Cleopatra VII of Egypt
Cleopatra is one of the most famous queens that has ever lived. She was born in early 69 BCE in Alexandria in Ancient Egypt. She ruled over the Ptolemaic Kingdom.
Even though she was the most famous Egyptian Queen, she was actually Greek. She did learn the local Egyptian language and she was the only Ptolemaic ruler to do so.
Cleopatra was the daughter of Ptolemy I Soter, who was a Macedonian Greek general and a companion of Alexander the Great.
After her death, Egypt became a Roman province.
Cleopatra visits Rome
In 58 BCE, Cleopatra’s father, King Ptolemy XII, was exiled to Rome after a big revolt in Egypt. Cleopatra went with her father to Rome.
King Ptolemy allowed his other daughter Berenice IV to reign. However, she was killed just three years later in 55 BCE.
King Ptolemy returned to Egypt with the Roman army who would help him regain the throne.
Ptolemy died and it was time for Cleopatra and her brother (also called Ptolemy) to rule together. They did not get along as you might expect a brother and sister would.
This rivalry between the siblings led to the kingdom splitting in two and a civil war beginning.
Cleopatra, the charming diplomat
Cleopatra was thought to be a very clever woman who spoke lots of languages. She was an effective diplomat, which means she was very skilful at creating good relationships with other countries and rulers.
Cleopatra used Rome’s resources to make Egypt richer and more powerful.
Cleopatra had lots of problems to solve
Cleopatra did not have an easy time as Queen. Just after she came to the throne, there was a big famine and the people of Egypt did not have enough to eat.
This was because there was a drought. This drought, or dry spell, was caused because the Nile River did not flood in the way that it usually did.
Normally, this flooding would create fertile grasslands around it for plants and crops to grow.
Other problems were caused by ex-Roman soldiers in Egypt. The Roman ruler Gabinius had left lots of Roman soldiers behind to protect Egypt.
These soldiers were now unemployed and were causing chaos everywhere. Cleopatra’s father, King Ptolemy, also owed the Roman Republic a lot of money.
The young Queen Cleopatra had to pay back 17.5 million drachmas to the Roman Republic. Cleopatra solved these problems and made Egypt great once more for a short time.
Related: Facts on Famous Queens
Cleopatra’s affair with Mark Anthony of Rome
Cleopatra is most famous for her affair with Mark Anthony of Rome.
This affair got her into a lot of trouble because Octavian Caesar (later known as Augustus Caesar, who ruled between 27 BC and 14 CE) went to war with her and Mark Anthony.
Augustus Caesar was the brother-in-law of Mark Anthony and he defeated Cleopatra and Mark Anthony in the Battle of Actium in 31 BCE. This battle ended Cleopatra’s reign.
She and Mark Anthony committed suicide one year later. Augustus then took over the Roman Republic which became the Roman Empire.
The Romans tell the story
Following the defeat of Cleopatra, since Augustus’s time, there have been lots of legends about her. These legends are not all flattering!
She was portrayed as the enticing woman from the east who had threatened Rome and paid a great price (with her life and her kingdom).
Recently, scholars have been paying more attention to all the clever things she did. Scholars have also reminded us that she achieved a lot for Egypt without the help of Mark Anthony.
Quiz – Test What You’ve Learned!
Where was Cleopatra’s father, King Ptolemy, exiled in 58 BCE?
What problems did Cleopatra face when she became Queen?
Who did Cleopatra have a love affair with?
What happened to Egypt after Cleopatra’s death?
Can you think why Augustus and his historians might have said negative things about Cleopatra? (Hint: Augustus won the war).