10. Berenice IV forced her parents to flee Egypt in fear for their lives and then murdered her sister Cleopatra VI so that she could rule alone
Being a member of the Ptolemy Dynasty was a dangerous business. While you did get to rule over Ancient Egypt, with your people forced to regard you as gods among men, you also ran the risk of being killed in any number of imaginative ways. And it wasn’t just outsiders who would be after you. The family of Pharaoh Ptolemy XII and his wife, Cleopatra V, was especially messed up. Their in-fighting was like something out of a fantasy TV series. And while Cleopatra VII would go on to be the most famous of the couple’s children, she learned all she knew about plotting, scheming and killing her own siblings from her sister, Bernice IV.
Initially, the Pharaoh and his wife were forced to flee Egypt as they feared their eldest daughter, Cleopatra VI, was becoming too powerful. By around 70BC, she had the backing of several military chiefs and high priests and look set to rule supreme. As such, her parents sailed to Rome to ask the Emperor there for his support in the hope they might win power back. But things didn’t work out quite like Cleopatra VI hoped. As soon as their parents had gone, Berenice took action. After lying low for months, she arranged to have Cleopatra VI, her big sister, killed by poison. At the age of just 20, Berenice IV was the sole ruler of Egypt.
In those days, all Pharaohs were expected to take a spouse and produce an heir. However, the ambitious Berenice wasn’t ready to share her power with anyone. While she did try to placate the religious elite by taking a husband, she had him murdered soon after their wedding. She did eventually take a second husband and ruled with him for three years. By all accounts, while Berenice enjoyed living a life of luxury and decadence, Egypt was a peaceful and stable place under her. Just three years after taking the crown, however, her parents returned from Rome, complete with Roman soldiers. Father and daughter took to the battlefield. The father won the day. Despite their family ties, Ptolemy XII had Berenice beheaded and got back to ruling Egypt himself.