(Cleopatra VII of Egypt)

70–20 BC

Cleopatra was a princess of the illustrious Ptolemy dynasty of Egypt. Her life was already filled with danger and intrigue before she became romantically involved first with Julius Caesar and then with his successor Antony. In the case of both relationships, she initiated the liaison in order to provide herself with protection from her powerful enemies within Egypt. In both cases however, she succeeded in prevailing over her enemies within Egypt only to be undone by new and more powerful enemies from within Rome.

From the time Cleopatra ascended to the throne at age 17, along with her younger brother, her hold on power was tenuous. Powerful ministers of her father, Pothinus foremost among them, sought to hold the real power in their own hands and conspired against her. Eventually Cleopatra, forced to flee Egypt, headed toward Syria with the intention of raising an army there. When she found that Julius Caesar had landed in Alexandria, however, she had herself smuggled back into the city. She had a servant wrap her in a rug and deliver her by stealth to Caesar, who was immediately charmed with her courage and beauty. She had no trouble convincing him to take her side in the dispute with Pothinus. The Alexandrine war ensued, and Cleopatra was placed securely on the throne of Egypt. She later bore a son to Caesar and followed him to Rome, where she lived as his mistress. She was very unpopular in Rome however; the conspirators against Caesar feared that he would marry Cleopatra and begin a hereditary dynasty. When Caesar was assassinated, she therefore returned to Egypt.

A few years later, when she heard that Antony, the successor of Caesar, was in Asia, she contrived to meet him on a spectacularly adorned barge. Knowing his weaknesses for luxury and indulgence, it was not long before Antony too was in her clutches. Although they were separated for several years when Antony returned to Rome, eventually he returned to visit her in Egypt and became a captive of her charms. The Romans citizens, and Octavius in particular, were very displeased an Antony's neglect of his responsibilities and eventually sought to take away his command. The battle of Actium followed, but instead of fighting to the end, Antony and Cleopatra sailed back to Egypt while the battle was still raging. Since all was lost, they both committed suicide. Cleopatra's son by Julius Caesar, Caesarion, was put to death by Octavius, but the two young children of Antony were taken to Rome and raised in Octavia's household.

Key events during the life of Cleopatra:

52 BC
Married to her younger brother Ptolemy, in order to keep the throne with the family.
48 BC
Flees towards Syria after dispute with her minister, but, on Caesar's arrival, returns to Alexandria.
47 BC
Caesar restores Cleopatra to throne, after battling with her enemies in Alexandrine War.
47 BC
Cleopatra bore a son, Caesarion, to Caesar, followed him to Rome and lived as his mistress there.
44 BC
Returned to Egypt after death of Caesar.
42 BC
Enchants Antony when she meets him in Asia on her barge. He later joins her in Egypt.
40 BC
Antony returns to Rome and marries Octavia, sister of Octavius.
37 BC
Antony returns to Cleopatra in Egypt, neglects responsibilities, alienates Romans.
36 BC
Cleopatra bears twins to Antony.
32 BC
Antony is stripped of his leadership in the Eastern Empire.
31 BC
At Actium, Cleopatra and Antony sail back to Egypt before the battle was finished.
30 BC
Antony and Cleopatra commit suicide in Egypt. Caesarion put to death by Octavius.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Caesar in Egypt  in  Julius Caesar  by  Jacob Abbott
Man Who Looked Like Hercules in  Tales of the Romans: The Children's Plutarch  by  F. J. Gould
Antony and Cleopatra  in  The Story of the Romans  by  H. A. Guerber
Antony  in  Our Young Folks' Plutarch  by  Rosalie Kaufman
Antony and Cleopatra  in  The Story of Rome  by  Mary Macgregor
Antony and Cleopatra  in  Historical Tales: Roman  by  Charles Morris

Book Links
Cleopatra  by  Jacob Abbott

Image Links

Cleopatra's Barge
 in Julius Caesar

Cleopatra Entering the Palace of Caesar.
 in Cleopatra

Cleopatra's Sister in the Triumphal Procession
 in Cleopatra

The Raising of Antony to the Upper Window of the Tomb.
 in Cleopatra

Antony and Cleopatra
 in The Story of the Romans

The Dead Cleopatra
 in Greatest Nations - Persia

Cleopatra Brought before Caesar
 in Greatest Nations - Rome

Caesar at Cleopatra's Court
 in Greatest Nations - Rome

The First Meeting of Antony and Cleopatra
 in Greatest Nations - Rome

The Last Feast of Cleopatra
 in Greatest Nations - Rome

Augustus Caesar and Cleopatra
 in Back Matter

The Galley of Cleopatra
 in Historical Tales: Roman

Cleopatra sailed up the river, in a gilded vessel, with purple sails and silver oars.
 in On the Shores of the Great Sea

Fete at the Court of Cleopatra.
 in Old World Hero Stories

Short Biography
Julius Caesar Conquered Gaul, prevailed in civil war. Mastermind of Roman empire. Killed by senators.
Antony With Octavius, led empire after Caesar's death. Liaison with Cleopatra caused downfall.
Augustus Caesar First emperor. Reigned for over fifty years. Established the Imperial system.
Ptolemy XII Younger brother and husband of Cleopatra.
Pothinus Minister who ruled Egypt in name of Ptolemy XII; enemy of Cleopatra.
Caesarion Son of Cleopatra and Julius Caesar. Put to death by Octavius.