Nice to be discussing V again.  I've just been reading Walker and Ashton's recent book on Cleopatra, which contains a very helpful collection of information on the great woman's iconography in her own time and since.  They mention the prevalent hostility of Roman literary sources, though they treat Horace's 'non humilis mulier' passage as genuine admiration set in a context of derision and they trace what looks like the inevitable slow breakdown of the Brundisium Arrangements despite Octavia's best efforts.  Perhaps the Tony Blair/Gordon Brown breakdown constitutes this tragedy repeated as farce.
What was the sentiment to which V appeals in the Shield passage of A8 when he accompanies mention of 'the Egyptian wife' of Antony with an expostulation about the nefarious nature of the partnership?  The racism and fear of Caesarian 'tota Italia' propaganda, as advertised by Syme?  The following is my effort, probably eccentric, to persuade myself that we are dealing with something less crude.
The references to Egypt in G4 seem considerably more positive, not making one think that an intimate relationship with members of that 'fortunate race'  would be utterly nefarious. There is even a suggestion that the Egyptians have found the most important scientific secret, that of the passage from death to life, very much denied to the Romans among their giddy Proteus-style transformations.
The rational case against the Antonian system might be that one could not stop the turmoil in Rome or in the Roman world by Eastern conquests built on Egyptian money and resources - indeed that the possessor of those resources would be bound to subvert the political process in Rome, as Antony in fact did following the success of his faction in consular elections before the Actium campaign.  So the Antony-Cleopatra arrangement was nefarious after all.
The rational case for the Antonian system might be that Rome at that stage could not do without allies, rather than just subjects, in the East - Augustus would find himself promoting Herod the Great, at some cost, just for this reason.  Augustus and V probably understood the situation.
On the Shield of A8, Antony's nefariously intimate relationship with his awful Eastern wife contrasts with Augustus'  relationship to the Eastern peoples, which is one of benevolent supremacy. But everything about the Shield must be regarded as wonderful image, not necessarily as reality, as Aeneas seems to understand when he accepts it.  Perhaps, if a somewhat different reality is obliquely acknowledged, there is something more subtle at work than the celebration of the winning goal in the final match between virtuous and nefarious forces. - Martin Hughes

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