Before you read the feature I posted. Here are a few links from the National Geographic Exhibition, Cleopatra: The Search For the Last Queen of Egypt.
The timeless legend of Cleopatra has captivated the world for centuries. She has been immortalized by Renaissance artists, had numerous plays and books written about her and in modern times has been glamorized on the silver screen. Yet we only know a fragment of her real story.
Cleopatra VII became the queen of Egypt in 51 B.C. At the tender age of seventeen she was thrust into power over a country on the verge of crumbling under the mighty Roman Empire. She charmed and seduced two of ancient Rome’s most powerful leaders, Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, and bore children with both of them. Then, barely two decades after coming to power she took her own life. Still, the full story of Cleopatra’s enigmatic life has yet to be solved. Who was Cleopatra? What, and whom, did she hold dear? Was she truly an exotic beauty? We are now one step closer to unraveling her story.
Widely known today as simply Cleopatra (Cleopatra VII Philopator) (late 69 BC – August 12, 30 BC) was the last pharaoh of Ancient Egypt.
She was a member of the Ptolemaic dynasty, a family of Greek origin that ruled Egypt after Alexander the Great’s death. The Ptolemies, throughout their dynasty, spoke Greek and refused to speak Egyptian. However, Cleopatra did learn to speak Egyptian, one of at least seven languages she spoke, and became an expert linguist. This skill would later help her to command a navy and author books
In addition, she immersed herself in Egyptian religious beliefs and customs, and represented herself as the reincarnation of the Egyptian goddess Isis. Though popular culture may portray her as a temptress who famously used her beauty to seduce two of the most powerful men of her time, records reveal otherwise. Cleopatra’s most alluring assets were probably her intelligence, wit and demeanor. It was a combination of these features that most likely set her apart from other women and eventually caught the eyes of Julius Caesar and Mark Antony.
After the death of her father, Ptolemy XII, in March 51 BC, the 17-year-old Cleopatra and her 10-year-old brother Ptolemy XIII became joint monarchs. The first three years of their reign were difficult, due to economic difficulties, famine, deficient floods of the Nile, and political conflicts. In August 51 BC, relations between Cleopatra and Ptolemy XIII completely broke down. Cleopatra dropped his 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. She tried to raise a rebellion, but she was soon forced to flee with her only remaining sister, Arsinoe.
While Cleopatra was in exile, Caesar seized the Egyptian capital and imposed himself as the arbiter between the rival claims of Ptolemy and Cleopatra. It was during this time that Cleopatra had herself smuggled into the palace, which was once hers, to meet Caesar. She entered past the palace guards by having herself rolled up in a carpet and carried in unnoticed. She became Caesar’s mistress, and nine months after their first meeting, in 47 BC, Cleopatra gave birth to their son, Caesarion. At this point Caesar abandoned his plans to annex Egypt, instead backing Cleopatra’s claim to the throne and waged war against her brother. After fighting Caesar’s army, Ptolemy XIII was reportedly drowned on January 13, 47 BC while attempting to cross the Nile. Cleopatra then named her younger brother Ptolemy XIV her new co-ruler whom she married according to Egyptian custom. He is considered to have reigned in name only, with Cleopatra keeping actual authority to herself. Her unions with her brothers produced no children. It’s assumed that she later poisoned Ptolemy XIV. This solidified her grip on the throne and she elevated three-year-old 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 Octavianus (later known as Augustus). Mark Antony had become a powerful Roman ruler following Caesar’s death, and she needed his help to safeguard herself and Caesarion from Arsinoe, her remaining sibling, who she feared would seize the throne. Cleopatra had Antony order the death of Arsinoe and the execution was carried out on the steps of the temple where she was living. With Antony, she bore the twins Cleopatra Selene II and Alexander Helios, and another son, Ptolemy Philadelphus.
After losing the Battle of Actium to Octavian’s forces, Antony committed suicide. Cleopatra followed suit, according to tradition by killing herself with an asp bite on August 12, 30 BC. Caesarion was proclaimed pharaoh by the Egyptians after Alexandria fell to Octavian, but was soon captured and killed on Octavian’s orders. 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. Egypt then became the Roman province of Aegyptus – Credit Classical History Website
Archaeological treasures in Alexandria bay will be exhibited in a futuristic underwater museum, facing the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, in the heart of the ancient city.
And the Roman asked: Was this well done of your lady?
The servant answered: Extremely well, as befitting the last of so many noble rulers.