Cleopatra VII Philopator, commonly known as Cleopatra, was the last active ruler of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt. She was born in 69 BCE and ruled from 51 BCE until her death in 30 BCE. Cleopatra is best known for her relationships with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, which played a significant role in the political landscape of the Roman Empire. She was a highly educated and multilingual leader who actively engaged in the affairs of her kingdom. Cleopatra’s death marked the end of the Ptolemaic dynasty and the beginning of Egypt’s incorporation into the Roman Empire.
If you had the opportunity to travel back in time and witness an ancient civilization, which one would you choose? Would it be Rome? Or maybe Babylon? If you’re like most children, chances are you would pick Egypt!
What makes ancient Egypt so fascinating? Many people enjoy learning about King Tut and the Great Pyramids of Giza. Others are more intrigued by the Queen of the Nile. Yes, we’re talking about Cleopatra.
Although Cleopatra was born in Egypt around 70 or 69 B.C., she was not of Egyptian descent. Her ancestry could be traced back to Macedonian Greece. Ptolemy I, a general under Alexander the Great, took control of Egypt after Alexander’s death in 323 B.C.E.
Ptolemy’s reign marked the beginning of a dynasty of Greek-speaking rulers in Egypt that would last for almost 300 years. When Cleopatra’s father, Ptolemy XII, died in 51 B.C.E., the control of Egypt was passed on to 18-year-old Cleopatra and her 10-year-old brother Ptolemy XIII.
Unlike her predecessors, Cleopatra fully embraced the Egyptian way of life and customs. She was the first of the Macedonian leaders to learn the Egyptian language. Unfortunately, her brother’s advisors conspired against her, forcing her to flee to nearby Syria in 49 B.C.E.
But Cleopatra’s story didn’t end there. She raised an army and formed an alliance with the Roman military leader Julius Caesar. With Caesar’s assistance, Cleopatra regained her position on the throne alongside Ptolemy XIV. However, Cleopatra’s relationship with Caesar went beyond politics. In 47 B.C.E., they had a son together, whom they named Ptolemy Caesar, but the Egyptian people knew him as Caesarion (meaning “Little Caesar”).
In 46 B.C.E., Cleopatra and Caesarion traveled to Rome with Caesar. Her beauty, style, and fashion sense left a lasting impression on the city. However, when Caesar was assassinated in 44 B.C.E., Cleopatra returned to Egypt.
Shortly after her return, Ptolemy XIV passed away. Some historians speculate that Cleopatra may have had a hand in his death. She then solidified her hold on the throne by appointing her son Caesarion as her co-regent, known as Ptolemy XV.
Cleopatra’s involvement in Roman politics didn’t end with Caesar, though. After his assassination, a power struggle ensued, and Mark Antony and Octavian emerged as the two main contenders for control of Rome.
In line with Egyptian tradition, Cleopatra believed herself to be a living goddess and closely associated herself with the ancient Egyptian goddess Isis. She was renowned not only for her beauty but also for her intellect. She received education in astronomy, philosophy, and mathematics, and she could speak multiple languages.
Dressed as Isis, Cleopatra sailed to Tarsus to meet with Mark Antony, who considered himself the embodiment of the Greek god Dionysius. He was the perfect match for Cleopatra, both romantically and militarily.
Their story was famously immortalized by Shakespeare in his play “Antony and Cleopatra.” The couple had three children together. Antony supported Cleopatra’s rule in Egypt and helped her regain much of Egypt’s eastern empire.
However, the Roman Senate viewed Antony’s actions as a rejection of his Roman heritage. They accused him of favoring Cleopatra and their children too much. Eventually, the Senate stripped Antony of his power, and Octavian declared war on Egypt, Cleopatra, and Antony.
On the 2nd of September, 31 B.C.E., the Egyptian fleets led by Cleopatra and Antony engaged in a battle with the Roman navy called the Battle of Actium. The Romans quickly defeated the Egyptians, causing Cleopatra and Antony to flee back to Egypt.
Later, while under attack in Alexandria, Antony received news that Cleopatra had died by suicide. Although this turned out to be false, Antony took his own life by falling on his sword.
Cleopatra then buried Antony and met with Octavian, who had proclaimed victory. On the 12th of August, 30 B.C.E., Cleopatra locked herself in her chamber with two servants. According to legend, she allowed a venomous snake called an asp to bite her. It is also possible that she poisoned herself with snake venom or a similar toxin.
Cleopatra is widely known as one of the most famous rulers in history and the last independent pharaoh of Egypt. Are there any other ancient rulers that interest you? Take some time today to learn more about the ancient world.
Try It Out
Are you ready to experience ancient Egypt? Make sure to engage in the following activities with a friend or family member:
- Learn more about Cleopatra from Ducksters. Take note of at least three facts that you discover. Share what you have learned with a friend or family member. Are they familiar with Cleopatra? What do they know about her?
- Expand your knowledge about the pharaohs of Egypt. Then, use the most fascinating facts you have learned to create a poster on paper or online to educate others. Include at least one picture and five facts from this article.
- Who do you believe Cleopatra truly was? When it comes to Cleopatra’s life, there are as many myths and legends as there are solid facts. Utilize your knowledge and imagination to write your own interpretation of who Cleopatra was. Your story can be based on facts or it can be as creative as you desire. Share your story with a friend or family member once you have finished.
- http://www.history.com/topics/ancient-history/cleopatra (accessed 25 Mar. 2021)
- http://www.history.com/news/10-little-known-facts-about-cleopatra (accessed 25 Mar. 2021)
- http://www.biography.com/people/cleopatra-vii-9250984 (accessed 25 Mar. 2021)
- http://www.livescience.com/44071-cleopatra-biography.html (accessed 25 Mar. 2021)
1. Who was Cleopatra?
Cleopatra was the last active ruler of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt. She was born in 69 BC in Alexandria, Egypt, and ruled from 51 BC until her death in 30 BC. Cleopatra was a member of the Ptolemaic dynasty, which was of Macedonian Greek origin, and she was the daughter of Ptolemy XII Auletes.
2. What is Cleopatra famous for?
Cleopatra is most famous for her relationships with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, two of the most powerful men in ancient Rome. She was known for her beauty, intelligence, and political skills. Cleopatra also played a significant role in the Roman Civil War and the power struggles of the time.
3. How did Cleopatra die?
Cleopatra died by suicide, according to historical accounts. After the defeat of Mark Antony by Octavian (later known as Augustus), Cleopatra believed that she would be taken as a captive to Rome. She chose to end her life rather than face humiliation and potential imprisonment. The exact method of her suicide is uncertain, but it is widely believed that she died from the bite of an asp (a venomous snake).
4. What is Cleopatra’s legacy?
Cleopatra’s legacy is that of a powerful and influential ruler. She is remembered for her intelligence, charm, and strategic abilities. Cleopatra’s relationships with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony continue to fascinate historians and have been the subject of numerous books, plays, and movies. Her reign marked the end of the Ptolemaic dynasty and the beginning of Egypt’s incorporation into the Roman Empire.