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Cleopatra (69-30 BC), was a queen of ancient Egypt and one of the most fascinating women in history. She lacked beauty, but became known for her intelligence, charm, wit and ambition. She was the last ruler of the Ptolemies. Cleopatra is also known as Cleopatra VII because she was the seventh Egyptian queen of Macedonian descent with that name. The word Cleopatra means "the glory of her father."
She loved and developed loyal relationships with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, two of the greatest Roman leaders of her day.
Cleopatra became queen in 51 BC after the death of her father, Ptolemy XII. Her 10-year-old brother, Ptolemy XIII, became her co-ruler and husband. Marriage between a brother and a sister was a common practice in the Egyptian royal families.
In 48 BC, young Ptolemy's guardians seized power for him and drove Cleopatra from the throne. At the same time, Julius Caesar arrived in Alexandria, then Egypt's capital. He came in pursuit of Pompey, a Roman general and rival in Caesar's struggle to become the ruler of Rome. Ceasar and Cleopatra met and fell in love.
Caesar defeated Cleopatra's opponents. Ptolemy XIII drowned while trying to escape. Caesar then put Cleopatra back on the throne along with another brother, Ptolemy XIV. In 47 BC, Cleopatra gave birth to a boy, Caesarion, who she claimed was Caesar's son. In 46 B.C., at Caesar's invitation, she went with Caesarion and Ptolemy XIV to Rome. She stayed there until 44 BC, when a group of Roman aristocrats assassinated Caesar. After returning to Egypt Cleopatra had Ptolemy killed so that Caesarion could rule with her.
In 41 BC, Mark Antony invited Cleopatra to Tarsus in Asia Minor (now Turkey). Antony was then one of the rulers of Rome, with Gaius, Octavian and Marcus Lepidus. Antony had met Cleopatra when she stayed in Rome as Caesar's guest. Antony wanted to rule Rome alone and hoped to obtain financial aid from Cleopatra. Antony and Cleopatra fell in love. In 40 BC, Cleopatra gave birth to twins, Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene. Antony loved Cleopatra and their children. But he left them to marry Octavia, the sister of his co-ruler Octavian. Their marriage was a wise political move, but Antony missed Cleopatra. He left Octavia, returned to Cleopatra, and in 37 BC, married her. A year later, she had another son by him, Ptolemy Philadelphos.
Antony believed that the wealth of Egypt would help him to become the sole ruler of Rome. Cleopatra wished chiefly to put her children, especially Caesarion, in line to rule Rome. In 34 BC Antony appointed Cleopatra ruler of Egypt, Cyprus, Crete and Syria. He gave his sons and daughter by Cleopatramuch of the land once ruled by Alexander the Great. These actions angered Antony's co-rulers and rivals. Octavian regarded Cleopatra as greedy and ambitious, and felt that she had turned Antony into a helpless puppet.
In 32 BC, Octavian and Antony declared war on each other. In 31 BC, forces of Antony and Cleopatra lost the Battle of Actium off the west coast of Greece. Cleopatra and Antony then returned to Alexandria. A few months later, Octavian came after them. In 30 BC, after Octavian and his forces reached Egypt, Cleopatra spread a report that she had committed suicide. Antony heard the report and stabbed himself out of grief. Before he died, Antony learned that Cleopatra was alive. His followers carried him to her, and he died in her arms.
Cleopatra believed that Octavian would publicly humiliate her in Rome. She tried to make peace with him, but failed. In despair, Cleopatra took her life by placing an asp, a poisonous snake, on her chest. After her death, the Romans executed Caesarion because they feared he would claim to be Caesar's heir and the rightful ruler of Rome's empire.