The Life of Cleopatra

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Cleopatra (full name Cleopatra VII Philopator) was born in January of 69 B.C. to Ptolemy XII Auletes. She was one of several children born into a royal family that had ruled Egypt starting around 323 B.C. with Ptolemy I Soter (a general of Alexander the Great).

Cleopatra assumed the throne at the age of seventeen, ruling jointly with her father (Ptolemy XII Auletes) and then with her two brothers. She holds the distinction of being the last Ptolemaic (and Hellenistic) ruler of Egypt's empire. She is also the empire's only Hellenistic ruler who took the time to learn the Egyptian language.

Around 48 B.C. Cleopatra lost her royal authority to her brother. Deprived of royal privileges, she withdrew into Syria and prepared to recover her rights by force of arms. She induced Julius Caesar, when he followed Pompey into Egypt, to undertake a war on her behalf.

Cleopatra, during her stay in Rome, became Caesar's mistress. She eventually had her throne restored. When Caesar was murdered in 44 B.C., aware of her unpopularity, she returned to Egypt. It is believed Caesar's only known son, Caesarion, was produced through his liaison with the queen.

Cleopatra by Michelangelo
Cleopatra by Michelangelo

Mark Antony (a Roman politician and general), after the assassination of Caesar, helped form what is called Rome's Second Triumvirate with Octavian and Marcus Lepidus. This three-man dictatorship soon defeated, at the battle of Philippi in 42 B.C., those who had Caesar murdered. The three men divided the responsibilities of rule amongst themselves, with Antony assigned the empire's eastern provinces that included the client state of Egypt that Cleopatra had ruled.

Cleopatra soon became Antony's mistress and the couple eventually had three children. The Triumvirate broke apart in 33 B.C. Rome's Senate declared Antony a traitor and proclaimed a war against the Queen. In 31 B.C., Antony and Egypt's combined forces were defeated by Octavian at the battle of Actium. The couple soon fled to Egypt where Antony committed suicide.

Unable to ingratiate herself with Octavian (who assumed the title Augustus and became Rome's first emperor), Cleopatra ended her life by committed suicide in August of 30 B.C. The Roman Empire, which Egypt succumbed to, became the backdrop against which the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, would be born as a flesh and blood human in the fall of 5 B.C.

Cleopatra's popularity, in modern times, soared during the 20th century due to movies made about her life. The most popular of these pictures, made in 1963, starred actress Elizabeth Taylor. Her part as Cleopatra, opposite Richard Burton, made the film the highest grossing movie of the year!

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