THE MAJOR PLAYERS
The primary protagonists of Cleopatra and Rome are among the most colorful historical figures of all time. In addition to Cleopatra herself, there were five major players in the story that underlies this book: an epileptic dictator with an eye for young foreign female sovereigns; a brilliant military commander who drank too much; a woman so virtuous that she raised the children of her husband's mistresses; a pregnant but ambitious ingénue who married her second husband while carrying the child of her first; and a ruthless opportunist determined to rule Rome and an empire. The potent chemistry of this group ignited the ancient world and catapulted them to superstardom. From that elevated perch, this intriguing sextet had a momentous collective impact on Rome and on western civilization.
Since Roman women could not hold public office, Livia Drusilla's power was different in kind from Cleopatra's, but nonetheless compelling. Cleopatra had inherited a position that put her in charge of a mighty kingdom with an illustrious past, and she enhanced her influence further by entering into political and personal alliances with Caesar and Antony. Livia's base of authority was her membership in a formidable patrician family, the Claudians, with political clout in Rome. Born in 58 B.C., Livia must still have been a child when she realized that she could never be a public