4 – The Reign of Queen Cleopatra VII (51 – 30 BC)
Although she was the seventh queen of Egypt with the name, pretty much everyone is referring to this particular woman when they mention ‘Cleopatra.’ She was born in 69 BC and was co-ruler with her father, Ptolemy XII. She became Queen Cleopatra VII in 51 BC when her father died, but because the tradition said a woman required a male consort to rule, she was forced to marry her 12-year-old brother Ptolemy XIII. However, Cleopatra dropped his name from all official records and ruled by herself.
As she could speak fluent Egyptian and a variety of other languages, she could communicate with foreign heads of states without the need for royal translators. Cleopatra used this fact to proceed with matters of state without the permission of the counsel. This tendency upset high-ranking officials, and they believed she overstepped her boundaries when she ordered the execution of the king of Syria’s sons after they arrived at the royal court looking for help. She was overthrown by her chief advisor in 48 BC (with Ptolemy XIII placed on the throne) and fled to Thebaid with her half-sister Arsinoe.
In the same year, Caesar defeated Pompey, and the latter fled to Egypt. He was murdered by an agent of Ptolemy XIII; a fact which outraged Caesar. He arrived in Egypt, declared martial law and stayed in the Royal Palace. Ptolemy XIII fled, but Caesar had him caught and returned. Cleopatra recognized Caesar as her opportunity to regain power and was smuggled into the palace. They quickly fell in love, and an outraged Ptolemy XIII declared war on the Roman with the aid of his general Achillas. After surviving a siege, Caesar defeated his enemies once more, and Ptolemy reportedly drowned after the Battle of the Nile in 47 BC.
Cleopatra bore Caesar a son called Caesarion in 47 BC and lived in Rome with her lover in 46 BC. Her happiness didn’t last long as Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC. She fled Rome and became lovers with Mark Antony who defeated the assassins at the Battle of Philippi. He became ruler of Rome’s eastern provinces including Egypt while Octavian was ruler in the west.
This state of affairs didn’t last long, and Octavian and Mark Antony were soon at war. After the defeat at Actium in 31 BC, Mark Antony committed suicide after hearing false reports about Cleopatra’s death. A distraught Cleopatra was captured by Octavian and elected to commit suicide rather than be paraded through the streets of Rome. Her son Caesarion was murdered by Octavian, and the Ptolemaic dynasty came to an end.