Biography of Cleopatra VII: Early Life
Cleopatra VII Theo Philopator was born in January 69 BC. Her mother was Cleopatra V of Egypt and her father was Ptolemy XII Auletes.
Not much is known of her early life. However, she must have encountered the events surrounding the loss of public affection for her father. He survived 2 attempts for assassination. Cleopatra’s eldest sister Tryphaena also tried to poison her. It was this that led her to employ food tasters among her servants. When Ptolemy died in 51 BC, he made Cleopatra and her brother Ptolemy XIII joint monarchs of Egypt. At that time Cleopatra was 18 and her brother was 12.
It is said that Cleopatra was quite beautiful and extremely intelligent. She later also proved herself to be an elegant diplomat, strategist and politician.
The first few years of their reign were marked by famines and economic difficulties. Political conflicts also were major part of the picture. Finally Cleopatra began to issue coins depicting just her picture and rebelled against her brother. But Ptolemy’s armies forced her to flee from Alexandria.
History of Cleopatra VII: Cleopatra and Caesar
Around the same time as Cleopatra’s exile from Egypt, Pompey came to Alexandria seeking sanctuary from Julius Caesar. Ptolemy ordered that Pompey be beheaded and his head was pickled and stored in a jar. This was done in order to please Caesar because Egypt was under a lot of debt to Rome.
Two days later when Caesar reached Alexandria, he was presented with Pompey’s head. Instead of making Caesar happy, this move only managed to enrage him.
When news of Caesar’s reaching Alexandria reached Cleopatra, she hid herself in a Persian carpet and it was presented to Caesar by one of her servants. When she rolled out of the carpet, Caesar was charmed.
Caesar took over the capital city and arbitrated the claims of Ptolemy and Cleopatra. He placed Cleopatra on the throne of Egypt and she became his mistress. She had one child by him Ptolemy Caesar or Caesarion. With this move, she ensured that Egypt would not be annexed to Rome. Also, since Caesar had no sons, she ensured that Caesarion would eventually become heir to the throne of Egypt and Rome.
Between 47 BC and 44 BC she visited Caesar at Rome. Caesar was assassinated on the 15th of March in 44 BC. And Caesar had already nominated his grand-nephew Octavian as his legal heir. Disappointed, she returned to Egypt and nominated Caesarion as her co-regent and heir to the throne of Egypt.
Cleopatra History: Cleopatra and Mark Antony
In 42 BC Mark Antony visited Cleopatra so that he could question her loyalty. They met in grand style (characteristic of Cleopatra) at Tarsus. He was charmed by her beauty and spent the year with her.
In 40 BC she gave birth to twins, Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene II. In 37 BC, Antony visited her again, while he was on his way to fight the war with the Parthians. After this, he made Alexandria his home base and even married Cleopatra according to Egyptian rites.
This was quite unfortunate for his position in Rome, because he was already married to Octavian Minor, the sister of Octavian. Mark Antony and Cleopatra had another child, Ptolemy Philadelphus.
Because of the outrageousness of Antony’s behavior, Octavian convinced the Roman Senate to wage war on Egypt. The battle at Actium took place in 31 BC. It was a naval war and Antony’s troops were not experienced to handle this type of battle as they were more used to fighting on land. It is said that when Cleopatra saw that Antony’s troops were losing the battle, she fled the scene, and seeing her go, Antony also ran away to join her.
After this battle, Octavian marched on Egypt. In 30 BC another battle was to have been fought, this time on land. But Mark Antony’s troops deserted him and he was rendered helpless.
How Did Cleopatra Die
It is said that when Cleopatra heard of the disaster at the battlefield, she knew that all was lost. She went into her tomb (pyramid) along with her two handmaidens and a basket of figs which contained two asps. Stories say that she did this because she would not know when she would die as she would be eating.
At the same time Mark Antony came to know that Cleopatra was dead. So he committed suicide. He was apparently bought to her tomb and died in her arms.
When Octavian came to know that Cleopatra had committed suicide he went to her tomb to see that for himself.
After Cleopatra died, the Egyptians proclaimed Caesarion as their Pharaoh. But Octavian thought otherwise. According to his famous statement at the time: “Two Caesars are one too many”. He had Caesarion captured and killed.
Cleopatra’s children by Mark Antony were taken by Octavia Minor and were taken back to Rome where she raised them.
Such was the end of the line of Pharaoh’s of ancient Egypt.