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Queen Cleopatra

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Queen Cleopatra

by: Tom Streissguth

As the third daughter of King Ptolemy the 12th, Cleopatra was destined to become the last sovereign of the Macedonian dynasty that ruled Egypt between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 B.C. and its annexation by Rome in 31 B.C. The dynasty had been founded by Alexander's marshal, Ptolemy. Cleopatra was of Macedonian descent and had no Egyptian blood, although, she alone of her house took the trouble to learn Egyptian, and for political reasons regarded herself as the daughter of Re, the sun god.

Cleopatra was born in about 69 B. C. as the daughter of Ptolemy the 12th. When her father died, she and her half-brother, Ptolemy 13th, were to rule Egypt jointly. It was custom amongst Ptolemaic rulers that brother should marry sister and rule jointly. This was to ensure that none of the powerful families would gain enough influence to control the throne of Egypt. Instead of marrying her, Ptolemy exiled her and took over the throne himself. Cleopatra gathered an army and tried to take back what was rightfully hers, but had no success.

In 48 B. C., Julius Caesar landed in Egypt, searching for Pompey, whom he had defeated at the battle of Pharsalus earlier that year. Some Egyptians thought they could gain Caesar's favor by murdering Pompey and presenting his head to Caesar, but Caesar instead mourned the death of a friend, even though Pompey had been his rival. Cleopatra, used a much more subtle way to gain the attention and affection of Julius Caesar. She had herself rolled up in a carpet and disguised as a gift to him. Immediately captivated by her charm and wit, Caesar fell madly in love with Cleopatra.

Over the next three years, Caesar and Cleopatra joined forces to defeat and kill her treacherous brother, took a trip up the Nile, and planned to begin an empire for themselves. After Ptolemy 13th's death, she was forced by custom to marry her other half-brother, Ptolemy 14th.

Caesar then took Cleopatra to Rome and set her up in a household of her own. Cleopatra had a son by Caesar whom she named Caesarion. Cleopatra was not very popular with the Romans because she had seduced their popular leader. When Caesar was murdered in 44 B. C., Cleopatra decided to return to Egypt and try to make the best of things. After Caesar's death, she got her second brother out of the way by poisoning him. She then ruled Egypt jointly with her 4-year old infant son.

By this time, the rivalry between Marc Antony and Octavian had become open civil war. Antony called Cleopatra to his camp to have her declare her loyalty to his cause or face the consequences. Instead, she came to him with her court, with her royal barge all decked out in splendor. Antony could no more resist Cleopatra than Caesar could before him. Antony fell in love with and eventually married Cleopatra. In the meantime,

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