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  • Matilda Thomann Studholme

The life of Cleopatra

Cleopatra was the last known Egyptian ruler, descended from the Ptolemaic dynasty. Famously having an affair with two powerful men: the roman emperor Julius Ceasar; and a romance with Mark Anthony too. She is one of the two most famous pharaohs today together with Tutankhamun.

Cleopatra is a mysterious figure with not much known about her life. She was born 69/70 BCE and died 30 BCE. Her Father was Ptolemy the 12th, and who her mother is remains a mystery as there is nothing known about her nor her grandmother meaning that only 25% of her heritage is known (her grandfather Ptolemy the 9th).

She had two brother Ptolemy the 13th and 14th. Ptolemy the 13th she ended up even marrying and ruling beside. She was eight years older than her brother and was said to be 18 at the time making her brother 10 when they both ascended to the throne of Egypt. Her brothers name preceded Cleopatra and soon after she fled from Egypt to Syria only to come back to Egypt with an army hoping to challenge her younger brother. They faced each other in the eastern edge of Egypt, at Pelusium, and their war was only interrupted by Julius Ceasar and the killing of a roman general (Pompey). Cleopatra sought after Ceasar’s support in this battle and Ceasar hoped he would get some of Egypt's debts collected if Cleopatra got her throne back. Their relationship became romantic, and they spent the winter together.

As her brother drowned in the Nile while fleeing, she was soon married to her even younger brother Ptolemy the 14th . She gave birth to Ptolemy the 15th Ceasar. It is still a mystery if the child, known to many as Caesarion (little Ceasar), was Ceasar’s child. She visited Ceasar’s villa twice and was a witness to her gold statue being unveiled in a temple and was in Rome in 44 BCE when Ceasar was stabbed to death.

Back in Alexandria her husband/ brother died, leaving her and Ptolemy the 15th Caesar. Mark Anthony got the power over the Eastern part of Rome. He requested that Cleopatra explain the part she played in the post-assassination of Caesar. She arrived dressed as, the goddess, Isis, and charmed Mark Anthony. He had a wife called Fulvia at the time. Anthony and Cleopatra soon fell in love and even started a cult together called “inimitable livers,” ironically meaning the unique livers, which was dedicated to the god Dionisis. Dionisis was the god of fertility but became the god of wine and pleasure. Together with Anthony she had twins called Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene. After Anthony’s wife Fulvia died, he, in order to settle his war with Octavian, married Octavian’s sister. But this did not work, and he returned once again to Cleopatra ignoring his wedding and marriage vows. Cleopatra lent money to Anthony's campaign which ended up failing but he had a victorious return to Alexandria where he and Cleopatra, while seated on golden thrones, announced Ptolemy 15th Caesar to be Caesar's son. This was a threat to Octavian, Caesar's adoptive son and this led to him accusing Anthony of leaving in his will a foreign lady, next to whom he wanted to also be buried. Anthony and Cleopatra’s forces were combined, and they had a war with Rome. During this war Anthony got false news of Cleopatra’s death, fell on his sword, and died. Cleopatra buried him and at the age of only 39 she committed suicide.

There have been many rumours surrounding Cleopatra’s life and death as she allegedly died, following royal tradition, of letting herself be bitten by a snake. The truth about her life may never be discovered but what is left of her life has already been remembered for 2000 years and will continue to be remembered for a long time to come.

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