Cleopatra VII

For 300 years, Cleopatra’s family ruled Egypt even though they were not of Egyptian origin. She was born to King Ptolemy XII in 69 BC. At age 18, Cleopatra and her younger brother Ptolemy became co-rulers of Egypt upon the death of their father. Cleopatra claimed she was the new version of the goddess Isis. She was popular among her own people, being an intelligent and powerful ruler.

Although Egypt was large and wealthy, Rome’s influence was rising, and the Roman leader Pompey was appointed guardian over Cleopatra and Ptolemy to ensure Egypt paid taxes. After one year of her reign, Cleopatra decided to ignore her brother. Court officials plotted to overthrow her in favor of her brother, forcing Cleopatra to flee. While Cleopatra fought to regain control of Egypt, Pompey was fighting against his fellow Romans. He was murdered at Alexandria. Four days later, Julius Caesar arrived there with a huge army. Cleopatra arranged to be smuggled past the Roman guards and into the palace rolled inside a rug. Historians believe that Caesar was amused by her brilliant strategy to remain leader. The relationship between Cleopatra and Caesar benefitted them both.

Ptolemy had no intention of giving up his throne. Soldiers surrounded Alexandria, and during a battle, parts of the Alexandrian Library were destroyed by fire and Ptolemy drowned in the Nile.

Caesar returned to Rome. Cleopatra, her son, and younger brother arrived a year later. Cleopatra fashioned herself as an Egyptian goddess, insisting on the finest luxury. Caesar continued to conquer his rivals with Cleopatra by his side, declaring himself dictator of Rome. A conspiracy of Roman senators resulted in his assassination. Cleopatra and her son were not named in Caesar’s will. After his death, she returned to Egypt and another brother died of poisoning. Cleopatra was now the sole ruler of Egypt.

Mark Antony became a powerful leader in Rome. Cleopatra went to visit Antony on a ship outfitted with silver oars and dressed as Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Mark Antony was so charmed by her that he abandoned his plans and left with her for Alexandria. Within a year, Cleopatra gave birth to twins. Mark Antony married Cleopatra despite already being married.

Cleopatra's love story with Mark Antony benefited both in many ways. When Antony divorced his Roman wife Octavia, he angered many Romans. Her brother, Octavian, declared war against Cleopatra, attacking Antony and Cleopatra’s navy. Cleopatra was afraid of being captured, so she removed her ships from the battle. Mark Antony’s forces were defeated. After receiving false word of his wife's death, he committed suicide. Octavian told Cleopatra that she would be paraded as a slave. She secretly arranged to have a poisonous asp bite her. She was officially the last pharaoh of Egypt.

Source: Cleopatra VII
Courtesy of Ancient Egype Online

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