The last queen of Ptolemaic Egypt left quite a mark during her reign. Born in 69 BC, she ruled Egypt from 51 BC – 30 BC. During her reign, she was able to bring peace and prosperity to a country that was struck by bankruptcy during the civil war. She was known to be a brilliant and limitless ruler who would do anything to remain in power. Her seductiveness enabled her to form ties with the Romans sparking fury among members of its Senate who believed she was a bad influence on their civilization. Her life is marked by her direct involvement in the murder of her relatives and the fall of ancient Egypt. Below are ten of the most intriguing facts about the life of Cleopatra, the last pharaoh of ancient Egypt.
1 She Murdered Her Siblings
Leadership wrangles among the Ptolemies were very brutal, whereby some resorted to murder as the most convenient way to obtain power. A dispute arose when Cleopatra wanted to be the sole ruler against her brother and husband, Ptolemy XIII. Her brother made her run from Egypt after their disagreement with Julius Caesar. A civil war arose, and together with Caesar, they battled against Ptolemy who ended up dead by drowning in the Nile. After the war, she got married to her younger brother, Ptolemy XIV, who she also murdered to make her son the co-ruler. Later on, she killed her sister, Arsinoe IV, after she heard of her fame in Ephesus, where she was being addressed as “Queen.” For her, there could only be one queen in the Mediterranean, so she decided to get rid of her rising rival.
2 Cleopatra Was a Perfect Schemer
Cleopatra was full of surprises. Her fearlessness did not go unnoticed when she met with the Romans. When Cleopatra’s younger brother, Ptolemy XIII, seized power and overthrew her, she became furious and sought means to get back to power. Cleopatra heard of Caesar’s visit to Egypt and arranged to meet him to ask for help. Knowing that her brother would disapprove of her meeting with Caesar, she became creative. She smuggled herself in Caesar’s suite wrapped in an ornamental carpet and surprised him with her beguiling beauty. She convinced Caesar to help her battle her brother for the throne and make her the sole ruler. Cleopatra made a grand arrival when she went to meet with Mark Antony. When she arrived, she traveled up the river in a barge filled with flowers and scented with exotic perfumes. She reclined on the deck surrounded by her servants with gold trappings. This made Antony fall for her irresistible charm.
3 Cleopatra Was a Product of Incest
After the death of Ptolemy I, the Ptolemies started to embrace native traditions of divine rulership. Later on, incest became a norm in their lineage. Born in 70 or 69 BC, Cleopatra’s ancestry had quite several people marrying their siblings to preserve their bloodline. Most of her ancestors are unknown, the few, however, allow us to trace her parents. Her mother was Cleopatra V Tryphaena, and her father was Ptolemy XII. Her father and mother were both children of the same father. Her mother was, however, mothered by a concubine while her father’s mother was the legitimate wife.
4 She Influenced the Assassination of Caesar
She went to live in Rome in 46 BC and there she was at the time Caesar was stabbed. After the assassination, Cleopatra was banished from Rome because of the hatred that the Romans had for her. They believed that Caesar spent too much of the roman’s wealth on Cleopatra. Money that could have been used in developing Rome was used in financing his mistress’ lavish life by buying her riches. Her influence on Caesar’s foolish decisions led the Senate to conspire to have him killed. She dressed with similarity to Isis, the Egyptian goddess. Upon her departure from Rome, she left a lot of her influence on the people. On the positive side, forming political ties with Cleopatra helped the Roman empire acquire much wealth.
5 She Was Accused of Bewitching a Man
Mark Antony was so much charmed by Cleopatra that it seemed he could do anything for her. Octavian became furious over Mark Antony’s decisions and accused Cleopatra of bewitching him. Antony had gone so far as to give Cleopatra and her son parts of Syria, Phoenicia, and Cyprus. This led Octavian into thinking that they would lose the Roman empire to the Egyptian queen. Antony went ahead to prove his commitment to Cleopatra by divorcing his wife after scandals erupted concerning his relationship with her. She charmed Antony so much that he could not imagine living without her. After Octavian’s triumph in the battle of Actium, Antony stabbed himself to death, thinking that the love of his life, Cleopatra, had died.
6 She Had More Brains Than Beauty
During the Greek reign over Egypt, education for the royal family was stressed for both boys and girls equally so that both could take the throne. This was so as Cleopatra was very educated. Her intelligence rather than her beauty was undoubtedly her biggest strength. Ancient historians report that Cleopatra was not that beautiful. She, however, had a seductive charm. She learned languages quickly and was fluent in nine languages among them being Egyptian. Previous rulers had relied on interpreters to translate Greek to Egyptian. Cleopatra could speak well in public, a skill that was highly regarded. During her rule, she was able to communicate easily with other kings, thus making her reign so admirable.
7 She Had a Decadent Love Affair With Mark Antony
Mark Antony disputed the succession of the roman leaderships by Caesar’s legal heir, Octavian, making him contact the Egyptian queen to form political ties. The charming queen initially had political reasons for meeting with Mark Antony but ended up spending the winter together after falling in love. The two spent time lavishly, wasting fortunes expensive pleasures, they even formed a drinking club. The queen once won a bet against Antony on who between them would spend the most on a dinner. Cleopatra took a valuable earing worth a million sesterces, dissolved it in a goblet of vinegar and drank it, swallowing a great fortune.
8 She Married Both Her Brothers
The Egyptians saw no shame in incest. When Cleopatra’s father, Ptolemy XII, died in 51 BC, Cleopatra became the co-regent with her brother Ptolemy XIII who was ten years old at the time. She got married to her brother following the Egyptian traditions which decreed that pharaohs shall marry their sisters. Cleopatra then married her younger brother after Ptolemy XIII died in battle. The marriages were, however, not ideal. She killed both of her brothers and additionally, had relationships with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony while married to them. She bore children for both Caesar and Mark Antony. It was noted that Cleopatra’s father did not adhere to the Ptolemaic dictates by not marrying his daughter when she became queen after her mother died.
9 She Led a Fleet to a Naval Battle
Mark Antony had married and allied with Cleopatra during the Battle of Actium. The battle was fought during the civil war between Mark Antony and Octavian over the leadership of the Roman Empire. Octavian accused Antony of trying to install Cleopatra as the ruler of Rome and making Caesarion his legal heir. Cleopatra contributed supplies and fleets of ships for the battle. When the battle worsened, she fled to Egypt, leaving her lover, who also fled in her pursuit. Antony lost the battle, and Octavian subdued his army. Soon, Octavian’s army started to close in on Alexandria. Antony resorted to suicide as his last resort and so did Cleopatra.
10 She Committed Suicide
Cleopatra died at the age of 39. According to popular belief, she committed suicide by letting an asp bite her. An asp is any of the poisonous snakes found in the Nile region. When Octavian arrived in Alexandria, Cleopatra went to hide in her mausoleum. False information reached Antony that she had died making him stab himself with the pain of the loss of his lover. When Octavian arrived, Cleopatra’s attempts to seduce him in a bid to make peace failed. She resolved to kill herself rather than fall under the dominion of Octavian. She also lost hope in triumph over Octavian after the death of her decadent lover. Because the Roman empire was the greatest in the Western World, Cleopatra had seen no hope after Octavian managed to defeat her men in battle. Octavian then executed Cleopatra’s son and took over Egypt.