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 Cleopatra of Egypt

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PostSubject: Cleopatra of Egypt   Sun Dec 20, 2009 8:29 pm


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Cleopatra (epithet Netjeret-mer-it-es) was actually the last of seven
Ptolomaic queens of the same name.

Cleopatra
VII (ruled 51-30 BC) was illustrious, intelligent and politically astute,
and was reputedly the only Ptolomaic ruler to have actually learnt the
Egyptian language. Cleopatra VII first shared a co-regency with her father
Ptolomy XII (ruled 80-51 BC). Pharaoh Ptolemy XII died in March 51 BC
making the 18 year old Cleopatra and her 12 year old brother Ptolemy XIII
joint monarchs. These first three years of their reign was difficult due
to economic difficulties, famine, deficient floods of Nile and political
conflicts. Relations between the sovereigns completely broke down and her
brother Ptolomy XIII actually ousted her from power for a time in the year
48 BC. Cleopatra tried to raise a rebellion, but in the end had little
choice but to flee.


Cleopatra's
links with Rome were first forged through Pompey, who had been appointed
as her guardian on the death of her father. Defeated by Caesar at
Pharsalia in 48 BC, Pompey had fled to Egypt where he was subsequently
assassinated under the orders of Cleopatra's brother Ptolomy XIII. Ptolemy
is thought to have ordered the death as a way of pleasing Julius Caesar
and becoming an ally of Rome, to which Egypt was in debt. This was a
catastrophic miscalculation on Ptolemy's part. When Caesar arrived in
Egypt two days later, Ptolemy presented him with Pompey's severed, pickled
head. Caesar was enraged. This was probably due to the fact that, although
political enemies, Pompey had been a Consul of Rome and was the widower of
Caesar's only daughter Julia, who had died in childbirth with their son.
Ptolemy XIII was drowned in the Nile and Caesar restored Cleopatra to the
throne, this time with her second brother Ptolomy XIV as co-ruler.



Cleopatra and Julius Caesar



In
47 BC, Cleopatra had a son, Ptolomy Caesarion, whom she claimed to be
fathered by Julius Caesar. Although Caesar refused to make the boy his
heir, against Cleopatra's wishes, naming his grand-nephew Octavian
instead. Cleopatra and Caesarion visited Caesar in Rome in 46 BC, but had
returned to Egypt after his assassination. Upon her return, she then
proceeded to have her own brother/husband "disposed" of, possibly
poisoned, and then instated her son Caesarion as her new co-regent.


The death of Julius Caesar on the 15th
March 44 BC was followed by civil war in the Roman Empire. His assassins,
led by Brutus and Cassius, were defeated by Mark Anthony and Octavian,
Caesar's adopted son and heir. In the settlement that followed, Mark
Anthony took the Eastern section of the Roman Empire, and Octavian took
the West.


Cleopatra and Mark Anthony

Various political manoeuvres then led Cleopatra
to be summoned to a meeting with Mark Anthony at Tarsus. He spent the winter at
Alexandria, after which Cleopatra bore him twins. On 25th December 40 BC she
gave birth to a boy and a girl who were named Alexander Helios and Cleopatra
Selene (II) respectively.

Four years later, in 37 BC, Antony visited Alexandria again while on route to
make war with the Parthians. He renewed his relationship with Cleopatra, and
from this point on Alexandria would be his home. He married Cleopatra according
to the Egyptian rite (a letter quoted in Suetonius suggests this), although he
was at the time married to Octavia Minor, the sister of Octavian. He and
Cleopatra had another child, Ptolemy Philadelphus.


In 34 BC, under the "Donations of
Alexandria", Mark Anthony divided various parts of the Eastern Roman
Empire between Cleopatra and her children, legitimating his actions to the
Senate by telling them that he was simply installing "client rulers" to
these areas. Octavian, the brother of Mark Anthony's Roman wife had set
his sights on the supreme power of the Roman Empire. Mark Anthony's
behaviour with Cleopatra offered Octavian the perfect opportunity to
initiate a propaganda campaign against his brother-in-law and Cleopatra,
until finally in 32 BC, Rome declared war on her.


The might of Rome versus Cleopatra


In 33 BC Octavian managed to defeat Mark
Anthony at the naval battle of Actium. For some unknown reason, Cleopatra's
fleet had unexpectedly withdrawn from the battle. Octavian then pursued both
Mark Anthony and Cleopatra into Egypt, but finally on 10th August 30 BC,
realising that "all was in effect lost", and mistakenly thinking that
Cleopatra was already dead, Mark Anthony committed suicide.

Cleopatra
followed suit a few days later, preferring death to the humiliation of a
Roman triumph. Caesarion, Cleopatra's son by Caesar, was proclaimed
pharaoh by Egyptians, but Octavian had him captured and executed. On 30th August
30 BC, he proclaimed himself "Pharaoh of Egypt". After a culture that had
spanned thousands of years, Egypt was conquered and inaugurated as a
province into the Eastern Roman Empire.





Cleopatra's legendary notoriety - how did she become so famous?



As Queen of a wealthy nation, Cleopatra was a ruler at a pivotal time in ancient
history. During her reign, she promoted herself relentlessly, making public
displays of her power, her image as pharaoh and goddess, and her links with
Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. In addition, she personally led significant
rituals and was identified with Isis, the most important Egyptian goddess of the
day. In doing so, Cleopatra inspired great affection and loyalty among her
people.



After she died, Cleopatra's Roman enemy Octavian spread tales about her,
unintentionally spinning her story into a legend. Even before her death,
Cleopatra's story had taken on mythic proportions. Since then, each passing era
has put its own imprint on her legend. The legend grew through the writings of
Plutarch, Chaucer, and Shakespeare, and through the many film versions of her
story.
<blockquote>
<blockquote>
<blockquote>




Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale
Her infinite variety; other women cloy
The appetites they feed, but she makes hungry
Where most she satisfies;…


Shakespeare's Anthony and Cleopatra
</blockquote>
</blockquote>
</blockquote>



A strong and capable ruler



When she came to power at just 18 years of age, Cleopatra was highly educated,
spoke several languages and was mature beyond her years. Her abilities were
evident early on as she helped Egypt survive a severe drought and launched
lucrative economic reforms. Yet her position was precarious. Her father had left
the country in civil turmoil, and Cleopatra faced the constant threat of
assassination by siblings who also wanted to rule. In addition, the Roman Empire
was emerging on Egypt's doorstep and were attracted to Egypt's vast wealth and
agricultural resources.

Cleopatra's famous alliances with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony were as
political as they were personal. Through them, Cleopatra shrewdly secured her
throne and preserved Egypt's status as an independent nation for more than 20
years, despite the increasing power of Rome.


Egyptian-style statues and images of Cleopatra generally depict her wearing the unusual triple uraeus.
Find out more about
the Ptolemaic period of Ancient Egyptian history.
Find out more about
pharaoh's royal names, and the importance of the name in Ancient Egypt.

Note:
The Ptolemaic Period
refers to the Greek/Hellenistic rulers of Egypt, following the arrival of
Alexander the Great in 332 BC. The "Macedonian Phase" encompasses the reigns of
Alexander the Great (332-323 BC), his half brother Philip Arrhidaeus (323-317
BC) and his son Alexander IV (317-310 BC). Quite often, this Macedonian Phase is
also referred to as part of The Ptolemaic Period.
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