QUEEN CLEOPATRA - The last Egyptian Pharaoh B.C. 69-30
It 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.
Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra
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.)
There 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.
When 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, she was worshipped as a god. Queen of the Nile.
The 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.
Hence 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?
As 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.
In 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.
In 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.
Bust of Cleopatra
Caesar's 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.
Mark 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.
It 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 historians.
Cleopatra's tomb is still lost in time
Octavian 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 buried as a King.
Octavian 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 death instrument.
With 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.
Cleopatra was the last pharaoh of Egypt.
VII Philopator (Ancient Greek:
Φιλοπάτωρ; Late 69 B.C.E.
– August 12, 30 B.C.E.), known to history as Cleopatra, was the last
pharaoh of Ancient
After Caesar's assassination in 44 B.C.E., she aligned with Mark
Antony in opposition to Caesar's legal heir, Gaius Julius Caesar
Octavianus (later known as Augustus). With Antony, she bore the twins
Cleopatra Selene II and Alexander Helios, and another son, Ptolemy
Philadelphus. Her unions with her brothers produced no children. After
losing the Battle of Actium to Octavian's forces, Antony committed
suicide. Cleopatra followed suit, according to tradition killing
herself by means of an asp bite on August 12, 30 B.C.E.. She was
briefly outlived by Caesarion, who was declared pharaoh by his
supporters, but he was soon killed on Octavian's orders. Egypt became
the Roman province of Aegyptus.
Queen Cleopatra's royal barge, last of the Pharoahs
Egyptian boat building - Khufu's royal barge - solar boat for the afterlife
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