Cleopatra VII

Cleopatra
Born: 71 BC in Alexandria, Egypt
Died: Aug 12, 30 BC (at age 38-39) in Alexandria, Egypt
Nationality: Egyptian
Famous For: Last pharaoh of Ancient Egypt

Cleopatra VII Philopator was the last pharaoh of the Ancient Egypt. She was of a Greek family and a member of the Ptolemiac dynasty. The Ptolemies spoke Greek, but they refused to speak Egyptian throughout their dynasty. This explains the reason why both Greek and Egyptian languages were used in most official documents.

Cleopatra as Ruler

Originally, Cleopatra ruled together with her father, then her brothers before eventually becoming the sole ruler. To this day, Cleopatra is still a very popular figure in Western culture. Her great legacy survives many works of art and other media such William Shakespeare. In most cases, she is portrayed as a very beautiful woman with great sexual appeal.

Ascending to the Throne

The real identity of Cleopatra’s mother is still unknown. Her father was said to have been Auletes (Ptolemy XII). In 51 B.C., after the death of Auletes, the throne was passed to Cleopatra (who was only 18 years old) and her 10 year old brother, Ptolemy XII.

After the siblings ascended to power, Ptolemy XII’s advisers turned against the sister. Cleopatra formed an army against her brother and in order to succeed in defeating him, she decided to seek Julius Caesar’s help.

Working with Julius Caesar

Caesar needed to fund his return to power in Rome and he also needed Egypt to repay her debts. After four months of war, Caesar’s forces arrived and Ptolemy was forced to flee. He is believed to have drowned in the Nile River. Caesar helped restore the throne. He remained in Egypt with Cleopatra and after a while, they had a son, Ptolemy Caesar. In March of 44 B.C., Caesar was murdered.

Cleopatra and Mark Antony

Cleopatra continued to rule with her infant son after the death of Caesar. However, after a short while, a flooding of the Nile caused great hunger. Meanwhile, a conflict in Rome between Caesar’s allies, Mark Antony, Lepidus, and Octavian, and his enemies, Cassius and Brutus, became serious.

Both sides asked for help from Egypt. Cleopatra seduced Mark Antony and so he agreed to protect Egypt. Antony even left Rome to spend time with Cleopatra in Egypt. After his return to Rome, Cleopatra gave birth to twins.

Cleopatra’s Leadership and Power Struggle

Egypt continued to grow more and more prosperous under the rule of Cleopatra VII. In 37 B.C., she met again with Antony. Antony wanted some funds for his long-delayed campaign against the Parthia Kingdom. Antony in return agreed to give back much of Egypt’s eastern empire. They rekindled their love affair and gave birth to another son.

On September 2, 31 B.C., Octavian’s forces defeated the forces of Cleopatra and Antony in the Battle of Actium. Cleopatra’s ships left the battle and fled to Egypt. Antony managed to break away and later followed her with a few ships. After a while, he heard a rumor that Cleopatra VII had committed suicide. He was very devastated and he fell on his sword and died. However, this rumor was not true.

After burying Antony and meeting Octavian, Cleopatra closed herself in her own chamber. Up to date, her death is still uncertain. However, some writers say she used a very poisonous snake called an asp, a symbol of divine royalty, to bite her. Her body was buried next to Antony, leaving Octavian to celebrate his victory.