Julius Caesar has defeated his political adversary Pompey in Greece and has pursued him as far as Egypt. As a token of friendship, the young ruler Tolomeo has Pompey’s severed head presented to the emperor as a gift. Meanwhile Tolomeo’s sister Cleopatra wants sole occupancy of the throne. To have it she must eliminate her brother. She succeeds in winning over Caesar. Following his failed attempt to assassinate Caesar, Tolomeo has Cleopatra taken prisoner. However, Caesar rescues his beloved and crowns her queen of Egypt. But she wants to be regent and subject to the ruler of Rome and her own heart.
In 1719 George Frideric Handel was appointed director of the Royal Academy of Music, a private operatic company run by English nobles. To arouse the public’s interest, the shareholders invited Giovanni Bononcini to London, whose operas with their catchy melodies were successful all over Europe. In this musical contest, Handel was favoured by the king’s court while the Italian was supported by the aristocracy, led by the Duke of Marlborough. That the pendulum swung in Handel’s favour is due to the outstanding success of Giulio Cesare in Egitto, which went on to become his most successful opera.