The story of Mark Antony and Cleopatra is among the most famous love stories of all time. Like Romeo and Juliet, their story is one of Shakespeare’s revered tragedies. However, unlike Romeo and Juliet, Antony and Cleopatra were real. There is overwhelming historical evidence that both existed and that they were lovers. What has been lost to history however, is the location of their tomb. It is said that the two were given a tomb together after their mutual defeat at the hands of Rome, but that tomb has never been uncovered.
Mark Antony was a Roman general, as well as a politician and friend of Julius Caesar. He was also one third of the Second Triumvirate, which ended the Roman Republic on November 26, 43 BCE. He eventually became an enemy of Octavian, another third of the Second Triumvirate, which led to his defeat and eventual suicide. He killed himself in 30 BCE, by stabbing himself in the abdomen with his sword.
Cleopatra’s history is even more colorful than that of her lover. She was an ethnic Greek, though she is often depicted as Egyptian in modern times, likely due to her status as the last pharaoh of Ancient Egypt. Her relationship with Mark Antony is the stuff of romance stories, but Cleopatra was no Juliet. Long before her famous love affair, she married Ptolemy XIII and Ptolemy XIV, both of whom were her brothers. She shared the rule of Egypt with the males of her family, including the brothers with which she had incestuous marriages. She was also the lover of Julius Caesar, who gave her a son.
Shortly after Julius Caesar’s death in 44 BCE, Cleopatra became sole ruler of Egypt, though she officially ruled with her son by Julius. She met Antony in 41 BCE and eventually had three children with him. They carried on the relationship until his death, even having an Egyptian wedding, despite the fact that Antony was already married. Ancient historians have it that Octavian allowed Cleopatra to organize the funeral of Antony after Octavian defeated him and invaded Egypt. It did not take long for her to follow him to death. The timeline appears to be roughly two weeks after Antony’s death that Cleopatra took her own life. She either enticed a cobra into biting her or ingested poison.
The site of Cleopatra’s suicide was her palace in Alexandria. That palace now lies buried beneath the sea. It is presumed that she was interred in or near the city. If the site of her burial was her palace, which seems unlikely to leading Egyptologists, it is probably lost forever, as only the sturdiest of artifacts have survived the time it has spent underwater. On the other hand, if it is in the surrounding area, there is still hope of finding Mark Antony and Cleopatra’s tomb amongst the untold numbers of hidden tombs in the sands of Egypt.
Dr. Zahi Hawass and other prominent archaeologists are currently focusing their search for the lost tomb in Abusir, at the Taposiris Magnus. There are certainly a number of burials there, as well as coins bearing the face of the Queen. According to Dr. Hawass, the chambers, burials and artifacts there suggest that someone important is laid to rest within. The location is just a little over 31 miles from the city in which Cleopatra killed herself, so it fits in that regard. Whether Hawass is correct in his guess is still uncertain, as there is much excavating still to be done at Taposiris Magnus.
Tharoor, Ishaan, The Tomb of Antony and Cleopatra?, retrieved 4/24/12, time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1893329,00.html
Antony and Cleopatra, drhawass.com/blog/video-search-antony-and-cleopatra