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Most likely a posthumously painted portrait of Cleopatra VII with red hair and her distinct facial features, wearing a royal diadem and pearl-studded hairpins, from Roman Herculaneum, Italy, 1st century AD. Wikimedia Commons

By- Khushi Bisht

Cleopatra VII Thea Philopator is one of history’s most influential and prominent female rulers, having reigned as Egypt’s last queen in the first century B.C. She belonged to the Ptolemaic dynasty, a Macedonian Greek family that ruled Egypt after Alexander the Great conquered it. Cleopatra VII ruled Egypt for two decades bringing solidity and success to the nation.


Born in 69 BC, she was the daughter of Cleopatra V and Ptolemy XII (Auletes). Cleopatra, who was 18 years old at the time, started to rule Egypt jointly with her 10-year-old brother, Ptolemy XIII after their father died. In 51 BC, she ascended to the position of co-ruler with her brother before he expelled her.

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Venus and Cupid from the House of Marcus Fabius Rufus at Pompeii, most likely a depiction of Cleopatra VII. Wikimedia Commons

Cleopatra was an enthralling lady. She received her education in a city that boasted the world’s best library along with some of the world’s most illustrious academics. She led armies at the tender age of 21 and also spoke many languages. According to historical documents, she is said to speak between five and nine languages. As a result, she was able to address representatives from various countries without the need for a translator.

She may have died over two thousand years ago but is still remembered as one of history’s most fascinating and unforgettable females. Her tenure is littered with legends and scandals. Her rulership abilities made her famous, and her love stories with two Romans, Julius Caesar and Mark Antony rendered her memorable. Known for her charm and intelligence, she has influenced numerous artworks, literature, and movies. Her life has been the subject of a William Shakespeare play and many films.


Cleopatra and Caesar (1866), a painting by Jean-Léon Gérôme. Wikimedia Commons

Her father taught her that sovereign kingdoms needed Roman assistance in order to prosper. So she went to Julius Caesar for assistance in reclaiming her kingdom after being expelled from Egypt by her own brother. Julius Caesar was instrumental in assisting her in gaining the monarchy and cultivating military assistance for herself.

After the Romans attacked Alexandria and Ptolemy VIII was assassinated in the end phase of the Alexandrian War, Cleopatra’s other brother, Ptolemy XIV, ruled alongside her. However, she had him assassinated in hopes to make her son and Julius Caesar’s (Ptolemy XV Caesarion) co-ruler. Both of her brothers (Ptolemy XIII and Ptolemy XIV) however served as her husbands too as she married each of them at varying moments of her rule.


The Meeting of Antony and Cleopatra by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1885). Wikimedia Commons

Cleopatra was trying to locate a new partner in Rome after Julius Caesar was assassinated. She was well aware that becoming the supreme emperor of her own empire necessitated finding a kind of support in Rome. In 41 BC, Cleopatra began her extraordinary friendship with Mark Antony, Julius Caesar’s most trusted ally. However, their festivities sitting on the throne and dressed up as Gods angered the Roman Republic before Octavian (the future emperor Augustus) persuaded the whole city of Rome to wage war on Cleopatra, the Egyptian pharaoh.

Octavian conquered Mark Antony and Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, and the Roman Republic was demolished. Another factor that contributed to the fall of the Roman Republic was the Romans’ distrust of a woman in authority. Cleopatra died in 30 BC at the tender age of 39. According to legend, she allegedly committed suicide by letting a snake bite her after she and Anthony had lost everything. Nobody knows the true cause of her demise as she was also said to have drunk a poisonous cocktail.


The Death of Cleopatra (1796–1797), by Jean-Baptiste Regnault. Wikimedia Commons

ALSO READ: ‘Lost Golden City’ Of Luxor

Because of her relationships with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, she is very often depicted as a femme fatale. This, however, is not the only factor. Cleopatra, Egypt’s last pharaoh, was one of history’s most famous and influential queens, known for her wisdom and elegance to this day.

We can never know the actual history of Cleopatra’s life and rule because the narrative was mostly passed down by her foes in Rome, and subsequent authors embellished it with prejudices.

Nevertheless, she was a powerful ruler and controlled Egypt’s bureaucratic mess, brought the economy back into balance, and stopped administrators from defrauding the nation. When Egypt was struck by a severe drought, she unlocked the granaries to the general public and enacted a tax amnesty. All of this was accomplished by keeping her empire stable and independent for the entirety of her rule, with no revolutions.


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