Out of all the women who made their marks in antiquity, I chose Cleopatra VII Philopator because she interested me the most. She was a strong and important historical female figure who made an impact on Rome and Egypt. She was the ruler of Egypt for 36 years and made powerful alliances, such as Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. Cleopatra was a very intelligent and quick-witted woman.
(Any of the following information on Cleopatra’s life was found in the books Cleopatra: A Sourcebook by Prudence Jones and Cleopatra by Pat Southern.)
First of all, she was the most famous out of all the Ptolemaic queens and also the last ruler of the Ptolemaic dynasty(a Macedonian Greek dynasty that ruled over Egypt for almost 300 years after the death of Alexander the Great). Cleopatra really cared for the people of Egypt. She learned the Egyptian language, making her the first of the Ptolemies to make an effort to speak to her people in their native tongue. She also spoke other languages as well. It came in handy when she had to arrange negotiations and such.
Cleopatra was very young when she became ruler. When her father died from an illness, Cleopatra, who was only 18 years old at the time, had to marry and co-rule Egypt with her younger brother, Ptolemy III, who was 10 years old. It was a custom of marriage to marry between sister and brother so that it would keep the royalty in the family. Because she was much older than him, she was the more dominant one at making decisions. It must’ve been a stressful task for her. But Cleopatra managed it pretty well, for she ruled from 51 to 30 BC.
From 49 to 45 BC, there was a civil war happening in Rome between Julius Caesar and Pompey. At the same time, Ptolemy III had evicted Cleopatra and was ruling Egypt by himself. Julius Caesar, who was on the pursuit of Pompey, arrived in Alexandria, the capital of Egypt. When he got there, he learned that Pompey had already been killed on Ptolemy’s orders. Cleopatra, who had heard that Julius Caesar was in Egypt, asked for his help to overthrow her brother. They fell in love and with the help of his military, they brought down Ptolemy III. Ptolemy XIV, her other brother, later co-ruled with her but she eventually had him killed. Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC. Caesar’s death brought a huge power struggle between his adopted son, Octavian, and Mark Antony. Mark Antony was married to Octavian’s sister but fell in love with Cleopatra. When Mark Antony decided to attack the Persian Empire, he asked Cleopatra to come to Tarsus and help him. He needed her financial and military support for the invasion and she needed a new Roman leader who would protect her. In 31 BC, they fought Octavian’s forces on the coast of Greece. They were defeated and fled back to Egypt where Octavian’s forces trapped them. Mark Antony was told that Cleopatra had killed herself, which was false information, but he believed it and stabbed himself. He didn’t die right away, he was brought to Cleopatra and died in her arms. It is believed that Cleopatra let herself get bit by an asp and was laid next to him in a sarcophagus. Their tomb and bodies have never been found…There is certainly something romantic about Cleopatra and Mark committing suicide. Lovers who die together. Her life inspired films, books, music, plays and much more.
In conclusion, Cleopatra’s life was a very complex and eventful one. She became ruler at a very young age. Even if she was just co-ruler, she was strong and dominant. She wasn’t going to back down and let her brothers do all the work.
Cleopatra was described as someone who was very politically aware and had charming manners. Her personality managed to seduce two of Rome’s powerful leaders; Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. Cleopatra’s life ended tragically, but at least she went down in history.
Jones, Prudence. (2006) Cleopatra: A Sourcebook. Oklahoma, USA: Norman
Southern, Pat. (1999) Cleopatra. Great Britain: Tempus Publishing
(Featured image found on Wikimedia Commons)