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Cleopatra: The Last Queen of Egypt

Cleopatra, or more precisely, Cleopatra VII, was the daughter of Ptolemy XII Auletes, the king of Egypt. Cleopatras father appointed Cleopatra and her brother Ptolemy XIII as successors to his throne, with the provision that they should marry. In the third year of Cleopatras and Ptolemys reign, Ptolemy was encouraged by his advisers to assume sole control of government and drove Cleopatra into an exile. Cleopatra gathered an army in Syria, but was unable to assert her claim until the arrival of Julius Ceasar. Julius Ceasar became Cleopatras lover and espoused her cause.

Ptolemy XIII was angered and vowed to war against Ceasar, but drowned in the Nile while trying to flee. Cleopatra was then forced by custom to marry her younger brother, Ptolemy XIV. Cleopatra gave birth to Caesars son and named him Caesarion. Then Cleopatra went to Rome, where she lived as Caesars mistress. After Caesars assassination Cleopatra returned to Egypt, poisoned her brother, and made Caesarion her coregent. Cleopatra hesitated to take sides in the civil war in Rome following Caesars death. But she was summoned by Mark Antony to explain her conduct.

Antony fell in love with Cleopatra and returned with her to Egypt. After living with Cleopatra for some time, Antony returned to Rome and married Octavia, a sister of Caesars heir Octavian. Six months after Antonys departure, Cleopatra bore twins. Four years passed before Antony and Cleopatra reunited. Antony married Cleopatra and continued to reside in Egypt, totally neglecting Octavia. This angered the Romans, and Octavian declared war against Egypt. Cleopatra and Antony were defeated, and both committed suicide. Cleopatra: The Last Queen of Egypt

Cleopatra was the last and most memorable pharaoh of Egypt. Cleopatra was the name of the seven queens of ancient Egypt’s Ptolemaic dynasty. By far the most famous queen was the last of the Ptolemaic dynasty, Cleopatra VII. Cleopatra made extraordinary efforts to revive Ptolemaic power through her forceful personality and political skill, efforts which involved or led to romantic liaisons with both Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. Cleopatras life and death at her own hand has been the subject of many writers. Cleopatras Family Cleopatra VII was born in 69 BC in Alexandria, which was then the capital of Egypt.

Her father was Egypts pharaoh, Ptolemy XII, nicknamed Auletes or Flute Player. Cleopatras mother was probably Auletess sister, Cleopatra V Tryphaena. (It was common for members of the Ptolemaic dynasty to marry their siblings. ) There was another Cleopatra in the family, Cleopatra VIIs older sister, Cleopatra VI. Cleopatra VII also had an older sister named Berenice, a younger sister Arsinoe, and two younger brothers, both called Ptolemy. The family was not Egyptian, but Macedonia; they were descended from Ptolemy I, a general of Alexander the Great, who became king of Egypt after Alexanders death in 323 BC.

Ptolemy XII was weak and cruel ruler, and in 58 BC the people of Alexandria rebelled and overthrew him. Ptolemy XII fled to Rome, while his oldest daughter Bernice took the throne. Bernice married her cousin, but soon had him strangled so that she could marry another man, Archelaus. During Berenices three-year reign, Cleopatra VI died of an unknown cause. In 55 BC Ptolemy XII reclaimed his throne with the help of the Roman general Pompey. Ptolemy XII executed his daughter Berenice and her husband. Cleopatra VII was now the pharaohs oldest child. When Cleopatras father died in 51 BC, he left his children in Pompeys care.

Cleopatra and her brother Ptolemy XIII, who was the child of 12, succeeded jointly to the throne of Egypt. Queen of Egypt Cleopatra was seventeen when she became the queen of Egypt. She was far from beautiful, despite her glamorous image today. Cleopatra is depicted on the ancient coins with a long hooked nose and masculine features. At the same time she was clearly a very seductive woman. She had an enchantingly musical voice and exuded charisma (Bradford, 2001). Cleopatra was also highly intelligent; she spoke nine languages and proved to be a shrewd politician.

Cleopatra was the first Ptolemy pharaoh who could actually speak Egyptian (Anderson, Higgs, Walker, 2001). In compliance with the Egyptian tradition Cleopatra married her brother and co-ruler, Ptolemy XIII. Historians argue that it was a marriage of convenience only, and Ptolemy was pharaoh in name only. For three years Ptolemy XIII remained in the background, while Cleopatra ruled alone. As Ptolemy XIII got older his advisors, led by a eunuch named Pothinus, resented Cleopatras independence and conspired against her. In 48 BC Cleopatra was stripped of her power and was forced into exile in Syria.

Cleopatras sister Arsinoe went with her. Cleopatra and Caesar Determined to regain her throne, Cleopatra amassed an army on Egypts border. At this time Pompey was vying with Julius Caesar for the control of the Roman Empire. After losing the battle of Pharsalos, Pompey sailed to Alexandria, pursued by Caesar, to seek Ptolemys protection. But Ptolemys advisors thought it would be safer to side with Caesar, and when Pompey arrived, he was stabbed to death while the young pharaoh watched. Three days later Caesar reached Alexandria. Before Caesar entered the city, Ptolemys courtiers brought him a gift — Pompeys head.

Caesar was appalled by Pompeys murder, because Pompey had once been a friend of Caesar. Caesar marched into the city, seized control of the palace and began issuing orders. Both Ptolemy and Cleopatra were to dismiss their armies and meet with Caesar, who would settle their dispute. Cleopatra knew that if she entered Alexandria openly, Ptolemys henchmen would kill her. So Cleopatra had herself smuggled to Caesar inside an oriental rug. When the rug was unrolled, Cleopatra tumbled out. Caesar was bewitched by her charm and became her lover that very night (Bradford, 2001).

When Ptolemy saw Caesar and Cleopatra together the next day, he was furious. Ptolemy stormed out of the palace, shouting that he had been betrayed. Caesar had Ptolemy arrested, but the pharaohs army (led by the eunuch Pothinus and Cleopatras sister Arsinoe) laid siege to the palace. In hopes of appeasing the attackers, Caesar released Ptolemy XIII, but the Alexandrian war continued for almost six months. War ended when Pothinus was killed in battle, and Ptolemy XIII drowned in the Nile while trying to flee. Alexandria surrendered to Caesar, Arsinoe was captured, and Cleopatra was restored to her throne.

Cleopatra then, following the custom, married her younger brother Ptolemy XIV, who was twelve years old at that time. Soon after the victory, Cleopatra and Caesar enjoyed a leisurely two-month cruise on the Nile. The Roman historian Suetonius wrote, They would have sailed all the way to Ethiopia if Caesars troops had agreed to follow him (Foreman & Goddio, 1999). After the cruise Caesar returned to Rome, leaving three legions in Egypt to protect Cleopatra. Cleopatra became pregnant during the cruise and gave birth to a son, Ptolemy XV, whom she named Caesarion or Little Caesar.

A year later Caesar invited Cleopatra to visit him at Rome. Cleopatra arrived in the autumn of 46 BC, accompanied by Caesarion and her young husband Ptolemy XIV. Caesarion strongly resembled Caesar, and Caesar acknowledged Caesarion as his son, an act which greatly angered the Romans. In September Caesar celebrated his war triumphs by parading his prisoners, including Cleopatras sister Arsinoe (Caesar spared Arsinoes life, but later Mark Antony had her killed at Cleopatras request). Cleopatra lived in Caesars villa near Rome for almost two years.

Caesar showered her with gifts and titles. Caesar even had a statue of her erected in the temple of Venus Genetrix. Romans were scandalized by Caesars extramarital affair (Caesar was married to a woman named Calpurnia). In March 15, 44 BC a crowd of conspirators surrounded Caesar at the Senate meeting and stabbed him to death. Cleopatra, knowing that she too was in danger, quickly left Rome with her entourage. Immediately after returning to Egypt, Ptolemy XIV died, poisoned at Cleopatras command. Cleopatra made Caesarion her co-regent. Cleopatra and Mark Antony

Caesars assassination caused anarchy and a civil war in Rome. Eventually the empire was divided among three men: Caesars great-nephew Octavian, Marcus Lepidus and Mark Antony. In 42 BC Mark Antony summoned Cleopatra to Tarsus to question her about whether she had assisted Caesars enemies. Cleopatra arrived in style on a barge with a gilded stern, purple sails, and silver oars. The boat was sailed by maids, who were dressed as sea nymphs. Cleopatra herself was dressed as Venus, goddess of love. She reclined under a gold canopy, fanned by boys in Cupid costumes (Talley, 1997).

As Cleopatra had intended, Antony, an unsophisticated, pleasure-loving man, was impressed by this blatant display of luxury. Cleopatra entertained him on her barge that night, and the next night Antony invited her to supper, hoping to outdo her in magnificence. He failed, but joked about it in a good natured, vulgar way. Cleopatra did not seem to mind his tasteless sense of humor; in fact, she joined right in. Like Caesar before him, Antony was enthralled. Antony forgot his responsibilities, accompanied Cleopatra to Alexandria, and spent the winter with her there.

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