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Cleopatra VII who was often referred to as Cleopatra ruled Egypt under the Ptolemaic dynasty. Ptolemies were the rulers of Egypt. Their leadership began with Ptolemy I Soter who assumed this position in 305 BC. Cleopatra was the last Ptolemy. The Ptolemies were Greek Macedonians in origin. After the death of Alexander the Great, they ruled Egypt for almost 300years, starting from 305BC to 30BC. Cleopatra was born in 69BC in the city of Alexandria in Egypt.
She ruled an empire that was inclusive of Cyprus, modern-day Libya, Egypt, and some other Middle East territories. She was not only a very stunning woman but also an intellectual and a multilingual who earned her right to rule over Egypt and other territories. Moreover, Cleopatra’s seductive skills also accentuated her position as a strong woman, especially regarding her sexual escapades with Mark Anthony and Julius Caesar.
She played a major role in the unification of the Egyptians since she learnt their language, traditions, and even dressed just like the Egyptian goddess, Isis. Cleopatra was a queen who would do anything to protect her kingdom from foreign interference at whatever cost. Therefore, she was very shrewd and heartless. For instance, she not only killed her brother but also put herself in the path of power by establishing a coalition with Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony.
Being a suspect on the assassination of Julius Caesar showed that she could not stop at anything to successfully amass power. According to Miles (2011), Cleopatra was neither Caesar’s toy nor a sexual predator but an Egyptian queen who was heir to the Ptolemy dynasty. This research seeks to analyze her position as an Egyptian Pharaoh by addressing the alliance with Julius Caesar before he was assassinated. It also addresses Cleopatra and Mark Antony’s relationship after the death of Julius Caesar.
The Alliance with Julius Caesar
Ptolemy’s rule was characterized by an imbalanced friendship between his kingdom and Rome. Thus, many people, especially the Egyptian elite, challenged his rule (Ashton). Following a breakout with her brother and her father’s (Ptolemy- XII) demise, Cleopatra was forced to flee from the Royal palace. In a well-calculated move, she decided to form an alliance with Caesar. Caesar was embroiled in a civil war against the Roman general, Pompey, who had fled to Egypt with the hope of garnering support from Cleopatra’s brother and Pharaoh at the time, namely, Ptolemy-XIII, whereby the Pharaoh decided to execute him. Caesar went to Egypt where he was given Pompey’s head, something that made him unhappy.
Egypt, which is the Roman Empire’s main source of grain, was instrumental for the Empire’s stability. Ptolemy XIII also tried to solidify his position as Pharaoh by asking Caesar to regard him as the only ruler of Egypt. However, as Cleopatra was restricted from seeking audience with Caesar, she managed to sneak into the Alexandrian palace by persuading her servant Apollodoros to wrap her in a carpet that was to be delivered to Caesar. She managed to plead her case. Ptolemy was sure that his sister could not be in a position to see Caesar, let alone pleading her case, as he had trapped her at Pelusium (Tyldesley, 2008).
Despite Ptolemy’s wrath, Caesar read out Ptolemy XIII’s will, which stipulated that both Cleopatra and her brother, Ptolemy- XIII, should run the Egyptian kingdom. As Cleopatra was now back in power due to Caesar’s influence, she got intimate with him, a relationship that led to the birth of a son known as Caesarion. Ptolemy-XIII died in a failed rebellion by drowning in the Nile River. His younger brother, Ptolemy-XIV, replaced him. However, Cleopatra killed him together with Arsinoe (his younger sister).
The siblings’ deaths showed how callous, calculative, and power-hungry Cleopatra had become. She could not stop at anything to achieve her dreams of being the Pharaoh. Therefore, Cleopatra was a female ruler in a society dominated by men. She used her wits and her gift of diplomacy to meet Caesar. Later on, she used her beauty and sexuality to get a child with the most powerful Roman leader, namely, Julius Caesar.
The Assassination of Julius Caesar
In the same year that Cleopatra gave birth to Caesarion, Julius Caesar invited her to Rome. This plan did not augur well with some of his (Julius Caesar) followers. A group of men who had a plot to overthrow Caesar’s empire murdered him. Shortly after Cleopatra returned to Egypt, his younger brother, Ptolemy XIV, died mysteriously. It is unanimously agreed upon that Cleopatra poisoned him to make the reign of the Egyptian empire her sole throne.
Therefore, she made Caesarion her partner in the throne awaiting the results of the Roman power struggle after Caesar’s death. Having a son beside her, Cleopatra VII adopted a new powerful identity as a semi-divine mother. This distinctiveness gave her recognition to both the Greek and Egyptian subjects (Tyldesley, 2008). In fact, she was being identified as the most famous single mother in Egypt and hence the name ‘goddess Isis’.
Cleopatra and Mark Antony
Cleopatra’s relationships with Mark Antony and Julius Caesar easily enable her to achieve her ambitions. For instance, without the intervention of Julius Caesar, she would not have been in a position to be in leadership of the Egyptians alongside her brother, Ptolemy XIII. Moreover, if it were not for the intervention of Mark Antony, she would not have been a Pharaoh for a long time by killing Cleopatra’s purported ousters.
It is also evident that Cleopatra held herself in high esteem as the most qualified leader in Egypt. She realized that neither of her brothers had the intelligence nor the leadership capacity to compete with the apparent politics. Thus, she decided to network with men of power to make a difference (Kleiner, 2005). Cleopatra had devoted her whole life to Egypt. She applied diplomacy as a solution to her enemies’ urge to dethrone her. The Egyptians also revered Cleopatra as a powerful goddess. As it had been customary to the Egyptians, the Pharaohs seemed superhuman. However, Cleopatra was portrayed as a queen who was compassionate to the extent that she even took time to converse with the locals (Kleiner, 2005).
When civil war ensued between Octavian and Antony against the purported assassinators of Julius Caesar, the Octavian and Antony became winners. This situation led to the division of the kingdom to the West and East. Augustus Caesar, previously referred to as Octavian, became the ruler of the western segment while the eastern side became Mark Antony’s Kingdom. Later, Mark Antony summoned Cleopatra to meet in Tarsus, Cilicia (modern-day Turkey) when the battle of Philippi calmed.
Antony asked her to explain why she had not supported him during the battle against Julius’ assassins. Using her wits and wisdom, she explained that she had her troops on the way to the battlefield, although they could not manage to get there on time for the war. Antony was flattered by Cleopatra’s intelligence and beauty. Although Mark Antony was forty years of age, his reaction can be compared to that of any young man. Thus, the only interest Antony had was in Cleopatra since all the other things that he was previously interested in became nullified. Whatever Cleopatra was in need of was urgently done without hesitation, thanks to the laws of nature or man.
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Thus, she took the opportunity to clear herself off the charges of being an accomplice towards Julius Caesar’s death. She also requested Antony to kill the people who posed a threat to her throne in which he dutifully obliged and murdered three people. In the following years, Cleopatra and Antony developed a tight bond where the duo bore twins, namely, Cleopatra Selene and Alexander Helios in 40 BC. Antony had left his third wife, Fulvia, in Rome during the winter of 41-40 BC. Afterward, Fulvia died of illness.
For Antony to prove that he was loyal to Octavian, he decided to marry Octavia, the half-sister of Octavian. Since Egypt flourished under the rule of Cleopatra, Antony once again travelled to the country to seek finances for his long-overdue war against the Parthia Kingdom for which he would return most of the former eastern Egypt Empire, including Syria, Crete, Jericho, Cyrenaica (Libya), Lebanon, and Cyprus. The two parties (Cleopatra and Antony) rekindled their love life to the extent of giving birth to another son, Ptolemy Philadelphos. Antony endured defeat in Parthia.
He rejected Octavia’s proposition to join Parthia. In a public ceremony, Antony criticized his son with Fulvia before awarding land to each of his children that he had gotten with Cleopatra. He made a declaration that Caesarion would be the rightful heir to the Kingdom. Therefore, Cleopatra seemed to destroy any relations between other people where she seemed to have an ulterior interest.
For instance, she was wholly blamed by Octavian for causing misunderstanding between him and Antony because Caesarion who was announced as the rightful heir to Antony’s Kingdom was not even Antony’s son. Octavian was very angry. He claimed that Antony had directly and entirely put himself under the control of Cleopatra. In the late 31 BC, Antony was stripped off all of his titles. This occurrence led to a fully-fledged civil war in 31 BC. In deception, the war, which was against Antony, was declared to Cleopatra. It was fought on the sea near Actium. Antony’s forces were defeated as his ally, Cleopatra, fled the battle.
The paper has presented Cleopatra as a conscientious goddess who was revered by the majority of her subjects in Egypt. She worked extremely hard to protect the Egyptian Empire from the power-hungry Romans during her reign since they (Romans) were determined to include Egypt in their Kingdom. She ensured that they would not manage to do so by keeping them at bay. She carefully became an ally with them without being influenced as a puppet.
She had a major influence towards powerful Roman emperors and generals, notwithstanding the fact that she came from a comparatively much weaker dynasty. According to Fraser (1989), based on the appendage syndrome of leadership, a woman’s rise to leadership position due to her relationship with a male leader was also present in Cleopatra’s reign in Egypt.
Fraser, A. (1989). The warrior Queens. New York, NY: Knopf.
Kleiner, D. (2005). Cleopatra and Rome. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Miles, M. (2011). Cleopatra: A Sphinx Revisited. Oakland, CA: University of California Press.
Tyldesley, J. (2008). Cleopatra. New York, NY: Basic Books.