Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile

by - December 17, 2009

"Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale
Her infinite variety; other women cloy
The appetites they feed, but she makes hungry
Where most she satisfies;..."
--Shakespeare's Anthony and Cleopatra

Cleopatra was an infamous Egyptian ruler. Most of the myth surrounding her history is just that, myth - tales spread by her Roman enemy, Octavian, unintentionally crystalized her legend. The legend grew even more through the writings of Plutarch, Chaucer and Shakespeare, as well as through the many film versions of her story.

Cleopatra VII was actually the seventh Ptolomaic queen of the same name. She ruled Egypt from 51 to 30 B.C., first sharing a co-regency with her father Ptolomy XII. After her father died, she co-ruled with her brother, Ptolomy XIII. However, hard times throughout the country drove the siblings apart, and Ptolomy ousted Cleopatra in 48 B.C. Cleopatra tried to raise a rebellion with no success and eventually fled to her Roman protector, Pompey.

At the time, Pompey had just been defeated by Julius Caesar. In an effort to gain Caesar's favor, Ptolemy XII killed Pompey, and upon Caesar's return to Rome presented the severed consul's head. Caesar, however, was not pleased with Ptolomey's act and subsequently had him drowned in the Nile. Cleopatra was restored to the Egyptian throne, and thus her entanglement in the Roman Empire began.

It is said that Cleopatra bore Caesar a son, whom she named Ptolomy Caesarion. Caesar refused to name the boy as his heir however. Cleopatra returned to Egypt after the assasination of Caesar, where she arranged to have her brother/husband disposed of and installed Caesarion as her new co-regent.

After Caesar's death, Marc Antony and Octavian defeated the rebellion and divided the Roman Empire between them. Antony summoned Cleopatra to Tarsus and then spent the winter in Alexandria. Cleopatra bore him twins. Four years later, Antony returned to Alexandria where he renewed his relationship with Cleopatra. Alexandria became his permanent home soon after. The two were married according to Egyptian rite, and Cleopatra bore him another child.

Marc Antony divided his portion of the Roman empire between Cleopatra and their children against the wishes of the Senate. But in 33 B.C., Octavian defeated Antony in a naval battle. Cleopatra's fleet had mysteriously withdrawn. Octavian pursued Antony and Cleopatra back to Egypt, where Antony committed suicide believing Cleopatra was already dead. She followed suit a few days later. Her son, Caesarion, was declared Pharaoh, but was captured and executed by Octavian who then declared himself Pharaoh of Egypt.

Now, you're probably wondering what brought on my sudden history lesson of Cleopatra. While I was looking through Yahoo, I found this article. Egyptian archaeologists just recovered an ancient granite temple pylon from the harbour at Alexandria. It was part of Cleopatra's palace complex and stood at the entrance of a temple to Isis. The pylon will be the centerpiece of a museum that will showcase the sunken city that is believed to have toppled into the Meditterannean during an earthquake in the fourth century.

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  1. I just noticed it says I'm following you twice. Why? Lol. Anyway, I love that you wrote about Cleopatra today. Kudos. It's amazing the things we still have in the world from that day and age, and we're just now finding it.

  2. Well, I saw the article about finding the pylon first. So then I decided to do a quick history lesson on Cleopatra. And the Shakespeare quote was the perfect opening. I felt like it really tied the finding in with her legend.