Cleopatra

Cleopatra VII (born 69 BC) better known simply as Cleopatra was the last of a series of rulers called the Ptolemies who ruled Egypt for nearly 300 years.  She was the last true queen of Egypt who ruled an Empire that contained Egypt, Libya, Cyprus and parts of the Middle East.  She is still celebrated today for her great beauty and her love affairs with the great Roman consuls Julius Caesar and Mark Antony which have been immortalized in art, music and literature down through the centuries.

In 48 BC Egypt became embroiled in a vicious Roman civil war between Caesar and Pompey over the fate of the Roman Republic.  After the decisive battle of Pharsalus, Pompey fled to Egypt for support but was murdered on the orders of the 13 year old Ptolemy ( Ptolemies ruler of Egypt) who thought that his death would please Caesar who was in hot pursuit.

Cleopatra known for her great beauty and intelligence.
Cleopatra known for her great beauty and intelligence.

When presented with Pompey’s head on his arrival Caesar was anything but pleased and wept because after everything he and Pompey had been friends.  Caesar and Cleopatra (who had been in exile) became lovers and she was reinstalled as Queen (Ptolemy died in the fighting) with Roman military support. In 47 BC Cleopatra bore Caesar a child Caesarion and although Caesar never acknowledged him , Cleopatra followed Caesar back to Rome but after his assassination in 44 BC returned back to Egypt.

Battle of Actium 31 BC
Battle of Actium 31 BC

Mark Antony and the battle for Empire

In 41 BC Mark Antony who was in a dispute with Caesar’s adopted son Octavian over control of the new Roman Empire began a political and then romantic alliance with Cleopatra. They had 3 children (two sons and a daughter) and ruled the Eastern Mediterranean like they were a King and Queen which greatly angered those in Rome.

 

War was declared by Rome and in 31 BC and after a period of posturing Cleopatra and Mark Antony’s combined forces took on Octavian’s in the great sea battle at Actium on the west coast of Greece.  Octavian was victorious and Mark Antony and Cleopatra fled back to Egypt with the Roman army in hot pursuit.  Octavian captured Alexandria in 30 BC and with his soldiers deserting him in droves, Mark Antony committed suicide.

Cleopatra was captured and was willing to negotiate for the sake of Egypt and her children but upon hearing that Octavian intended to march her in chains through the streets of Rome in his triumph, she also chose suicide.  Octavian deprived of his prize had Caesarion murdered saying the world is only big enough for one Caesar. He did however spare Mark Antony’s children who were sent back to Rome. So ended the house of the Ptolemies and Egypt's independence which became a Roman Province and would remain so for the next 500 years.