Every outstanding personality draws attention of people, who due to natural curiosity always wish to know more and more. If no new information can be found people start to make assumptions and invent myths and rumors about famous political and social leaders, scientists of genius, popular singers, actors and actresses and other celebrities.As the time goes by it becomes harder to get to know the truth due to the lack of true facts, thus, some scientific researches can be based on what people say about this or that famous person. The personality of Cleopatra is not an exception, which still makes people very curious and eager to know about her life as much as possible. Multiple researches have been conducted to study the historic period during which Cleopatra lived and reigned; however, a lot of questions still remain unanswered.
Known as a successful and prominent ruler, Cleopatra is also famous for her beauty, bright intelligence, ability to speak many foreign languages and love affairs with two outstanding rulers and conquerors of antiquity Julius Caesar and Marc Antony. Her striking beauty made men fall in love with Cleopatra, while she being a wise woman used it to her own advantage, making her lovers do what was necessary for her and for her country. Cleopatra’s charisma made other people, including political and religious leaders, comply with her will. Being exiled from the country by her younger brother, Cleopatra was returned their as a winner by Caesar. Despite of the fact that Cleopatra was married to two of her brothers successively, they were too young to rule, so she objectively was the only ruler of Egypt.
The current study was designed to speak about the life, reign and death of Cleopatra, and myths that surround her personality. The paper will also address the way how Cleopatra was treated by the Romans and the way she is treated nowadays by the contemporary men and mass media.
Cleopatra – Myths and Reality
Being born in 69 BC Cleopatra became the Queen of Egypt at the age of 18 after getting married with her younger brother Ptolemy XIII, when he was only twelve years old. This was done according to traditional Egyptian law, which forced Cleopatra to “have a consort, who was either a brother or a son, no matter what age, throughout her reign” [a]. However, very soon Cleopatra tried to rule the country on her own regardless of the wishes of her husband. By such actions Cleopatra broke ancient traditions and was much criticised by Egyptians. At this period of time the relationship between Egypt and Rome were rather tense, thus, Cleopatra became an important political figure not only at home but also abroad.
Soon after she became the Queen, Cleopatra put all her efforts in order to solve the conflict between Egypt and Rome, however, her efforts were never really appreciated; instead she was exiled from her home country by her brother and three of his councillors (Photinos, Achillas, Theodotus), who also wanted to rule the country. For this reason they did everything possible to influence Ptolemy XIII, as he was too young to become a sole leader of the country. Being exiled from the country, Cleopatra decided to take revenge, thus, she gathered an army to conquer her own country. However, this measure appeared to be unnecessary. At this time Rome was going through some major changes. The consul of Rome Pompejus was murdered, and Julius Caesar became a new consul of Rome.
So, now Cleopatra had to ally with Caesar in order to return to Alexandria. However, Cleopatra couldn’t just enter the city, because she could have been killed by Ptolemy’s people. So, she wrapped herself in a carpet and was brought to the palace in Alexandria, where Caesar lived. From this point it becomes harder to identify what events are real and what are mythological ones. According to some historical sources, Julius Caesar felt in love with Cleopatra from the first sight, while other historical evidences prove that Caesar and Cleopatra were never in love, and politics was the only thing which united them. It is believed that with the help of Cleopatra Caesar planned to control Alexandria, “he thought she would be a puppet for Rome” [a]. When Cleopatra’s husband Ptolemy XIII saw Cleopatra and Caesar together, he became furious and was about to leave, but he was returned by Caesar’s guards. Though, the second hypothesis, which states that Caesar and Cleopatra were just political allies, disproves the fact that they were lovers, it can not disprove the fact that Cleopatra bore Caesar a child named Caesarion (little Caesar). After a couple of months when Cleopatra returned to her home country, Ptolemy XIII declared a war against Caesar. He gathered 20,000 of men to conquer Alexandria, but he failed and had no other chances but to escape. While escaping Ptolemy XIII died, leaving Cleopatra the only ruler of Alexandria. Cleopatra’s position was restored by Caesar; however, Ptolemy XIII was not the only brother she had. That’s why in order “to please the Alexandrians and the Egyptian priests”  Cleopatra got married with her second brother Ptolemy XIV. However, this marriage wasn’t an obstacle for the relationship of Caesar and Cleopatra. When Caesar went back to Rome he was very much praised by his people, however, Romans were discontent when they found out that Caesar brought Cleopatra with him. Some sources state that Caesar even intended to get married with Cleopatra, which made the Senators and other Romans very furious. That’s why the Senators took an active stand at this situation and killed Caesar. Cleopatra then returned back to Egypt, having gained nothing from Caesar’s will. Upon her coming back she poisoned Ptolemy XIV, making Caesarion her co-regent. Obviously, the relationship of Caesar and Cleopatra were rather beneficial to both of them. Caesar was hoping to gain control of Egypt by marring Cleopatra, who with the help of Caesar became the Queen again.
Relationship between Cleopatra and Caesar is not the only one associated with Cleopatra. After Caesar’s death Cleopatra fell in love with Marc Antony, who was one of the rulers of the Roman Empire. During their first meeting in Tarsus Marc Antony “fell hopelessly in love with her, and Cleopatra, conscious of her royalty and even her claims to divinity as the pharaoh’s daughter, seems to have hoped to use Antony to re-establish the real power of the Egyptian throne” [c]. Charmed by Cleopatra’s beauty, Antony was ready to do everything possible for her, however, he never forgot about his own interests. He gained control over Cyprus with the help of Cleopatra, with whom he later got married. The union of Cleopatra and Antony was rather a successful one, until Antony committed suicide in 30 B.C. After the death of Antony, Cleopatra had no other way but to commit suicide too, because she was never welcomed in Rome. Her son Caesarion was also killed, while her other three children were raised by Antony’s wife Octavia. Cleopatra died because of a snake bit, so her death was the as glorious as her life.
The reason why the Romans hated Cleopatra was her major influence at first on Caesar and than on Marc Antony. Indeed, people were afraid of Cleopatra, because they knew that the woman possessed some kind of power, under influence of which men behaved the way she wanted them to. However, Cleopatra was also a talented ruler herself. She knew several foreign languages, which allowed her to lead negotiations with other countries. Cleopatra was an experienced warrior, who could even ride a horse, and a strategic ruler. But Cleopatra’s reputation of a deadly alluring woman is dominating. Her beauty and charisma still remain highly praised in literature and mass media. Many women would consider a compliment being compared with Cleopatra. During her lifetime Cleopatra was acknowledged as the last Pharaoh of Egypt and was worshiped by Egyptians. Multiple literary works depict Cleopatra as a vulgar woman, who had too many love affairs. Indeed, Cleopatra was an ambitious monarch, a charismatic leader and a caring mother.
Having spoken about Cleopatra, it is necessary to make a conclusion. Some scientists suppose that beauty of Cleopatra was exaggerated and that “her charm was attributed only to strength of character and mental charisma” [b]. However, it doesn’t really matter. No doubt, Cleopatra was an influential figure in the history of the world, and it doesn’t matter how he did it: with the help of her beauty or with the help of her mind or maybe with the help of both. Cleopatra will remain an outstanding personality for ever, despite of the fact that she is being criticised by a lot men and women. A lot of books, articles, novels and films were devoted to Cleopatra, thus interest to her personality will never become extinct.
1. Cleopatra VII. http://www.touregypt.net/cleopatr.htm
2. Murad, Adel. Cleopatra’s Mystery Lives On. http://www.touregypt.net/magazine/mag04012001/mag6.htm
3. Cleopatra. The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, 2004.
4. S. B. Pomeroy. Women in Helllenistic Egypt: from Alexander to Cleopatra. New York: Schocken Books. 1984.
5. Walker, Susan. Cleopatra: From History to Myth; History Today. Vol. 51, April 2001.
6. Ezzat, Dina. The Secrets of Cleopatra. The Middle East, February 1997