Cleopatra was a Hellenistic ruler of Egypt. Her rise to power began as she co-ruled Egypt with her Father. She would later also share power with her brothers and husbands before she became the sole ruler of Ancient Egypt.
1. She was the last Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt
Cleopatra was the last Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt. Following her death, the eastern and western hemispheres were more aligned in their rule, due in part to Cleopatra’s liaisons with both Caesar and Mark Anthony and the resulting birth of four children between the two men.
2. The End of an Era
Cleopatra’s reign marks the end of the Hellenistic Era and the beginning of the Roman Era in the eastern Mediterranean.
3. Union with Gaius Julius Caesar
Cleopatra became a mistress of Julius Caesar and had Caesar’s son whom she named, Caesarion. This son co-ruled with Cleopatra until after Cleopatra’s death. Cleopatra’s association with Caesar led to many political conflicts in that Caesar’s loyalties turned more towards Egypt and Cleopatra. This shift in political loyalties would change the face of history and the era of pharaohs who ruled Egypt.
4. Securing the Throne
Previous to meeting and having a child with Cleopatra, Caesar had plans to annex Egypt. Once his interests were aligned with those of Cleopatra, Caesar was instrumental in supporting Cleopatra’s claim to the throne. A short civil war ensued and as a result the one man standing in Cleopatra’s way of the throne, Ptolemy XIII, was drowned in the Nile. Cleopatra assumed her place as pharaoh and her younger brother, Ptolemy XIV, became the new co-ruler.
5. A Greek Pharaoh
Although Cleopatra was an Egyptian pharaoh, her main language was Greek. Greek-speaking aristocracy in Egypt had come with the rule of Alexander the Great that had taken place nearly 300 years before Cleopatra’s time. Cleopatra is reputed to have been the first member of her family in those 300 years to have learned the Egyptian language. She even adopted common Egyptian beliefs and deities.
6. A Great Beauty
Cleopatra’s beauty is part of her memory. Cleopatra was a woman of great beauty and that can be seen in her personal associations with several of the world’s most powerful men at the time. Many believe that were it not for Cleopatra’s sexual appeal, she would have never received the extra push that she needed to secure the position of pharaoh.
7. Association with Mark Anthony
In 42 BC, Mark Antony summoned Cleopatra to meet him to answer questions about where her loyalties lay. Cleopatra’s arrival impressed Anthony and after spending a season together, Cleopatra gave birth to Anthony’s twins, a boy and a girl. Four years later the two met again and this time Anthony married Cleopatra. Together they had a third child, another son named Ptolemy Philadelphus.
8. The Suicide of Cleopatra
The ancient sources tell that Cleopatra poisoned herself by allowing an asp to bite her in the arm. Cleopatra was found dead, with her handmaidens Iras and Charmion dying at her feet. There are several pieces of art that depict the scene of Cleopatra’s last moments alone with her handmaids.
9. The Fight for Power after Cleopatra
Cleopatra’s son by Caesar, Caesarion, was proclaimed pharaoh by the Egyptians following Cleopatra’s death. However, Octavian had already won claim to the throne. Caesarion was captured and executed. This act ended the line of Egyptian pharaohs.
10. Ancestry and Inbreeding
There was a high degree of inbreeding among the family line and ancestry of Cleopatra, but no children resulted from those arrangements.