Queen of Egypt
69 – 30 B.C.
Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt (69 – 30 B.C.) was the daughter of King Ptolemy Auletes, and, by the will of her father, she should have inherited the throne along with her younger brother, Ptolemy, but she was expelled by her brother’s guardians, and fled into Syria to raise troops.
Here she met Julius Cesar Who had arrived in /Egypt with an army in pursuit of Pompey; her charms quickly touched the susceptible heart of Cesar, he was fifty-one, she eighteen, and he warmly espoused her cause.
After having secured her throne again through Cesar, to whom she had borne a son, she followed her lover to Rome, where she received such honours as were but ill-pleasing to the Roman populace.
In the civil war after Cesar’s murder in 44, Cleopatra was in Egypt, and hesitated first which side to take. After the battle of Philippi the victorious Marc Antony summoned her to appear before him at Taurus, to give account of her conduct. The “serpent of the old Nile” sailed up the river Cydnus to meet him in a gorgeous galley, arrayed as Venus rising from the sea, and accompanied with all the romantic splendor of the East. She was then in her twenty-eighth year, and the perfection of her beauty and wit so fascinated the amorous heart of Antony that he at once flung away for her sake, duty, a Roman’s pride, and at last all his ambition of his life.
After living with her for some time, in the course of which she bore him twin children, Antony was compelled to return to Rome to marry for political reasons, Octavia, the sister of Octavianus. But he soon returned to Cleopatra, while his infatuated folly cost him all his popularity in Rome, and weakened his energies for the final struggle with Octavianus. At Cleopatra’s instigation Antony risked the great naval battle of Actium, and when she fled with sixty ships, he forgot everything else and flung away half of the world to follow her. Hearing she had killed herself, he fell upon his sword, but learning that the report he had heard was false, he had himself carried into her presence, and died in her arms.
Octavianus now succeeded in making the queen his prisoner, who finding that she could not touch his colder heart, and too proud to endure the thought that her life was spared only to grace her conqueror’s triumph at Rome, took poison, or as it is said, killed herself by causing an asp to bite her bosom (30 B.C.). Her body was buried beside that of Antony, and the good Octavia brought up the twin children she had born to Antony as if they had been her own.
Cleopatra combined rare intellectual gifts with her physical charms, and she is immortal as one of the most fascinating women of all time; so that ever since her death she has been a constant theme for artists, dramatists and poets. Perhaps she is best described in that famous line about her in Shakespeare’s tragedy: “Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety.”
Reference: Famous Women; An Outline of Feminine Achievement Through the Ages With Life Stories of Five Hundred Noted Women By Joseph Adelman. Copyright, 1926 by Ellis M. Lonow Company.