Glory to the father, this is what the name Cleopatra means, from the Greek kleos-glory and pater-father. One of the most famous figures of universal history, entered in people’s memory as the seductive woman, of captivating beauty, with an ambitious character and, above all, famous for the love story she lived with the generals Caesar and Mark Antony . Which of these facts were true? Let’s start by titrating the information popularized by historians.
Queen and pharaoh, becoming Cleopatra VII upon the death of her father Ptolemy XII (in 51 BC), Cleopatra was the last ruler of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt.
While he was born in Egypt (around 70 or 69 BC), his family origins are said to be Macedonian, being a descendant of Ptolemy I Soter, a Greek Macedonian general and one of Alexander the Great’s companions.
Cleopatra was not Egyptian
Ptolemy reigned in Egypt after the death of Alexander in 323 BC, leaving behind him a dynasty of Greek-speaking rulers for three centuries.
Despite not being Egyptian, Cleopatra integrated herself into the culture of Egypt, embracing much of her country’s ancient customs, being the first descendant of Ptolemy to learn the Egyptian language.
It was the result of incest
Like many royals, representatives of the Ptolemaic dynasty often practiced marriages between family members in order to preserve and perpetuate “pure royal blood” and avoid mixing with other “polluted” families.
Thus, several generations of Cleopatra’s ancestors married their cousins, brothers, sisters, which makes it plausible that her parents were also brothers. Also, in accordance with this incestuous custom, Cleopatra in turn married two of the brothers, Ptolemy XIII and Ptolemy the Younger.
Beautiful, but more intelligent
Roman biographers and historians have created an unflattering portrait of Cleopatra, denigrating her as a lecherous temptress who used her sex appeal as a political weapon, but it is possible that the queen of Egypt was more famous and appreciated for her intellectual abilities than for her physical appearance. He spoke many foreign languages, had studied mathematics, philosophy, oratory and astronomy. Moreover, there is evidence that Cleopatra’s beauty was not as striking as it was thought.
Coins that had Cleopatra’s face printed on them show her with more masculine features, having a large nose, thin lips, pointed chin, although some historians believe that she intentionally portrayed herself as masculine, to create an image of strong woman. For his part, the ancient Greek writer Plutarch argued that Cleopatra’s beauty “was not entirely perfect” and what made her irresistible and desirable was her mellifluous voice and charming personality.
Involved in her brothers death
Lust for power and criminal plots were as common in the Ptolemaic family as intermarriage, customs that also applied to Cleopatra and her brothers and sisters. Her first husband, and brother at the same time, Ptolemy XIII, removed her from the reign after her attempts to dominate and rule the throne herself, which led to the outbreak of a civil war between the two and only the alliance with general Julius Gaius Caesar, who was then in Egypt enjoying the victory in the war with Pompey, restored Cleopatra’s position. Using her weapons of seduction, Cleopatra thus managed to gain Caesar’s support, winning the throne and remarrying, this time to her younger brother, Ptolemy XIV. Historians talk about the possibility that the nimble Cleopatra assassinated Ptolemy the Younger, to facilitate the coming to the throne of her son, Ptolemy XV Philopator Philometor Caesar, resulting from the love affair with Caesar. In 41 BC, Cleopatra arranged the murder of her sister, Arsinoe, whom she considered to be another rival for the throne.
But how did Cleopatra manage to get in touch with General Caesar, given that he was staying in Ptolemy XIII’s pharaonic palace? Legend has it that she resorted to one of her clever tricks, namely, she disguised some of her servants as merchants and with their help, wrapped in a carpet, she reached Caesar’s room, the apparition surprising Caesar in a pleasant way, so that from that moment the two became allies and lovers.
The women of Rome copied his style
In the year 46 BC, Cleopatra followed Caesar to Rome, her presence there agitating the spirits and triggering discussions and indignation among the Romans, under the conditions that Caesar was not shy to hide the relationship with Cleopatra who, moreover, had come to Rome accompanied by the son of the two, Cesarion. Moreover, Caesar erected a gilded statue of him in the temple of Venus. Cleopatra’s stay in Rome ended with the assassination of Caesar by Roman senators in 44 BC. Leaving Rome and returning to Egypt was Cleopatra’s only chance to save herself.
Even though her presence in Rome was controversial and short-lived, the Queen of Egypt left her mark on the city. The women of Rome immediately adopted her exotic hairstyle and jewelry style, so much so that, according to historian Joann Fletcher, some Roman statues were often mistaken for Cleopatra.
Love with Mark Antony
Later, in 41 BC, Cleopatra resorted to a seductive theatrical game similar to that applied in the case of Caesar, in order to meet Marc Antony, one of Caesar’s basic generals, in Tarsus. Inviting him to the pleasure ship, Cleopatra, disguised as the goddess Aphrodite, awaited Antony under a gilded canopy, while her servants, dressed as Cupid, fanned him with palm leaves and burned sweet-smelling incense. The image enchanted Mark Antony who fell blindly in love with Cleopatra. Historical writings reveal that the assassination of her sister Arsinoe, exiled to the Temple of Artemis, was attributed to Antony at Cleopatra’s request.
Cleopatra married Mark Antony, their love producing three children, Ptolemy Philadelphus and the twins Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene, and again arousing the antipathy and hatred of the Romans towards her. Marc Antony’s rival Octavian attempted a smear campaign against the general by portraying him as a traitor under the sway of his scheming and instigating seductress. In the year 32 BC BC, the Roman senate declared war on Cleopatra, eventually Antony and Cleopatra being forced to flee to Egypt, with Octavian and the Roman army on their trail. In 30 BC, Antony and Cleopatra committed suicide.
The Queen of the Nile has been portrayed in many films
While Antony is said to have fatally stabbed himself in the stomach, there is not very clear evidence of Cleopatra’s method of suicide, but the most widely circulated theory is that Cleopatra provoked a viper to bite her arm. However, what the Greek chronicler Plutarch states is that “no one knows what really happened”, but he also mentions a hair brush soaked in poison, while the historian Strabo notes that he may have applied an “ointment ” fatal. In conclusion, the researchers’ suspicions are related to the use of a needle dipped in poison.
The Queen of the Nile has been portrayed in many films, her role being played by actresses such as Claudette Colbert and Sophia Loren, but the one whose performance has become legendary is Elizabeth Taylor, in the nearly 4-hour film Cleopatra, released in 1963. The film had a budget of $44 million ($200,000 costing Liz Taylor’s costumes alone) and grosses of nearly $60 million. The American production was rewarded with an Oscar for the best color image, for the best special effects, for the best scenography and the best costumes.