Cleopatra: The Last Queen of Egypt

Methods of Written Communication English 111

November 24, 2003


Cleopatra, or more precisely, Cleopatra VII, was the daughter of Ptolemy XII Auletes, the king of Egypt. Cleopatra’s father appointed Cleopatra and her brother Ptolemy XIII as successors to his throne, with the provision that they should marry. In the third year of Cleopatra’s and Ptolemy’s reign, Ptolemy was encouraged by his advisers to assume sole control of government and drove Cleopatra into an exile. Cleopatra gathered an army in Syria, but was unable to assert her claim until the arrival of Julius Ceasar. Julius Ceasar became Cleopatra’s lover and espoused her cause. Ptolemy XIII was angered and vowed to war against Ceasar, but drowned in the Nile while trying to flee. Cleopatra was then forced by custom to marry her younger brother, Ptolemy XIV. Cleopatra gave birth to Caesar’s son and named him Caesarion. Then Cleopatra went to Rome, where she lived as Caesar’s mistress. After Caesar’s assassination Cleopatra returned to Egypt, poisoned her brother, and made Caesarion her coregent. Cleopatra hesitated to take sides in the civil war in Rome following Caesar’s death. But she was summoned by Mark Antony to explain her conduct. Antony fell in love with Cleopatra and returned with her to Egypt. After living with Cleopatra for some time, Antony returned to Rome and married Octavia, a sister of Caesar’s heir Octavian. Six months after Antony’s departure, Cleopatra bore twins. Four years passed before Antony and Cleopatra reunited. Antony married Cleopatra and continued to reside in Egypt, totally neglecting Octavia. This angered the Romans, and Octavian declared war against Egypt. Cleopatra and Antony were defeated, and both committed suicide.


The Last Queen of Egypt

Cleopatra was the last and most memorable pharaoh of Egypt. Cleopatra was the name of the seven queens of ancient Egypt\'s Ptolemaic dynasty. By far the most famous queen was the last of the Ptolemaic dynasty, Cleopatra VII. Cleopatra made extraordinary efforts to revive Ptolemaic power through her forceful personality and political skill, efforts which involved or led to romantic liaisons with both Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. Cleopatra’s life and death at her own hand has been the subject of many writers.

Cleopatra’s Family

Cleopatra VII was born in 69 BC in Alexandria, which was then the capital of Egypt. Her father was Egypt’s pharaoh, Ptolemy XII, nicknamed Auletes or “Flute Player.” Cleopatra’s mother was probably Auletes’s sister, Cleopatra V Tryphaena. (It was common for members of the Ptolemaic dynasty to marry their siblings.) There was another Cleopatra in the family, Cleopatra VII’s older sister, Cleopatra VI. Cleopatra VII also had an older sister named Berenice, a younger sister Arsinoe, and two younger brothers, both called Ptolemy. The family was not Egyptian, but Macedonia; they were descended from Ptolemy I, a general of Alexander the Great, who became king of Egypt after Alexander’s death in 323 BC.

Cleopatra’s Family Table

Name Relationship to Cleopatra

Ptolemy XII Father

Cleopatra V Tryphaena Mother

Berenice Oldest sister

Cleopatra VI Older sister

Cleopatra VII Cleopatra (self)

Arsinoe Younger sister

Ptolemy VIII Younger brother

Ptolemy IX Youngest brother

Ptolemy XII was weak and cruel ruler, and in 58 BC the people of Alexandria rebelled and overthrew him. Ptolemy XII fled to Rome, while his oldest daughter Bernice took the throne. Bernice married her cousin, but soon had him strangled so that she could marry another man, Archelaus. During Berenice’s three-year reign, Cleopatra VI died of an unknown cause. In 55 BC Ptolemy XII reclaimed his throne with the help of the Roman general Pompey. Ptolemy XII executed his daughter Berenice and her husband. Cleopatra VII was now the pharaoh’s oldest child. When Cleopatra’s father died in 51 BC, he left his children in Pompey’s care. Cleopatra and her brother Ptolemy XIII, who was the child of 12, succeeded jointly to the throne of Egypt.

Queen of Egypt

Cleopatra was seventeen when she became the queen of Egypt. She was far from beautiful, despite her glamorous image today. Cleopatra is depicted on the ancient coins with a long hooked nose and masculine features. At the same time she was clearly a very seductive woman. She had an enchantingly musical voice and exuded charisma (Bradford, 2001). Cleopatra was also highly intelligent; she spoke nine languages and proved to be a shrewd politician. Cleopatra was the first Ptolemy pharaoh who could actually