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Cleopatra VII

Greek: Κλεοπατρα
Who: Last Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt
Birthplace: Alexandria, Egypt (at the time under Greek rule)
Born: 69 BC
Died: 30 BC
Reign: 51 – 30 BC (21 years)

Cleopatra and Julius Caesar by Jean-Leon Gerome.

Cleopatra and Julius Caesar by Jean-Leon Gerome.

Cleopatra VII is best known for being the last pharaoh of Ancient Egypt. She was a member of the Ptolemaic dynasty, a Greek Macedonian family that ruled Egypt after Alexander the Great’s death during the Hellenistic period. The family spoke Greek and refused to speak Egyptian, which is why Greek and Egyptian were both used on official court documents such as the infamous Rosetta Stone. However, Cleopatra did embrace the Egyptian culture and represented herself as the reincarnation of the Egyptian goddess, Isis. Cleopatra’s reign lasted for 17 years, three years were with her brother along her side, and fourteen as sole ruler. It wasn’t until in 30 BC when she committed suicide that Egypt was annexed by the Roman’s and became a Roman province.

Originally Cleopatra ruled jointly with her father Ptolemy XII, Auletes and later with her brothers. After sharing the throne with her brother for a few yearsCleopatra made it known that she wanted to be the sole ruler. She had her brother Ptolemy’s name removed from official court documents and had her face appear alone on coins. Eventually after becoming sole ruler Cleopatra formed a liaison with Julius Caesar, Roman general and statesman, whom she was a mistress with for nine months. Caesar was then assassinated in 44 BC and Cleopatra then aligned herself with Mark Antony, a Roman politician and general. Cleopatra became Antony’s lover and bore three children with him, twins Cleopatra Selene II and Alexander Helios and Ptolemy Philadelphus. In 33 BC Antony had a disagreement between him and Octavian which turned into war. After losing the Battle of Actium to Octavian’s forces in 31 BC Antony committed suicide. Cleopatra, realizing that she was destined for Octavian’s triumph in Rome, then followed suit and killed herself on August 12, 30 BC by an inducing an Egyptian cobra to bite her.

During her time Cleopatra was regarded as one of the most beautiful women. The historian Plutarch makes mention of it: “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.” Cassius Dio, another historian, also noted: “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.”

Cleopatra : Secrets of Egypt’s Last Pharaoh – Cleopatra (Full Documentary):

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