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Cleopatra VII (51 – 30 BC)  

The last phase of the history of the Ptolemies in Egypt is considered one of the most mysterious periods in the history of the world. Cleopatra VII was such a strong character, a trained politician, well educated and cunning. She spoke many languages and she had the capability of ruling the country and imposing her strong personality on the leaders of the Roman Empire. When she first appeared as a ruler with her brother, Ptolemy XIII, she was about 17 years old. At that time, she was not very good at the political affairs. She decided to support Pompey in his war against Caesar: she sent Egyptian ships, some grain and contributions for his help. However, eleven of the palace guards didn’t stand by her and she fled first to Thebes where she raised and odd army marched on Pelusium where she met her brother Ptolemy, who was ready with a stronger army. At that time, the situation in Rome was clearer and it was obvious that the coming ruler would be Caesar. Pompey tried to find a way out of this through asking the help of his supporters. He fled to Alexandria searching for this support, but Ptolemy XIII had a different opinion.

– The Relation Between Queen Cleopatra VII and King Caesar

 

When Pompey tried to enter Alexandria, he was refused by the guards of Ptolemy XIII, and then he proceeded along the coast to Pelusium where Ptolemy XIII and his advisors decided to kill him with the idea of doing a favor to Caesar. When he landed, he was killed by Archillas and Lucius Septimius: his head was cut and he was handed with his signet ring to Caesar. When he had arrived Alexandria three days later, he was the master of the city. Ptolemy XIII returned from Pelusium to a position of low power but Cleopatra could not be got by her brother’s troops, and had to go to Alexandria through an indirect way. Whether she really arrived at Caesar’s feet wrapped in a carpet carried by Apollodorus, it’s now impossible to state. She conquered Caesar, although he was more than twice her age. We don’t have an actual portrait of Cleopatra, but she’s said to be depicted on one of the walls of the Temple of Dendera and also represented on some coins (currency), but it’s believed that it’s just an image that is not real. The only one who described her beauty is Plutarch, but it seems he talked about the beauty of her character. It’s said when she was in a meeting with community and people from both sexes, all the attendants concentrated exclusively on her and listened merely to her. Ptolemy XIII was furious when he heard that Cleopatra had become Caesar’s mistress, and even the return of Cyprus to the Egyptian authority did not help a lot in calming down the feelings of Ptolemy XIII towards their relation. Ptolemy tried to be reconciled to his sister, but this reconciliation didn’t last for long. In 48 BC, Caesar spent most of his time at Alexandria. In November, Archilles with a great army marched to Alexandria. Caesar seized the 72 ships in the harbor, since he was afraid not to be able to hold them, and they might fall into the hands of the enemy, so he set fire to them. The fire spread everywhere and destroyed a lot of documents which were intended to be added to the collection of the library. At the same time, Cleopatra’s half-sister Arisnoe (hated Cleopatra and Caesar as well) joined the camp of Archilles and the Alexandrians declared her as Queen of Egypt. Although Caesar was nearly defeated, he managed to hold off the attacking army, and soon, the troops that he sent from Western Asia began to arrive. When Caesar succeeded to strengthen his position, Archilles was defeated, and young Ptolemy XIII drowned trying to escape, and Arisnoe and Alexandria fell into the hands of Caesar. The strong interference of Rome in the internal affairs of Egypt became very explicit. Caesar retained Cleopatra on the throne and associated Ptolemy XIV (her younger brother) with her as co-ruler in 48 BC. Caesar, Cleopatra VII and Ptolemy XIV went on a Nile trip till they reached Upper Egypt. Cleopatra was pregnant at that time and she gave birth to a boy calling him Ptolemy Caesar or Caesarion. We found an inscription in Memphis, exhibited in Louvre Museum now, telling us this story. Caesar left them and went to Africa seeking some conquests. Then, he returned to Rome and celebrated his victories, among them was that one he achieved in Egypt over Archilles and Ptolemy XIII as well as the execution of Arisnoe. Later, Cleopatra VII took Ptolemy XIV and her son (Ptolemy Caesar) and went to Rome for two purposes: to confirm the treaty with Rome and to continue the relation with Julius Caesar. Caesar married a lady called Calpurina in Rome, and the Roman law didn’t allow marrying more than a woman, regardless of the nationality. When Caesar admitted Caesarion, Calpurina was driven mad and she went to the Senators to complain. She complained that he married another lady, and other indictments were addressed to him that he made everything under his name, and he attributed all the victories to him, neglecting the name of Rome. Cleopatra spent thirteen months in Rome till Caesar was murdered after a decision from all the members of the Senate. Such a decision was done with the acceptance of all the Senate’s members and every one of them participated in the murder. After the death of Caesar, Cleopatra VII and Ptolemy XIV were scared, as they were the reason of murdering Caesar, so they decided to go back to Egypt. Right after they were back, Ptolemy XIV died, and it’s said that she had a role in this to take the throne for herself or to avoid her brother getting revenge of her, as she heard he would. Then, she appointed her son, Caesarion, on the throne of Egypt and this was an announcement of the interference of Rome in Egypt.

– The Relation between Queen Cleopatra and Antony

Cleopatra announced Caesarion as Ptolemy XV giving him titles: such as the title “Theos Philopator Philometor” (Theos means the god who loves his mother and his father). She tried to practice her role as ruler of Upper and Lower Egypt through sending some campaigns and leading some wars, but she was faced by a number of defeats in Syria as well as in Cyprus. Cassius sent to Egypt asking for support and help to strengthen his position in Rome, but Cleopatra hesitated. She didn’t have the wish to help Caesar’s murderer, but she was not strong enough to stand against Rome, and she found the reason for not assisting Cassius which was plague and famine which happened in Egypt especially in the years 42 and 41 BC. Meanwhile, Cleopatra had prepared a fleet with a purpose of joining Octavius and Mark Antony, but a storm happened and damaged the fleet, and she suffered severely from seasickness. This made her return to Alexandria without achieving her purpose. So she started building another new fleet, but before this was ready, Antony was already victorious controlling the Eastern world; the main reason was the wealth of the East which attracted him. When Cleopatra realized that the position of Antony was the dominant, she decided to capture him as she did with Caesar before. But the situation here was different: it was a series of bargains between Egypt and Rome. On the one hand, Antony needed Egypt’s help and wealth. On the other hand, Cleopatra needed Antony’s protection. Part of these bargains was that Antony killed the half-sister of Cleopatra, Arsinoe, who could be a danger to the throne of Egypt. In Egypt she had been busy reorganizing the country, and reconstructing the administrative system. She would not appear to be upset that Antony married Octavius’ sister assuming that it was for a diplomatic purpose. In Syria, Antony decided to send for Cleopatra to join him which was a complete unwise movement. When she arrived, she found that there was no room to Antony and Octavius together. This was not yet clear to Antony. By the time, she joined him in Syria, and she decided that he would have to marry her. It was a very hard situation for Antony, because this would make him lose Octavia, consequently, he would have to lose Octavius as well. Together with marriage, Cleopatra wanted all the lands that had belonged to Egypt in earlier times (such as Coele-Syria) and she was lucky enough that Antony accepted. Antony and Cleopatra married in 37 – 36 BC, and she accompanied him in one of the campaigns in Euphrates. She got pregnant and on the way back to Egypt, she gave birth to a child. Cleopatra had a great advantage in conducting negotiations with foreigners, due to her linguistic abilities. She spoke Egyptian, Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic (the business language of the Near East). At that time, Antony lost his campaign, and he had to organize another army, and Octavia started to move against him, maybe as a sort of taking revenge. Antony succeeded to defeat the Armenians in 34 BC and he returned to Alexandria to celebrate his victory. Cleopatra at this point succeeded to gain back all the previous Egyptian belongings and to have full control over Antony. The confrontation between Mark Antony and Octavius was partly because of the Roman Empire and its belongings as well as a desire for revenge. Antony did not resist for long and he was defeated, and Octavius sent him untrue news that Cleopatra was murdered which put more stress on him and his army. Then Antony was killed with a sword. When the news reached Cleopatra and she was sure that Octavius was on his way to Egypt, she preferred to suicide rather than getting captured and killed by the Romans.