Cleopatras father was Ptolemy XII, who began his rule of Egypt in 80 BC but he was not respected and thought to be weak. His nickname was Auletes, which means flute player in Greek. Cleopatras mother could possibly be Cleopatra V, who either died or disappeared in 68 BC. Cleopatra had two older sisters, two younger brothers, and one younger sister. Ptolemy XII ruled until his death in 51 BC. His will said that Cleopatra and Ptolemy XIII were heirs to the throne. The two married and jointly ruled Egypt. Ptolemy II had established these brother-sister marriages as custom, when he married his sister Arsinoe II.
Cleopatra and her brother ruled jointly, though the marriage was solely in law. Cleopatra was about 18, and Ptolemy XIII was about 10. They were named King and Queen of Egypt in 51 BC. Cleopatra did most of the ruling and left her brother out it. Ptolemy served as a puppet for power-hungry advisors and in 48 BC kicked Cleopatra out of the palace. Cleopatra retaliated by building her own army outside the city. Cleopatra knew that she had to get to Caesar and tell her side of the story. She had herself smuggled into the palace in a rug. The young Queen enchanted Caesar, and the two spent the night together.
Ptolemy XIII was called to the audience and was dismayed to see that Cleopatra was at his side. What was a war between Cleopatra and Ptolemy XIII, evolved onto a war between Ptolemy XIII and Caesar? Caesar had given Cyprus back to Egypt, and Arsinoe IV and Ptolemy XIV were named rulers. Arsinoe appeared to believe that she should also be Queen of Egypt, because of her alliance with Ptolemy XIII against Caesar. Caesar may have had Pothinus beheaded because of what he did to Pompey, or he may have died in the fighting. Way, he was either dead or missing.
Ptolemy XIII, hearing of this, threw his crown down and stormed out of the palace. He supposedly later drowned trying to leave the city. Caesar took prisoner Arsinoe IV. Cleopatra was then restored to the throne and again married to her brother, Ptolemy XIV. It was 47 BC, and Cleopatra was 22 years old, and Ptolemy XIV was 12. Cleopatra again acted as sole ruler, and this time managed to keep Ptolemy XIV from influence. Since Arsinoe IV was considered a traitor, Cyprus was now under the direct rule of Cleopatra Cleopatra chose to show Caesar her country with a cruise on the Nile.
Records of the cruise give us little information on their trip, but it is very likely that Cleopatra became pregnant while she was in Alexandria with Caesar or during their trip. She claimed Caesar was the father. Caesar had only one child; a daughter named Julia, and had had many affairs with women that never produced children. Caesar’s alleged son was probably born in 47 BC. Most sources roughly claim this as his birth year, though some sources claim he was born as late as 44 BC, which would place his birth after Caesar’s death. If he was born in 47 BC, Caesar had left for Rome shortly before his birth.
Cleopatra’s son was officially named Ptolemy XV Caesar, but he was popularly called \”Caesarion\”, meaning \”Little Caesar\”. Caesar had taken prisoner Arsinoe IV. Arsinoe IV appeared in Caesar’s March of Triumph in 46 BC. She was marched through the streets of Rome loaded down with chains. Caesar arranged for Arsinoe IV to leave Rome instead of being beheaded. She went to Ephesus, in Asia Minor. Cleopatra most likely did not attend the Triumph because her presence there does not seem to appear in any ancient documents. Her presence would have caused quite a stir and would have been recorded by her contemporaries.
Cleopatra, Ptolemy XIV and Caesarion went to Rome as Caesar’s guests in 46 BC, and they stayed in a villa of his outside of Rome. Cleopatra remained in Rome for about 2 years. On the Ides of March in 44 BC, Caesar was assassinated outside the Senate Building in Rome. Most of the senators thought he posed a threat to the well being of the republic. They believed that he was going to have himself declared king. Soon after Caesar’s death, Cleopatra left Rome and returned to Egypt. Ptolemy XIV is thought to have survived the voyage back to Egypt, but he died soon after.
He may have died of natural causes, or Cleopatra may have had him killed. This is possible because he was 15 years old and would probably start to assert his right to the throne. In 41 BC, Antony summoned Cleopatra to Tarsus. Antony was in need of money to launch a campaign against the Parthians, and he hoped Cleopatra would give him the money he needed. She met him dressed as Aphrodite, goddess of love. Antony was attracted to her and spent the winter in Alexandria with her. Cleopatra agreed to provide him with money on the condition that Arsinoe IV is executed.
Cleopatra most likely felt threatened by her, and convinced Antony to get rid of her, saying that she might have helped his enemies in the recent battles at Phillipi. Antony agreed to the terms, and Arsinoe IV was executed. Antony married Octavia, Octavian’s sister, in 40 BC. He married Octavia to seal a deal with Octavian. It stated that after the Triumvirate ended the two would both rule the Roman world, though they allowed Lepidus to remain in northern Africa and govern the area. Octavian held all of Western Europe and Antony held the eastern end of the Roman world.
This same year Cleopatra gave birth to twins, Cleopatra Selene and Alexander Helios, the sun and the moon. Surely she was very unhappy that Antony had married Octavia, and even angrier when Octavia became pregnant. In 37 BC, Antony sent Octavia back to Rome to her brother. He then went to Alexandria to be with Cleopatra. Antony did proceed to give her and her children quite a bit of land in the east around the Red Sea. In about 36 BC, Cleopatra began ruling with her son, Ptolemy XV Caesar. She also gave birth to another child by Antony, Ptolemy Philadelphus. In 34 BC, Cleopatra and her children received land from Antony.
Cleopatra Selene, Cleopatra’s six-year-old daughter, was made Queen of Crete and Cyrenaica. Alexander Helios, also six years old, was made King of Armenia and overlord of Media. Media already had a king, and Alexander Helios was betrothed to his daughter, but now Alexander held a higher position than the King did. Ptolemy Philadelphus was named King of Syria and overlord of part of Asia Minor. Cleopatra’s title became Queen of Kings and Ptolemy XV Caesar was named King of Kings. Now the Ptolemaic Empire covered a large portion of the eastern Mediterranean world.
These additions to the Ptolemaic Empire are referred to as the Donations of Alexandria. The Donations were unpopular in Rome and did not help Antony and Cleopatra’s reputations in Rome. In 32 BC, Octavian declared war on Cleopatra, not Antony. Romans felt it was much better to declare war on the foreign queen, whom believed was influencing Antony than on Antony himself. The final battle took place at Actium, in Greece. The battle was in 31 BC and was horribly planned on Antony and Cleopatra’s part. During the battle, Cleopatra deserted Antony, and Antony followed her.
Upon returning to Egypt, Cleopatra and Antony decked their ships out so it appeared that the battle had been successful. They wished to be greeted favorably in Egypt. Antony spent time in a tower in the harbor called the Timonium, and eventually he returned to the palace. Cleopatra planned to send Caesarion away, perhaps to India, so he might escape harm from Octavian and retain the throne of Egypt. Cleopatra might have been planning to go east also and establish herself there. Cleopatra was arranging for ships to be moved from the Nile to the Red Sea, but this plan was unsuccessful. She stayed in Egypt.
Both she and Antony sent bribes to Octavian asking him to leave them in peace, but none were successful. Cleopatra built a mausoleum where she amassed her wealth and planned to spend eternity. Octavian was nearing Egypt and on hearing this sent messages claiming she would be treated well when captured because he feared that she would set fire to her valuable, collected items. When Octavian finally came in 30 BC, Cleopatra shut herself in her mausoleum with her two servants, Iras and Charmion. Antony heard this and, believing she was dead, killed himself. As he lay dying, he was brought to Cleopatra in the mausoleum and died.
While Cleopatra was talking to a person outside the door, sent to distract her, members of Octavian’s staff climbed up to the opened window used to bring Antony in, and she was taken prisoner and moved to the palace, where she killed herself. Her servants Iras and Charmion also committed suicide, and when the three were found, Cleopatra was dead. Iras and Charmion were nearly dead at her side. A guard, seeing Charmion adjusting Cleopatra’s Crown, asked, \”Charmion, was this right? \” Moreover, Charmion replied, It is entirely right and fitting for a queen descended from so many kings.