Cleopatra VII (Cleopatra VII) Philopator was the last active ruler of Egypt’s Ptolemaic Kingdom. The Ptolemaic Kingdom was an Egyptian Hellenistic kingdom. It began with the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and ended with Cleopatra’s suicide in 30 BC. She was emperor from 69 to August 10/12, 30 BC.
Cleopatra was born in the early part of the year 69 BC to Ptolemaic pharaoh Ptolemy XII Auletes and an unknown mother. Her ancestry is disputed to be Greek, Persian, and Ptolemaic – Ptolemies were not documented as intermingling with Egyptians.
A headless skeleton of a female child discovered in a 20 BC tomb in Ephesus (Turkey) linked Cleopatra to an African ancestor. The now-missing skull, discovered alongside old notes and photographs, is thought to be the body of Arsinoe IV, Cleopatra’s half-sister.
Hilke Thür of the Austrian Academy of Sciences examined the skeleton in the 1990s and hypothesized that Arsinoe’s mother was African, and there is a possibility that Cleopatra’s unknown mother was also African, explaining why they were not mentioned at all in a BBC documentary broadcast in 2009.
“It is unique in the life of an archaeologist to find the tomb and the skeleton of a member of Ptolemaic dynasty. The results of the forensic examination and the fact that the facial reconstruction shows that Arsinoe had an African mother is a real sensation which leads to a new insight on Cleopatra’s family and the relationship of the sisters Cleopatra and Arsinoe,” said Dr Hilke Thür.
Cleopatra rose to prominence following a revolt in 58 BC, when she accompanied her father, Ptolemy XII, to Rome. Cleopatra’s sister, Berenice IV, ascended to the throne of Egypt. Ptolemy XII reclaimed the Egyptian throne with the assistance of Roman military forces in 55 BC; Berenice was also assassinated.
Ptolemy XII died in 51 BC, and Cleopatra and her brother, Ptolemy VIII, were named co-rulers. Soon after, the two became enemies, and a civil war erupted.
Julius Caesar, a Roman Republic consul at the time, attempted to mend the schism between Cleopatra and Ptolemy VIII. Ptolemy rejected the terms, and Cleopatra and Caesar were besieged at the palace during the siege of Alexandria.
In 47 BC, Ptolemy VIII died in the Battle of the Nile; Caesar was elected as a dictator and he instated Cleopatra and her younger brother Ptolemy XIV as joint rulers of Egypt.
All the while, Cleopatra and Caesar were engaged in an affair that produced a son, Caesarion or Ptolemy XV. Caesar was still married to a prestigious woman named Calpurnia.
In 44 BC, Caesar was assassinated. Cleopatra attempted to have Caesarion ascend the throne by naming him as her heir however, Caesar’s grandnephew Octavian was named as heir instead.
Cleopatra then devised a plan, poisoned her brother Ptolemy XIV, and installed Caesarion as her co-ruler.
Later that year, in 41 BC, Cleopatra and Mark Antony began a romantic relationship. Alexander Helios, Cleopatra Selene II, and Ptolemy Philadelphus were their three children.
Antony ruled as a triumvir; a trio of rulers. He used his power to assassinate Cleopatra’s sister, Arsinoe IV. Cleopatra approved of the murder.
Antony married Cleopatra while still married to Octavia. Antony used Cleopatra’s military prowess and wealth to help him conquer the Parthian Empire and the Kingdom of Armenia.
Antony and Cleopatra’s children were deemed the rulers of various regions under Roman rule. Cleopatra was also given control over the territories Phoenicia – present-day Lebanon and Ptolemais Akko modern day Acre, Israel.
Cleopatra and Antony were defeated in the Battle of Actium; Subsequently, Octavian forces invaded Egypt and Antony’s forces in 30 BC.
Antony committed suicide after being lied to that Cleopatra had killed herself. Cleopatra then embalmed and buried Antony within her tomb.
Cleopatra learned that Antony intended to have Octavius transport her and her children to Rome for Antony’s triumphal procession. Cleopatra committed suicide by injecting asp poison into her body. She was buried in the same tomb as Antony.
Cleopatra was admired for her ability to lead. She was a diplomat, naval commander, linguist, and medical author. She was fluent in several languages, including Egyptian, Ethiopian, Trogodyte, Aramaic, Arabic, Syriac, Median, Parthian, and Latin. Cleopatra is said to have wished for the Ptolemaic Empire to rule over North Africa.
Cleopatra was solely responsible for establishing laws of the land, holding the title of high priestess, which catered to her constituents’ religious needs. She directed Egyptian and Greek ceremonies, led the formulations of Egyptian and Greek temples and a synagogue. She also directed the building of the Caesareum of Alexandria; dedicated to the cult worshipping of Julius Caesar.
Cleopatra built warehouses of food to combat famine, attempted to stabilize the economy by forming fixed exchange rates for foreign currency, and impose taxes, tariffs and price regulation. These attributes made her one of the greatest leaders of ancient Egypt.