Cleopatra (69 BC – 30 BC)
Cleopatra VII was the last ruler of the Ptolemaic dynasty, ruling Egypt from 51 BC – 30 BC. She is celebrated for her beauty and her love affairs with the Roman warlords Julius Caesar and Mark Antony.
Cleopatra was born in 69 BC – 68 BC. When her father Ptolemy XII died in 51 BC, Cleopatra became co-regent with her 10-year-old brother Ptolemy XIII. They were married, in keeping with Egyptian tradition. Whether she was as beautiful as was claimed, she was a highly intelligent woman and an astute politician, who brought prosperity and peace to a country that was bankrupt and split by civil war.
In 48 BC, Egypt became embroiled in the conflict in Rome between Julius Caesar and Pompey. Pompey fled to the Egyptian capital Alexandria, where he was murdered on the orders of Ptolemy. Caesar followed and he and Cleopatra became lovers. Cleopatra, who had been exiled by her brother, was reinstalled as queen with Roman military support. Ptolemy was killed in the fighting and another brother was created Ptolemy XIII. In 47 BC, Cleopatra bore Caesar a child – Caesarion – though Caesar never publicly acknowledged him as his son. Cleopatra followed Caesar back to Rome, but after his assassination in 44 BC, she returned to Egypt. Ptolemy XIV died mysteriously at around this time, and Cleopatra made her son Caesarion co-regent.
In 41 BC, Mark Antony, at that time in dispute with Caesar’s adopted son Octavian over the succession to the Roman leadership, began both a political and romantic alliance with Cleopatra. They subsequently had three children – two sons and a daughter. In 31 BC, Mark Antony and Cleopatra combined armies to take on Octavian’s forces in a great sea battle at Actium, on the west coast of Greece. Octavian was victorious and Cleopatra and Mark Antony fled to Egypt. Octavian pursued them and captured Alexandria in 30 BC. With his soldiers deserting him, Mark Antony took his own life and Cleopatra chose the same course, committing suicide on 12 August 30 BC. Egypt became a province of the Roman Empire.