Cleopatra. The last and most famous queen of Egypt. A woman of legendary charm, she was capable of leading armies and changing the destinies of entire peoples. Cleopatra was born in 69 BC in Alexandria, Egypt. She was the daughter of pharaoh Ptolemy XII and of one of his concubines. In 51 BC the pharaoh died, leaving Cleopatra and her half-brother Ptolemy XIII to vie for the throne. For a period of time, Cleopatra and Ptolemy rule together, but harmony between the two proved short-lived. After reigning for three years, Ptolemy forced his sister to leave Egypt, taking power into his own hands. Cleopatra fled to Syria, where she recruited an army to win back the throne. With civil war approaching, both Ptolemy and Cleopatra sought to ally themselves with Rome. When Pompey, Caesar’s rival, escaped to Egypt, Ptolemy had him killed. He then sent Pompey’s head to Caesar. Julius Caesar considered this act a great offence, and Cleopatra’s charms did the rest. Caesar and Cleopatra joined forces and defeated Ptolemy’s armies. Cleopatra then took the throne as Queen of Egypt.
Caesar and Cleopatra sought a permanent alliance between Rome and Egypt, but their relationship was more than purely political. In 47 BC Cleopatra gave birth to Caesarion, Julius Caesar’s only child born out of wedlock. The bond between Caesar and Cleopatra was severed in 44 BC, when Caesar was assassinated. But Rome and Egypt were destined to cross paths again. In 42 BC, near the city of Tarsus, Cleopatra met with Mark Antony, Caesar’s nephew and a powerful man in Rome. The two fell in love. When they married in Antakya in 37 BC, they’d already had three children. Antony moved to Egypt. He and Cleopatra conquered a number of territories, including Armenia, Libya and Phoenicia. Octavius, Caesar’s adopted son and Antony’s political adversary, took advantage of Antony’s absence, accusing him of trying to build an empire to oppose Rome and persuading the Roman Senate to declare war on Egypt. In 31 BC the Roman fleet destroyed Antony and Cleopatra’s ships in the naval battle of Actium. A short while later, Roman troops entered Egypt.
While Antony was battling Octavius, he was falsely informed that Cleopatra was dead. Mad with desperation, he committed suicide by throwing himself on his own sword. The Romans advanced. After having lost the man she loved, Cleopatra found herself on the verge of losing her kingdom. Overcome with despair, Cleopatra let a poisonous asp bite her. The year was 30 BC, and the last Queen of Egypt was dead at 39.