Octavian Chronicle #6. Battle of Perusia-41 BC tells the whole story.
In the Spring of 41 BC, Cleopatra sailed to Tarsus on her luxurious barge to meet with Mark Antony. She planned to develop a personal relationship with him in order to maintain Egypt’s alliance with Rome and her position as queen of Egypt.
Cleopatra was reclining comfortably in the forward area of her ship, a large barge. She was lying on a couch under a canopy of gold cloth, being fanned by beautiful young boys, dressed as little cupids.
Overhead, large purple sails were billowing in the wind. Down below, the sun was flashing its reflections off the silver-tipped oars as they dipped in and out of the water to the beat of the music coming from flutes, fifes, and harps.
Beautiful maids, dressed like sea nymphs, were working the ropes. Down at the gilded stern, more maids were manning the rudders, steering the barge as it glided smoothly up the river Cydnus toward the port of Tarsus.
Charmion, her head handmaiden, walked up to her and smiled. “You truly look like a goddess!”
Cleopatra smiled and shifted her gaze. “What a beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky. There’s just enough wind to fill the sails.”
“Look at the people gathering along the shoreline,” said Charmion. “They’re enjoying the music and the scent of the perfumes you’ve released. The men are especially enjoying looking at the pretty girls. I’m sure they’ve never experienced anything like this, and I doubt that Antony has ever seen anything quite like it either. I’m sure you’ll be able to cast your spell on him.”
Cleopatra’s facial expression turned serious. “I have to succeed for Egypt’s sake. Antony’s reputation precedes him, so I have no concern about being able to get him to be my lover. The bigger question is whether I’ll be able to control him to get what I need for Egypt. I became a partner with Caesar. I have to convince Antony that he needs me as his partner, not as his underling.”
Later, in the early evening, Antony and his men stepped into the small boats to be rowed out to the barge. They were in awe of the size of it, its gilded stern, and its large purple sails.
As soon as Antony was on board, he and his men were escorted to the center of the deck. The music picked up, and another burst of sweet perfumes was released.
Antony stood there, unable to take his eyes off of all the beautiful women. Then, in the forward area of the ship, a large number of candles were being lit under a canopy that had a sheer gold curtain drawn around it. He could barely make out the figure of a woman reclining on a couch. He could see that she was dressed in gold and wearing a headdress of some type. It didn’t look like a crown.
He took a step toward the canopy but stopped as the sheer curtain began to rise. Cleopatra came into view. She was helped to her feet by two of her handmaidens. Antony gasped when he saw her in a tight, shimmering gold dress, sparkling with jewels. Two other maids rolled out a red carpet all the way to Antony’s feet. She started walking toward him.
Plancus leaned over to Antony and asked, “What was that accusation you were going to make against her?”
“What accusation?” Antony grinned.
As she came closer, Plancus saw that Cleopatra knew how to use makeup. He thought, She is an exotic beauty!
When Cleopatra reached Antony, she extended her hand and said with a smile, “I’m pleased to have you here as my dinner guest, Dionysus.”
He took her hand in his, raised it and gave it a light kiss. “Thank you for inviting me, Venus, or would I be more correct to address you as the goddess, Aphrodite?”
Cleopatra said with a sparkle of laughter in her voice, “I’ll leave it to you to decide whether I’m the Roman goddess of love or the Greek goddess of love.”
“You must know that I have a weakness for all things Greek.”
“You’re charming me, Marcus Antonius, when it is I who is supposed to be charming you. You’ll cause me to lose my reputation.”
Antony smiled. “Your reputation will be safe with me.”
Cleopatra laughed enchantingly. “I hope it doesn’t remain too safe!” Then she hooked her arm in his and led him along the red carpet back toward the front of the barge.