Cleopatra VII of Ancient Egypt

Cleopatra is a popular cultural and historical figure.
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Cleopatra VII is a well-known queen of ancient Egypt. She was the last ruler from a line of Macedonian pharaohs that began in 323 B.C. when Ptolemy I, a general under Alexander the Great, became ruler of Egypt. The dynasty ended with her death in 30 B.C. Many books, plays and movies have been written about Cleopatra's political intrigues, liaisons and romantic involvements.

1 Early Life

Cleopatra VII was born around 69 B.C. Her father, King Ptolemy XII, had many wives and concubines, so no one knows for sure who her mother really was. Cleopatra had one older sister, Berenike IV; a younger sister, Arsinone IV; and two younger brothers, Ptolemy XIII and XIV. Cleopatra was well educated and spoke several different languages.

2 Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt

King Ptolemy XII died in 51 B.C. and left his throne to Cleopatra and her brother Ptolemy XIII. According to Egyptian law and custom, a female ruler had to have a brother or son as consort, so Cleopatra married her brother. She was 18 at the time, and Ptolemy XIII was only 12. The young queen soon took advantage of the age difference. She had her brother's name removed from all legal documents and had her own name and image placed on the currency. She ruled Egypt undisputed for three years, but her brother's advisors plotted against her and eventually removed her from power. She and her sister Arsinone were exiled to Syria.

3 Return to Power

Cleopatra needed help to regain the throne and sought the aid of Julius Caesar, ruler of the Roman Empire. Cleopatra had herself rolled into a rug and delivered to Caesar at Alexandria. She seduced Caesar, became his lover, and allied herself with the Roman Empire. In turn, Caesar overthrew Ptolemy XIII and returned Cleopatra to her position of power. Cleopatra then married her youngest brother, Ptolemy XIV, who was only 11 at the time. She also became pregnant by Caesar and bore him a son, Ptolemy XV, who was also called Ptolemy Caesar and Caesarion, which meant "Little Caesar."

4 Marc Antony

Cleopatra's relationship with Julius Caesar lasted until his assassination in 44 B.C. In 41 B.C. she began a romantic and politically advantageous relationship with Marc Antony, one of the three rulers of Rome. The other two rulers were Marcus Aemilius Lepidus and Gaius Octavius -- also known as Octavian, later to be called Augustus. Octavian was Julius Caesar's adopted son and political heir. He was also Marc Antony's bitter rival. According to, Antony had designs on taking over rule of Rome through his liaison with Cleopatra. The union between Marc Antony and Cleopatra resulted in three children; twins Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene, born in 40 B.C., and Ptolemy Philadelphos, born in 36 B.C.

5 Defeat and Suicide

Octavian became outraged when Antony proclaimed Ptolemy XV -- Caesarion -- as Julius Caesar's true son and legitimate heir to the Roman Empire. Octavian declared war on Egypt and stripped Antony of his titles. Marc Antony and Cleopatra combined their armies in an attempt to remove Octavius from power, but they were brutally defeated. Antony committed suicide by stabbing himself to death with his sword. Cleopatra then killed herself by being bitten by a poisonous Egyptian snake. She was 39 when she died. As she wished, she was buried beside Marc Antony. Egypt became part of the Roman Empire after her death.