Cleopatra VII was the last Ptolemy and by the time of her ascension, the eldest surviving daughter of Ptolemy XII. She had remained loyal to her father when her older sisters Cleopatra VI and Berenice briefly usurped the throne of Egypt- and died for it. By the terms of Ptolemy’s will, she became Queen on his death in 51BC. However, that same will demanded that she conform to tradition and marry her younger brother and co-rule with him. It was a stipulation that was to rack Egypt with civil war.
Neither Cleopatra or Ptolemy XIII as he became known was keen on co-rule Soon, the eleven-year-old Ptolemy, under the influence of his regent, the eunuch Pothinus, was plotting to oust Cleopatra who was acting too independently. In 48BC, civil war began. Cleopatra secured a powerful ally in the shape of the Roman general Julius Caesar, who Ptolemy had already offended. When Caesar’s defeated rival, Pompey, sought refuge in Egypt after the recent Roman civil war, Ptolemy had him beheaded, thinking to please the new dictator. It was a move that had quite the opposite effect.
However, Caesar took a balanced approach to the sibling’s squabbles. He restored Cleopatra to her throne- but allowed Ptolemy to remain too. At the same time, he ordered the marriage of the couples younger siblings, Ptolemy and Arsinoe and settled them in Cyprus. The youngsters had also joined in the fight for the throne, and Caesar mistakenly hoped Cyprus would mollify them. However, as soon as his back was turned, Arsinoe and Ptolemy XIII joined forces against Cleopatra to make a joint bid for the throne of Egypt. The pair were quickly defeated.
Ptolemy XIII drowned in the Nile while attempting to escape. Arsinoe, on the other hand, was taken to Rome and narrowly escaped execution after Cesar’s triumph. Instead, he exiled her to the temple of Artemis at Ephesus. Cleopatra, still dependent on Caesar’s goodwill submitted to another marriage to her remaining brother who became Ptolemy XIV.
However, as soon as Caesar was dead in 44BC, she began to take care of her siblings her way. Almost immediately, she poisoned Ptolemy with aconite. Arsinoe, however, had to wait until 41BC. By then, Cleopatra, had a new Roman general, Mark Anthony, as a lover. She persuaded Anthony to execute her troublesome younger sister for her and this he did, striking the young woman down on the stairs of her temple prison. Cleopatra was finally without rivals. However, she was not the only leader in history who removed her
Cleopatra was finally without opponents. She was not, however, the only leader in history who had killed a co-ruler.