In Suetonius’ The Lives of the Caesars: Augustus , the Roman writer records that Octavian forced Antony to commit suicide when he “tried to make terms at the eleventh hour”. Plutarch gives an alternative version of Antony’s death in The Parallel Lives: Antony . In his work, the Greek historian states that Antony committed suicide upon hearing false news that Cleopatra was dead. Upon Antony’s death, Octavian was eager to capture Cleopatra alive, as “he thought it would add greatly to the glory of his triumph if she were led in the procession”.
Many critics have noted the strong influence of Virgil 's first-century Roman epic poem, the Aeneid , on Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra . Such influence should be expected, given the prevalence of allusions to Virgil in the Renaissance culture in which Shakespeare was educated. Moreover, as is well-known, the historical Antony and Cleopatra were the prototypes and antitypes for Virgil's Dido and Aeneas: Dido , ruler of the north African city of Carthage , tempts Aeneas , the legendary exemplar of Roman pietas , to forego his task of founding Rome after the fall of Troy . The fictional Aeneas dutifully resists Dido's temptation and abandons her to forge on to Italy, placing political destiny before romantic love, in stark contrast to Antony, who puts passionate love of his own Egyptian queen, Cleopatra, before duty to Rome. [b] Given the well-established traditional connections between the fictional Dido and Aeneas and the historical Antony and Cleopatra, it is no surprise that Shakespeare includes numerous allusions to Virgil's epic in his historical tragedy. As Janet Adelman observes, "almost all the central elements in Antony and Cleopatra are to be found in the Aeneid : the opposing values of Rome and a foreign passion; the political necessity of a passionless Roman marriage; the concept of an afterlife in which the passionate lovers meet."  However, as Heather James argues, Shakespeare's allusions to Virgil's Dido and Aeneas are far from slavish imitations. James emphasizes the various ways in which Shakespeare's play subverts the ideology of the Virgilian tradition; one such instance of this subversion is Cleopatra's dream of Antony in Act 5 ("I dreamt there was an Emperor Antony" ). James argues that in her extended description of this dream, Cleopatra "reconstructs the heroic masculinity of an Antony whose identity has been fragmented and scattered by Roman opinion."  This politically charged dream vision is just one example of the way that Shakespeare's story destabilises and potentially critiques the Roman ideology inherited from Virgil's epic and embodied in the mythic Roman ancestor Aeneas.
After a humiliating defeat in Parthia, Antony publicly rejected his wife Octavia’s efforts to rejoin him and instead returned to Egypt and Cleopatra. In a public celebration in 34 . known as the “Donations of Alexandria,” Antony declared Caesarion as Caesar’s son and rightful heir (as opposed to his adopted son, Octavian) and awarded land to each of his children with Cleopatra. This began a war of propaganda between him and the furious Octavian, who claimed that Antony was entirely under Cleopatra’s control and would abandon Rome and found a new capital in Egypt. In late 32 ., the Roman Senate stripped Antony of all his titles, and Octavian declared war on Cleopatra.