None other than Queen Cleopatra of Egypt, Of all the beautiful women of history, has left us such convincing proofs of her charms, for the tide of Rome's destiny, and, therefore, that of the world, turned aside because of her beauty.
Julius Caesar, whose legions trampled the conquered world from Canopus to the Thames, capitulated to her, and Mark Antony threw a fleet, an empire and his own honor to the winds to follow her to his destruction.
Disarmed at last before the frigid Octavius, she found her peerless body measured by the cold eye of her captor only for the triumphal procession, and the friendly asp alone spared her Rome's crowning ignominy.
Who was Cleopatra?
Queen Cleopatra of Egypt VII Thea Philopator was a Hellenistic co-ruler of Egypt with her father (Ptolemy XII Auletes) and later with her brothers/husbands Ptolemy XIII and Ptolemy XIV.
She later became the supreme ruler of Egypt, consummated a liaison with Gaius Julius Caesar, that solidified her grip on the throne, and, after Caesar's assassination, aligned with Mark Antony, with whom she produced twins.
In all, Cleopatra Queen of Egypt had four children, one by Caesar (Caesarion) and three by Antony (Cleopatra Selene II, Alexander Helios, Ptolemy Philadelphus).
Her unions with her brothers produced no children: it is possible that they were never consummated; in any case, they were not close.
Her reign marks the final end of the Hellenistic Era and the beginning of the Roman Era in the eastern Mediterranean.
Queen Cleopatra of Egypt was the last Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt (her son by Julius Caesar, Caesarion, ruled in name only before Augustus had him executed).
After Antony's rival and Caesar's legal heir, Gaius Julius Caesar Octavian (who later became the first Roman Emperor, Augustus), brought the might of Rome against Egypt, it is said that Cleopatra took her own life on November 30, 30 BC, allegedly by means of an asp.
Queen Cleopatra of Egypt legacy survives in the form of numerous dramatizations of her story, including William Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, several modern films and the HBO series Rome.
Queen Cleopatra of Egypt was a direct descendant of Alexander's general, Ptolemy I Soter, son of Arsinoe and Lacus, both of Macedon.
A Greek by language and culture, Cleopatra is reputed to have been the first member of her family in their 300-year reign in Egypt to have learned the Egyptian language.
But was she Loved by the Egyptians?
Early years of Queen Cleopatra of Egypt
Cleopatra is an Ancient Macedonian name, frequently used in Macedonia in the time of Philip II of Macedon, and was born by several members of the Hellenistic dynasties; hence the number, a modern device to distinguish her from other Ptolemaic Cleopatras.
She was the third daughter of the king Ptolemy XII Auletes, probably also of her father's sister. Her nickname means "Loving her Father."
Little is known about Cleopatra's childhood, but she would have observed the disordered events and loss of public affection for the Ptolemaic dynasty under the reign of her father.
It is said that her father survived two assassination attempts when a servant found a deadly puff adder in his bed, and a servant who tasted his wine died afterward.
Queen Cleopatra of Egypt eldest sister Tryphaena also tried to poison her, so she began using food-tasting servants.
This disloyalty occurred for many reasons, including the physical and moral degeneration of the sovereigns,centralization of power and corruption.
This led to uprising in and loss of Cyprus and of Cyrenaica, making Ptolemy's reign one of the most calamitous of the dynasty.
When Ptolemy made a journey to Rome with Cleopatra, Tryphaena seized the Crown of Egypt.
Shortly after arrangements for a Roman assistance in Egypt, Ptolemy's followers assassinated Tryphaena and killed her guard. Berenice's guards in turn killed those followers.
In 58 BC Cleopatra's older sister, Berenice IV seized power from her father.
With the assistance of the Roman governor of Syria, Aulus Gabinius, Ptolemy XII overturned his eldest daughter in 55 BC and had her executed.
Cleopatra's other older sister Tryphaena took over shortly after that. She was killed as well, which left Cleopatra queen of egypt with her husband and younger brother, Ptolemy XIII, joint heirs to the throne.
Queen Cleopatra of Egypt Accession to the Throne
Queen Cleopatra of Egypt Accession to the throne.
Ptolemy XII died in March 51 BC, making the 18-year-old Cleopatra and the 12-year-old Ptolemy XIII joint monarchs.
The first three years of their reign were difficult, due to economic difficulties, famine, deficient floods of the Nile, and political conflicts.
Although Cleopatra was married to her young brother, she quickly showed indications that she had no intentions of sharing power with him.
In August 51 BC, relations between the sovereigns completely broke down.
Cleopatra dropped Ptolemy's name from official documents and her face appeared alone on coins, which went against Ptolemaic tradition of female rulers being subordinate to male co-rulers.
This resulted in a cabal of courtiers, led by the eunuch Pothinus, removing Cleopatra from power and making Ptolemy sole ruler in circa 48 BC (or possibly earlier, as a decree exists from 51 BC with Ptolemy's name alone).
She tried to raise a rebellion around Pelusium, but she was soon forced to flee Egypt with her only surviving sister, Arsinoë.
Queen Cleopatra of Egypt and Julius Caesar
Queen Cleopatra of Egypt and Julius Caesar
While Queen Cleopatra of Egypt was in exile, Ptolemy became embroiled in the Roman civil war.
In the autumn of 48 BC, Pompey fled from the forces of Julius Caesar to Alexandria, seeking sanctuary.
Ptolemy, only fifteen years old at that time, had set up a throne for himself on the harbour from where he watched as on July 28, 48 BC Pompey was murdered by one of his former officers, now in Ptolemaic service.
He was beheaded in front of his wife and children, who were on the ship he had just disembarked from.
Ptolemy is thought to have ordered the death as a way of pleasing Julius Caesar and thus become an ally of Rome, to which Egypt was in debt.
This was a catastrophic miscalculation on Ptolemy's part.
When Caesar arrived in Egypt two days later, Ptolemy presented him with Pompey's severed, pickled head.
Caesar was enraged...
This was probably due to the fact that, although he was Caesar's political enemy, Pompey was a Consul of Rome and the widower of Caesar's only legitimate daughter, Julia (who died in childbirth with their son).
Caesar seized the Egyptian capital and imposed himself as arbiter between the rival claims of Ptolemy and Cleopatra.
Caesar and Caesarion
Contemporary coin of Queen Cleopatra of Egypt VII, Eager to take advantage of Julius Caesar's anger with Ptolemy, Queen Cleopatra returned to the palace rolled into a Persian carpet and had it presented to Caesar by her servants: when it was unrolled, Cleopatra tumbled out.
It is believed that Caesar was charmed by the gesture, and she became his mistress.
Nine months after their first meeting, Cleopatra gave birth to their baby.
It was at this point Caesar abandoned his plans to annex Egypt, instead backing Cleopatra's claim to the throne.
After a short civil war, Ptolemy XIII was drowned in the Nile and Caesar restored Cleopatra to her throne, with another younger brother Ptolemy XIV as new co-ruler.
Despite the thirty year age difference, Cleopatra and Caesar became lovers during his stay in Egypt between 48 BC and 47 BC.
They met when they were 21(Cleopatra) and 50 (Caesar) On 23 June 47 BC Cleopatra gave birth to a child, Ptolemy Caesar (nicknamed "Caesarion" which means "little Caesar")
Queen Cleopatra of Egypt claimed Caesar was the father and wished him to name the boy his heir, but Caesar refused, choosing his grand-nephew Octavian instead.
Caesarion was the intended inheritor of Egypt and Rome, uniting the East and the West.
Queen Cleopatra of Egypt and Caesarion visited Rome between 47 BC and 44 BC and were probably present when Caesar was assassinated on 15 March 44 BC.
Before or just after the assassination she returned to Egypt.
When Ptolemy XIV died due to deteriorating health, Cleopatra made Caesarion her co-regent and successor.
To safeguard herself and Caesarion she also had her sister Arsinoe killed, a common and necessary practice of the times.
it is said that Caeaser stay in Egypt gave him the idea of being a god and that killed him!
Nevertheless, this is the ugliest murder in the history of mankind and will remain unequalled in brutality and uncivility for eternity. This murder alone, singularly have seeded the latent end of the Roman Empire. Executed by men who thought that they were honourable! (Osama El-Kadi's personal view)
Antony arrives to Rule Egypt After Caesar Death
Cleopatra Queen of Egypt and Mark Antony
Cleopatra Queen of Egypt and Mark Antony
In 42 BC, Mark Antony, one of the triumvirs who ruled Rome in the power vacuum following Caesar's death, summoned Cleopatra to meet him in Tarsus to answer questions about her loyalty.
Cleopatra arrived in great state, and so charmed Antony that he chose to spend the winter of 41 BC–40 BC with her in Alexandria.
On 25 December 40 BC she gave birth to twins, who were named Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene II.
Four years later, in 37 BC, Antony visited Alexandria again en route to make war with the Parthians.
He renewed his relationship with Queen Cleopatra of Egypt, and from this point on Alexandria would be his home.
He married Cleopatra according to the Egyptian rite (a letter quoted in Suetonius suggests this), although he was at the time married to Octavia Minor, sister of his fellow triumvir Octavian.
He and Cleopatra had another child, Ptolemy Philadelphus.
At the Donations of Alexandria in late 34 BC, following Antony's conquest of Armenia, Cleopatra and Caesarion were crowned co-rulers of Egypt and Cyprus; Alexander Helios was crowned ruler of Armenia, Media, and Parthia; Cleopatra Selene II was crowned ruler of Cyrenaica and Libya; and Ptolemy Philadelphus was crowned ruler of Phoenicia, Syria, and Cilicia.
Cleopatra also took the title of Queen of Kings.
Antony's behavior was considered outrageous by the Romans, and Octavian convinced the Senate to levy war against Egypt.
In 31 BC Antony's forces faced the Romans in a naval action off the coast of Actium.
Queen Cleopatra of Egypt was present with a fleet of her own.
Popular legend tells us that when she saw that Antony's poorly equipped and manned ships were losing to the Romans' superior vessels, she took flight and that Antony abandoned the battle to follow her, but no contemporary evidence states this was the case.
Following the Battle of Actium, Octavian invaded Egypt. Thus the Egyptian Empier was ended for ever
As he approached Alexandria, Antony's armies deserted to Octavian on August 12, 30 BC
There are a number of unverifiable but famous stories about Cleopatra, of which one of the best known is that, at one of the lavish dinners she shared with Antony, she playfully bet him that she could spend ten million sesterces on a dinner.
He accepted the bet....
The next night, she had a conventional, unspectacular meal served; he was ridiculing this, when she ordered the second course — only a cup of strong vinegar.
She then removed one of her priceless pearl earrings, dropped it into the vinegar, allowed it to dissolve, and drank the mixture. The earliest report of this story comes from Pliny the Elder and dates to about 100 years after the banquet described would have happened.
The calcium carbonate in pearls does dissolve in vinegar, but slowly unless the pearl is first crushed.
Queen Cleopatra of Egypt Suicide
Queen Cleopatra of Egypt Suicide
According to the doctor Olympus (an eye-witness), he was brought to Cleopatra's tomb and died in her arms. A few days later, on November 30, Cleopatra also died by snakebite.
The ancient sources generally agree that she had two asps hidden in a fig basket so as she was eating she would never know when she would die.
Her two handmaidens died with her. Octavian, waiting in a building nearby, was informed of her death, and went to see for himself.
Cleopatra's son by Caesar, Caesarion, was proclaimed pharaoh by Egyptians, but Octavian had already won.
Caesarion was captured and executed, his fate reportedly sealed by Octavian's famous phrase: "Two Caesars are one too many."
This ended not just the Hellenistic line of Egyptian pharaohs, but the line of all Egyptian pharaohs.
The three children of Queen Cleopatra of Egypt and Antony were spared and taken back to Rome where they were taken care of by Antony's wife, Octavia Minor, who was also Octavian's sister.