Cleopatra – The Myth about Egypt’s Last Pharaoh

Cleopatra and Julius Caesar

On August 12, 30BC, ancient Egyptian pharao Cleopatra VII Philopator, known to history simply as Cleopatra, passed away under myserious circumstances. After Caesar’s assassination in 44 BC, she aligned with Mark Antony in opposition to Caesar’s legal heir, Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus (later known as Augustus). To this day, Cleopatra remains a popular figure in Western culture. Her legacy survives in numerous works of art and the many dramatizations of her story in literature and film.

Cleopatra was known to be a highly intelligent woman. She received a good education and spoke about a dozen languages. When her father died, Cleopatra was 18 years old and started her political career as the last Queen of the Egyptian Ptolemaic dynasty along with her younger brother Ptolemy XIII whom she married due to Ptolemaic tradition. The siblings began long lasting fights concerning their regency. When Caesar came to Alexandria, he demanded both to quit their fight and to accept their father’s will.

When Cleopatra met Caesar, it is said that they started an affair very soon and his political as well as personal support increased Cleopatra’s situation. Still, the atmosphere was tense, and when Ptolemy XIII found out about his sister’s affair, the situation escalated and let to the Siege of Alexandria, which he lost. Cleopatra was now the only ruler and gave birth to her son Ptolemaeus Caesar, after her lover left. Soon after, Cleopatra left for Rome to be with Caesar and to increase her power. She succeeded in gaining more interest from Caesar, but was mostly disliked by the other politicians. Both managed to increase each other’s political power, but when Caesar was murdered, she had to flee back home.

The following years went by difficultly for Cleopatra. She had to fight famines and bad harvests next to the ‘regular’ political issues. In 41 BC, Mark Antony started a political and private relationship with Cleopatra. About ten years later, they combined their armies against Octavian’s forces but stayed unsuccessful. Both fled to Egypt, but Mark Antony took his life. Captured by Octavian, Cleopatra died on August 12, 30 BC under mysterious circumstances. It is mostly assumed that she took her life, but there are several possibilities how she could have done so. Some also believe that she was murdered by Octavian, but this theory is also to be proven.

Not only concerning her death, but concerning her whole life, mysteries and stories circulate around the Egyptian pharaoh. Duane Roller gave a lecture at the University of Mary Washington to solve at least some of these theories.

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