Cleopatra was actually Cleopatra VII. Her mother was Cleopatra V and her father was Ptolemy XII. She was born in 69 BC. She is considered to be the last of the Pharohs because after that Egypt was ruled by the Romans when Octavius annexed it with Rome. Octavius defeated Cleopatra and Mark Antony at Actium. By the way, Octavius was the grand nephew of Julius Caesar whom Cleopatra married before Mark Antony.
Cleopatra was a ruler of Hellenistic era. This era started when Alexander The Great went on his campaign spree to rule from Mediterranean to India in around 335 BC. This era is marked by spreading of Greek culture and civilization in all of the conquered areas. Cleopatra and her predecessors spoke Greek. Cleopatra was the one that restored Ancient Egypt's old deities and
language that had almost vanished during the past 300 years before her. The previous rulers preferred the Greek civilization over the ancient Egyptian one. Cleopatra actually learned to write in Egyptian Hieroglyphs! (I like her!)
After death of her father Ptolemy XII, she married her brother Ptolemy XIII and both reigned jointly. She being too individualistic, tried to reign alone (issued a coin depicting only her as regnant). Palace intrigues then led her to exile along with her sister.
When her brother got in conflict with Julius Caesar, she came in the picture again. He wanted to annex Egypt. She became Julius's mistress and thus Julius made her the Queen of Egypt. Her brother was drowned in the Nile. She bore a son from Julius which she wanted Julius to name as heir which Julius refused because he had chosen Octavian. When Julius was assassinated in 44 BC, she made her son co-regnant and had her sister killed so that no claimants to heir exist!
As the power struggle continued in Rome, Mark Antony, a military commander, administrator of Julius Caesar and another hopeful for Caesar title met Cleopatra. Both of them got involved and formed an alliance against Octavian. She had three children from Mark Antony. The three of them were made rulers of different areas that were under the control of Cleopatra. Being highly ambitious, Cleopatra dreamed of uniting east against Rome and then ruling both Rome and Egypt.
Octavian and Rome were incensed. Octavian sought war permission from the Roman Senate. After that both the forces fought the naval battle at Actium where Mark was defeated. Octavian invaded Egypt and finally Mark's forces were defeated at Alexandria. Mark Antony committed suicide. After sometime Cleopatra too committed suicide. The most famous version is that she died because of Asp bite. Although it is said that she got bit on her arm but Shakespeare immortalized the picture by suggesting that she had held the asp to her breast. (Picture at Wikipedia)
That apart, though Cleopatra's son claimed the throne but Octavian executed him. His famous statement "Two Caesars are one too many".
I had heard about Cleopatra's beauty but as I was writing this post I could not find any picture that could perhaps relate to her famed beauty. An anonymous comment took me to National Geographic's site which states
But a silver coin that went on display at a British university yesterday suggests Cleopatra's beauty may be Hollywood fiction. On one side the coin shows the Egyptian ruler with a shallow forehead, long nose, narrow lips, and a sharply pointed chin. On the other, her longtime lover, the powerful Roman general and politician Mark Antony, is depicted with a large hooked nose and thick neck.Link is in comments.
Check My Other Posts on Egyptology
- Nefertiti - The Most Beautiful Woman in World
- The First Monotheist - Akhenaten
- King Tut
- Hatshepsu - Woman Pharoh with A Beard!
- Your Name in Egyptian Hieroglyphs