|Cleopatra VII Philopator|
|Bust of Cleopatra VII, Altes Museum, Berlin|
|Predecessor||Ptolemy XII Auletes|
|Co-rulers||Ptolemy XII Auletes
Ptolemy XIII Theos Philopator
Ptolemy XV Caesarion
|Spouse||Ptolemy XIII Theos Philopator
|Caesarion, Ptolemy XV Philopator Philometor Caesar
Cleopatra Selene, Queen of Mauretania
Ptolemy XVI Philadelphus
|Cleopatra VII Thea Philopator|
|Father||Ptolemy XII Auletes|
|Mother||Cleopatra V o Egyp (presumably)|
|Died||12 August 30 BC (agit 38–39)
She wis a member o the Ptolemaic dynasty o Ancient Egyp, an therefore wis a descendant o ane o Alexander the Great's generals who haed seisit control ower Egyp efter Alexander's daith. Maist Ptolemeis spoke Greek an refused tae learn Egyptian, which is the raison that Greek as well as Egyptian leids wur uised on offeecial court documents like the Rosetta Stone. Bi contrast, Cleopatra learned Egyptian an representit hersel as the reincarnation o an Egyptian Goddess.
Cleopatra oreeginally ruled jointly wi her faither Ptolemy XII Auletes an later wi her brithers, Ptolemy XIII an Ptolemy XIV, whom she marriet as per Egyptian custom, but eventually she became sole ruler. As pharaoh, she consummatit a liaison wi Gaius Julius Caesar that solidified her grip on the throne. She later elevatit her son wi Caesar, Caesarion, tae co-ruler in name.
Efter Caesar's assassination in 44 BC, she aligned wi Mark Antony in opposition tae Caesar's legal heir, Gaius Iulius Caesar Octavianus (later kent as Augustus). Wi Antony, she bore the twins Cleopatra Selene II an Alexander Helios, an anither son, Ptolemy Philadelphus. Her unions wi her brithers produced nae childer. Efter losin the Battle o Actium tae Octavian's forces, Antony committit suicide. Cleopatra follaed suit, accordin tae tradition killin hersel bi means o an asp bite on 12 August 30 BC. She wis briefly ootlived bi Caesarion, who wis declared pharaoh, but he wis suin killed on Octavian's orders. Egyp became the Roman province o Aegyptus.
Though Cleopatra bore the auncient Egyptian title o pharaoh, the Ptolemaic dynasty wis Hellenistic, haein been foundit 300 years afore bi Ptolemy I Soter, a Macedonian Greek general o Alexander the Great. As such, Cleopatra's leid wis the Greek spoken bi the Hellenic aristocracy, though she wis reputit tae be the first ruler o the dynasty tae learn Egyptian. She an' a' adoptit common Egyptian beliefs an deities. Her patron deity wis Isis, an thus, durin her reign, it wis believed that she wis the re-incarnation an embodiment o the goddess. Her daith marked the end o the Ptolemaic Kinrick an Hellenistic period an the beginnin o the Roman era in the eastren Mediterranean.
Tae this day, Cleopatra remains a popular figure in Wastren cultur. Her legacy survives in numerous wirks o airt an the mony dramatizations o her story in literature an ither media, includin William Shakespeare's tragedy Antony and Cleopatra, Jules Massenet's opera Cléopâtre an the 1963 film Cleopatra. In maist depictions, Cleopatra is put forward as a great beauty an her successive conquests o the warld's maist pouerful men ar taken tae be proof o her aesthetic an sexual appeal. In his Pensées, philosopher Blaise Pascal contends that Cleopatra's classically bonnie profile changed warld history: "Cleopatra's nose, haed it been shorter, the whole face o the warld woud hae been chyngit."
Table o contents
Accession tae the throne
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 an Berenice III. Cleopatra's father Auletes was a direct descendant of Alexander the Great's general, Ptolemy I Soter, son of Arsinoe and Lacus, baith of Macedon.
Centralization o pouer an corruption led the uprisings in and the losses of Cyprus and Cyrenaica, making Ptolemy's reign the end of the maist calamitous of the dynasty. When Ptolemy went to Rome with Cleopatra, Cleopatra VI Tryphaena seized the croun but died shortly afterwards in suspicious circumstances. It is believed, though not proven by historical sources, that Berenice IV poisoned her so she could become the sole ruler. Regardless of the cause, she did till Ptolemy Auletes returned in 55 BC, with Roman support, capturing Alexandria aided by Roman general Aulus Gabinius. Berenice was imprisoned and executit shortly efterwards, her aid 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 to her father, although her power was likely to have been severely limited.
Ptolemy XII died on March 51 BC, thus by his will making the 18-year-old Cleopatra and her brother, the 10-year-auld 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 with0 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 of Cleopatra's fall from power shortly afterward.
The sole reign of Cleopatra was finally ended by a cabal of courtiers, lead 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 start a rebellion around Pelusium, but she was soon forced to flee with her only remaining sister, Arsinoë.
Relations wi Rome
Assassination o Pompey
While Cleopatra wis in exile, Pompey became embroiled in the Roman ceevil war. In the hairst o 48 BC, Pompey fled frae the forces o Caesar tae Alexandria, seekin sanctuary. Ptolemy, anerlie thirteen years auld at that time, haed set up a throne for hissel on the harbour, frae whaur he watcht as on September 28, 48 BC, Pompey wis murthered bi ane o his umwhile officers, nou in Ptolemaic service. He wis beheidit in front o his wife an childer, who wur on the ship frae which he haed juist disembarked. Ptolemy is thought tae hae ordered the daith tae ingratiate hissel wi Caesar, thus becomin an ally o Rome, tae which Egyp wis in debt at the time, though this act proved a miscalculation on Ptolemy's pairt. When Caesar arrived in Egyp twa days later, Ptolemy presentit him wi Pompey's severed heid; Caesar wis enraged. Although he wis Caesar's poleetical enemy, Pompey wis a Roman consul an the widower o Caesar's anerlie legitimate dochter, Julia (who dee'd in childbirth wi Pompey's son). Caesar seized the Egyptian caipital an imposed hissel as airbiter atween the rival claims o Ptolemy an Cleopatra.
Relationship wi Julius Caesar
Eager tae take advantage o Julius Caesar's anger toward Ptolemy, Cleopatra haed hersel smuggled secretly intae the palace tae meet wi Caesar. Ane legend claims she entered past Ptolemy’s guards rolled up in a carpet. She became Caesar’s mistress, an nine months efter their first meetin, in 47 BC, Cleopatra gave birth tae their son, Ptolemy Caesar, nicknamed Caesarion, which means "little Caesar".
At this point Caesar abandoned his plans tae annex Egyp, instead backin Cleopatra's claim tae the throne. Efter a war lastin sax months atween the pairty o Ptolemy XIII an the Roman airmy o Caesar, Ptolemy XIII wis drouned in the Nile an Caesar restored Cleopatra tae her throne, wi anither younger brither Ptolemy XIV as her new co-ruler.
Although Cleopatra wis 21 years auld when they met an Caesar wis 52, they became lovers durin Caesar’s stay in Egyp atween 48 BC an 47 BC. Cleopatra claimed Caesar wis the faither o her son an wished him tae name the boy his heir, but Caesar refused, chuisin his grandnephew Octavian instead. Durin this relationship, it wis an aa rumored that Cleopatra introduced Caesar tae her astronomer Sosigenes o Alexandria, who first proposed the idea o leap days an leap years.
Cleopatra, Ptolemy XIV an Caesarion visitit Rome in simmer 46 BC, whaur the Egyptian queen residit in ane o Caesar's kintra hooses. The relationship atween Cleopatra an Caesar wis obvious tae the Roman fowk an it wis a scandal, acause the Roman dictator wis awready marriet tae Calpurnia Pisonis. But Caesar even erectit a gowden statue o Cleopatra representit as Isis in the temple o Venus Genetrix (the meethical ancestress o Caesar's family), which wis situatit at the Forum Julium. The Roman orator Cicero said in his preserved letters that he hatit the foreign queen. Cleopatra an her entourage wur in Rome when Caesar wis assassinatit on 15 Mairch 44 BC. She returned wi her relatives tae Egyp. When Ptolemy XIV dee'd – allegedly poisoned bi his aulder sister – Cleopatra made Caesarion her co-regent an successor an gave him the epithets Theos Philopator Philometor (= Faither- an mitherlovin God).
Cleopatra in the Roman Ceevil War
In the Roman ceevil war atween the Caesarian party, led bi Mark Antony an Octavian, an the pairty o the assassins o Caesar, led bi Marcus Junius Brutus an Gaius Cassius Longinus, Cleopatra sidit wi the Caesarian pairty acause o her past. Brutus an Cassius left Italy an sailed tae the East o the Roman Empire, whaur they conquered lairge auries an established military bases. At the beginnin o 43 BC, Cleopatra formed an alliance wi the leader o the Caesarian pairty in the East, Publius Cornelius Dolabella, who recognized Caesarion as her co-ruler. But suin, Dolabella wis encircled in Laodicea an committit suicide (Julie 43 BC).
Cassius then wantit tae invade Egyp tae seize the treasures o that kintra an tae punish the queen for her refusal tae send him supplies an her support for Dolabella. Egyp seemed an easy target acause the land did no hae strang land forces an there wis famine an an epidemic. Cassius an aa wantit tae prevent Cleopatra frae bringin reinforcements for Antony an Octavian. But he coud no execute an invasion o Egyp, acause at the end o 43 BC Brutus summoned him back tae Smyrna. Cassius tried tae blockade Cleopatra’s route tae the Caesarians. For this purpose Lucius Staius Murcus moved wi 60 ships an a legion o elite troops intae position at Cape Matapan in the sooth o the Peloponnese. Nivertheless, Cleopatra sailed wi her fleet frae Alexandria tae the wast alang the Libian coast tae join the Caesarian leaders, but she wis forced tae return tae Egyp acause her ships wur damaged bi a violent storm an she became ill. Staius Murcus learned o the queen's misfortune an saw wreckage frae her ships on the coast o Greece. He then sailed wi his ships intae the Adriatic Sea.
Cleopatra an Mark Antony
In 41 BC, Mark Antony, ane o the triumvirs who ruled Rome in the pouer vacuum follaein Caesar's daith, sent his intimate friend Quintus Dellius tae Egyp. Dellius haed tae summon Cleopatra tae Tarsus tae meet Antony an answer questions aboot her lealty. Durin the Roman ceevil war she allegedly haed paid muckle money tae Cassius. It seems that in reality Antony wantit Cleopatra’s promise tae support his intendit war against the Parthians. Cleopatra arrived in great state, an so charmed Antony that he chuise tae spend the winter o 41 BC–40 BC wi her in Alexandria.
Tae safeguard hersel an Caesarion, she haed Antony order the daith o her sister Arsinoe, who wis livin at the temple o Artemis in Ephesus, which wis unner Roman control. The execution wis carried oot in 41 BC on the steps o the temple, an this violation o temple sanctuary scandalised Rome. Cleopatra haed an aa executit her strategos o Cyprus, Serapion, who haed supportit Cassius against her wishes.
On 25 December 40 BC, Cleopatra gave birth tae twins faithered bi Antony, Alexander Helios an Cleopatra Selene II. Fower years later, Antony visitit Alexandria again en route tae make war wi the Parthians. He renewed his relationship wi Cleopatra, an frae this point on Alexandria wad be his hame. He marriet Cleopatra accordin tae the Egyptian rite (a letter quotit in Suetonius suggests this), although he wis at the time marriet tae Octavia Minor, sister o his fellae triumvir Octavian. He an Cleopatra haed anither child, Ptolemy Philadelphus.
At the Donations o Alexandria in late 34 BC, follaein Antony's conquest o Armenie, Cleopatra an Caesarion wur crouned co-rulers o Egyp an Cyprus; Alexander Helios wis crouned ruler o Armenie, Media, an Parthie; Cleopatra Selene II wis crouned ruler o Cyrenaica an Libie; an Ptolemy Philadelphus wis crouned ruler o Phoenicie, Sirie, an Cilicie. Cleopatra wis an aa given the title o "Queen o Keengs" bi Antonius. Her enemies in Rome feared that Cleopatra "wis plannin a war o revenge that wis tae array aw the East against Rome, establish hersel as empress o the warld at Rome, cast juistice frae Capitolium, an inaugurate a new universal kinrick." Caesarion wis no anerlie elevatit haein coregency wi Cleopatra, but an aa proclaimed wi mony titles, includin god, son o god an keeng o keengs, an wis depictit as Horus. Egyptians thought Cleopatra tae be a reincarnation o the goddess Isis, as she cried hersel Nea Isis.
Relations atween Antony an Octavian, disintegratin for several years, feenally broke doun in 33 BC, an Octavian convinced the Senate tae levy war against Egyp. In 31 BC Antony's forces faced the Romans in a naval action aff the coast o Actium. Cleopatra wis present wi a fleet o her awn. Popular legend states that when she saw that Antony's poorly equipped an manned ships wur losin tae the Romans' superior vessels, she teuk flicht an that Antony abandoned the battle tae follae her, but nae contemporary evidence states this wis the case. Follaein the Battle o Actium, Octavian invadit Egyp. As he approached Alexandria, Antony's airmies desertit tae Octavian on 1 August 30 BC.
The auncient sources, particularly the Roman anes, are in general agreement that Cleopatra killed hersel bi inducin an Egyptian cobra tae bite her. The auldest source is Strabo, who wis alive at the time o the event, an micht even hae been in Alexandria. He says that there are twa stories: that she applied a toxic ointment, or that she wis bitten bi an asp. Several Roman poets, writin athin ten years o the event, aw mention bites bi twa asps, as does Florus, a historian, some 150 years later. Velleius, saxty years efter the event, an aa refers tae an asp. Ither authors hae questioned these historical accoonts, statin that it is possible that Augustus haed her killed.
In 2010, the German historian Christoph Schaefer challenged aw ither theories, declarin that the queen haed actually been poisoned an dee'd frae drinkin a mixture o poisons. Efter studyin historical texts an consultin wi toxicologists, the historian concludit that the asp coud no hae caused a slow an pain-free daith, syne the asp (Egyptian cobra) venom paralyses pairts o the body, stairtin wi the eyes, afore causin daith. Schaefer an his toxicologist Dietrich Mebs decidit Cleopatra uised a mixture o hemlock, wolfsbane an opium.
Plutarch, writin aboot 130 years efter the event, reports that Octavian succeedit in capturin Cleopatra in her mausoleum efter the daith o Antony. He ordered his freedman Epaphroditus tae guard her tae prevent her frae committin suicide, acause he allegedly wantit tae present her in his triumph. But Cleopatra wis able tae deceive Epaphroditus an kill hersel nivertheless. Plutarch states that she wis foond deid, her handmaiden Iras dyin at her feet, and another handmaiden, Charmion, adjusting her croun afore she hersel fell. He then goes on to state that an asp wis concealed in a basket o figs that wis brought tae her bi a rustic, an, fyndin it efter eatin a few figs, she held oot her airm for it tae bite. Ither stories state that it wis hidden in a vase, an that she poked it wi a spindle till it got angry enough tae bite her on the airm. Feenally, he indicates that in Octavian's triumphal mairch back in Rome, an effigy o Cleopatra that haed an asp clingin tae it wias pairt o the parade.
Suetonius, writin aboot the same time as Plutarch, an aa says Cleopatra dee'd frae an asp bite.
Shakespeare gave us the feenal pairt o the image that haes come doun tae us, Cleopatra clutchin the snake tae her breast. Afore him, it wis generally agreed that she wis bitten on the airm.
Plutarch tells us o the daith o Antony. When his airmies desertit him an joined wi Octavian, he cried oot that Cleopatra haed betrayed him. She, fearing his wrath, locked herself in her monument wi anerlie her twa handmaidens an sent messengers tae tell Antony that she wis deid. Believin them, Antony stabbed hissel in the stomach wi his sword, an lay on his couch tae dee. Instead, the blood flow stopped, an he begged ony an aw tae finish him aff. Anither messenger came frae Cleopatra wi instructions tae bring him tae her, an he, rejoicin that Cleopatra wis still alive, consentit. She wadna open the door, but tossed ropes oot o a windae. Efter Antony wis securely trussed up, she an her handmaidens hauled him up intae the monument. This nearly feenished him aff. Efter draggin him in through the windae, they laid him on a couch. Cleopatra tore aff her clothes an covered him wi them. She raved an cried, beat her breasts an engaged in sel-mutilation. Antony tauld her tae calm doun, asked for a glass o wine, an dee'd upon finishin it.
Cleopatra's son bi Caesar, Caesarion, wis proclaimed pharaoh bi the Egyptians, efter Alexandria fell tae Octavian. Caesarion wis captured an killed, his fate reportedly sealed when ane o Octavian's advisers paraphrased Homer: "It is bad tae hae too mony Caesars." This endit no juist the Hellenistic line o Egyptian pharaohs, but the line o aw Egyptian pharaohs. The three childer o Cleopatra an Antony wur spared an taken back tae Rome whaur they wur taken care o bi Antony's wife, Octavia Minor. The dochter, Cleopatra Selene, wis marriet through arrangements o Octavian tae Juba II o Mauretanie.
Character an cultural depictions
- Main airticle: Cultural depictions o Cleopatra VII
Cleopatra wis regardit as a great beauty, even in the auncient warld. In his Life of Antony, Plutarch remarks that "judgin bi the proofs which she haed haed afore this o the effect o her beauty upon Caius Caesar an Gnaeus the son o Pompey, she haed hopes that she wad mair easily bring Antony tae her feet. For Caesar an Pompey haed kent her when she was still a girl an inexperienced in affairs, but she wis goin tae visit Antony at the vera time when weemen hae the maist brilliant beauty". Later in the wirk, housomeivver, Plutarch indicates that "her beauty, as we are tauld, was in itsel no aathegither incomparable, nor such as tae strike those who saw her." Rather, what ultimately made Cleopatra attractive wur her wit, chairm an "sweetness in the tones o her voice."
Cassius Dio an aa spoke o Cleopatra's allure: "For she wis a wumman o surpassin beauty, an at that time, when she wis in the prime o her youth, she wis maist strikin; she an aa possessed a maist chairmin voice an knawledge o hou tae make hersel agreeable tae ivery ane. Being brilliant tae look upon and to listen to, wi the pouer tae subjugate ivery ane, even a love-satit man awready past his prime, she thought that it wad be in keepin wi her role tae meet Caesar, an she reposed in her beauty aw her claims tae the throne."
These accoonts influenced later cultural depictions o Cleopatra, which typically present her uisin her chairms tae influence the maist pouerful men in the Wastren warld.
- Cleopatra VII (VI) at LacusCurtius – Chapter XIII of E. R. Bevan's House of Ptolemy, 1923
- Cleopatra, a Victorian childer's beuk bi Jacob Abbott, 1852, Project Gutenberg edition.
- James Grout: Cleopatra pairt o the Encyclopædia Romana
- "Mysterious Death of Cleopatra" at the Discovery Channel
- Cleopatra VII at BBC History
- Sir Thomas Browne: Of the Picture describing the death of Cleopatra (1672)
- John Sartain: On the Antique Portrait of Cleopatra (1818)
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