Cleopatra VII in Wikipedia
Cleopatra VII Philopator (in Greek, Κλεοπάτρα Φιλοπάτωρ; (Late 69 BC – August 12, 30 BC) was the last person to rule Egypt as an Egyptian pharaoh – after her death Egypt became a Roman province.
She was a member of the Ptolemaic dynasty of Ancient Egypt, and therefore was a descendant of one of Alexander the Great's generals who had seized control over Egypt after Alexander's death. Most Ptolemeis spoke Greek and refused to learn Egyptian, which is the reason that Greek as well as Egyptian languages were used on official court documents like the Rosetta Stone. By contrast, Cleopatra learned Egyptian and represented herself as the reincarnation of an Egyptian Goddess.
Cleopatra originally ruled jointly with her father Ptolemy XII Auletes and later with her brothers, Ptolemy XIII and Ptolemy XIV, whom she married as per Egyptian custom, but eventually she became sole ruler. As pharaoh, she consummated a liaison with Gaius Julius Caesar that solidified her grip on the throne. She later elevated her son with Caesar, 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 Iulius Caesar Octavianus (later known as Augustus). With Antony, she bore the twins Cleopatra Selene II and Alexander Helios, and another son, Ptolemy Philadelphus. Her unions with her brothers produced no children. After losing the Battle of Actium to Octavian's forces, Antony committed suicide. Cleopatra followed suit, according to tradition killing herself by means of an asp bite on August 12, 30 BC. She was briefly outlived by Caesarion, who was declared pharaoh, but he was soon killed on Octavian's orders. Egypt became the Roman province of Aegyptus.
Though Cleopatra bore the ancient Egyptian title of pharaoh, the Ptolemaic dynasty was Hellenistic, having been founded 300 years before by Ptolemy I Soter, a Macedonian Greek general of Alexander the Great. As such, Cleopatra's language was the Greek spoken by the Hellenic aristocracy, though she was reputed to be the first ruler of the dynasty to learn Egyptian. She also adopted common Egyptian beliefs and deities. Her patron deity was Isis, and thus, during her reign, it was believed that she was the re-incarnation and embodiment of the goddess. Her death marked the end of the Ptolemaic Kingdom and Hellenistic period and the beginning of the Roman era in the eastern Mediterranean.
To this day, Cleopatra remains a popular figure in Western culture. Her legacy survives in numerous works of art and the many dramatizations of her story in literature and other media, including William Shakespeare's tragedy Antony and Cleopatra, Jules Massenet's opera Cléopâtre and the 1963 film Cleopatra. In most depictions, Cleopatra is put forward as a great beauty and her successive conquests of the world's most powerful men are taken to be proof of her aesthetic and sexual appeal. In his Pensées, philosopher Blaise Pascal contends that Cleopatra's classically beautiful profile changed world history: "Cleopatra's nose, had it been shorter, the whole face of the world would have been changed."
Accession to 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 and Berenice III. Cleopatra's father Auletes was a direct descendant of Alexander the Great's general, Ptolemy I Soter, son of Arsinoe and Lacus, both of Macedon.
Centralization of power and corruption led to uprisings in and the losses of Cyprus and Cyrenaica, making Ptolemy's reign one of the most calamitous of the dynasty. When Ptolemy went to Rome with Cleopatra, Cleopatra VI Tryphaena seized the crown but died shortly afterwards in suspicious circumstances. It is believed, though not proven by historical sources, that Berenice IV poisoned her so she could assume sole rulership. Regardless of the cause, she did until Ptolemy Auletes returned in 55 BC, with Roman support, capturing Alexandria aided by Roman general Aulus Gabinius. Berenice was imprisoned and executed shortly afterwards, her head 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 of her father, although her power was likely to have been severely limited.
Ptolemy XII died in March 51 BC, thus by his will making the 18-year-old Cleopatra and her brother, the 10-year-old 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 with 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 for Cleopatra's soon following loss of power.
The sole reign of Cleopatra was finally ended by a cabal of courtiers, led 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 raise a rebellion around Pelusium, but she was soon forced to flee with her only remaining sister, Arsinoe.
Relation with Julius Caesar
Assassination of Pompey
While Cleopatra was in exile, Pompey became embroiled in the Roman civil war. In the autumn of 48 BC, Pompey fled from the forces of Caesar to Alexandria, seeking sanctuary. Ptolemy, only fifteen years old at that time, had set up a throne for himself on the harbour, from where he watched as on September 28, 48 BC, Pompey was murdered by one of his former officers, now in Ptolemaic service. He was beheaded in front of his wife and children, who were on the ship from which he had just disembarked. Ptolemy is thought to have ordered the death to ingratiate himself with Caesar, thus becoming an ally of Rome, to which Egypt was in debt at the time, though this act proved a miscalculation on Ptolemy's part. When Caesar arrived in Egypt two days later, Ptolemy presented him with Pompey's severed head; Caesar was enraged. Although he was Caesar's political enemy, Pompey was a Consul of Rome and the widower of Caesar's only legitimate daughter, Julia (who died in childbirth with Pompey's son). Caesar seized the Egyptian capital and imposed himself as arbiter between the rival claims of Ptolemy and Cleopatra.
Relationship with Julius Caesar
Eager to take advantage of Julius Caesar's anger toward Ptolemy, Cleopatra had herself smuggled secretly into the palace to meet with Caesar. One legend claims she entered past Ptolemy’s guards rolled up in a carpet. She became Caesar’s mistress, and nine months after their first meeting, in 47 BC, Cleopatra gave birth to their son, Ptolemy Caesar, nicknamed Caesarion, which means "little Caesar".
At this point Caesar abandoned his plans to annex Egypt, instead backing Cleopatra's claim to the throne. After a war lasting six months between the party of Ptolemy XIII and the Roman army of Caesar, Ptolemy XIII was drowned in the Nile and Caesar restored Cleopatra to her throne, with another younger brother Ptolemy XIV as her new co-ruler.
Although Cleopatra was 21 years old when they met and Caesar was 52, they became lovers during Caesar’s stay in Egypt between 48 BC and 47 BC. Cleopatra claimed Caesar was the father of her son and wished him to name the boy his heir, but Caesar refused, choosing his grandnephew Octavian instead. During this relationship, it is also rumored that Cleopatra introduced Caesar to her astronomer Sosigenes of Alexandria, who first proposed the idea of leap day and leap years.
Cleopatra, Ptolemy XIV and Caesarion visited Rome in summer 46 BC, where the Egyptian queen resided in one of Caesar's country houses. The relationship between Cleopatra and Caesar was obvious to the Roman people and it was a scandal, because the Roman dictator was already married to Calpurnia Pisonis. But Caesar even erected a golden statue of Cleopatra represented as Isis in the temple of Venus Genetrix (the mythical ancestress of Caesar's family), which was situated at the Forum Julium. The Roman orator Cicero said in his preserved letters that he hated the foreign queen. Cleopatra and her entourage were in Rome when Caesar was assassinated on 15 March, 44 BC. She returned with her relatives to Egypt. When Ptolemy XIV died – allegedly poisoned by his older sister - Cleopatra made Caesarion her co-regent and successor and gave him the epithets Theos Philopator Philometor (= Father- and motherloving God).
Cleopatra in the Roman Civil War
In the Roman civil war between the Caesarian party – led by Mark Antony and Octavian – and the party of the assassins of Caesar – led by Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus – Cleopatra sided with the Caesarian party because of her past. Brutus and Cassius left Italy and sailed to the East of the Roman Empire, where they conquered large areas and established their military bases. At the beginning of 43 BC Cleopatra formed an alliance with the leader of the Caesarian party in the East, Publius Cornelius Dolabella, who recognized Caesarion as her co-ruler. But soon Dolabella was encircled in Laodicea and committed suicide (July 43 BC).
Now Cassius wanted to invade Egypt to seize the treasures of that country and to punish the queen for her refusal of Cassius’ request to send him supplies and her support for Dolabella. Egypt seemed an easy booty because the land did not have strong land forces and there was famine and an epidemic. Cassius finally wanted to prevent Cleopatra from bringing a strong reinforcement for Antony and Octavian. But he could not execute the invasion of Egypt because at the end of 43 BC Brutus summoned him back to Smyrna. Cassius tried to blockade Cleopatra’s way to the Caesarians. For this purpose Lucius Staius Murcus moved with 60 ships and a legion of elite troops into position at Cape Matapan in the south of the Peloponnese. Nevertheless Cleopatra sailed with her fleet from Alexandria to the west along the Libyan coast to join the Caesarian leaders but she was forced to return to Egypt because her ships were damaged by a violent storm and she became ill. Staius Murcus learned of the misfortune of the queen and saw parts of her wrecked ships at the coast of Greece. He then sailed with his ships into the Adriatic Sea.
Cleopatra and Mark Antony
In 41 BC, Mark Antony, one of the triumvirs who ruled Rome in the power vacuum following Caesar's death, sent his intimate friend Quintus Dellius to Egypt. Dellius had to summon Cleopatra to Tarsus to meet Antony and answer questions about her loyalty. During the Roman civil war she allegedly had paid much money to Cassius. It seems that in reality Antony wanted Cleopatra’s promise to support his intended war against the Parthians. Cleopatra arrived in great state, and so charmed Antony that he chose to spend the winter of 41 BC–40 BC with her in Alexandria.
To safeguard herself and Caesarion, she had Antony order the death of her sister Arsinoe, who was living at the temple of Artemis in Ephesus, which was under Roman control. The execution was carried out in 41 BC on the steps of the temple, and this violation of temple sanctuary scandalised Rome. Cleopatra had also executed her strategos of Cyprus, Serapion, who had supported Cassius against her intentions.
On 25 December 40 BC, Cleopatra gave birth to twins fathered by Antony, Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene II. Four years later, Antony visited Alexandria again en route to make war with the Parthians. He renewed his relationship with Cleopatra, and from this point on Alexandria would be his home. He married Cleopatra according to the Egyptian rite (a letter quoted in Suetonius suggests this), although he was at the time married to Octavia Minor, sister of his fellow triumvir Octavian. He and Cleopatra had another child, Ptolemy Philadelphus.
At the Donations of Alexandria in late 34 BC, following Antony's conquest of Armenia, Cleopatra and Caesarion were crowned co-rulers of Egypt and Cyprus; Alexander Helios was crowned ruler of Armenia, Media, and Parthia; Cleopatra Selene II was crowned ruler of Cyrenaica and Libya; and Ptolemy Philadelphus was crowned ruler of Phoenicia, Syria, and Cilicia. Cleopatra was also given the title of "Queen of Kings" by Antonius. Her enemies in Rome feared that Cleopatra "was planning a war of revenge that was to array all the East against Rome, establish herself as empress of the world at Rome, cast justice from Capitolium, and inaugurate a new universal kingdom." Caesarion was not only elevated having coregency with Cleopatra, but also proclaimed with many titles, including god, son of god and king of kings, and was depicted as Horus. Egyptians thought Cleopatra to be a reincarnation of goddess Isis, as she called herself (Nea Isis).
Relations between Antony and Octavian, disintegrating for several years, finally broke down in 33 BC, and Octavian convinced the Senate to levy war against Egypt. In 31 BC Antony's forces faced the Romans in a naval action off the coast of Actium. Cleopatra was present with a fleet of her own. Popular legend states that when she saw that Antony's poorly equipped and manned ships were losing to the Romans' superior vessels, she took flight and that Antony abandoned the battle to follow her, but no contemporary evidence states this was the case. Following the Battle of Actium, Octavian invaded Egypt. As he approached Alexandria, Antony's armies deserted to Octavian on August 1, 30 BC.
There are a number of unverifiable stories about Cleopatra, of which one of the best known is that, at one of the lavish dinners she shared with Antony, she playfully bet him that she could spend ten million sesterces on a dinner. He accepted the bet. The next night, she had a conventional, unspectacular meal served; he was ridiculing this, when she ordered the second course - only a cup of strong vinegar. She then removed one of her priceless pearl earrings, dropped it into the vinegar, allowed it to dissolve, and drank the mixture. The earliest report of this story comes from Pliny the Elder and dates to about 100 years after the banquet described would have happened. The calcium carbonate in pearls does dissolve in vinegar, but slowly unless the pearl is first crushed.
The ancient sources, particularly the Roman ones, are in general agreement that Cleopatra killed herself by inducing an Egyptian cobra to bite her. The oldest source is Strabo, who was alive at the time of the event, and might even have been in Alexandria. He says that there are two stories: that she applied a toxic ointment, or that she was bitten by an asp. Several Roman poets, writing within ten years of the event, all mention bites by two asps, as does Florus, a historian, some 150 years later. Velleius, sixty years after the event, also refers to an asp. Other authors have questioned these historical accounts, stating that it is possible that Augustus had her killed.
In 2010, the German historian Christoph Schaefer challenged all other theories, declaring that the queen had actually been poisoned and died from drinking a mixture of poisons. After studying historic texts and consulting with toxicologists, the historian concluded that the asp could not have caused a slow and pain free death, since the asp (Egyptian cobra) venom paralyses parts of the body, starting with the eyes, before causing death. Schaefer and his toxicologist Dietrich Mebs decided Cleopatra used a mixture of hemlock, wolfsbane and opium.
Plutarch, writing about 130 years after the event, reports that Octavian succeeded in capturing Cleopatra in her Mausoleum after the death of Antony. He ordered his freedman Epaphroditus to guard her to prevent her from committing suicide because he allegedly wanted to present her in his triumph. But Cleopatra was able to deceive Epaphroditus and kill herself nevertheless. Plutarch states that she was found dead, her handmaiden, Iras dying at her feet, and another handmaiden, Charmion, adjusting her crown before she herself falls. He then goes on to state that an asp was concealed in a basket of figs that was brought to her by a rustic, and, finding it after eating a few figs, she held out her arm for it to bite. Other stories state that it was hidden in a vase, and that she poked it with a spindle until it got angry enough to bite her on the arm. Finally, he eventually writes, in Octavian's triumphal march back in Rome, an effigy of Cleopatra that has an asp clinging to it is part of the parade.
Suetonius, writing about the same time as Plutarch, also says Cleopatra died from an asp bite.
Shakespeare gave us the final part of the image that has come down to us, Cleopatra clutching the snake to her breast. Before him, it was generally agreed that she was bitten on the arm.
Plutarch tells us of the death of Antony. When his armies desert him and join with Octavian, he cries out that Cleopatra has betrayed him. She, fearing his wrath, locks herself in her monument with only her two handmaidens and sends messengers to Antony that she is dead. Believing them, Antony stabs himself in the stomach with his sword, and lies on his couch to die. Instead, the blood flow stops, and he begs any and all to finish him off.
Another messenger comes from Cleopatra with instructions to bear him to her, and he, rejoicing that Cleopatra is still alive, consents. She won't open the door, but tosses ropes out of a window. After Antony is securely trussed up, she and her handmaidens haul him up into the monument. This nearly finishes him off. After dragging him in through the window, they lay him on a couch. Cleopatra tears off her clothes and covers him with them. She raves and cries, beats her breasts and engages in self-mutilation. Antony tells her to calm down, asks for a glass of wine, and dies upon finishing it.
The site of their Mausoleum is uncertain, though it is thought by the Egyptian Antiquities Service, to be in or near the temple of Taposiris Magna south west of Alexandria.
Cleopatra's son by Caesar, Caesarion, was proclaimed pharaoh by the Egyptians, after Alexandria fell to Octavian. Caesarion was captured and killed, his fate reportedly sealed when one of Octavian's advisers paraphrased Homer: "It is bad to have too many Caesars." 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, Octavia Minor. The daughter, Cleopatra Selene, was married by arrangements by Octavian to Juba II of Mauretania.
Character and cultural depictions
Cleopatra was regarded as a great beauty, even in the ancient world. In his Life of Antony, Plutarch remarks that "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". Later in the work, however, Plutarch indicates that "her beauty, as we are told, was in itself not altogether incomparable, nor such as to strike those who saw her." Rather, what ultimately made Cleopatra attractive were her wit, charm and "sweetness in the tones of her voice."
Cassius Dio also spoke of Cleopatra's allure: "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."
These accounts influenced later cultural depictions of Cleopatra, which typically present her using her charms to influence the most powerful men in the Western world.
The high degree of inbreeding amongst the Ptolemies can be seen from the ancestry of Cleopatra VII. As the stemma below shows, she only had four great-grandparents and six (out of a possible 16) great-great-grandparents (furthermore, four of those six were descended from the other two).
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