Cleopatra VII: Wikis


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Cleopatra VII
Queen of Egypt
Bust of Cleopatra VII
Reign 51 BC–12 August 30 BC
Ptolemy XIII (51 BC–47 BC)
Ptolemy XIV (47 BC–44 BC)
Caesarion (44 BC–30 BC)
Full name Cleopatra VII Thea Philopator
Born late 69 BC[1]
Died August 12, 30 BC (aged 39)
Place of death Alexandria
Predecessor Ptolemy XII Auletes
Successor None (Roman province)
Consort Ptolemy XIII Theos Philopator
Ptolemy XIV
Julius Caesar (de facto)
Mark Antony (de facto)
Offspring Ptolemy Caesar (Caesarion)
Cleopatra Selene II
Alexander Helios
Ptolemy Philadelphus
Dynasty Ptolemaic
Father Ptolemy XII Auletes
Mother Cleopatra V of Egypt
These articles cover Ancient Rome and the fall of the Republic
Roman Republic, Mark Antony, Cleopatra VII, Assassination of Julius Caesar, Crassus, Pompey, Brutus, Cato the Younger, Theatre of Pompey, Cicero, First Triumvirate, Comitium

Cleopatra VII Philopator (in Greek, Κλεοπάτρα Φιλοπάτωρ; (Late 69 BC[1] – August 12, 30 BC) was the last person to rule Egypt as an Egyptian pharaoh – after she died, Egypt became a Roman province.

She was a member of the Ptolemaic dynasty of Ancient Egypt. Cleopatra originally ruled jointly with her father Ptolemy XII Auletes and later with her brothers, Ptolemy XIII and Ptolemy XIV, whom she also married, but eventually she became sole ruler. As pharaoh, she consummated a liaison with Gaius Julius Caesar that solidified her grip on the throne. She later elevated her son with Caesar, Caesarion, to co-ruler in name.

After Caesar's assassination in 44 BC, she aligned with Mark Antony in opposition to Caesar's legal heir, Gaius Julius Caesar Octavian, (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 BC.[2] She was briefly outlived by Caesarion, who was declared pharaoh, but he was soon killed on Octavian's orders. Egypt became the Roman province of Aegyptus.

Though Cleopatra bore the ancient Egyptian title of pharaoh, the Ptolemaic dynasty was Hellenistic, having been founded 300 years before by Ptolemy I Soter, a Macedonian Greek general of Alexander the Great.[3][4][5][6] As such, Cleopatra's language was the Greek spoken by the Hellenic aristocracy, though she was reputed to be the first ruler of the dynasty to learn Egyptian. She also adopted common Egyptian beliefs and deities. Her patron goddess was Isis, and thus, during her reign, it was believed that she was the re-incarnation and embodiment of the goddess of wisdom. Her death marks the end of the Ptolemaic Kingdom and Hellenistic period and the beginning of the Roman era in the eastern Mediterranean.

To this day, Cleopatra remains a popular figure in Western culture. Her legacy survives in numerous works of art and the many dramatizations of her story in literature and other media, including William Shakespeare's tragedy Antony and Cleopatra, Jules Massenet's opera Cléopâtre and the 1963 film Cleopatra. In most depictions, Cleopatra is put forward as a great beauty and her successive conquests of the world's most powerful men are taken to be proof of her aesthetic and sexual appeal. In his Pensées, philosopher Blaise Pascal contends that Cleopatra's classically beautiful profile changed world history: "Cleopatra's nose, had it been shorter, the whole face of the world would have been changed."[7]


Accession to the throne

Statue of Cleopatra as Egyptian Goddess; Basalt, second half of the first century BC. Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

The identity of Cleopatra's mother is unknown, but she is generally believed to be Cleopatra V Tryphaena of Egypt, the sister or cousin and wife of Ptolemy XII, or possibly another Ptolemaic family member who was the daughter of Ptolemy X and Cleopatra Berenice III Philopator if Cleopatra V was not the daughter of Ptolemy X and Berenice III.[8] Cleopatra's father Auletes was a direct descendant of Alexander the Great's general, Ptolemy I Soter, son of Arsinoe and Lacus, both of Macedon.

Centralization of power and corruption led to uprisings in and the losses of Cyprus and Cyrenaica, making Ptolemy's reign one of the most calamitous of the dynasty. When Ptolemy went to Rome with Cleopatra, Cleopatra VI Tryphaena seized the crown but died shortly afterwards in suspicious circumstances. It is believed, though not proven by historical sources, that Berenice IV poisoned her so she could assume sole rulership. Regardless of the cause, she did until Ptolemy Auletes returned in 55 BC, with Roman support, capturing Alexandria aided by Roman general Aulus Gabinius. Berenice was imprisoned and executed shortly afterwards, her head allegedly being sent to the royal court on the decree of her father, the king. Cleopatra was now, at age 14, put as joint regent and deputy of her father, although her power was likely to have been severely limited.

Ptolemy XII died in March 51 BC, thus by his will making the 18-year-old Cleopatra and her brother, the 12-year-old Ptolemy XIII joint monarchs. The first three years of their reign were difficult, due to economic difficulties, famine, deficient floods of the Nile, and political conflicts. Although Cleopatra was married to her young brother, she quickly made it clear that she had no intention of sharing power with him.

In August 51 BC, relations between Cleopatra and Ptolemy completely broke down. Cleopatra dropped Ptolemy's name from official documents and her face appeared alone on coins, which went against Ptolemaic tradition of female rulers being subordinate to male co-rulers. In 50 BC Cleopatra came into a serious conflict with the Gabiniani, powerful Roman troops of Aulus Gabinius who had left them in Egypt to protect Ptolemy XII after his restoration to the throne in 55 BC. This conflict was one of the main causes for Cleopatra's soon following loss of power.

The sole reign of Cleopatra was finally ended by a cabal of courtiers, led by the eunuch Pothinus, removing Cleopatra from power and making Ptolemy sole ruler in circa 48 BC (or possibly earlier, as a decree exists from 51 BC with Ptolemy's name alone). She tried to raise a rebellion around Pelusium, but she was soon forced to flee with her only remaining sister, Arsinoë.[9]

Relation with Julius Caesar


Assassination of Pompey

While Cleopatra was in exile, Pompey became embroiled in the Roman civil war. In the autumn of 48 BC, Pompey fled from the forces of Caesar to Alexandria, seeking sanctuary. Ptolemy, only fifteen years old at that time, had set up a throne for himself on the harbour, from where he watched as on September 28, 48 BC, Pompey was murdered by one of his former officers, now in Ptolemaic service. He was beheaded in front of his wife and children, who were on the ship from which he had just disembarked. Ptolemy is thought to have ordered the death to ingratiate himself with Caesar, thus becoming an ally of Rome, to which Egypt was in debt at the time, though this act proved a miscalculation on Ptolemy's part. When Caesar arrived in Egypt two days later, Ptolemy presented him with Pompey's severed head; Caesar was enraged. Although he was Caesar's political enemy, Pompey was a Consul of Rome and the widower of Caesar's only legitimate daughter, Julia (who died in childbirth with their son). Caesar seized the Egyptian capital and imposed himself as arbiter between the rival claims of Ptolemy and Cleopatra.

Caesar and Caesarion

Eager to take advantage of Julius Caesar's anger with Ptolemy, Queen Cleopatra returned to the palace rolled into a Persian carpet and had it presented to Caesar by her servants: when it was unrolled, Cleopatra tumbled out.[10] It is believed that Caesar was charmed by the gesture, and she became his mistress. Nine months after their first meeting, Cleopatra gave birth to their baby, in 47 BC. It was at this point that Caesar abandoned his plans to annex Egypt, instead backing Cleopatra's claim to the throne. After a war lasting six months between the party of Ptolemy XIII and the Roman army of Caesar, Ptolemy XIII was drowned in the Nile and Caesar restored Cleopatra to her throne, with another younger brother Ptolemy XIV as new co-ruler.[11]

Cleopatra VII and her son Caesarion at the Temple of Dendera

Despite a more than thirty-year age difference, Cleopatra and Caesar became lovers during his stay in Egypt between 48 BC and 47 BC. They met when they were 21 (Cleopatra) and 52 (Caesar). On 23 June 47 BC Cleopatra gave birth to a child, Ptolemy Caesar, nicknamed Caesarion which means "little Caesar". Cleopatra claimed Caesar was the father and wished him to name the boy his heir, but Caesar refused, choosing his grandnephew Octavian instead. During this relationship, it is also rumored that Cleopatra introduced Caesar to her astronomer Sosigenes of Alexandria, who first proposed the idea of leap day and leap years.

Cleopatra, Ptolemy XIV and Caesarion visited Rome in summer 46 BC. The Egyptian Queen resided in one of Caesar's country houses.[12] The relationship between Cleopatra and Caesar was obvious for the Roman people and it was a scandal, because the Roman dictator was already married to Calpurnia Pisonis. But Caesar even erected a golden statue of Cleopatra represented as Isis in the temple of Venus Genetrix (the mythical ancestress of Caesar's family), which was situated at the Forum Julium.[13] The Roman orator Cicero said in his preserved letters that he hated the foreign Queen.[14] Cleopatra and her entourage were in Rome when Caesar was assassinated on 15 March, 44 BC.[15] She returned with her relatives to Egypt. When Ptolemy XIV died – allegedly poisoned by his older sister -,[16] Cleopatra made Caesarion her co-regent and successor.

Cleopatra in the Roman Civil War

In the following Roman civil war between the Caesarian party – led by Mark Antony and Octavian – and the party of the assassins of Caesar – led by Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus – Cleopatra sided with the Caesarian party because of her past. Brutus and Cassius left Italy and sailed to the East of the Roman Empire, where they conquered large areas and established their military basis. At the beginning of 43 BC Cleopatra formed an alliance with the leader of the Caesarian party in the East, Publius Cornelius Dolabella, who recognized Caesarion as her co-ruler.[17] But soon Dolabella was encircled in Laodicea and committed suicide (July 43 BC).

Now Cassius wanted to invade Egypt to seize the treasures of that country and to punish the Queen for her refusal of Cassius’ request to send him supplies and her support for Dolabella. Egypt seemed an easy booty because the land did not have strong land forces and there were a famine and an epidemic. Cassius finally wanted to prevent that Cleopatra would bring a strong fleet as reinforcement for Antony and Octavian. But he could not execute the invasion of Egypt because at the end of 43 BC Brutus summoned him back to Smyrna. Cassius tried to blockade Cleopatra’s way to the Caesarians. For this purpose Lucius Statius Murcus moved with 60 ships and a legion of elite troops into position at Cape Matapan in the south of the Peloponnese. Nevertheless Cleopatra sailed with her fleet from Alexandria to the west along the Libyan coast to join the Caesarian leaders but her ships were damaged by a violent storm and she became ill, forcing her to return to Egypt. Murcus learned of the misfortune of the Queen and saw parts of her wrecked ships at the coast of Greece. He then sailed with his ships into the Adriatic Sea.[18]

Cleopatra and Mark Antony

Antony and Cleopatra, by Lawrence Alma-Tadema

In 41 BC, Mark Antony, one of the triumvirs who ruled Rome in the power vacuum following Caesar's death, summoned Cleopatra to meet him in Tarsus to answer questions about her loyalty. Cleopatra arrived in great state, and so charmed Antony that he chose to spend the winter of 41 BC–40 BC with her in Alexandria.

To safeguard herself and Caesarion, she had Antony order the death of her sister Arsinoe, who was living at the temple of Artemis in Ephesus, which was under Roman control. The execution was carried out in 41 BC on the steps of the temple, and this violation of temple sanctuary scandalised Rome.[19]

On 25 December 40 BC, Cleopatra gave birth to twins fathered by Antony, Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene II. Four years later, Antony visited Alexandria again en route to make war with the Parthians. He renewed his relationship with Cleopatra, and from this point on Alexandria would be his home. He married Cleopatra according to the Egyptian rite (a letter quoted in Suetonius suggests this), although he was at the time married to Octavia Minor, sister of his fellow triumvir Octavian. He and Cleopatra had another child, Ptolemy Philadelphus.

Coin of Antony and Cleopatra
A tetradrachm of Cleopatra VII, Ascalon mint

At the Donations of Alexandria in late 34 BC, following Antony's conquest of Armenia, Cleopatra and Caesarion were crowned co-rulers of Egypt and Cyprus; Alexander Helios was crowned ruler of Armenia, Media, and Parthia; Cleopatra Selene II was crowned ruler of Cyrenaica and Libya; and Ptolemy Philadelphus was crowned ruler of Phoenicia, Syria, and Cilicia. Cleopatra also took the title of "Queen of Kings".[20] Cleopatra "was planning a war of revenge that was to array all the East against Rome, establish herself as empress of the world at Rome and inaugurate a new universal kingdom."[21]

Relations between Antony and Octavian, disintegrating for several years, finally broke down in 33 BC, and Octavian convinced the Senate to levy war against Egypt. In 31 BC Antony's forces faced the Romans in a naval action off the coast of Actium. Cleopatra was present with a fleet of her own. Popular legend states that when she saw that Antony's poorly equipped and manned ships were losing to the Romans' superior vessels, she took flight and that Antony abandoned the battle to follow her, but no contemporary evidence states this was the case.

Following the Battle of Actium, Octavian invaded Egypt. As he approached Alexandria, Antony's armies deserted to Octavian on August 1, 30 BC.

There are a number of unverifiable stories about Cleopatra, of which one of the best known is that, at one of the lavish dinners she shared with Antony, she playfully bet him that she could spend ten million sesterces on a dinner. He accepted the bet. The next night, she had a conventional, unspectacular meal served; he was ridiculing this, when she ordered the second course — only a cup of strong vinegar. She then removed one of her priceless pearl earrings, dropped it into the vinegar, allowed it to dissolve, and drank the mixture. The earliest report of this story comes from Pliny the Elder and dates to about 100 years after the banquet described would have happened. The calcium carbonate in pearls does dissolve in vinegar, but slowly unless the pearl is first crushed.[22]


The ancient sources, particularly the Roman ones, are in general agreement that Cleopatra killed herself by inducing an Egyptian cobra to bite her. The oldest source is Strabo, who was alive at the time of the event, and might even have been in Alexandria. He says that there are two stories: that she applied a toxic ointment, or that she was bitten by an asp.[23] Several Roman poets, writing within ten years of the event, all mention bites by two asps,[24][25][26] as does Florus, a historian, some 150 years later.[27] Velleius, sixty years after the event, also refers to an asp.[28] Other authors have questioned these historical accounts, stating that it is possible that Augustus had her killed.[29]

A tetradrachm of Cleopatra VII, Syria mint

Plutarch, writing about 130 years after the event, reports that Octavian succeeded in capturing Cleopatra in her Mausoleum after the death of Antony. He ordered his freedman Epaphroditus to guard her to prevent her from committing suicide because he allegedly wanted to present her in his triumph. But Cleopatra was able to deceive Epaphroditus and kill herself nevertheless.[30] Plutarch states that she was found dead, her handmaiden, Iras dying at her feet, and another handmaiden, Charmion, adjusting her crown before she herself falls.[31] He then goes on to state that an asp was concealed in a basket of figs that was brought to her by a rustic, and, finding it after eating a few figs, she held out her arm for it to bite. Other stories state that it was hidden in a vase, and that she poked it with a spindle until it got angry enough to bite her on the arm. Finally, he eventually writes, in Octavian's triumphal march back in Rome, an effigy of Cleopatra that has an asp clinging to it is part of the parade.[32]

Suetonius, writing about the same time as Plutarch, also says Cleopatra died from an asp bite.[33]

Shakespeare gave us the final part of the image that has come down to us, Cleopatra clutching the snake to her breast.[34] Before him, it was generally agreed that she was bitten on the arm.[35][36][37]

Plutarch tells us of the death of Antony. When his armies desert him and join with Octavian, he cries out that Cleopatra has betrayed him. She, fearing his wrath, locks herself in her monument with only her two handmaidens and sends messengers to Antony that she is dead. Believing them, Antony stabs himself in the stomach with his sword, and lies on his couch to die. Instead, the blood flow stops, and he begs any and all to finish him off.

The Death of Cleopatra by Guido Cagnacci, 1658

Another messenger comes from Cleopatra with instructions to bear him to her, and he, rejoicing that Cleopatra is still alive, consents. She won't open the door, but tosses ropes out of a window. After Antony is securely trussed up, she and her handmaidens haul him up into the monument. This nearly finishes him off. After dragging him in through the window, they lay him on a couch. Cleopatra tears off her clothes and covers him with them. She raves and cries, beats her breasts and engages in self-mutilation. Antony tells her to calm down, asks for a glass of wine, and dies upon finishing it.[38]

The site of their Mausoleum is uncertain, though it is thought by the Egyptian Antiquities Service, to be in or near the temple of Taposiris Magna south west of Alexandria.[39]

Cleopatra's son by Caesar, Caesarion, was proclaimed pharaoh by the Egyptians, after Alexandria fell to Octavian. Caesarion was captured and killed, his fate reportedly sealed when one of Octavian's advisers paraphrased Homer: "It is bad to have too many Caesars."[40] This ended not just the Hellenistic line of Egyptian pharaohs, but the line of all Egyptian pharaohs. The three children of Cleopatra and Antony were spared and taken back to Rome where they were taken care of by Antony's wife, Octavia Minor. The daughter, Cleopatra Selene, was married by arrangements by Octavian to Juba II of Mauretania.[41]

Character and cultural depictions

Cleopatra was regarded as a great beauty, even in the ancient world. In his Life of Antony, Plutarch remarks that "judging by the proofs which she had had before this of the effect of her beauty upon Caius Caesar and Gnaeus the son of Pompey, she had hopes that she would more easily bring Antony to her feet. For Caesar and Pompey had known her when she was still a girl and inexperienced in affairs, but she was going to visit Antony at the very time when women have the most brilliant beauty".[7] Later in the work, however, Plutarch indicates that "her beauty, as we are told, was in itself not altogether incomparable, nor such as to strike those who saw her."[7] Rather, what ultimately made Cleopatra attractive were her wit, charm and "sweetness in the tones of her voice."[7]

Cassius Dio also spoke of Cleopatra's allure: "For she was a woman of surpassing beauty, and at that time, when she was in the prime of her youth, she was most striking; she also possessed a most charming voice and knowledge of how to make herself agreeable to every one. Being brilliant to look upon and to listen to, with the power to subjugate every one, even a love-sated man already past his prime, she thought that it would be in keeping with her role to meet Caesar, and she reposed in her beauty all her claims to the throne."[7]

These accounts influenced later cultural depictions of Cleopatra, which typically present her using her charms to influence the most powerful men in the Western world.


The high degree of inbreeding amongst the Ptolemies can be seen from the ancestry of Cleopatra VII. As the stemma below shows, she only had four great-grandparents and six (out of a possible 16) great-great-grandparents (furthermore, four of those six were descended from the other two).


  1. ^ a b Walker, p. 129.
  2. ^ "Who Was Cleopatra? (page 2)". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved 2008-01-22. 
  3. ^ The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt. “,Cleopatra VII was born to Ptolemy XII Auletes (80–57 BCE, ruled 55–51 BCE) and Cleopatra, both parents being Macedonian Greeks."
  4. ^ Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt by Kathryn Bard, page 488 “ Ptolemaic kings were still crowned at Memphis and the city was popularly regarded as the Egyptian rival to Alexandria, founded by the Macedonian Greeks”; Page 687: "During the Ptolemaic period, when Egypt was governed by rulers of Greek descent…”
  5. ^ Cleopatra: A Sourcebook (Oklahoma Series in Classical Culture) by Prudence J. Jones (Author) page14“They were members of the Ptolemaic dynasty of Macedonian Greeks, who ruled Egypt after the death of its conqueror, Alexander the Great.”
  6. ^ Women in Hellenistic Egypt by Sarah B. Pomeroy, page 16 “while Ptolemaic Egypt was a monarchy with a Greek ruling class."
  7. ^ a b c d e "The Beauty of Cleopatra". University of Chicago. Retrieved 2008-05-28. 
  8. ^ The German historian Werner Huß (Die Herkunft der Kleopatra Philopator (The descent of Cleopatra Philopator), Aegyptus 70, 1990, pp. 191–203) assumes instead that Cleopatra's mother was a high born Egyptian woman, who possibly had become the second wife of Ptolemy XII after he had repudiated Cleopatra V.
  9. ^ Peter Green (1990). Alexander to Actium: The Historical Evolution of the Hellenistic Age. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 661–664. ISBN 0-520-05611-6. 
  10. ^ So the dramatic report of Plutarch (Caesar 49.1–3), that is doubted by some scholars. Cleopatra had to be smuggled secretly into the palace, where Caesar was residing, because Ptolemy XIII blocked all ways to Alexandria to make it impossible for his half-sister to come in the city.
  11. ^ Death of Ptolemy XIII: De Bello Alexandrino28–32; Cassius Dio, Roman History 42.43; new enthronement of Cleopatra: De Bello Alexandrino 33; Cassius Dio, Roman History 42.44; Suetonius, Caesar 35.1
  12. ^ Cassius Dio, Roman History 43.27.3; Cicero, Letters to Atticus 15.15.2
  13. ^ Appian, Civil Wars 2.102.424; Cassius Dio, Roman History 51.22.3
  14. ^ Cicero, Letters to Atticus 15.15.2
  15. ^ Cicero, Letters to Atticus 14.8.1 (written on 16 April 44 BC) says that he was very glad that the Queen had fled.
  16. ^ Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 15.89
  17. ^ Appian, Civil Wars 4.61.262–263; Cassius Dio, Roman History 47.30.4 and 47.31.5
  18. ^ Appian, Civil Wars 4.63; 4.74; 4.82; 5.8
  19. ^ BBC documentary, Cleopatra portrait of a killer
  20. ^ Syme, p. 270.
  21. ^ Syme, p. 274.
  22. ^ Ullman, Berthold L. (1957). "Cleopatra's Pearls". The Classical Journal 52 (5): 193–201. 
  23. ^ but he said in his writings that he wasn't sure if Cleopatra poisoned herself or was murdered. Strabo, Geography, XVII 10 
  24. ^ Virgil, Aeneid, VIII 696–697 
  25. ^ Horace, Odes, I 37 
  26. ^ Sextus Propertius, Elegies, III 11 
  27. ^ Florus, Epitome of Roman History, II 21 
  28. ^ Velleius Paterculus, Compendium of Roman History, II 87 
  29. ^ Everitt, Anthony (2007). Augustus: The Life of Rome's First Emperor. New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks. pp. 194–195. ISBN 0-8129-7058-6. 
  30. ^ Plutarch, Life of Antony 79.6 and 85.4–6; Cassius Dio, Roman History 51.11.4–5 and 51.13.3–5
  31. ^ Plutarch, Parallel Lives, LXXXV 2–3 (Life of Antony) 
  32. ^ Plutarch, ibid., LXXXVI 3.  See also Cassius Dio, Roman History, LI 21 
  33. ^ Suetonius, On the Life of the Caesars, Augustus, XVII 4 
  34. ^ Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra, V ii 
  35. ^ Plutarch, loc. cit. 
  36. ^ Cassius Dio, op. cit., LI 14 
  37. ^ Galen, De Theriaca ad Pisonem, CCXXXVII, who says she bit herself, rather than an asp biting her. 
  38. ^ Plutarch, ibid. 
  39. ^ "Dig 'may reveal' Cleopatra's tomb". BBC News. 2009-04-15. Retrieved 2009-04-24. 
  40. ^ Plutarch, Life of Antony 81.4 – 82.1; Cassius Dio, Roman History 51.15.5; Suetonius, Augustus 17.5
  41. ^ Plutarch, Life of Antony 87.1–2; Cassius Dio, Roman History 51.15.6; Suetonius, Augustus 17.5 and Caligula 26.1


  • Hegesippus, Historiae i.29–32.
  • Lucan, Bellum civile ix.909–911, x.
  • Macrobius, Saturnalia iii.17.14–18.
  • Orosius, Historiae adversus paganos vi.16.1–2, 19.4–18.
  • Pliny, Naturalis historia vii.2.14, ix.58.119–121, xxi.9.12.
  • Suetonius, De vita Caesarum Iul i.35.52, ii.17.
  • Syme, Ronald (1962), The Roman Revolution, Oxford University Press .
  • Walker, Susan; Higgs, Peter (2001), Cleopatra of Egypt, From History to Myth, British Museum Press, ISBN 978-0714119434 .

Further reading

  • Bradford, Ernle Dusgate Selby (2000), Cleopatra, Penguin Group, ISBN 9780141390147 
  • Burstein, Stanley M., The Reign of Cleopatra, University of Oklahoma Press 
  • Flamarion, Edith; Bonfante-Warren, Alexandra (1997), Cleopatra: The Life and Death of a Pharoah, Harry Abrams, ISBN 9780810928053 
  • Foss, Michael (1999), The Search for Cleopatra, Arcade Publishing, ISBN 9781559705035 
  • Nardo, Don (1994), Cleopatra, Lucent Books, ISBN 9781560060239 
  • Southern, Pat (2000), Cleopatra, Tempus, ISBN 9780752414942 

External links



Cleopatra VII
Born: 69 BC Died: 30 BC
Preceded by
Ptolemy XII
Queen of Egypt
51–30 BC
with Ptolemy XII,
Ptolemy XIII,
Ptolemy XIV and
Ptolemy XV Caesarion
Succeeded by
Egypt annexed by Rome


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Cleopatra VII (69 BC - 30 BC) was a political ruler and religious figure of ancient Egypt who, allied with Julius Caesar, solidified her rule. After Caesar's assassination, she aligned with Mark Antony of the Second Triumvirate with whom she produced twins, and whom she married by Egyptian rites. She committed suicide after the successful invasion of Egypt by the forces of Octavian, who afterwards, with the execution of her son Caesarion, ended the Ptolemaic dynasty.


Quotes about Cleopatra

  • Cleopatra's nose, had it been shorter, the whole face of the world would have been changed.
  • Her beauty, as we are told, was in itself not altogether incomparable, nor such as to strike those who saw her; but converse with her had an irresistible charm, and her presence, combined with the persuasiveness of her discourse and the character which was somehow diffused about her behaviour towards others, had something stimulating about it. There was sweetness also in the tones of her voice; and her tongue, like an instrument of many strings, she could readily turn to whatever language she pleased...

External links

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Statue of Cleopatra as an Egyptian Goddess; Basalt, second half of the first century BC. Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg
File:Denderah3 Cleopatra
Cleopatra VII and her son Caesarion at the Temple of Dendera

[[File:|thumb|200px|Coin of Antony and Cleopatra]] Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, was one of the most famous women in history. Her name was Cleopatra VII Philopator (69 BC – 12 August 30 BC). She was the last of the Pharoahs set up in Egypt by Alexander the Great. By descent, she was a Macedonian Princess. After her death, Egypt became the Roman province of Aegyptus.

The main historical source for her life is Plutarch's Life of Antony, available in translations.[1] Antony and Cleopatra is the famous tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written sometime between 1603 and 1607. It was first printed in 1623.



Cleopatra was born in Alexandria, then the capital of Egypt. When she was 18 years old, her father, who was king, died. She and her brother, Ptolemy XIII, became the leaders of Egypt. She was queen and her brother was king. Her brother was only 12 years old, so she was the real leader.

Cleopatra made some enemies amongst the courtiers. The reign of Cleopatra was ended by a cabal of courtiers, led by the eunuch Pothinus. They removed Cleopatra from power, and made Ptolemy sole ruler, in about 51 to 48 BC. She had to leave the country. Ptolemy was king, but because he was still a boy, Pothinus and his friends were the real leaders of Egypt.

Caesar and Pompey

At that time, two Roman generals were fighting to be the leaders of the Roman Republic. They were Pompey and Julius Caesar. Julius Caesar defeated Pompey at the Battle of Pharsalus in Greece, 48 BC. Pompey fled to Egypt from Pharsalus, and was murdered by the orders of Ptolemy.

Ptolemy and his supporters thought Caesar would be pleased, but that was a big mistake. Caesar had pardoned many of the senators who fought against him. His reason was to lay the ground for peace in Rome. The murder of Pompey cut right across Caesar's plans. Worse, Pompey was a Roman Consul, and the widower of Caesar's only daughter, Julia. Worse still, Pompey was beheaded in front of his fifth wife and children, who were on the ship from which he had just disembarked. This made sure that Pompey's powerful family and supporters would never forget, and would always be enemies of Caesar.

Then Caesar came to Alexandria, the capital of Egypt. Economically, Egypt was a bread-basket which could feed the people of Rome. Cleopatra received Caesar in her own unique way. She lay down on a carpet. Then her servants rolled up the carpet with Cleopatra inside. Then the carpet was taken to the palace where Caesar was staying. The guards saw some people carrying a carpet and they did not stop them. They carried the carpet to Caesar. Then Cleopatra came out of the carpet. Caesar fell in love with her and they became lovers. At the time, Cleopatra was 21 years old and Caesar was 52 years old.

Caesar decided to make Cleopatra queen again. Ptolemy did not like that. There was a lot of fighting, but Caesar won. Ptolemy tried to leave, but he fell in the river Nile and drowned. Another younger brother became king, but Cleopatra was again the real leader of Egypt. Cleopatra did not marry Julius Caesar, but they did have a son. He was called Caesarion.

Soon after Caesarion was born, Caesar was murdered as he walked to the Senate in Rome. Cleopatra and her entourage were in Rome when Caesar was assassinated on 15 March 44 BC. Cleopatra fled back to Egypt.

Mark Anthony and Octavian

Mark Antony, who was Caesar's military commander, and Octavian, Caesar's legal heir, defeated the group which had conspired against Caesar. This group was led by Brutus and Cassius, who took their army to the Eastern Mediterranean, and controlled much of that area. The issue was finally settled by the Battle of Philippi, fought in Macedonia.

Caesar's place was taken by three joint Consuls, the Second Triumvirate. Their names were Octavian, Mark Antony and Lepidus. Lepidus was a minor character, and the long-term fate of the Empire was decided by a conflict between Antony and Octavian. Mark Antony came to see Cleopatra, and they fell in love, though Antony already had a wife. Cleopatra had three more children. Two were twins, and the father of all three was Mark Antony.

The conflict between Octavian and Antony became serious, and soon there was war. Cleopatra was wealthy, and she used her money to help Antony. But Octavian won the war. He became the ruler of the Roman Empire and was known as Augustus or Caesar Augustus. He took control of Egypt from Cleopatra. After her kingdom was conquered, she committed suicide by letting an asp (a poisonous snake) bite her. Antony also committed suicide.

Ceasarion was murdered by Octavian, and her other children were taken as prisoners to Rome. Two of them died of illness, but her daughter, Cleopatra Selene II, married an African King Juba II of Numidia. The couple were sent to Mauritania to rule by Octavian. They lived a full life there, and had children.[2][3]

There are many stories told of how rich Cleopatra was, but we cannot be sure if these are true. For example, one story says that she took baths in milk, to make her skin softer. Another story says that she made a bet with Antonius that she could make the most expensive meal ever. To win the bet, she took a pearl earring, and melted it in vinegar and drank it.


  1. Bradford, Ernle Dusgate Selby 2000. Cleopatra. Penguin Group. ISBN 9780141390147
  2. Roller D.W. 2003. The world of Juba II and Kleopatra Selene: royal scholarship on Rome's African frontier. Routledge, London.
  3. The ancient kingdom of Mauretania was not situated on the Atlantic coast south of Western Sahara, where modern Mauritania lies. It was a Berber kingdom in what is now Algeria.
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