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Cleopatra is one of the most famous female rulers in history and was one of the few women of power in antiquity. She was co-regent with her younger brother for years before allying with Caesar, when she took the throne. Cleopatra was responsible for taking back Egypt’s territories as the last active ruler of the Ptolemaic Kingdom.

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Cleopatra VII Thea Philopater was born between 70-69 BCE. Cleopatra was the daughter of Ptolemy XII Auletes and became queen of Egypt when she was only 18 years old. She ruled along with her ten-year-old brother, Ptolemy XIII. She later led with her other brothers Ptolemy XIII Theos Philopater and Ptolemy XIV. It was believed that she was Greek, though some think she might have been of African descent. Cleopatra took great interest in Egyptian culture, unlike her siblings.

Pompey sought refuge in Egypt during his civil war with Julius Caesar, but was killed on orders from Ptolemy. Caesar had pursued his rival to Egypt, where he met Cleopatra. The two became lovers and, with Caesar's Roman soldiers, they defeated Ptolemy's legions at the Battle of the Nile, and Cleopatra took the throne.In 47 BCE, Cleopatra gave birth to her son, Ptolemy Caesar - otherwise known as Caesarion - who is believed to be Caesar's son.

Cleopatra soon followed Caesar back to Rome, where she was accommodated in Caesar's villa. Caesar erected a golden statue of Cleopatra in the temple of Venus Genetrix. Following Caesar's assassination, Cleopatra returned to Alexandria, and she and her young son Caesarion ruled together.

In 42 BCE, Mark Antony sent for Cleopatra so she could answer questions about her allegiance to the Roman empire. Cleopatra made a grand entrance to Rome, representing herself as the new Isis, and captivated Antony. He and Cleopatra became lovers and eventually had three children. Antony believed that Cleopatra could support him financially and militarily in his effort to rule the entire Roman empire. In turn, Cleopatra requested the return of Egypt's eastern empire, which included Syria and parts of Lebanon.

Cleopatra and Antony went back to Alexandria and triumphed for their victory over Armenia, and Cleopatra was given the title "Queen of Kings." Antony declared that Caesarion was Caesar's real son and the legal heir to the throne, not Octavius. Antony's declaration launched a propaganda battle between Octavius and Antony. The Roman Senate denied Antony's prospective consulate and declared war on Cleopatra.

The Battle of Actium was a huge loss for the Egyptians and caused Cleopatra and Antony to flee to Egypt. Antony was given the false information that Cleopatra had died and killed himself. Following her lover, Cleopatra killed herself, apparently by being bitten by an Egyptian cobra, on August 12, 30 BCE. Some say that she applied poisonous ointment to her skin. She was buried with Antony, as they had wanted. To this day, Cleopatra is still a mystery to scholars, and she has the been the subject of many films because of her accomplishments and skills as a ruler alone, even more so for being such a powerful woman in a world dominated by men.

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Cleopatra Significant Accomplishments

  • The first ruler of her family to learn the Egyptian language, which was one of several languages that she spoke.

  • Was one of the few women to hold such power.

  • Was one of the greatest rulers of Egypt.

  • Fled and formed her own army in Syria, which she used to defeat her brother.

  • Seduced and used to her advantage two of the most powerful Roman generals, Mark Antony and Julius Caesar.

  • Took back Egyptian territories that were taken by the Romans.

  • Was successfully able to liken and link herself to the Egyptian goddess Isis.

  • Had a golden statue erected in a Roman temple in her honor by Caesar.

Cleopatra Quotes

"All strange and terrible events are welcome, but comforts we despise."

“Celerity is never more admired than by the negligent.”

“I will not be triumphed over.”

Learn more about Ancient Egypt!

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