Cleopatra VII by Blythe

Cleopatra's family ruled Egypt for more than 100
years before she was born around 69 B.C. The stories
and myths surrounding Cleopatra's tragic life inspired
a number of books, movies and plays, including
Antony and Cleopatra by Shakespeare, Carry on
Cleo, and Antony and Cleopatra starring Elizabeth
Taylor and Richard Burton.
Cleopatra has become one of the most well-known
ancient Egyptians.
Cleopatra VII was the last pharaoh of Ancient Egypt.
She was a member of the Ptolemaic Dynasty, a family
descended from the Greek who ruled Egypt after Alexander the
Great’s death during the Hellenistic Period. The Ptolemies,
throughout their dynasty, spoke Greek and refused to speak
Egyptian, which is the reason that Greek as well as Egyptian
languages were used on official court documents such as the
Rosetta Stone. Cleopatra, however did learn to speak Egyptian
and represented herself as the reincarnation of Isis, the Ancient
Egyptian goddess of nature and magic.
Rosetta Stone
• In 51 B.C., Cleopatra’s father, Ptolemy XII (Who she had
previously shared the Egyptian throne with) died, leaving the
throne to 18-year-old Cleopatra and her brother, the 10-yearold Ptolemy XIII.
Soon, complications arose between the two siblings. 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 conflict with the Gabiniani,
powerful Roman troops of Aulus Gabinius who had left the
Gabiniani in Egypt to protect Ptolemy XII (Cleopatra’s father)
after his restoration to the throne in 55 BC. The Gabiniani killed
the sons of the Roman governor of Syria, Marcus Calpurnius
Bibulus when they came to ask for the help of the Gabiniani for
their father against the Parthians. Cleopatra handed the
murderers over in chains to Bibulus, whereupon the Gabiniani
turned into bitter enemies of the queen. This conflict was one of
the main causes of Cleopatra's fall from power shortly
afterward. The sole reign of Cleopatra was finally ended by a
cabal of courtiers, led by the Pothinus, in connection with a halfGreek general, Achillas, and Theodotus of Chios. In 48 BC,
Cleopatra's younger brother Ptolemy XIII became sole ruler.
Cleopatra attempted to raise a rebellion around Pelusium, but
she was defeated and forced to flee with her only remaining
sister, Arsinoë.
Emperor Julius Caesar of Rome was, at this time,
embroiled in the civil war between him and Gnaeus
Pompeius Magnus, usually known in English as
Pompey. Ptolemy XIII wanted an alliance with Rome,
and in order to earn Caesar’s favour, murdered
Pompey in front of his wife and children. When Julius
Caesar went to Alexandria, Ptolemy presented him
with Pompey’s head as a gift. Caesar was enraged.
Although he was Caesar's political enemy, Pompey
was a Roman consul and the widower of Caesar's
only legitimate daughter, Julia (who died in childbirth
with Pompey's son).
Eager to take advantage of Julius Caesar’s anger at her brother,
Cleopatra made her way back to her palace in Alexandria. She
snuck past the guards rolled up in a carpet, which was carried by
Apollodorus the Cicilian. When Caesar was alone, Cleopatra
revealed herself. Struck by her beauty, Cleopatra soon became
Caesar’s mistress and Caesar backed up her claim to the throne.
Nearly a year after their first meeting, Cleopatra gave birth to a boy
named Ptolemy Caesar, nicknamed Caesarion (meaning “Little
Cleopatra wanted Julius Caesar to name Caesarion his heir, but he
refused, choosing his grandnephew Octavian instead.
Ptolemy XIII drowned in the Nile after Caesar’s forces defeated
his, and Caesar restored Cleopatra to her throne, with another
younger brother Ptolemy XIV as her new co-ruler.
Caesar was killed coming out of a Senate meeting, not as many
guidebooks suggested, emerging from the Theatre of Marcellus.
He was murdered by a small group of co-conspirators, knifed a
total of 23 times, so stab wounds did kill him. But when his body
was later examined, doctors concluded that only one of the 23
stab-wounds was fatal. Had he been stabbed only 22 times, he
would have been badly wounded but likely have survived. How
might history have been different had he survived the assault, or
had he listened to the numerous warnings from his wife, his
friends, and a soothsayer, to stay at home on his last day? He
had even dismissed his loyal bodyguards that day, as if tempting
fate. He was about to embark on a campaign to the East,
attempting to subdue a barbarian army that had battled the
last two Roman generals and their legions. It seems Caesar did
try to defend himself, but he was one against a mob. He
certainly seems to have accepted his fate, refusing to heed so
many warnings from those close to him, dismissing all his
bodyguards, and ultimately succumbing to a fate that he must
have known awaited him.
In 41 BC, Mark Antony, one of the triumvirs who ruled Rome after Caesar's
death, sent friend Quintus Dellius to Egypt to summon Cleopatra to Tarsus to
meet Antony and answer questions about her loyalty. It seems that in reality
Antony wanted Cleopatra’s promise to support his intended war against the
Parthians. Cleopatra arrived, and so charmed Antony that he chose to spend
the winter of 41 BC–40 BC with her at her palace Alexandria.
To ensure the safety of 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.
Cleopatra had 3 children with Antony, Cleopatra Selene II, Alexander Helios
and Ptolemy Philadelphus.
There are many theories about Cleopatra’s death, but nobody really
knows how she died.
One story is that Octavian, now enemy of Mark Antony, captured her.
She was watched carefully so that she was not allowed to commit
suicide. However, Cleopatra managed to get a basket of figs smuggled
into her bedroom. She ate a couple, and then stuck her hand into the
basket, where a poisonous asp was nestled. She poked the snake until it
got angry, and then it bit her. By the time Octavian got there, she was
already dead, with two of her maids dying at her feet.
There has been a general agreement between historians that she was
bitten by an asp, but in 2010, the German historian Christoph Schaefer
declared that Cleopatra had actually been poisoned and died from
drinking a mixture of poisons. He concluded that the asp could not have
caused a slow and pain-free death (that the queen no doubt would
have wanted), since the asp 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.
There are a number of stories about Cleopatra, and 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 an 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.

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