The marriage of Marc Antony and Cleopatra is one of the greatest love stories of all time, a tale of unbridled passion with earth-shaking political consequences. When the lovers choose to die by their own hands, their three orphaned children are taken in chains to Rome; only two—the ten-year-old twins Selene and Alexander—survive the journey. Delivered to the household of Octavian’s sister, the siblings cling to each other and to the hope that they will return one day to their rightful place on the throne of Egypt.
Recounted in Selene’s youthful and engaging voice, Moran introduces a compelling cast of historical characters: Octavia, the emperor Octavian’s kind and compassionate sister, abandoned by Marc Antony for Cleopatra; Livia, Octavian's bitter and jealous wife; Marcellus, Octavian’s handsome, flirtatious nephew and heir apparent; Tiberius, Livia’s sardonic son and Marcellus’s great rival for power; and Juba, Octavian’s watchful aide, whose honored position at court has far-reaching effects on the lives of the young Egyptian royals.
Selene’s narrative is animated by the concerns of a young girl in any time and place—the possibility of finding love, the pull of friendship and family, and the pursuit of her unique interests and talents. And as Selene and Alexander come of age, they are buffeted by the personal ambitions of Octavian’s family and court, by the ever-present threat of slave rebellion, and by the longings and desires deep within their own hearts.
Based on meticulous research, Cleopatra’s Daughter is a fascinating portrait of imperial Rome and of the people and events of this glorious and most volatile period in human history. Emerging from the shadows of the past, Selene, a young woman of irresistible charm and preternatural intelligence, will capture your heart.
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August 12, 30 BC
While we waited for the news to arrive, we played dice. I felt the small ivory cubes stick in my palms as I rolled a pair of ones.
“Snake eyes,” I said, fanning myself with my hand. Even the stir of a sea breeze through the marble halls of our palace did little to relieve the searing heat that had settled across the city.
“It’s your turn,” Alexander said. When our mother didn’t respond, he repeated, “Mother, it’s your turn.”
But she wasn’t listening. Her face was turned in the direction of the sea, where the lighthouse of our ancestors had been built on the island of Pharos to the east. We were the greatest family in the world, and could trace our lineage all the way back to Alexander of Macedon. If our father’s battle against Octavian went well, the Ptolemies might rule for another three hundred years. But if his losses continued. . . .
“Selene,” my brother complained to me, as if I could get our mother to pay attention.
“Ptolemy, take the dice,” I said sharply.
Ptolemy, who was only six, grinned. “It’s my turn?”
“Yes,” I lied, and when he laughed, his voice echoed in the silent halls. I glanced at Alexander, and perhaps because we were twins, I knew what he was thinking. “I’m sure they haven’t abandoned us,” I whispered.
“What would you do if you were a servant and knew that Octavian’s army was coming?”
“We don’t know that it is!,” I snapped, but when the sound of sandals slapped through the halls, my mother finally looked in our direction.
“Selene, Alexander, Ptolemy, get back!”
We abandoned our game and huddled on the bed, but it was only her servants, Iras and Charmion.
“What? What is it?” my mother demanded.
“A group of soldiers!”
“Your husband’s,” Charmion cried. She had been with our family for twenty years, and I had never seen her weep. But as she shut the door, I saw that her cheeks were wet. “They are coming with news, Your Highness, and I’m afraid—”
“Don’t say it!” My mother closed her eyes briefly. “Just tell me. Has the mausoleum been prepared?”
Iras blinked away her tears and nodded. “The last of the palace’s treasures are being moved inside. And . . . and the pyre has been built exactly as you wanted.”
I reached for Alexander’s hand. “There’s no reason our father won’t beat them back. He has everything to fight for.”
Alexander studied the dice in his palms. “So does Octavian.”
We both looked to our mother, Queen Kleopatra VII of Egypt.
Throughout her kingdom she was worshipped as the goddess Isis, and when the mood took her, she dressed as Aphrodite. But unlike a real goddess, she was mortal, and I could read in the muscles of her body that she was afraid. When someone knocked on the door, she tensed. Although this was what we had been waiting for, my mother hesitated before answering, instead looking at each of her children in turn. We belonged to Marc Antony, but only Ptolemy had inherited our father’s golden hair. Alexander and I had our mother’s coloring, dark chestnut curls and amber eyes. “Whatever the news, be silent,” she warned us, and when she called, in a steady voice, “Come in,” I held my breath.
One of my father’s soldiers appeared. He met her gaze reluctantly.
“What is it?” she demanded. “Is it Antony? Tell me he hasn’t been hurt.”
“No, Your Highness.”
My mother clutched the pearls at her neck in relief.
“But your navy has refused to engage in battle, and Octavian’s men will be here by nightfall.”
Alexander inhaled sharply, and I covered my mouth with my hand.
“Our entire navy has turned?” Her voice rose. “My men have refused to fight for their queen?”
The young soldier shifted on his feet. “There are still four legions of infantry—”
“And will four legions keep Octavian’s whole army at bay?” she cried.
“No, Your Highness. Which is why you must flee—”
“And where do you think we would go?” she demanded. “India? China?” The soldier’s eyes were wide, and, next to me, Ptolemy began to whimper. “Order your remaining soldiers to keep filling the mausoleum,”
she instructed. “Everything within the palace of any value.”
“And the general, Your Highness?”
Alexander and I both looked to our mother. Would she call our father back? Would we stand against Octavian’s army together?
Her lower lip trembled. “Send word to Antony that we are dead.”
I gasped, and Alexander cried out desperately, “Mother, no!” But our mother’s glare cut across the chamber. “What will Father think?” he cried.
“He will think there is nothing to return for.” My mother’s voice grew hard. “He will flee from Egypt and save himself.”
The soldier hesitated. “And what does Your Highness plan to do?”
I could feel the tears burning in my eyes, but pride forbade me from weeping. Only children wept, and I was already ten.
“We will go to the mausoleum. Octavian thinks he can march into Egypt and pluck the treasure of the Ptolemies from my palace like grapes. But I’ll burn everything to the ground before I let him touch it! Prepare two chariots!”
The soldier rushed to do as he was told, but in the halls of the palace, servants were already beginning to flee. Through the open door Alexander shouted after them, “Cowards! Cowards!” But none of them cared. The women were leaving with only the clothes on their backs, knowing that once Octavian’s army arrived there would be no mercy. Soldiers carried precious items from every chamber, but there was no guarantee that those items would end up in the mausoleum.
My mother turned to Charmion. “You do not have to stay. None of us knows what will happen tonight.”
But Charmion shook her head bravely. “Then let us face that uncertainty together.”
My mother looked to Iras. The girl was only thirteen, but her gaze was firm. “I will stay as well,” Iras whispered.
“Then we must pack. Alexander, Selene, take only one bag!”
We ran through the halls, but outside my chamber, Alexander stopped.
“Are you frightened?”
I nodded fearfully. “Are you?”
“I don’t think Octavian will leave anyone alive. We have defied him for a year, and remember what happened to the city of Metulus?”
“Everything was burned. Even the cattle and fields of grain. But he didn’t set fire to Segestica. When Octavian conquered it, he allowed those people to survive.”
“And their rulers?” he challenged. “He killed them all.”
“But why would the Roman army want to hurt children?”
“Because our father is Marc Antony!”
I panicked. “Then what about Caesarion?”
“He’s the son of Julius Caesar. No one’s in more danger than he. Why do you think our mother sent him away?”
I imagined our brother fleeing toward India. How would he ever find us again? “And Antyllus?” I asked quietly. Though our father had children with his first four wives, and with perhaps a dozen mistresses, Antyllus was the only half brother we’d ever known.
“If Octavian’s as merciless as they say, he’ll try to kill Antyllus as well. But perhaps he’ll spare your life. You’re a girl. And maybe when he realizes how clever you are—”
“But what good is being clever if it can’t stop them from coming?”
Tears spilled from my eyes, and I no longer cared that it was childish to cry.
Alexander wrapped his arm around my shoulders, and when Iras saw the two of us standing in the hall, she shouted, “We don’t have the time. Go and pack!”