69 B.C - August 12, 30 B.C
Queen of Egyptby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
The famous Egyptian ruler that everyone knows as the companion of Julius Caesar
and Marc Antony was actually Cleopatra the seventh. She was born in 69 B.C.
in Alexandria, Egypt, into the Ptolemy dynasty. She had five siblings: two older
sisters, Cleopatra VI and Berenice IV. It is thought that the sixth Cleopatra
died as a child and that Berenice was beheaded by her father. Her two younger
brothers were Ptolemy XIII and Ptolemy XIV. Cleopatra also had one younger sister,
Arsinoe. When she was eighteen years of age, her father, Ptolemy Auletes, ruler
of Egypt, died, leaving his kingdom and his will to her. After his death in
51 B.C., the children were placed under the care and protection of Pompey, a
When Cleopatra took the throne, Egypt was in turmoil. There was a famine in the land, and the Roman Empire was growing larger and becoming a greater threat to Egypt. The Romans had long been a threat to the Ptomely dynasty. As the Empire continued to grow larger, it began to take control of more and more of Egypt. Before his death, Auletes had been forced to make a pact with the Romans so that Egypt would not be completely ravaged and taken over. Though the Romans did respect this pact, Egypt still had to pay tribute to the Roman Empire. After Auletes died, the fall of the dynasty seemed even more inevitable.
Egyptian law stated that Cleopatra had to have a consort to co-rule throughout her reign, so she was married to her younger brother Ptolemy XIII when he was twelve years old. However, she had his name removed from all legal and official documents, though the male name was supposed to take preeminence between two co-rulers. She also had her name and portrait printed on currency, completely ignoring her brother's name.
In 48 B.C., Cleopatra was removed from her position as queen due to her actions which upset some of the more powerful court officials. For instance, a Roman governor of Syria, Egypt to ask for protection against the Parthians for his people, and Cleopatra had her mercenaries kill him. She was overthrown by a group of these court officials in favor of her younger brother, whom they figured would be much easier to influence than Cleopatra. The same officials became his royal councilors. Cleopatra fled and went to Thebaid.
She did not return to Alexandria until Caesar arrived there to take it from her brother Ptolemy in September of 48 B.C. Cleopatra knew that deals were to be made about the future of her country, which she should have been rightfully ruling. She did not wish to be left out of anything, so she had herself smuggled in to meet Caesar wrapped up in a rug. It is believed that Caesar fell in love with her at first sight and they became lovers. Caesar dethroned Ptolemy and placed Cleopatra on the throne as a puppet ruler for Rome.
Shortly after this, the Alexandrian war began. Cleopatra's sister Arsinoe fled the palace and ran to the same people that had overthrown Cleopatra. The Macedonian mob proclaimed that she was queen, and Cleopatra never forgave her for this. During the war, Ptolemy XIII was drowned in the Nile River in his attempt to escape.
The death of her brother meant that Cleopatra was truly the queen and sole ruler of Egypt. However, she once again had to have a coregent, so she was made to marry her younger brother Ptolemy XIV, who at the time was eleven years old.
Cleopatra became the close companion of Caesar, and she soon became pregnant with their son. They traveled back to Rome together, where many disapproved of Caesar's infatuation with her. There were then laws against bigamy and against marrying foreigners that Caesar was blatantly ignoring. Cleopatra did nothing to better the situation. In fact, she most likely made it worse. She began referring to herself as the New Isis and setting herself up as a goddess. Caesar even had a golden statue of her placed in a temple in Rome.
But when the Senate in Rome discovered that Caesar was preparing to set himself up as king, they had him assassinated on March 15, 44 B.C. There was no mention of Cleopatra, or their son Caesarion in his will. Cleopatra was afraid for her life and that of her child, so she fled back to her home in Alexandria.
When she returned, she had her brother Ptolemy XIV killed and regained the throne, making her four-year old son her coregent. In the years that followed, she watched to see who would be the next man of power in Rome.
She discovered this man to be Marc Antony. He invited Cleopatra to Tarsus in 41 B.C. They met and became lovers. Although Antony already had a wife, she was only of the middle class, whereas Cleopatra was royalty. The two spent much time together and apparently, Cleopatra could get Antony to do whatever she wanted him to. She had her sister Arsinoe assassinated. Antony also used her for money and land, taking away her control of Cyprus.
Once Antony had finally divorced his wife, the Western part of the known world had to recognize his relationship with Cleopatra. By doing this, he put himself at odds with the forces of Rome, and made himself the enemy of Octavian, the emperor. Rome's forces marched to Alexandria, and Antony made half an attempt at defending it. Many people falsely accused Cleopatra of being a harlot and a drunk, because they feared what she and Antony could do to the Empire. However, in 31 B.C., Octavian's army defeated Antony in Greece. He sent for Cleopatra, but was lied to and told that she was dead. He then committed suicide with his own sword. Cleopatra did come to him before he died, and stayed with him to the end of his life.
After Antony's death, Cleopatra was taken to Octavian, where she was told that she would be displayed as a slave to all of the countries that she had ruled over. She could not stand this kind of humiliation, however, so she had her servants bring her a poisonous asp hidden in a basket. Her religion believed that if one died by snake bite, they would become immortal. She died on August 12, 30 B.C., when she was only 39 years old. After her death, her first son, Caesarion, was strangled to death, and her other children, whose father was Antony, were raised by Octavian's sister, Antony's ex-wife.
Although Cleopatra is usually portrayed as Caucasian or Egyptian, she was actually of Greek and African descent, and probably had dark skin. She was very knowledgeable on a host of topics including literature, mathematics, astronomy, and medicine. She had a gift for languages and it is thought that she spoke at least four fluently.
Throughout her life, she dreamed of establishing a greater world empire. Although some see her as conniving and mercenary, she did many things for the betterment of her country. Cleopatra did whatever was necessary to save Alexandria, no matter the cost to herself. Her dying wish was to not be forgotten; through the years, it has been granted.