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The Egyptian queen Cleopatra, a firm ruler and military tactician, embarks on a ruthless rise to power. She twice marries brothers, killing each of them as well as a sister. Romantic alliances with the much-older Roman honchos Julius Caesar and Marc Antony help her solidify power, but her dalliance with Antony undoes both of them.
Julius Caesar and Marcus Brutus bond at boyhood and grow into warriors who become politically ambitious and powerful enough to be regarded as threats by the establishment. Political and romantic entanglements culminate in a fatal encounter on the floor of the Roman Senate. Revenge is taken on Caesar's murderers by Octavius and Mark Antony.
The story centers on the internecine plots and counterplots surrounding Claudius, the fourth emperor of Rome who ruled from 41-54 A.D. The stuttering and handicapped Claudius, born into a murderous, imperial family, used his cunning mind and rivals' misjudgment to not only survive but eventually become one of Rome's greatest emperors.