The History of Cleopatra

Cleopatra was born late, sometime in the year 69BC. We don’t know who her mother was, but we can be sure that she was the daughter of Auteles, who was said to be a direct descendant of Ptolemy I Soter. Ptolemy I was a general who served in the armies of Alexander the Great, but decided to stay in Egypt and make it his home and as a result all subsequent monarchs, being descendants of Ptolemy, spoke Greek as their first language. Auteles, Cleopatra’s father, was no doubt a direct descendant of Ptolemy, making Cleopatra the last ruler in this great lineage.

When Cleopatra was eighteen years old, her older relation and the current monarch of Egypt at the time, Ptolemy XII, died. Power was supposed to pass to Cleopatra who was to share the throne with her twelve year old brother, also called Ptolemy, with whom she was married. Cleopatra clearly had different intentions however and bucked the Hellenic trend of patriarchal rule by declaring herself sole ruler of Egypt. However, her rule was not to last long as she was soon deposed by her younger brother and a cabal of courtiers headed by a eunuch.

Her younger brother’s power was not to last long as he made the mistake of beheading the Roman counsel, Pompey who had travelled to Egypt to escape troubles in Rome. Although Pompey had fled Rome in disgrace, Caesar asserted that no one had the power to kill high ranking Romans other than himself, so Ptolemy soon found himself in the great Caesar’s bad books. Eager to take advantage of Caesar’s rage, legend has it that Cleopatra rolled herself up into a carpet and had herself presented to the Roman emperor. The carpet was unrolled before the feet of Caesar and at the end, out popped Cleopatra. Caesar was impressed by this gesture and so he and Cleopatra became lovers. Naturally Caesar, looking to enforce the power of his new beau, fought a war against her brother Ptolemy, which ended with Ptolemy drowning in the Nile, which in turn lead to Cleopatra being restored on the Egyptian throne. Cleopatra’s love for Caesar gave her one child, who she called Caesarion. Cleopatra wished for Caesarion to go on to rule Egypt and Rome but Caesar preferred to give rule to his nephew Octavian instead, who would later go on to be given the Roman title of Augustus.

In the following years Caesar was to be assassinated and a power vacuum opened in Rome. At first Octavian and Mark Anthony formed an alliance, together ruling Rome but this was not to last. Octavian and Mark Anthony eventually went to war, with Cleopatra siding with Mark Anthony. Cleopatra and Mark Anthony lost this war and found themselves in exile away from the queen’s beloved Egypt. Legend has it that Cleopatra drank a pearl dissolved in vinegar before allowing herself to be bitten by an asp that found its way into her tent in a basket of figs. One thing is for sure, at the time of her death, and ever since, no queen has ever been the subject of so much mystery, intrigue and scandal.

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