it should be—always. Anything less was beneath him. People were tools for his ambition, his strategies, his pleasure. Tools to be used. Tools to be discarded when they no longer suited his purposes. Even his daughter’s death in childbirth barely touched his heart, as much as he grieved her and missed her. So why could he not stop thinking about every detail of Cleopatra—voice, body, and soul?

A knock sounded at the door. His aide entered. Acknowledging him, Julius Caesar glided into the throne room with the pomp and circumstance he now considered normal. Drums beat and trumpets blared. Soldiers escorted Cleopatra and Ptolemy into his presence and forced them both to their knees.

Caesar rose from his throne, “You, Ptolemy the Thirteenth Theos Philopator and you, Cleopatra the Seventh Thea Philopator are here to face judgement concerning the matter of who is to rule over Egypt. This is done in accord with the law and with the terms set down in your father’s will. In this ruling I am asked to consider not only what is best for Egypt, but what is best for Rome and its citizens.

“Cleopatra: you speak Aramaic, Hebrew, Ethiopic, Greek, Latin, and Egyptian. You are well-versed in oratory, mathematics, astronomy, medicine, art, music, literature, and philosophy. You have added to the great library and guaranteed its survival by dispersing its collections across daughter libraries in the Serapeum and across Alexandria so that neither fire nor natural disaster can completely destroy it. Even here in the palace there are copies of some of the greater works, including ‘On the Sizes and Distances of the Sun and Moon’ by Aristarchus, the complete works of both Plato and Aristotle, and copies of works in both hieratic and demotic Egyptian whose titles I cannot begin to decipher.”

Cleopatra smirked at him, “Perhaps if you spent more time reading and less time in bed with your lovers you might be able to read at least the books in demotic—it’s really not that hard of a language when you think of it.”

“Says the only descendent of Ptolemy the First Soter to read either form of Egyptian!” noted Caesar in Greek as he tried to conceal a grin. Regaining his composure, he met Cleopatra’s eyes, “Cleopatra, as the senior ruler of Egypt, you have worked to cultivate better relations with the people of Alexandria and with Egyptians across your realm. Though you are not loved by the people you are not hated either. This I cannot say of you, Ptolemy Theos Philopator. The people hate you. You are young and clearly under the control of your advisors. You are more a puppet-king than a true monarch. You possess neither education nor wisdom. Your temperament is proven to be unstable and at times particularly petty. You lack the skills needed to rule and therefore make a poor ally to Rome, despite your attempts to please me by killing my former mentor and recent rival Pompey.

“It is therefore my decision to award full and exclusive control of Egypt to Pharaoh Cleopatra the Seventh Thea Philopator. The alliance between Egypt and Rome cultivated between your father Pharaoh Ptolemy the Twelfth Auletes is now transferred to Cleopatra and only Cleopatra. If young Ptolemy the Thirteenth wishes to contest this ruling he may do so in battle. And may the gods have mercy on his soul.”

“You! You seduced him!” accused Ptolemy viciously. “You went in secret to Julius Caesar’s bed and used your charms and your magic to make him decide in your favour! Sex! That is what this is about! You offered him your body in exchange for the throne! You are a whore! A whore I tell you!”

Cleopatra met her brother’s eyes coolly, “Gaius Julius Caesar, Dictator of Rome has made his judgement, Ptolemy. If you value your life I strongly suggest you depart Alexandria and never return to Egypt.”

“And if I refuse? If I contest this ruling?” challenged Ptolemy.

“Then my mercenaries are at his disposal, along with his own forces from Rome,” declared Cleopatra. Shifting her gaze, she met Caesar’s eyes, “Does my brother have your leave to depart?”

“Yes,” commanded Caesar. “Be gone, Ptolemy.”

Still furious, Ptolemy XIII stamped his feet as he left, never to return again.

Cleopatra returned her focus on Caesar, “Thank you, Gaius.”

Caesar motioned for his aide to leave, “I did not do this for you, Cleopatra. I acted in the interests of Rome and only Rome. We need Egypt’s wealth, wealth only you can deliver to us.”

Cleopatra approached him and put her chin on his shoulder, “Was my brother right or wrong about you? Did the last two nights together influence your decision?”

Gaius caressed her sweetly, “I do not know! I would like to think this is only about business. But you do have an affect on me such as I have never felt before! I find myself dreaming of you when you are not with me, of wanting you as I have never wanted anyone else! I feel you in my mind, in my heart, in my very soul. It is as if I have waited all the years of my life to be with you! I do not claim to understand it! Why should I? In my ambition I have become a soldier. Believe it or not that was not by design. But when the dictator of Rome puts a price on your head, when you are forced to sleep in a different house every few days because you are politically inconvenient to those in power … it changes you I suppose!”

“What happened?”

“My father Gaius Julius Caesar after whom I was named died when I was sixteen. Needing money and being political ambitious I pursued a position as high priest of Jupiter and succeeded in that endeavour. I married my first wife Cornelia and accepted quite a favourable dowry from her father so I could keep her in comfort. Then Lucius Cornelius Sulla declared himself Dictator of Rome and everything changed. I was named an enemy of the state because his family and mine have long rivalled against each other. Before I knew it, Sulla had stripped me of my position and confiscated everything we had—including Cornelia’s dowry. We were penniless. He then put a price on my head, forcing me to spend the next several weeks moving from house to house, imposing on friends of family. When the stand-off ended I found myself still alive, but without any prospects for supporting my family. I did the only thing I could think of: I joined the army,” remembered Gaius.

“And that’s how your military career started?”

“Yes! Funny, I haven’t thought about that in a very long time. You do have an effect on me, Cleopatra. I do not understand it. I do not think I could begin to. But it’s there. It’s real and undeniable. I do not think myself capable of leaving your side, regardless the cost to me or even, dare I say to Rome! If I did not know better I would think I was falling in love with you.”

“Love is a luxury for those who work for us. It has always been far too expensive for great leaders. We marry our positions and our titles. But I … I would be lying if I said that even my heart feels something very different when I am with you, Gaius.”

Gaius kissed her sweetly, “Do I dare dream that love can be mine? Do I dare delude myself into thinking I can afford it?”

“Do I?” asked Cleopatra as she lost herself in his eyes.

“I don’t know,” whimpered Gaius.

“Take me to bed, here! Now! Let me forget about love! Drown me in the intoxication of pleasure, Gaius! I beg you!”

“As you command!” affirmed Gaius as he unfastened the broaches holding her peplos together at the shoulder. As the fabric fell Cleopatra opened herself to her lover’s touch, sweeping aside, for the moment, all thoughts of love.

Kaliméra,” smiled Cleopatra as she woke happily in Gaius’ bed, the night’s passion whirling about in her memory. Opening her eyes, she noticed Gaius already dressed, his aide helping him put on his armour. “Gaius? What’s going on?”

Gaius crossed the room and kissed her sweetly, “I’m sorry, Cleopatra. I woke you.”

“You should have woken me earlier. What is happening?”

“I can no longer defer to my commanders. I must join our forces and lead them myself. Your brother is choosing to fight. What was once simply a skirmish in Pelusium and a siege of the city is now an all-out civil war. As much as I want to stay in the palace, I am afraid that would be unwise. Plus, the only way I can guarantee your safety is to lead them myself.”

“Let me come with you to the front lines!”

“Cleopatra, darling! You know I cannot allow that.”

“I am leader of men too! I have led men into battle. I can help!” pleaded Cleopatra.

“My forces are mostly Roman and what I have are loyal to me and me alone. A personal loyalty. They serve me. They won’t serve you!” insisted Gaius.

“How many troops do you have?”

“Not enough, but a small scout ship departs for Rome on the next tide with my requests for reinforcements, along with my reports to the senate of course. Without those additional men, I cannot defeat your brother, even with my tactical genius.”

“You’ve been outnumbered before! Many times! Only four years ago you defeated the full might of Gaul under the command of their leader Vercingetorix at the Battle of Alesia. Why should this be any different?”

“It won’t be—once reinforcements arrive. In this you must trust my judgement! Please, darling! Trust me! I know what I am doing.”

Cleopatra rose and pulled a tunic dress over herself, “I do trust you.” Sweetly she embraced him from behind, “But I do not want you to go.”

Gaius turned around and kissed her, “I do not want to go either, not like this! Not with you on the verge of tears. I wish you would have stayed asleep so I could have slipped away quietly in the warm glow of your skin in the first light of rosy-fingered dawn, the memory of the night fresh and glorious in my mind.”

“What do we do, Gaius about these feelings these months have grown inside us?”

“Only what we can do! We are prisoners to love, to each other. And though I would rather stay here and direct my forces from the comforts that come with being with you, I find I cannot neglect my duties—not any longer. I am Dictator of Rome. I must remain the man I was. Love must not unman me and make me its slave.”

“I would not unman you with my love, Gaius! I would not wish you be anything other than who you are!”

Gaius kissed her, “I know! Now, darling I must leave you for a while. But I promise I will return to you—alive. I will find victory. You will be safe—both you and your throne. I swear it!”

Three weeks later, the promised re-enforcements arrived. At the Battle of the Nile General Gaius Julius Caesar engaged Ptolemy XIII’s forces and defeated them. Fearing capture and humiliation, Ptolemy fled the battlefield. Moments later his drowned body was seen floating briefly before disappearing from the surface, never to be seen again.

Chapter Three

Cleopatra’s throne room in the palace glittered with pomp, circumstance, and with the wealth of both upper and lower Egypt on full display. Onyx floor tiles gleamed like obsidian against richly carved precious wood panels on the walls. More than any other place designed for the living, this is where the wealth and power of Egypt manifested itself in the hearts and minds of the Mediterranean world.

Musicians from the known world played triumphantly on their instruments. Lyres and auloi, drums of every size and shape, trumpets, horns, harps, and pipes all filled the air with exotic music. Dancers danced acrobatically. It was a grand display designed to awe all who witnessed it.

At the end of this grand procession came the heavily pregnant Cleopatra with Gaius Julius Caesar walking three paces behind her triumphantly as if her coronation were his own. As the rituals continued in Greek, Latin, and Egyptian, Caesar could not help but to beam with pride—not only for his success in providing Cleopatra with her throne in her own right (albeit with her younger brother Ptolemy XIV officially her husband and co-ruler) but for the growing child now showing across her belly. Solemnly and at the proper moment in the rituals Caesar placed the double crown of upper and lower Egypt upon Cleopatra’s head as she received the crook and fail from a high priestess.

That night Gaius and Cleopatra celebrated her coronation in bed, the ever-experienced general navigating around her pregnancy with the skill of a notorious serial adulterer. It would be the last time before her great labour pains began.

Three months later, Cleopatra screamed in pain as the baby planted in her by Caesar decided it was time to be born. Heaving and sweating profusely, Cleopatra felt as if she were given birth to an entire planet and not one human boy. Finally, after several hours of intense pain, her efforts were rewarded. As the midwife put the baby into her arms, Cleopatra looked into his deep brown eyes. Here was a boy who looked just like his father. Here was a Caesar.

One-month later Cleopatra glided herself into the healing waters of the Nile, her body still not feeling completely normal and healthy after giving birth. Things felt odd inside her when she moved or when she took a bowel movement. Pregnancy and childbirth had changed her physically in ways no one at court was about to explain to her. Quietly she said a prayer, “Horus? Can you hear me? Please, mighty one! Heal my body! Let me be whole again. Let the child I have given my Gaius grow strong in love and in your wisdom and the wisdom of Isis! Let me grow strong too. I feel so weak. My body betrays me. Why does it betray me when I have conquered the dangerous business of childbirth? I should feel omnipotent now—but I don’t. Please, mighty one, by the power of the Nile I ask you: make me whole again. For my country, for my Gaius, and most of all, so I may serve you!”

“I had no idea you felt that way about yourself,” observed Gaius as he slowly approached her from the shore. “You are always so confident, always so much in command of everything and everyone around you—including me.”

Startled, Cleopatra turned towards him, “How long have you been there? I did not invite you. I fully expected to be alone.”

“You will be alone—soon enough.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean I must leave Alexandria and sail back to Rome.”

“You are displeased with your son.”

“No! Not at all. I couldn’t be happier or prouder—though I think your brother is jealous.”

“Ptolemy the Fourteenth is barely capable of fathering children. Not like I would want to anyway. You know I never let any of my brothers take me to bed. I have but one lover and one love of my life,” confessed Cleopatra as Gaius swept her into his arms and kissed her tenderly.

“Me too!” smiled Gaius. “For all my conquests and all my marriages, I have truly loved only one woman in my life: YOU!”

“Then why must you go? Why not be king of Egypt? Surely that is as good as anything Rome can offer you!”

“Don’t tempt me!”

“Why shouldn’t I? You love me. I love you! Stay here! Stay and rule with me. Be here and raise our son with me! Don’t you want to?”

“I’ve never wanted anything so dearly in my life, Cleopatra!”

“Then stay!”

“I will stay if you ask me to—but not forever. I have a wife and I have responsibilities I cannot ignore nor postpone indefinitely.”

“Your responsibilities I can respect. Your proper Roman wife, I cannot! I hold in my hands a power that no Roman woman can ever match! Surely a man of ambition can see that! Surely that gives me a value that she cannot offer you.”

“Calpurnia is a good woman. She doesn’t say much and she’s certainly not very political. But her father was consul and her brother appears to be ambitious as well. It is a good alliance that makes me look good in the senate.”

“A consul of Rome is no equal to the pharaoh of Egypt.”

“This I will grant you. And believe me, your power and authority here make you an attractive ally,” affirmed Caesar.


“But the reality is this: the Ptolemaic dynasty is weak. It holds onto power by a thread. At any time, you can be overthrown by the citizens of Alexandria alone. And if the rest of Egypt should join in a revolt? You would be finished in days!”

“They wouldn’t dare! Not with you as my ally.”

“Cleopatra, listen to me: no alliance stands forever. You admire me for my ambition and my skills at getting exactly what I want. But there is a dark and dangerous side to allying your kingdom with Rome. For what do you think happens when Rome wants more than an alliance and wants to rule Egypt directly, as a province controlled by the senate instead of an ally ruled by a friend as it is now?”

“Rome wouldn’t dare!” cried Cleopatra in outrage.

“Tell that to the Aedui, our first ally among the Gauls. When their king unwisely chose to join Vercingetorix in his campaign against us my legions and I crushed them and enslaved their nobles. They are no different than the rest of those Gallic barbarians. The alliance did not protect them from their fate. If anything, it hastened their demise.”

“Rome will not do that to Egypt! You will ensure it!” demanded Cleopatra.

“Advocate for Egypt under your rule, yes. Ensure it? Even that is beyond my power. You want to keep Egypt as a friend of Rome instead of a province of Rome? Then send me on my way back to Rome.”

“And to Calpurnia’s bed?”


“That she may not have!” asserted Cleopatra.

“That she must have if you expect to remain pharaoh.”

“You would betray me by sleeping with that … commoner?”

“She’s not a commoner.”

“She is to me!”

Gaius took her hands gently, “Cleopatra, please be reasonable!”

“Reason says you stay in Egypt. Reason says you raise your son—not go to bed with your wife!”

“Reason says I make a good show of Roman values and Roman ideals, that I curry favour within the senate and make Egypt look more useful as an ally than a province.”

“Have I no say in this then, Gaius?”

“I am sorry, my love, but no! I will stay with you a little longer if you will tolerate me, but not forever. I will return to Rome and I will do what I can to protect Egypt—by whatever methods are necessary.”

Cleopatra sat at her desk writing in fluidic demotic Egyptian. A knock sounded at the door, “Come!”

Cleopatra’s court physician entered her presence with a bow, “You asked to see me?”

“Yes, Lateef! Thank you for coming at so short notice.”

“It sounded urgent.”

“Urgent, no. But I am glad you responded so swiftly. That is of help to me.”

“How may I be of service?” asked Lateef.

“As you know I’ve been researching everything I can find regarding Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Syrian medicine.”

“If the Romans had been less negligent when they set fire to your late brother’s ships there would be no doubt more books for you to consult,” sniped Lateef brazenly.

“No doubt,” agreed Cleopatra. “Fortunately, we Egyptians are smarter than the average Roman and had the good sense not to place all our books in one building. The loss of one part of our great library system is grievous indeed, but hardly devastating.”

“It pleases me greatly to hear you refer to yourself as ‘Egyptian’ instead of Greek, Your Majesty.”

“I am pharaoh. Whether the people fully realize it not I am Isis reborn! I belong to the people and to the land as much as anyone buried in the Valley of the Kings.”

“I am glad to hear it.”

“Thank you! Now, wise Lateef, the reason for my summons: having consulted numerous books from around the world I would like you to assist me on my book. I think I have almost everything down now, but I have not worked on patients before and I would like a fresh set of eyes on it, eyes that know more about healing the sick than I do. Will you help me?”

“Egypt is enriched by your scholarship and your passion for learning,” grinned Lateef. “Of course, I will help you any way that I might.”

“Thank you! Now please, come here and look at this paragraph right here!”

Two months later the flower of the Mediterranean’s intellectual elite assembled at the Serapeum, home of one of the Great Library’s most extensive collections. Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Syrians, and Alexandrian Jews all meandered through the corridors connecting the Serapeum’s many classrooms as slaves and servants served them food, beer, and wine imported from across the known world. In the amphitheatre actors performed new plays along with traditional favourites from Greece. Musicians performed. Dancers danced. It was a grand celebration of arts, sciences, and learning.

At the centre of the celebrations stood Cleopatra, her face radiant as the best and brightest gathered around her to listen to her wisdom, her insights, and her poignant questions to each and every one of her guests. Debates flared. Tempers rose at times, but ever at the centre of it all stood Cleopatra’s roaring intellectual prowess. Though she was not the most physically beautiful woman in the room, none could deny she was the wisest.

As the day’s festivities flowed from morning to afternoon to evening, Lateef approached Cleopatra, “Your festival is a mighty success!”

“It will be a success if those attending regards ‘Cosmetics’ a work worthy of inclusion in the Library along with the greatest of books on medicine.”

“Surely you do not need their opinion to make it available to others to read!”

“No, of course not. But I would have their endorsement and their praise. Alexandria is the intellectual centre of the world. I would not have its reputation tarnished by writing books only courtiers could praise.”

“No one doubts your intelligence, your wit, or your skills as a writer, Your Majesty.”

“No one doubts it because I am pharaoh. If I were a lesser woman though would they feel the same?”

Lateef took her hands gently, “Yes, Your Majesty, I think they would. It is not your status as our pharaoh that makes your research and writing worthy. You are worthy in your own right for learning like yours shines brighter than even the great lighthouse. Stand confident, Your Majesty. You elevate the ranks of scholars, compelling us all to do our best work. We are better because you are in the world.”

Chapter Four

The seven hills of Rome glittered like a majestic jewel made of marble, the columns of its stately public buildings standing as a testament to the growing empire’s engineering might. From inside the quiet villa that was her home with her philandering husband Calpurnia watched and waited for her husband to return from the senate. That is, if he had any intent on returning to their villa at all. Rumours swept across Rome: Cleopatra was coming to Rome – and bringing her son, Gaius’ bastard by that Egyptian whore, to be formally recognized as such under Roman law. An heir—but not of their marriage bed or of any respectable bed.

Finally, just as the sun began to set, Gaius arrived and kissed her sweetly. Calpurnia met his eyes coldly, “Is she arrived?”

Gaius returned her icy stare, “What business is it of yours?”

“I am your wife.”

“Yes, I have noticed that. Have you forgotten?”

“Respectable Roman society will not let me forget. They say you are in love with her. Is it true?”

“Does it matter to you? Really? What could possibly be materially different between Cleopatra and some other girl—or boy—that I might choose to sleep with on any given night?”

“She is Egyptian—not Roman!”

“You think my conquests are limited to just Romans? I have taken barbarians of every colour, rank, and profession to my bed –or nearly every. When I want someone for my bed, she or he comes to my bed—you included!”

“Not tonight I will not.”

“I wasn’t asking you to.”

“Good. Because while that whore from Egypt is here I will not consent to you using me to look respectable.”

“If I demand you at my side in public, you will attend me.”

“Yes, I will obey. But there is a difference between walking beside you on the streets of Rome and receiving you in my bed chamber. So please, don’t bother asking me again for that privilege. There are far more interesting options for you than me!” asserted Calpurnia.

Caesar motioned to a slave, “Good! I’m glad that’s settled. Now, if you don’t mind, I am hungry and want my dinner.”

Two days later Cleopatra’s royal barge glided into port. Quietly and without fanfare, the pharaoh took her son’s hand and stepped onto Roman soil, entering the villa prepared for her by Caesar on the edge of town. Attended by very few, Cleopatra relaxed. Here, at long last, she could be a lover, a mother, a woman without the confines of a court to flatter and obey her and without the pressures of protocol. She was simply Cleopatra.

One week passed. Smiling and a bit sun-burned, Cleopatra glowed with joy as she returned to her villa. A knock sounded at the door which opened unceremoniously. There stood Gaius Julius Caesar, his laurel wreath awarded during the day’s Triumph glistening from the misty rain that fell ever so slightly. Cleopatra kissed him, positioning his hands on her body provocatively. Quietly Gaius carried her to bed.

Two sensuous years in Rome passed. Though his duties sometimes kept him away from Cleopatra and the delights of her bed, sometimes for weeks at a time, Gaius Julius Caesar always returned to it, making Cleopatra and Caesarion priority over all other personal relationships. In public, Calpurnia pretended not to mind. This was Caesar being the man he always was—long before their politically-advantageous marriage. As the months passed, Caesar grew in power and prestige until, at long last, a group of senators realized just how far Caesar’s ambition took him. This man must be stopped—whatever the cost—if the Republic were to survive.

“My lord Caesar! What a surprise!” asked Ectorius as his last client left his humble shop. “What can I do for you?”

“Salve, Ectorius!” greeted Caesar. “I come for your advice on a personal matter.”

Ectorius ushered him towards a comfortable seat, “If my talents may be of service, I offer them freely. What’s on your mind?”

“My wife dreams a dream, a prophesy perhaps. It comes to her often of late. I wish to know if it is only a dream or if it is a message from the gods. Can you see for me?” asked Caesar as he sat down.

“Give me your hands,” commanded Ectorius. Grasping Caesar’s fingers tightly, Ectorius lowered himself into a well-practiced trance. “Your wife dreams of your death. You wish to know if she is right and you are to be murdered.”

“Yes,” confirmed Caesar.

“I see a plot,” confirmed Ectorius. “Two men stand against you, men of power and influence. Do not come when they call for you. Do not come to the senate. Stay home. Stay away from people until you depart on the eighteenth as planned.”

“Must I stay away from Cleopatra as well?” asked Caesar.

“There is great danger all around you. If you leave your home there can be no guarantee you will return home alive,” repeated Ectorius. “Until the eighteenth go nowhere. The plotters will and must strike soon, before you can leave.”

“Thank you, my friend. I will abide your warning. I will not leave my home until I am ready to board my ship,” affirmed Caesar.

But promises are hard to keep. The morning of the fifteenth of March arrived. Despite all intentions to stay home, Caesar found himself lured into the streets of Rome by Decimas whom he trusted. Decimas took Caesar into the theatre built by his former rival Pompey that was the temporary meeting place for the senate after a recent fire destroyed the senate building. There Gaius Julius Caesar met his fate as over twenty senators stabbed him to death. Hours later Calpurnia, Cleopatra, and Caesar’s friend and ally Marc Antony attended his state funeral as Caesar’s body was cremated among throngs of adoring Romans wishing to honour their dear leader. As Calpurnia carried out her late husband’s will and dissolved his estate, Cleopatra and Ptolemy Caesar set sail for Egypt, never to return to Rome again.

Chapter Five

“News from Rome!” heralded the Roman soldier, his reddish hair and blue eyes piercing through his armour awkwardly as the heavy wood doors to Cleopatra’s throne room reluctantly obeyed their masters to admit him.

“What news from Rome?” asked Cleopatra, the annoyance in her voice making it clear she did not wish to be interrupted from her engaging conversations with the three men around her.

“Gaius Julius Caesar named an heir in his last will and testament,” declared the soldier.

“Who?” asked Cleopatra, her interest suddenly kindled.

“Gaius Octavius, grandson to his sister Julia. In his will Caesar adopted him and made him heir to both his political and financial fortune. Octavius has accepted the bequest despite Marc Antony’s refusal to release the money needed to host the games demanded in Caesar’s will as part of his new status as the heir. There is conflict now between Antony and the newly proclaimed Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus. As a result, the senate has elevated Octavius to their ranks in defiance of Antony,” reported the soldier.

“Octavian is now a senator?” scoffed Cleopatra. “He is eighteen and still a boy!”

Acknowledging her with a respectful nod, the soldier continued his report, “Perhaps, Madame, but that ‘boy’ as you call him is now in control of the senate’s military forces. With Octavian in control, the senate’s legions drove Marc Antony out of Italy and into Gaul.”

“You are from Gaul, are you not?”

“Yes, Madame.”

“What tribe?”

“Arverni, Madame.”

“Any relation to Vercingetorix?”

“You are very well informed to know he was Arverni!”

“I make a point to know as much as I can about everything. The learned men you saw around me as you entered this chamber are scholars and leaders within the Jewish community here in Alexandria. It may seem foreign to you as a Gaul, but here in this city Greeks, Jews, and Egyptians all live in harmony together. Conflicts happen sometimes, but they are very rare I am pleased to say.”

“I have not yet seen your city, Madame.”

“Well then you must before you return to your duties,” suggested Cleopatra with a smile as she motioned his dismissal.

“What do you expect to happen?” asked the kohen as he returned to Cleopatra’s side.

“I do not know. That is not revealed to me yet. But my instincts tell me that Marc Antony will not stay in Gaul for long. From what I could tell of his character and reputation, I suspect whatever disagreements stand between him and Octavian will not soon be resolved.”

“Do you think more blood will be spilled?”

“That is a given, my friend. The better question therefore is how soon will this war between them reach Alexandria and what will it cost Egypt?”

“You sent for me, Madame?” asked the minister as he entered Cleopatra’s presence with a bow.

“What is the latest on Octavian and his civil war against Marc Antony?” asked Cleopatra as she sat at her desk, a series of reports scattered across it aimlessly.

“After two and a half years the war continues without a certain victor militarily,” answered the minister.

“And politically?”

“Octavian is Caesar’s heir. The people accept him as his heir and follow him as they would have had Caesar lived.”

“As they would have had Caesar lived? The senate despised my Caesar and distrusted him. Perhaps with good cause. He was, after all, quite shrewdly ruthless.”

“Perhaps in death his legacy improves in the eyes of the senate and the people?” suggested the minister. “Like a fine Italian wine.”

“The people have essentially chosen Octavian then?”

“If I were a betting man, I would not put my money on Marc Antony’s chances.”

“What is Octavian’s view on Egypt?”

“Egypt? What are we but another territory to annex? Even Babylon answers to Rome.”

“Rome? Or Marc Antony?”

“Does it make a difference?”

“Yes. Yes, it does.”

“What do we know of Marc Antony’s character?”

“He is your typical Roman general—vain, hot-headed, and with dreams of glory. He has an eye for all things of the orient. In this he is most different from Octavian.”

“You suggest Antony respects the cultures of what he and Octavian view as the ‘eastern Roman empire?’”

“Octavian is a creature of Rome; Antony is inquisitive about the east. He likes our food, our history, our temples and monuments. He even respects the way we pray.”

“And our women of course?”

“It would be fair that he prefers the bed of a Babylonian whore to that of a proper Roman wife.”

“Antony is married, is he not? To … what is her name? Fulvia, daughter to Marcus Fulvius Bambalio of Tusculum?”

“Yes. Octavian’s wife Claudia is her daughter from her first marriage to Publius Clodius Pulcher.”

“Marc Antony is step-father to Octavian’s wife?”


Cleopatra sighed, “No wonder they are at war!”

“Why did Antony marry Fulvia?”


“Just like my Gaius! He’ll do anything for money if he needs it to gain power.”

“You read the situation well, Madame.”

“Wars are expensive. Antony must be desperate for money after two and a half years locked in a power struggle against Octavian,” reasoned Cleopatra. “I am the richest woman in the world. If he has a brain at all, he will come begging to me.”

“When he does, will you give him what he asks?”

Cleopatra met the minister’s eyes, “Only if he pays my price.”

“What do you want?”

“A free Egypt and power enough over this region to guarantee we stay free forever! Octavian would have us as just another province. Antony—Antony might actually give us what we want,” mused Cleopatra as the wheels in her sharp mind turned.

“My lord general,” bowed the centurion as he approached Marc Antony from his headquarters in Tarsus.

Marc Antony met his eyes, “What is it? Any news regarding our request for Cleopatra of Egypt to meet with us here?”

“Her royal barge glides up into the Cydnus River, approaching Tarsus.”

“How soon should we expect her?”

“She should reach us by mid-afternoon, my lord.”

“Excellent. Has she sent a messenger?”

“No, my lord, but she has received your ambassador.”


“He reports that she will not leave her barge. Tarsus is far too dangerous for a woman of her rank and reputation. She has no desire to be kidnapped and sold into slavery.”

“Given the city’s reputation, I suppose that is reasonable,” reasoned Antony. “Will she come if we send an escort, a bodyguard of perhaps fifty veterans?”

“No, my lord, she will not. As instructed, your ambassador offered her as much—even suggesting one hundred men if that is what would satisfy her needs for security. She declined every offer, each time with logical and astoundingly practical counter-arguments.”

“Are you saying she out-negotiated Caecilius? There’s not a man in Pompeii who can do as much!”

“Pharaoh Cleopatra Thea Philopator is no ordinary woman.”

“No argument there,” smiled Marc Antony. “What then does she want? How can I meet with her if she refuses to even consider leaving her barge?”

“Perhaps a more personal approach is required, my lord. Come to her. You lose nothing by appearing in person to meet her barge when it docks. If she approves she will send someone to invite you aboard,” suggested the centurion.

“Excellent! A splendid idea! Assemble an honour guard. We will impress her from the banks of the Cydnus and earn that audience!”

That afternoon Marc Antony dressed in his finest uniform, the golden embroidery on his cloak shining brightly under the hot Turkish sun. Drummers and trumpet players heralded his arrival on the banks of the Cydnus as one hundred of his finest soldiers marched in perfect unison as they made their way along Tarsus’ well-worn paved streets. Caecilius met Antony with a humble bow, “My lord general!”

“Any change since your last report, Caecilius?” asked Antony.

“No, my lord! As you can see, she is not yet arrived though if I judge distance correctly her rowers will soon close the distance and she will be hear any moment now,” reported Caecilius.


“My lord, may I ask a question of you?”

“Of course.”

“Why did you choose me to represent you?” asked Caecilius, his eyes not daring to meet the general’s.

“Why shouldn’t I?

“I am not a citizen. I hold no special place of honour or wealth.”

“You may not hold the prestige that many in military service possess, but you are a good and honourable man, loyal and dedicated to the job at hand. I need such men,” replied Marc Antony as the sound of Cleopatra’s rowers at long last filled the air.

Ten minutes later, Cleopatra’s barge dropped its anchors as its crew threw heavy ropes to moor it along the wharf’s posts. The barge’s purple sails fluttered as a wide ramp lowered into place to connect the top deck with the dock. Marc Antony and his retinue advanced upon the dock as musicians played from both the wharf and on board the barge, creating a strange but still melodic cacophony.

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