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Cleopatra VII was one of the most remarkable rulers of Egypt, known for her cleverness and originality. Many consider her one of the most prominent female political figures in history, and she has been dramatized in countless films. The ascension of a powerful female ruler and her struggle to keep the throne, as well as her ruthlessness, captivates people around the world. Cleopatra may well have been the first dominant female political figure.
Cleopatra was the daughter of Ptolemy XII (also known as Auletes) and Cleopatra V Tryphaena. She was born in 69 B.C. and had several siblings, including an older sister and a younger brother. Cleopatra’s father sank Egypt into heavy debt with Rome, and was banished out of the country. Berenice IV, Cleopatra’s older sister, was made the queen of Egypt, but her father beheaded her in an attempt to get the throne back. In 51 B.C., her father died, and she ascended to the throne as co-regent with her brother, Ptolemy XIII.
Although Ptolemy XIII was only ten years old, his advisors drove Cleopatra out of Egypt into Syria in 49 B.C. She gathered an army of mercenaries while in Syria, planning to fight back. At the same time, Julius Caesar came to Alexandria. Cleopatra recognized that he would be able to help her regain the throne, but she was not allowed into Egypt. However, she devised a way in – her servant wrapped her in a carpet and delivered her to Caesar. This was a pivotal moment and demonstrated Cleopatra’s cunning. She united forces with Caesar and beat Ptolemy’s forces out of Egypt.
Cleopatra bore a son with Caesar named Caesarion, who became her co-regent after Caesar died in 44 B.C. Cleopatra’s throne was finally safe, and she was able to rule her country. Cleopatra was multilingual and spoke Egyptian, even though she was of Macedonian Greek descent. She also appealed to her subjects by immersing herself in Egyptian paintings and sculptures. Her subjects developed a strong sense of patriotism. Cleopatra enjoyed luxury, and proclaimed herself the reincarnation of Isis, the goddess of regality and children. However, disaster struck when the Nile flooded and crops died. Cleopatra was forced to seduce Mark Antony so he would agree to protect Egypt and her throne. Egypt’s power was restored, and Mark Antony gave land to his sons that he had with Cleopatra. However, Antony’s adopted son Octavian became extremely angry and declared war on Antony.
Octavian’s forces defeated Cleopatra and Antony’s forces, leading Antony to commit suicide. Cleopatra followed suit, but instead of falling on a sword, she most likely chose death by a poisonous snake, the asp. The asp is a sign of royalty and the symbol of Amen-Re, the Egyptian sun god.
Cleopatra was a born leader and monarch. Her love of her crown and desire to make her country prosperous came before everything else. She was ruthless, not only assassinating her younger sister but also committing suicide. She entered two love alliances to strengthen Egypt’s power, bearing three children to Antony when they were not even married. Although Cleopatra did many terrible things, she gave everything she had to her country.
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