was not Cleopatra's beauty in
itself was so striking that it stunned the onlooker, but the
inescapable impression produced by daily contact with her:
the attractiveness in the persuasiveness of her talk, and
the character that surrounded her conversation was
stimulating. It was a pleasure to hear the sound of her
voice, and she tuned her tongue like a many-stringed
instrument expertly to whatever language she chose.
Taylor as Cleopatra
VII was born in 69 BC in Alexandria, which was then the
capital of Egypt. Her father was Egypt's pharaoh, Ptolemy
XII, nicknamed Auletes or "Flute-Player."
Cleopatra's mother was probably Auletes's sister, Cleopatra
V Tryphaena. (It was commonplace for members of the
Ptolemaic dynasty to marry their siblings.)
was another Cleopatra in the family -- Cleopatra VII's elder
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 truly
Egyptian, but Macedonian. They were descended from Ptolemy
I, a general of Alexander the Great who became king of Egypt
after Alexander's death in 323 BC.
Cleopatra VII ascended the Egyptian throne, she was only
seventeen. She reigned as Queen Philopator and Pharaoh
between 51 and 30 BC, and died at the age of 39.
Cleopatra was Macedonian, but despite her ancestry was
Macedonian, she was worshipped as a god.
demise of the Ptolemies
power coincided with the rise of the Roman Empire. Having
little choice, and seeing city after the other falling into
Rome's grip, the Ptolemies decided to ally with the Romans,
a pact that lasted for two centuries. During the rule of the
later Ptolemies, Rome gained more and more power over Egypt,
and was even declared guardian of the Ptolemaic Dynasty.
Cleopatra's father, Ptolemy XII had to pay tribute to the
Romans to keep them away from his Kingdom. Upon his death,
the fall of the Dynasty seemed even closer.
the controversy over Cleopatra's real motives. Was she
trying to save her throne, or did she have a more
noble cause? Was she protecting her Dynasty, or was she
preventing more interference from the Romans in Egypt?
children, Cleopatra and her siblings wittnessed the defeat
of their guardian, Pompey, by Julius
Caesar in a duel. Meanwhile, Cleopatra and her
brother/husband Ptolemy XIII were duelling, albeit silently,
over the throne.
the middle of all this turmoil, Julius Caesar left Rome for
Alexandria in 48 BC. During his stay in the Palace, he
received the most famous gift in history: an oriental
carpet... with a 22 year old Cleopatra wrapped in. She
counted on Caesar's support to alienate Ptolemy XIII. With
the arrival of Roman reinforcements, and after a few battles
in Alexandria, Ptolemy XIII was defeated and killed.
the summer of 47 BC, having married her younger brother
Ptolemy XIV, Cleopatra and Caesar embarked for a two month
on a trip along the Nile, aboard a legendary boat. Together,
they visited Dendara, where Cleoptara was being worshipped
as Pharaoh, an honor beyond Caesar's reach. They became
lovers, and indeed, she bore him a son, Caesarion. In 45 BC,
Cleopatra and Caesarion left Alexandria for Rome, where they
stayed in a palace built by Caesar in their honor.
acts were anything but overlooked by the Romans. In 44 BC,
he was killed in a conspiracy by his Senators. With his
death, Rome split between supporters of Mark
Antony and Octavian. Cleopatra was watching in silence,
and when Mark Antony seemed to prevail, she supported him
and, shortly after, they too became lovers.
Antony's alliance with Cleopatra angried Rome even more. The
senators called her a sorceress, and accused her of all
sorts of evil. The Romans became even more furious as Antony
was giving away parts of their Empire - Tarsus, Cyrene,
Crete, Cyprus, and Palestine - one after the other to
Cleopatra and her children.
was the boiling point when Octavian declared war on
Cleopatra, and off the coast of Greece in the Adriatic Sea
they met in one of the most famous battles in history:
Actium. The Egyptian defeat was often attributed to the
early withdrawal of a coward Cleopatra from the
battle scene, although this claim is now discredited by most
waited for a year before he claimed Egypt as a Roman
province. He arrived in Alexandria and easily defeated Mark
Antony outside the city, near present day Camp César.
Antony was asked to be taken to Cleopatra. He died in her
arms and was burried as a King.
entered Alexandria in 30 BC. Cleopatra was captured and
taken to him, and the Roman Emperor had no interest in any
relation, reconciliation, or even negotiation with the
Egyptian Queen. Realizing that her end is close, she decided
to put an end to her life. It is not known for sure how she
killed herself, but many believe she used an asp as her
the death of Cleopatra, a whole era in Egyptian history was
closed. Alexandria remained capital of Egypt, but Egypt was
now a Roman province. The age of Egyptian Monarchs gave way
to the age of Roman Emperors, and Cleopatra's death gave way
to the rise of Rome. The Ptolemies were of Macedonian
descent, yet they ruled Egypt as Egyptians - as Pharaohs.
And, indeed, Cleopatra was the last Pharaoh.