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The lost tomb of Antony and Cleopatra

In the year 31 BC, Cleopatra and Antony combined armies to try to defeat Octavian in a raging sea battle at Actium, on Greece’s west coast. The clash, however, proved to be a costly defeat for the Egyptians, forcing Antony and Cleopatra to flee back to Egypt. Octavian pursued them and captured Alexandria in 30 BC. After receiving false news that Cleopatra was dead, Antony fell on his sword. He was carried to Cleopatra’s retreat and died in her arms.

Cleopatra followed her lover’s demise by ending her life as well by being bitten by an Egyptian cobra. The two were buried together, as they had wished, and Egypt became a province of the Roman Empire.

Historical records cite a joint burial; The Roman historian Dio Cassius reported that Cleopatra’s body was embalmed as Antony’s had been, and Plutarch noted that on the orders of Octavian, the last queen of Egypt was buried beside her defeated Roman consort.

It may be possible that the tomb was not constructed as a grand monument, considering that it could be used as a rallying point against Octavian in the future. Hence, the tomb may have been regarded as insignificant, and neither the location nor a description of it was recorded for posterity.

Scholars have long believed that Cleopatra was buried in the ancient city of Alexandria which sank into the Mediterranean more than a thousand years ago.

In November 2006, Dr. Zahi Hawass, then secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Cairo, announced that he and a team of scientists had been digging over the previous years an archaeological site searching for the tomb of Cleopatra. This particular quest had begun when Dr. Kathleen Martinez, Dominican archaeologist contacted him in 2004.

(To be continued) (Floro Mercene)