Queen Cleopatra was the last in a dynasty established by Ptolemy during Alexander the Great’s conquest of Egypt. She was a very clever and beautiful woman, using all her charm for strategic purposes. By her important liaisons with two great Roman emperors: Julius Caesar and Marc Anthony, she earned herself a place in history and created a personal myth.
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Queen Cleopatra’s life details are uncertain, as no contemporary accounts exist. Most information about her comes from the Greek poet Plutarch. Cleopatra was born in 70 or 69 BC; she was the daughter of Ptolemy XII and probably Cleopatra V Tryphaena. When king Ptolemy died, the throne passed on to his ten-year-old son, Ptolemy XIII, under regency of 18 year-old Cleopatra.
After two years, Cleopatra was forced to flee to Syria to escape her brother’s armies, but returned the next year with an army of mercenaries, ready to face Ptolemy’s forces. Meanwhile, Ptolemy received roman emperor Julius Caesar in his kingdom. In order to get help against her brother, Cleopatra sought to meet Caesar, smuggling herself into his chambers repeatedly to speak to him.
It is said she was once brought to him wrapped in a carpet, as many guards were set at his doors and along the corridors. Her exotic beauty immediately astonished the emperor.
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Caesar and Cleopatra
The union between Caesar and queen Cleopatra also brought benefits to the emperor. After forcing Ptolemy XIII to flee Alexandria, he entered the city as an unpopular conqueror. Caesar restored the throne to Cleopatra and her younger brother Ptolemy XIV, who was 13 years old at the time. Caesar and Cleopatra remained together in Egypt for a few years, and about 47 BC, queen Cleopatra has given birth to a son, Ptolemy Caesar. The boy was known As Caesarion, or Little Caesar.
About 46-45 BC, Cleopatra, together with Ptolemy XIV and Caesarion went to Rome to visit Caesar, but returned to Egypt in 44 BC, after Caesar was murdered. As Ptolemy XIV died soon after, Caesarion was named co-regent together with Ptolemy XV. At this point, Cleopatra has already identified herself with the goddess Isis. It was an old Egyptian tradition for the king or queen to associate with a divinity in order to reinforce their power.
Cleopatra and Marc Anthony
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With her soon into succession, queen Cleopatra’s position in Egypt was indeed secure. But the country soon got into crisis because of lack of resources. Rome was as well in turmoil because of conflicts for power. The conflict was between Caesar’s allies (Marc Anthony, Octavian and Lepidus) and his assassins (Brutus and Cassius). Egypt was asked for help, and Cleopatra sent four Roman legions stationed in Egypt to help Caesar’s allies. Finally, in 42 BC, Marc Anthony and Octavian obtained power in Rome.
When Marc Anthony called Cleopatra to Tarsus, she is said to have traveled on a lavish ship, dressed up as Isis. The emperor was immediately seduced by her beauty, and thus agreed to protect Egypt and Cleopatra’s crown. He helped her remove her sister Arsinoe, and returned to Alexandria shortly after Cleopatra, leaving his wife and children back in Rome. During the 41-40 BC winter spent in Alexandria, Anthony and Cleopatra conceived twins, who were born soon after Anthony returned to Rome. They were named Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene.
Under queen Cleopatra’s rule, Egypt became more prosperous. In order to obtain funds for a long campaign, Marc Anthony met Cleopatra again and, in exchange for the funds, he returned much of Egypt’s eastern empire. The two became lovers once again, and had another son, Ptolemy Philadelphos, in 36 BC. After being defeated, Anthony remained in Alexandria with Cleopatra, declared Caesarion as rightful heir tot he throne, and awarded land to each of his children with Cleopatra. In late 32 BC, Anthony was stripped of all his power in Rome and Octavian declared war to Cleopatra, as he said she kept Anthony under total control.
Death of queen Cleopatra
In 31 BC, Anthony and Cleopatra were defeated and fled to Egypt. Cleopatra was the first to arrive there, and Anthony has heard rumors that she has committed suicide. He took his life right before news had arrived that the rumor was false. In 30 BC, after the burial of her beloved Anthony and a meeting with Octavian, Cleopatra confined herself to her chambers, accompanied by two female servants. The theory about her suicide is that she used an asp to bite her, as its poison was known to be a very quick and painless killer. As she wished, her body was laid next to Anthony’s .
Seeing how far she got, we can really say that Cleopatra was one of the most beautiful and clever women in history.
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