"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."
~Shaekespear's Antony and Cleopatra~
Yes indeed, Egypt was the land of dreams for Cleopatra.
Never has there been a woman who's story has been told
and retold as many times as Cleopatra. Movies, books,
written articles, art etc. Since this is my first story,
I thought I would start with Cleopatra.
I feel that I owe her my huge interest in ancient history,
Hopefully one day I will visit this wonderful ancient land.
As a child and young girl, I watched this particular movie
at least thirteen times and once in French, and my
French is not that good.
I am by no means an egyptologist,
but I have studied and pondered this fascinating
woman over the years, and this is how I see it.
Yes, in a man's world, her intellect far surpassed most kings, she was advanced in literature, mathematics, astronomy, medicine, she spoke 7 languages (some say 9) fluently including Egyptain (the first in the Ptolemies), rode a horse and she could charm a snake out of it's skin. This was a woman where most people believe that she was a murderer, manipulator, a constant complainer, tramp and even hellenistic at times. Regardless, if true or not, these things were needed to be done for her very Egypt. She would stop at nothing to do what had to be done to restore this country to it's original glory, without the Roman Empire breathing down her neck at whatever the price.
Who was Cleopatra? Cleopatra was a strong willed Macedonian Queen who was brilliant and dreamed of greater things for her Egypt. All at the tender age of eighteen years old. Alexander the Great had left no heirs to the throne of Egypt, his right hand man Ptolemy took power and the house of the Ptolemies erupted in Egypt and they ruled for some 300 years, now we have this fascinating woman as the last of the Great Pharaohs of the land of Egypt!
Cleopatra was born in 69 BC in Alexandria, Egypt. She had two older sisters, Cleopatra VI and Berenice IV and a younger sister Arsinoe IV. Her brothers who were younger, Ptolemy XIII and Ptolemy XIV. It is written that Cleopatra VI may have died as a child and Auletes had Berenice beheaded, but that is another story. In the springtime of 51 BC, Ptolemy Auletes died and left Egypt in his will to his eighteen year old daughter, Cleopatra, along with her twelve year old brother Ptolemy XIII. Quite the responsibility for young children.
At the Pharaoh's death, Pompey, a Roman leader, was left in charge of the children. Two hundred years prior to Ptolemy Auletes death, the Romans and the Ptolemies were allies. Rome was gaining more control over Egypt. The Romans were rising in power and the Ptolemies were weakening and afraid of more cities falling into Roman hands. They needed a treaty between them. Rome was plundering Egypt blind. Tributes were being paid to keep them away from Egypt. Much like you see in Mafia movies today, where shopkeepers pay out protection money.
Now comes in Egyptian tradition, forcing Cleopatra to have a co-ruler, a brother or a son. This was to be a marriage of dual convenience and not a sexual marriage as others were in history. So she married her younger brother PtolemyXIII when he was twelve. Now as co-ruler she soon conveniently dropped his name from all official documents, regardless of the Ptolemaic insistence that the male be first of co-rulers. When she did become co-regent, her world around her was in total chaos. Cyprus, Ceole-Syria and Cyrenaica were all but totally gone. There was anarchy abroad and a huge famine at home. Now all that this eighteen year old Queen had to do was figure a way out of this.
By the year 48 BC, Cleopatra had a little hellenistic tendency. Apparently on her orders, she had assassins kill the son's of a Roman Governor when asking for help with the Parthians. This raised a few eyebrows of court officials.
About this time sibling rivalry sets in. A group of men led by Theodotus, Pothinus and Achillas overthrow our Cleopatra in favor of her younger brother. They know that he will be much easier to influence and they conveniently make themselves his counsel of regency. It is thought that Cleopatra makes trails for Thebaid. Between 51 and 49 BC, Egypt was suffering a severe drought which stopped the annual flooding of the Nile and had caused severe damage on crops and famine was prevaliant. Ptolemy XIII signed a decree on October 27, 50 BC which would ban any shipments of grain to anywhere but Alexandria. Problably to starve his sister Cleopatra and her supporters who were of course not in Alexandria. Now Cleopatra was no one's fool, she started her own army from the Arab tribes which were to the east of Pelusium. And about the same time, Cleopatra and her sister Arsinoe moved to Syria. They returned by way of Ascalon which may have been Cleopatra's temp base.
During this time, Pompey had been defeated at Pharsalus in August of 48 BC. He runs to Alexandria hoping to find some refuge with the young Ptolemy XIII, of whom Pompey was a senate-appointed guardian. On Sepetember 28, 48BC, not realizing how far gone his reputation was, he was murdered as soon as he set foot in Alexandria. Young Ptolemy XIII stood petrified as he witnessed the whole scene. Four days later, The Great Caesar arrives in Alexandria. He brings with him 3,200 legionnaires and 800 cavalry. Along with 12 other soldiers who bore the insignia of the Roman government who carried a bundle of rods with an axe and a blade protruding outwards. This was the badge of authority that gave a signal loud and clear of his intentions. Then, there were riots all around this great city of Alexandria. Ptolemy XIII was gone to Pelusium and Caesar stations himself in the royal palace and started giving out orders. Pothinus, brought Ptolemy XIII back to Alexandria. Cleopatra upon hearing of this had no intention of being left out of any deals that were going to be made. But how? She had a price on her head and she knew that Ptolemy had spies everywhere. So she had herself wrapped up in a carpet (unlike the movies she was naked) and had herself smuggled in through enemy lines and was delivered to Caesar. What an entrance! He was instantly entranced by this beautiful woman.
Painting by Jean Leon Gerome, see disclaimer
Next morning, both Cleopatra and Ptolemy XIII were invited to appear before Caesar. By this time, PtolemyXIII knew that Cleopatra and Caesar had become lovers. He storms out screaming that he had been betrayed, trying to arouse a mob. He was soon captured by Caesar's guards and brought back to the palace. It is said that Caesar had planned to make Cleopatra the sole ruler of Alexandria. Caesar thought he could dominate and restrain her. Wrong!
Battle of the wits
Now the war is on! It all starts with Ponthinus calling for Ptolemy's soldiers in November and surrounds the Great Caesar with 20,000 men. During this battle, parts of the great Alexandrian library is lost forever in a fire. A tragic loss for all of mankind. But Caesar did manage to seize the Pharos Lighthouse. Now darling little sister, Arsinoe escapes from the palace and runs to Achillas. She is proclaimed queen by the Macedonian mob and army. Cleopatra never forgot this betrayal. During the fight, Caesar has Pothinus executed and Achillas was murdered by Ganymede. Ptolemy XIII drowns in the Nile when he tries to escape. Due to the fact that Ptolemy is dead, Cleo is now sole ruler of Egypt. The Great Caesar has restored her position. Once again, she needs a co-ruler and of course that is to be PtolemyXIV, who is 11 years old. This was to please everyone involved, the Alexandrians as well as the Priests.
Unknown Artist, from Wikipedia
We have a little situation here. On June 23, 47 BC, Cleopatra gives birth to Caesar's son, Caesarion Ptolemy Caesar. Now the great Caesar has an heir! Although he had adopted Octavian his nephew, the thought of his own flesh and blood ruling the Roman Empire was most gratifying. Caesar and Cleopatra decide to cruise up the Nile for a couple of months. They stop in Dendera where Cleopatra is worshipped as the Pharaoh she is. The Egyptians most welcome her new child as the child of Amon-Re. I can only imagine the festivities taking place on this joyous occasion. The conservative Romans now believe that the Great Caesar is Cleopatra's slave.
During July of 46 BC, Caesar leaves for Rome. He has been given many honors and a ten year dictatorship. These festivities last from September to October. He then decides to send for Cleopatra. Caesar's popularity continues to egnite. He has now extended the Roman Empire. His influence continues to grow. In February of 44 BC, rumors are running amuck that Caesar wants to become king with Cleopatra as his Queen. The Romans do not want a King at the head of the Roman Empire. And to make matters worse, Cleopatra has started to call herself the "New Isis". There was even a sculpture made of gold in her image that Caesar put on display in the temple of Venus. Her flamboyant and luxurious lifestyle was flaunted. This was the subject of much gossip. Caesar then openly and publicly claims Caesarion as his son and heir to the Roman Empire. This upset a few people, including Octavian.
"Est tu, Brute?!"
While during the meeting of the Senate, the Great Caesar is murdered by his own Senators. I have always wondered what would have happened if he had known what was to befall him??? They could no longer stand Caesar's lifestyle choice with all the luxury, and they hated the ever known presence of the beautiful and very influential Cleopatra. March 15, 44 BC, Caesar is murdered in the Senate building. Caesar had always been in favor of the lower class people and they adored him. His murder outrages the country! Octavian, his adopted child, is now in state rule because the Senate does not accept Caesarion as successor. And Caesar did not mention Cleopatra or his son in his will.
Painted by Jean Leon Gerome see disclaimer
At 25 years of age, Cleopatra was in a quandary after the brutal murder of her great protector, Caesar. She returns to her Egypt only to find that her country is in total shambles. The first thing she does is have her consort PtolemyXIV assinated, and establish Caesarion as co-regent at the age of 4. Her beautiful Egypt was a mess! From plagues to famine she had her hands full. While she had been away the Nile canals had not been taken care of which in turn brought about bad harvests, and continued from 43 until 41 BC. To top this off, Cleopatra was trying to establish Caesarion's authuritative birth right with Caesar's former Lieutenant Dolabella. She sends him the four remainning legions that Caesar had left in Egypt. Cassius lays siege to the legions which caused Dollabella to commit suicide at Laodicea during the summer of 43 BC. Now apparently she was planning to meet up with the ever famous Marc Antony, (Caesar's right hand man and confident) and Octavian with a fleet of ships after Dolabella's death but was stopped by a fierce storm. (Now some time in the last few years Marc Antony and Cleopatra did have a brief encounter where he also became totally infatuated with this brilliant queen. I have heard about 7 different stories about their rendez vous.)
The Battle Rages On
Now Cleopatra was waiting in anticipation on who was to take control over Rome. After Brutus and Cassius had been killed, Marc Antony, Octavian and Lepidus were victorious, Cleopatra knew who she had to entice. Octavian fell ill and went to Italy.
Cleopatra is sent an invitation by Marc Antony to meet with him in Tarsus in 41 BC. He is gainnig more power, but he also wants Egypt and it's wealth. Cleopatra knows this, and refuses to meet him on his terms. So in turn to her advantage this meeting would take place on Egyptian territory. She sets sail. She knows what kind of man Marc Antony is. His skirt chasing, debauched, self indulged crude lifestyle was evident. She also knew he was no Alexander the Great, with his lack of strategic abilities.
Even with her Egypt on the brinks of a mega recession she puts on a flamboyant show of great elegance and luxury for Marc Antony. This beautiful ship with silver oars and purple sails and from what I have seen in the movies, her maidens and ship crew are all dressed in some exotic mythical costumes and she herself is dressed as Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Brilliant! This was quite outlandish and tacky to most people in those days but she had to land an outlandish and tacky man. This meeting takes place for 4 days.
Now this gets very interesting. Cleopatra and Marc Antony move in together in the winter of 41 to 40 BC in Alexandria. Some say that she could get whatever she desired, even the death of her sister Arsinoe. When Marc Antony wanted money, Cleopatra could be very generous. Of course when it benefitted her... Marc Antony quickly became accustomed to the luxurious Egyptian lifestyle. Partying, eating and the drinking. He and Cleopatra were inseperable...but Cleopatra knew she had to watch the surrounding lands around her Egypt. In spring of 40 BC, Marc Antony leaves Egypt. Cleopatra gives birth to twins, Cleopatra Selene and Alexander Helios.
Marc Antony's wife, Fulvia and Octavian have some sort of fight over land. She soon leaves for Greece where she has a falling out with Marc Antony. In the mean time Cleopatra gives birth to twins, Cleopatra Selene and Alexander Helios. Fulvia, falls ill and dies in Greece. Marc Antony and Octavian come to some sort of agreement. But Marc Antony has to agree to marry Octavian's sister Octavia, in so doing he gets the East. Octavia gives birth to a girl. While all this is going on, Parthes has conquered part of Marc Antony's territory. Marc Antony leaves to deal with the Parthians. Now apparently Marc Antony, Octavia and their children (she gives birth to a second daughter) have gone as far as Corcyra, when Marc Antony sends her home with the excuse that it would be more beneficial for her to keep the peace with her brother Octavian. In the meantime, Cleopatra is outraged and very insecure. Not only has Marc Antony remarried, her closest enemies are now Roman allies. Marc Antony has won two battles in the East. But again he comes into conflict with Octavian. A new contract is drawn up between Marc Antony, Octavian and Lepidus in 37 BC. This is to avoid a new war between the Roman leaders. Everything falls into place, except that Marc Antony is panting for Cleopatra.
© Howard David Johnson 2006 All Rights Reserved
Marc Antony now leaves Octavia and their children to go to Antioch. He immediately sends for Cleopatra. She is still fumming and in turn he gives her Cyprus, Phoenicia, Creole-Syria, Judea, Arabia and the Cilcician Coast. This was extremely important to Egypt. This also proves how brilliant she was at manipulating people. She would back down to no one including her lover. With these new aquisitions she was now able to build a huge fleet of ships. Happy once again, Cleopatra gives birth to another son, Ptolemaeus Filadelfos. Even with Marc Antony losing some battles, he needed her more than ever. In 36 BC he was defeated and was indebted to Cleopatra more than ever. Cleopatra at this time is trying to keep peace in Egypt by making new contracts with neighboring countries. Cleopatra meets up with Marc Antony in Syria. She brings him food, clothing and money for what is left of his army. Early spring of 35 BC, they return to Egypt. In the mean time poor Octavia is in Athens with supplies and reinforcements waiting for her husband. He sends her a letter, telling her not to come any farther. Dear old brother Octavian on the other hand has taken control over Lepidus' territory, Africa! This is a direct threat for Cleopatra and Egypt. Marc Antony has a situation here. He wants to go to Rome and try to settle things.
Cleopatra pleads with him not to leave Egypt and uses everything in the book to keep him with her. She ultimately succeeds. Maybe if she had let him go, things might have turned out differently? In 34 BC, Marc Antony lays siege to Armenia. Victorious and wealthy, he celebrates with parades through out Alexandria. With Cleopatra as the New Isis and bestows upon her the highest title of "Queen of Kings". And Marc Antony is now the new "Dionysus". Within the next few days the children would also receive Royal Titles. Ceasarion, now 13 years old is made co-ruler with his mother and is given the title of "King of Kings". The twins now age 7, Alexander Helios (means sun) is now the "Great King of the Seleucid Empire". Cleopatra Selene (means moon) is now "Queen of Cyrenacia and Crete". Ptolemaeus Filadefos is "King of Syria and Asia Minor" at the age of two!
Cleo is now turning back the clock to restore Egypt to it's glorious past. If only she could see what the future had in store for her.
The Final Battle
Octavian is at his wits end! His passionate hatred for Cleopatra is quite evident at this time. Not only does Marc Antony divorce Octavia, which proves that he and Cleopatra are together as one, Marc Antony has put her name and face on the Roman coin, the silver denarii!
Now the rumours start to fly! People are saying that Marc Antony is no longer a Roman for he is under Cleopatra's spell! It is said that some of Marc Antony's old friends didn't like the influence she had over him. They took it upon themselves to go to Rome and take with them Marc Antony's "Last Will and Testament". Octavian decides this ought to be publicized. In Marc Antony's will it states that he wants to be buried in Alexandria and not in Rome! To Octavian this means Marc Antony is no longer Roman! And this is exactly the opportunity that Octavian has been waiting for. The perfect time to declare an all out war against Cleopatra and Marc Antony!
Octavian rustles up his army of soldiers. 70,000 men, 12,000 on horses and 400 battle ships. Cleopatra during this time has massed together an incredible 100,000 men, 12,000 on horses and 500 battleships. September 2, 31 BC the battle ensues in Actium.
Cleopatra and Marc Antony have out numbered Octavian. Unfortunately there were a few problems. Unlike the movies, this was not an afternoon affair.
Problem 1...Octavian's ships encircled the Egyptian's ships. They made it impossible for the supply ships to get through.
Problem 2...Marc Antony's friend conveniently runs away with the battle plans!
Problem 3...Apparently a fierce storm brews in for 4 days. Marc Antony decides when it is over to attack with only a little more than half his ships.
Problem 4...From what I can make of it...Cleopatra sees that that Marc Antony is being over taken and decides to make a run for it. When Marc Antony sees his beloved leaving, he flees right after her. This brings about total chaos, confusion and incompetence to what is left of the Egyptian Army. Now the Romans know they have won the battle!
The happy couple return to Egypt. Everything has changed. The Egyptian kingdom is crumbling and shaken. Marc Antony tries to recruit some soldiers to no avail. He starts to feel insecure, rejected and decides to commit suicide. But his friends talk him out of it. And Cleopatra...she tries her utmost to cheer up the man. She throws him huge parties with food and drink, he just continues to feel sorry for himself. Cleopatra knows that it is only a matter of time before Octavian comes for her. She doesn't want to become his slave. I have heard it say that she builds a mausoleum to protect Egypt's wealth. If they come for it she'll burn it to the ground. As Octavian gets closer to Egypt and has it encircled, Cleopatra makes one last attempt to take out the peacepipe. It is in vain. Octavian is not the least bit interested. He only wants Cleopatra as his slave. She knows there is no way out. She waits.
Summer of 30 BC. The first confrontation between Octavian and Marc Antony since Actium. Marc Antony challenges Octavian into one on one, man to man fight. Octavian refuses. A rumour nows runs amuck and makes it's way to Mark Antony. His General tells him that Cleopatra has died in her mausoleum. Upon hearing this, with all of his hopes and dreams gone, Marc Antony takes his sword out and impales himself on it!
Laying fatally wounded, one of Cleopatra's aides runs to his side. She tells him the rumour is not so. He asks to see her. His last wish is granted when he reaches Cleopatra. August 12, 30 BC, Cleopatra asks her aides to bring a cobra and to prepare her for the afterlife. I believe this is a few days after the death of Marc Antony. We all know what happens next. With the venomous bite of a cobra it is done. Dressed as the goddess Isis the, last great Pharaoh of Egypt is forever immortalized in movies, books and art.
Or did she commit suicide?
It is said that the remaining of Cleopatra's children were taken in by Octavia; Cleopatra Selene and Ptolemaeus Filadefos.
I read somewhere that we as a society would be 200 years more advanced in science and technology if Egypt had won the war.
We would be living by Egyptian standards instead of Roman standards.
Makes you wanna go uhmmmmmmmm?
According to eyewitnesstohistory.com
"The romance between Antony and Cleopatra might have changed the world. If Antony had succeeded in wining sole control of Rome with Cleopatra as his queen, he could have changed the course of the Roman Empire, making the world we live in today a different place. However, their relationship ended in mutual suicide in 30 BC, eleven years after it started, when Roman troops engulfed the Egyptian city of Alexandria and threatened their capture. "
My favorite painting by;
Frederick Arthur Bridgman (1847-1928)
Cleopatra on the Terraces of Philae
Cleopatra VII of Egypt dressed like a pharaoh presenting offerings to Isis, 51 BC. Limestone stele dedicated by a Greek man, Onnophris.
Temple of Denderah. Back wall where can be seen : Cleopatra and her son, Cesarion Image taken by Alex Lbh in April 2005
Eye of Horus and Snake bar from
Glitter Background from
Glitter pic of Barge from